King Leer

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In a recent Times Op-Ed piece ("What Does a Lifetime of Leers Do to Us," NYT, 6/4/16) Jessica Valenti a columnist for The Guardian writes:

"Today, one of the more unpleasant parts of my job writing and talking about feminism is dealing with online harassment--a now common side effect of writing online while female."

Is this not a form of prolepsis that is answering a question before it's been asked or in this case, answering a criticism? What an effective way of fending off attacks. Valenti begins her piece by describing the reaction she had to the man playing the wolf in a childhood performance of "Little Red Riding Hood." She says,

"It was just a play, just a scary man, yet my young brain was indelibly affected by that one moment. What about all the other moments? The other scary men who aren't fictional characters, but real life terrors in girls' and women's lives? The looks that start when we've barely begun puberty, the harassment on the street and online, the violence we survive or are constantly on guard for: What does it do to us?"

Is this not a case of injustice collecting and is anyone who makes such a point to the author, just another online harasser? What's the exact crime? Looking at women's or men's bodies? Later in the piece Valenti talks about growing up in Queens and finding that her "commute" to "junior high and high school" was "a time when it wasn't unusual for a man to grope or flash me." Now certainly this is abusive, but "Let's go to the videotape!"as Warner Wolf used to say. At the beginning of the article Valenti is talking about what's plainly a traumatic experience. In the next paragraph this translates into a sensitivity to being looked at. Leering may not be pleasant, but it's not a crime. There are no laws on the book about looking. Remember those "No Expectorating" signs? One wonders what the world would be like if there were fines for gazing? Will California's affirmative consent laws now apply to giving the eye to a person of the opposite sex? Is Valenti implying that objectifying the breasts of a comely woman or the package of a attractive man is a crime?

{This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}