Grope therapy

Ann Bartow at Feminist Law Professors posted about groping on public transit on Wednesday. She quotes at length a post by Heart at Womenspace, which wonders about the possibility of women groping men:

I wonder what might happen if, when groped, women groped back?   I think if women groped back, men might hit them and hurt them. I also fear that if women groped back, men might rape them and would then call what they did “consensual sex.”  After all, she returned the grope, that must have meant she was up for it!  I think the only way the power dynamic around groping might change would be if women started randomly groping men whenever they got the chance– not groping back, but instigating the groping, so that men and boys never knew when or under what circumstances they might be groped and could not predict who would grope them.  After all, men grope women they already want, for whatever reason, to touch; touching them back just gives them more of what they wanted in the first place.  But women assuming “agency” and groping men they wanted to grope without concern for what the men wanted– that’s something different.  That is, in fact, what men do to women when they grope us.

An angry commenter, Psyck, wrote in reply:

Only a man would think or entertain the thought that women should start randomly groping men. Should we start raping men and boys so they’ll stop raping women and girls? Women and feminists don’t want a “tit-for-tat” game, we want men to stop deliberately and consciously hurting women.

I happen to agree with Psyck that feminists aren’t out for retaliation, but I disagree with the claim that Heart was asserting as much. I think Heart was making the point that I was clumsily trying to make in this post, that there is no analogue in the realm of men’s experience for the vulnerability that women feel when they’re being groped (generally speaking), especially since tit-for-tat retaliation would ultimately make women more vulnerable in other ways. Thus, it would indeed be fascinating to see how men react on Women Grope Men day, but it would not be practical to institute such a day because of the pervasive social and economic vulnerability that women experience in other parts of their lives.

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