Bettina Arndt has a message for the ‘prudes’: don’t deprive the rest of us the spice of sexual banter.
Arndt, who is an author and sex therapist – and no stranger to controversy – has written an opinion piece in which she suggests that when women are involved in uncomfortable social situations that centre around sex, they tend to overreact and label their experiences as harassment.
There’s a very real issue at the heart of this silly controversy – namely, the notion that sex is peculiarly dangerous and the rules of normal adult interaction must be adjusted when the subject is sex so no one ever feels uncomfortable.
Look at the constant skirmishes now taking place in workplaces, where the wrong joke, comment or sexual reference risks accusations of sexual harassment. Yet, as even the feminist website ffeusa.org points out, there are women who make and enjoy sexual banter. As this site suggests: ”Overbroad restrictions on sexual material infantilises women and shores up destructive Victorian stereotypes that women are (or should be) so pure that any expression about sexuality offends and demoralises them.”
Sexual banter, the exchange of jokes and flirty comments can be the welcome spice of life for women, as well as men, and it’s foolish to let the prudish in our midst determine what is appropriate behaviour.
Demonising sexuality inevitably distorts a proper perspective on sexual crimes, leading to politically inspired calls for absurdly longer sentences, misinformation about the likelihood of offenders to reoffend and exaggeration of the emotional damage to the victims of minor abuse. Our prurient interest in sex crimes often robs the perpetrator of any chance of redemption – as the sad death of cricket commentator Peter Roebuck bears witness. This is why allegations of child sexual abuse feature so regularly in fierce battles over child custody – the hint of sexual misbehaviour is a weapon like no other, leaving a lifelong taint on character.