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To Clarify: There Is A Reason Why Men Groping Women Is More Creepy

06/04/2017 11:53 BST | Updated 06/04/2017 11:54 BST

Women get groped by men in clubs. That shouldn't be too much of a surprise to anyone: either you've been groped as a woman or you've been the groper as a man, or at the very least known a male friend who has groped a woman. It may be a friend of yours; often it's a complete stranger. It's an example that comes up when talking about the everyday sexism women face when they're just trying to go about their life, but in every conversation you'll get that one guy (he's normally a guy) who will pipe up with: 'yeah, but women grope men too.'

Why yes, yes they do. However, there is a crucial difference, and it is one that is often overlooked. To make my point I'll choose an example of a very public situation, as opposed to a dingy club where the interaction isn't seen by anyone.

Imagine there's a woman and a man on a chat show. It doesn't matter what their roles are: you can find numerous examples of men hosting chat shows and being creepy, but he could equally be a fellow guest. It's an open environment, where everyone can see what's happening. Now imagine he makes lewd comments at her throughout the duration of the show, insinuates stuff about her body and sex life he has no job insinuating and perhaps even touches her inappropriately. People in the audience and at home will laugh at his comments because it's a chat show, but will feel uncomfortable about it. He's being weird and shouldn't be doing this on such a platform, but there's something slightly more going on here. You feel uncomfortable for a different reason, and it's not entirely obvious why as it's masked by the immediate discomfort of the guy being a massive raging creep.

It's that you're unsure about what will happen when the interview finishes. They will inevitably wrap up, go back to their dressing rooms and at that stage the man is free to do whatever the hell he wants. He can knock on her dressing room door after. If he's confident enough to be creepy around her in front of a live studio audience, can you imagine what he'll be like when there's no one around? There's a fear for her safety here, and it is a fear that you just wouldn't feel if a woman acted in the same way towards a man on a chat show.

Why is that the case? An obvious answer seems to be physicality: you're afraid that he can physically overpower her. That may be partly the reason, but again it feels more complicated than that. It's more that if he feels comfortable enough to be openly creepy then some part of him thinks he's entitled to that right, and therefore entitled in some way to her. This sense of entitlement is specific to men (straight cis men, to be more precise), because of the way that they've been taught they can do what they want to women and not fully suffer the consequences. If you're struggling to think of examples: Donald Trump, Brock Turner, Bruno Fernandes.

If you still don't feel like this is the case, let's go back being groped in a club. When it happens to me (reminder, it happens regularly) and I've tried to shut them down, I've had some pretty violent responses. I've been yelled at, been told to calm down, and most recently actually kicked in the back after I told him to leave me alone. That was a particularly fun time. And I'm speaking as a cis white woman; I can't imagine what it's like for women of colour and trans women. If you're a guy and you've been groped in a club by a woman, when did you last have to go to the toilet for fear they would keep going and you didn't want it to get worse?

It may seem more obvious when you look at it this way, but the truth is we're so used to it, and guys are so used to seeing it/doing it that it becomes the norm. The fear we feel, the worry for that woman on the chat show is so standard and internalised that we can't even place it as fear; we just think we're uncomfortable with what he's doing in front of us. But when a woman does it, when a woman gropes a guy or hits on a guy publicly we sit up and go: 'hold on, it's weird if a guy does it, so why is a woman allowed to do it?' Well, the short answer is because the man doesn't have to fear for his safety in the way the woman does. That's why there is a difference.