Breakfield: Inappropriate behavior has to stop

By LOUIS BREAKFIELD,

I hit a girl in the face, once. Her name was Sherry and she was a neighborhood girl with whom I was normally friends. I must have been about seven or eight years old when this happened, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

Sherry and I both rode the same bus, and on this particular day she was sitting directly behind me. For some reason I have forgotten, she was pestering me, so I turned around and hit her square on the nose. Blood went everywhere!

I don’t remember what my punishment was, if there was any, but afterwards I felt lower than chewed gum on the sidewalk.

Needless to say, the sight of that blood and a crying Sherry frightened me to the point I have never come close to hitting another girl. I have punched a few guys, but never a girl.

I tell that story to say this -- in the light of all these accusations from women and girls about how they have been sexually groped, harassed, or inappropriately treated, I and my peers were raised differently. Today, females just keep lining up to complain about their treatment at the hands of men.

I was slack-jawed when the accusations against Bill Cosby were brought to light, but the list just keeps growing. It now includes presidents, congressmen, movie stars, doctors, and on and on. Cosby was America’s Dad. Say it ain’t so, Bill.

The charges brought by these women include everything from rape to “inappropriate flirting.” What the latter means I’m not quite sure. If flirting were a jailable offense, every guy I know and I would be locked up.

But let’s face it. Men are swine. Anyone spending time living in a college dorm can testify to that.

In light of so many accusers coming forward with their stories, the whole atmosphere surrounding male/female relationships has changed. Where I might have casually flirted or complimented a woman in the past, I’m afraid to speak to women today.

While I have no doubt that these women who have gone public about their experiences with men who fondled or groped them are being truthful, I guess my question is, “where is the line for men to separate appropriate and inappropriate behavior towards women?”

I am sure men can offend women with just words, but what are those words and does it matter in what context they are used? Does it have to be physical contact for the woman to claim inappropriate sexual behavior, or does it include unwanted “flirting?”

I agree that a man putting one’s hands on a woman without her consent is wrong, but flirting is how we begin the procreation process. Before a man and a woman commit to a relationship, there is a certain amount of flirting that takes place. It’s called courtship.

However, there is always going to be unwanted attention paid to females. While plain-looking Sam may be casting his charms before a woman, perhaps the woman prefers his friend, George. The attention from Sam is unwanted.

I often wonder how attractive women make it through all the attention thrown their way and still remain sane.

I was brought up to respect women, but obviously some men were not, or they didn’t listen to their mothers. We learned that we were to treat women in general like we would treat our own mother.

Anyway, I am appalled at how some men have been taking advantage of women. There are men in my age bracket who are accused of sexual misconduct. Hard to believe but now that the conduct is coming to light, perhaps men will stop acting inappropriately towards women.

All I know is that I am going to try to keep my distance and keep my mouth shut around strange women.

 

Louis Breakfield is a former editor of The Columbian-Progress and The Magee Courier. Breakfield also taught high school for 25 years.