Editor’s Note: Caroline Criado Perez is a writer, broadcaster and award-winning feminist activist. The opinions in this article belong to the author.
Importune – v. to harass (someone) persistently for or to do something.
Origin: mid-16th century, from French importuner or medieval Latin importunari, from Latin importunus “inconvenient, unseasonable.”
Why am I providing you with this dictionary definition? Because the French newspaper Le Monde has published an open letter, signed by more than 100 French writers, performers and academics, stating that the “liberty to importune” is indispensable to sexual freedom.
In a tedious and worn-out sleight of hand, the signatories to this sexism-by-numbers letter elide sexual assault with sexual freedom, and they elide women freeing themselves from that sexual assault with “Puritanism.” By trying to rid ourselves of leches and creeps, they warn, we are handing power over to “the enemies of sexual liberty.”
Forgive me for disagreeing with such luminaries as Catherine Deneuve, but personally I consider those self-same creeps to be the actual enemies of my sexual freedom.
As for the liberty to “importune,” to be honest I’d probably plump for other options when considering what is “indispensable to sexual freedom.”
The liberty not to be importuned, for example. The liberty to have my ability to know my own mind respected. The liberty to be considered a rational adult, fully capable of making her own decisions who doesn’t need to be conned or pressured into sex.
Forgive me also for not sharing in the pity the signers of this letter feel for the “victims” of the #MeToo movement (#BalanceTonPorc in France). No, not the women who have been variously raped, assaulted and (allegedly) confronted by old, overweight men in bathrobes, who have the power to make or break their careers, masturbating into potted plants.
No. The real victims here are those men. These “men prevented from practicing their profession as punishment, forced to resign, etc., while the only thing they did wrong was touching a knee, trying to steal a kiss, or speaking about ‘intimate’ things at a work dinner, or sending messages with sexual connotations to a woman whose feelings were not mutual.”
Imagine being drummed out of your profession for forcibly (because that’s the reality of that fey word “steal”) sticking your tongue down someone’s throat! How unreasonable women are! After all, if you can’t stick your tongue down an unwilling woman’s throat, how will you ever be able to know if she fancies you?
As the writers of the letter sagely note, soon “two adults who will want to sleep together will first check, through an app on their phone, a document in which the practices they accept and those they refuse will be duly listed.”
Give me a break. Are we expected to believe that men are innately intellectually superior to women, more rational, more intelligent and just generally better suited to hold positions of power and influence, while at the same time accepting that they’re incapable of telling whether or not a woman wants it?
That isn’t going to wash anymore. Sorry. They know – they just don’t care.
And neither do those who have signed this letter. They claim to be concerned with women’s sexual freedom. But if that is what they actually care about, they wouldn’t be reifying the old myth that women need to be harassed into sex. As if we don’t enjoy it. As if we don’t want it just as much as men. As if the clitoris still hasn’t been discovered.
The letter’s central argument is not even a very sophisticated one, just another dull consequence of women speaking out against abuse.
All the tired tropes are there: Puritans! Having to sign a legal letter before sex! Of course, rape is bad, but everything else is fine and to have personal and professional boundaries is just political correctness gone mad!
The reality is that this letter is ludicrous scaremongering. Every day men and women around the world are happily meeting and kissing and sleeping together. And respecting women’s ability to choose who they want to let into their pants isn’t going to stop that any time soon.