Keep it Classy

October 3, 2013 Op-Eds, Opinion

A little respect goes a long way in our world.

Sexual misconduct in a professional setting, whether it’s academic or in the workplace, how far is too far? What makes us laugh and play along and what makes us cringe, gag, and shiver? For those who have endured disturbing encounters, I apologize in advance if ever throughout the following I’ve brought levity to such a sensitive subject. That being said, here is one twenty-year-old, sexually fluid female’s perspective on the matter.

There are some obvious outliers in terms of provocative “do’s” and “don’ts”. Harassment is one of those “don’ts”. Harassment, by my definition, is the uninvited, unwarranted, undesired advances of one party onto another. Harassment could occur as a one-time instance or in repeating offenses. Physical harassment is fairly straightforward (if you’re fuzzy on that, you need a law book – not The Sandspur). However, verbal harassment tends to adhere to a grey area.

To exemplify a one-time instance of verbal harassment, you could be crossing the street between our campus and Park Avenue when someone’s hooting, hollering, or whistling spoils your stroll. An example of a repeat offense: the application of a lewd nickname. It isn’t anyone’s prerogative to go around renaming peers “Blowjob Sally” or “Loosey Lucy” – but we all know that. ‘Cause these are obvious, right? Well, not exactly. In our 2013 era, most college students are acutely aware of a double standard existing between sexes. Promiscuity among men is condoned, praised even, while shamed amongst women. So “Loosey Lucy” and “Laid-a-Lot Luke”, while similar (but dissimilar) in denotation, are inevitably received much differently. Hypothetical Luke might hold his head high, and hypothetical Lucy might transfer.

But that is not the only way in which connotation is key, or a double standard plays part. Notoriously mal-intended words such as “fairy”, “Mary”, “dyke”, or “butch” are used by members of the gay community without slandering the individual being referenced. To clear things up about what could be perceived as a double standard between heterosexual and homosexual usage of such terminology, the difference is in choice and ownership. Choosing to own previously understood degrading terms for one’s own sexual orientation does the opposite of insulting: it empowers. I personally live my life by the saying “What you don’t own, in turn, owns you”. This is the explanation I offer for the difference between harassment and instances of adopted usage of LGBT slang by LGBT individuals.

Then there is the question of sensitivity. Is it possible that any one of us is simply being too sensitive? To that I lend the idea of common courtesy. Rollins College is, above all, an institution for higher learning.

At the value of over $200,000, our individual educations are too precious to be compromised or deterred by a lack of common courtesy from our peers.

Feigning ignorance regarding the way our actions will reflect on someone else’s education and life is not an excuse in an environment full of intellectuals. If it can be construed as intentionally inappropriate or hurtful, we are all smart enough to refrain from saying or doing it. A one-word definition for common courtesy would be respect. Respect is necessary for everyone to feel comfortable working together. In an academic or workplace environment, respect is synonymous with success.

Don’t get me wrong –there is a way to talk about and reference sexual activity without being lewd, inappropriate, or hurtful. In fact, it’s rather vital that we have an open dialogue about sex and sexuality to dispel misconceptions, rumors, and inherent immaturity that surrounds the topic’s uncomfortable nature. For an example of how some students appropriately and respectfully address sexual matters, please see our Sexperts column.

In the four and a half semesters I have spent at Rollins, I have personally come face-to-face with basically no breeches of sexual harassment. I have heard accounts, witnessed incidents, and read “Timely Notification” e-mails from Campus Safety concerning happenings on or around campus that have been alarmingly disappointing. So let’s strive to uphold the reputable standard that is implied by higher education: to be civilized, virtuous, and sophisticated. After all, it’s a surefire way to keep your name out of the national sex offender registry – and remain eligible for employment.

The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of The Sandspur, its staff or Rollins College.

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