Gropers: Creepy Guys on Planes, Trains and in Politics

I just read an article in the New York Times “Anxiety” series about a woman getting groped in the subway. I’m pretty sure nobody is all that surprised. Why? Because it happens alot, ie. the Mayor of San Diego, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, and the entire male population of Japan have been implicated in having a certain proclivity toward “manhandling” women. ,  Groping has been reported as occuring on trains, buses, planes and even to young women who somewhat naively choose to crowd surf at rock concerts, etc. Some of these grabby guys slobber while they grope which makes it twice as gross (see Mayor Filner article link below and recent Blurred Lines parody video). Others, like Anthony Weiner use social media to electronically cross personal boundaries and then “self-grope” to achieve some kind of twisted egotistical as well as sexual satisfaction. Nowadays you can even cross personal boundaries and cause great pain to other people using a cellphone text, sext, or digital image. Why is the phenomena so common and why are we so habituated to it that we assume it’s a yuckky yet unavoidable part of life, like cockroaches and those tiny ants that find their way into the sugar bowl no matter how well you try to hide it?

Even professional sex therapists and psychologists dont know that much about groping as a distinct clinical issue or social problem and offer no definitive insights on the subject. For example, why do gropers grope? The obvious answer is “because they can”, but that tells us nothing. Sure it’s a sex crime in the United States and too common a form of male initiated communication/sign language in Italy and India, but even such obvious cultural differences sheds no light on groping’s origins or fundamental purpose.

Let’s start with the old slang phrase, “to cop a feel”. What does that suggest? It almost sounds like a masculine accomplishment of sorts, like hitting a single in baseball or making it safely to second base by stealing. In fact when I was a teenager, baseball terms were interchangeable for sexual achievement, like “going all the way, balling, getting to third base”, etc. To be honest the implication was somewhat of a sportsman’s challenge back in the day. The main male questions were: How far or how much sex could you “get” from women on dates, and could you get her in the “sack”, or bag the “chick” or “fox”,etc. If you were turned down by a girl on a date you had been “shot down”, as if it was a interactive board game or aerial combat. In listening to the popular song, Blurred Lines, I’m not sure things have changed that much, unfortunately.

I dont feel like looking up a contemporary slang term for grabbing and groping in the Urban Dictionary right now. I’m sure there are at least one or two phrases for that kind of uncalled for behavior when engaged in by guys in skinny jeans, saggy pants or Mad Men wannabe suits and ties.  Similarly I know there are probably equally suitable Medieval terms for sexual groping, likely in Olde English for using ones plague-infected hands to touch another person somewhere in and around their private Medieval parts without permission. I vaguely remember reading about alot of uninvited grabbing going on in the pitch dark in “Chaucer’s Tales” that ended up with the Baker sleeping with the Miller’s wife or maybe it was the other way around. Apparently, the lack of electricity or ambient lighting at night in those times was a convenient excuse for men to become sloppy drunks and nocturnal creepers. The point is there is a long and well documented history (including classical literature) to suggest that some men don’t/didnt ever perceive it to be wrong or very bad to touch women inappropriately or recognize their “personal boundaries”. I admit to lacking detailed knowledge of older manuscripts or ancient texts (like carved stone tablets or papyrus scrolls) that may have knowingly or unknowingly given men free license (or even biblical authority) to be groping pervs.  However, we all KNOW there is alot of  pretty kinky stuff in the Bible that is difficult to ignore even taking into account changing standards of acceptable social behavior. It kinda makes you wonder if God, his angels (or his early publishers) weren’t abit confused, insensitive and sexist from the very “beginning”, so to speak.

When I think about the whole thing, groping remains a cultural conundrum. I really just wanted to use that word conundrum, but it does apply. We now live in a society where physical attributes like big synthetic boobs, wardrobe malfunctions, dressing up like unicorns at Furry conventions and sexual aggressiveness by both genders is reinforced and casually depicted, just as “hooking up” is now widely accepted among teenagers as normative versus alternatives like talking or having coffee before jumping in bed and engaging in 50 Shades of the Kama Sutra. It’s fast food sex that rules the world right now rather than slow-cooking in ones kitchen or love life. Gropers by nature and predilection are fast food sexual predators. They bump and run, or they grope and leave, depending on the setting and their mode of transportation.

I realize it’s easy to either minimize the whole groping thing as an inconsequential kind of crime compared to being hung upside down in some serial killer’s basement in Ohio for ten years, or conversely overanalyzing its connection to the patriarchial power structures in developing nations. Still, there does appear to be a correlation between psychological narcissism and the kind of power-fueled CEO psychopathy that leads certain people (and politicians) to reach for their penises, cellphone cams or other peoples private parts rather than just shake hands and hug like the rest of us. I’m just saying we’ve got to own the fact there are alot of “blurred lines”, mixed messages and unclear sex signals today and maybe the gropers, troll-like as they are, are also in a way the “cultural canaries in the sex related coal mine”. They might just be the more impulsive, compulsive, ignorant expressions of our own confused sexual psyches. Or perhaps they are the ignorant fools who see some kind of twisted porn video (out of the 47829274927 varieties easily obtained online) and stupidly assume, “Hey, I could do that in the real world”!  That’s not totally or completely different from the Asperger kid with dozens of violent videogames and a gun collection (that his mom bought him) who decided to go out and shoot innocent kids at their elementary school ….as well as his well-meaning mother. Obviously one crime does not equal the other but, hey, how about we first clean up the confusing societal messages about sex, personal boundaries and touching the merchandise without permission? In addition, we might want to decide what to say to grabby former Governors, the current mayor of San Diego (who appears like and behaves like a drunken camel on a Federation trip to Israel) and all the other assorted tushie-boob bandits out there. While the Founding Fathers, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights may affirm our right to pursue happiness and to “bear arms”, it doesn’t say we are allowed to get all gropey and inappropriate with those arms any damn time we please. Ultimately we need to get more personal, assertive, clear and consistent, not more blurry with our boundaries, inconsistent or clinical.

Filner parody:

An example of how “correlation does not equal causation”: Statistically, groping is most common in Japan, Italy, and India and is considered to be a serious social problem in all three countries. I love Japanese, Italian, and Indian food. Good food does not cause sexual groping.

About captaincliff

Psychologist by day, insomniac Pirate blogger by night, this Child of God likes to share sarcastic social commentary as well as topsy-turvy observations about life, love and the pursuit of zaniness, a functional form of insanity in an increasingly insane world
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