To be fair, your modern flasher rarely wears a hat.
Some of this week’s discussions about disingenuous arguments, sexual harassment, and the tendency of people to be more mad at people for fighting back than for being dicks have been depressing. So I thought I’d end the week on a note of optimism, and link to a story of a sexual harasser who clearly thought he’d get away with it, but didn’t. Scene: Waterford, Wisconsin.
[A woman] contacted the Racine County Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 26 after a man reportedly showed up at her door and repeatedly rang her doorbell. When police arrived, they found a man wearing a coat with no clothes underneath, according to the criminal complaint. He allegedly said he was responding to a personal ad from Craigslist.
[A woman] said she had not posted any personal ad online and said at least three people had come to her door attempting to contact her, according to the complaint. One of those individuals also reported seeing an ad on Craigslist, she said.
After talking to the woman, an investigator contacted Craigslist and learned there were six ads posted using a fraudulent email address for her. All were allegedly sexual in nature and were soliciting males for sexual activity.
Luckily, the only guys who showed up were the kinds who let hope triumph over experience when it came to the subject of women inviting strange men over to their houses for kinky sex. That was probably traumatic enough, especially since at least one of them was clearly pushy about it, but this sort of thing could have easily resulted in a sexual assault from some screwed up guy who thought the target had reneged on a “promise”.
Turns out the guy who set her up to be freaked out and possibly assaulted was her neighbor. As with most sexual harassers and abusers, he had a ready-made excuse for why this isn’t what it clearly is. He claims it was “just a joke”. I’m sure he’s used that excuse in the past with lower-level boundary-pushing and sexual harassment and it worked, but sadly for Jason Willis, the cops weren’t fooled. The cops were smarter/less assholish than internet commenters running around squeeing that women are hysterical and eager to “play the victim” for the sole purpose of hurting innocent men that are “just joking” or “just flirting” in the creepiest, most safety-threatening ways possible. The cops got exactly what this was about, and are charging Willis with felony identity theft, with up to three years in prison. Let’s hope the jury doesn’t fall for the same old excuses.
After all, even if you indulge the “just a joke” claim for a minute, it falls apart. If he was stupid enough to think men wouldn’t show up at her house, then basically the point of the “joke” falls apart, as she’d never know about it. So he knew men would show up at her house. At what point, there is no way that he wasn’t trying to scare, intimidate, and possibly hurt her.
This, of course, is what harassers and abusers do. They do things they know aren’t cool to deliberately freak out or make their targets uncomfortable, and the second they’re called out for it, they claim innocence and say that they’re just misunderstood people trying to engage in behavior that is acceptable, like pranks or flirting. But a prank is sending pizzas to someone’s house, not naked men looking for sex. Flirting is engaging someone who wants to be engaged in a social situation, not cornering them in a space where they can’t escape easily. The target is not fooled—if she was, then the intimidation tactics would lose their value—so the rest of us should not be. Luckily, as this story shows, people are increasingly willing to get it, and the same old excuses aren’t working as well as they used to.