Tom Jones sang ‘What’s new, Pussycat?’ in 1967. That was nearly fifty years ago and thank goodness attitudes to women have changed since then. He suggested his girlfriend: ‘go and powder your cute little pussycat nose.’ I’d tell him where to go!
Current attitudes suggest that men and women play equal roles and make joint decisions in a sexual relationship, equality of responsibility being the main emphasis. Gone are the days when women were passive objects in a man’s game of sexual conquest.
It is unthinkable now, for example, that a man would have sex with an intoxicated woman and claim that she had consented because she was too drunk to decide otherwise, and to suggest that it was all her fault for being irresponsible, and not his at all for taking advantage.
It is inconceivable that an adult male would seduce a fifteen year old girl and claim he couldn’t help it as she was ‘jailbait’. Today’s modern man would not stand around in the pub, boasting about sexual conquests with his friends, feeling proud of himself, bragging about a woman he shagged and discarded the night before. No self respecting man would behave like that nowadays and expect respect,- would he?
The detritus from past decades where men called the shots in relationships is surfacing now: males who were allowed to apportion the sexual blame to women after dictating the terms of their abuse are now being called to task.
Two of The Tremeloes pop group are currently denying an assault of a 15 year old girl in 1968, a year after Tom Jones suggested that his Pussycat ‘go and make up your cute little pussycat eyes!’ and of course there is some correlation between prevalent attitudes to women in those days and the sexual abuse which is coming to light now that we have clearer moral standards about reprehensibility in place, supported by the law.
No longer can men such as the DJs and pop stars of the 60s and 70s get away with objectifying and abusing women and then claiming they had no choice about their behaviour We don’t accept now that they are somehow relieved from any blame by making women take responsibility for what men have decided they will do to women’s bodies.
However, we still live in a time when girls are groomed for sex and there are more prosecutions than ever for violence against women. Even the internet is being used to turn vulnerable women into victims. So how far have we really come?
It is this ‘blame the victim’ mentality which was the cause of so much abuse and inequality in our mothers’ generation. The ‘she asked for it’ syndrome which excused and exonerated the perpetrators of abuse and blamed the victim is still part of how some members of society view women.
Some women don’t help. A female judge condemned rape victims who had consumed alcohol. Apparently, 50% of women are ready to blame the victims and one in ten said that if women dress or dance ‘provocatively’, then they are ‘partly responsible’ for sexual abuse by men.
There is still a long way to go before all women achieve courtesy and consideration across all areas of society and all aspects of their lives.
The majority of men do not think or behave in this way and most women know only too well how it feels to be judged according to gender. However, as long as there are some people out there who want to victimise the victim, who are prepared to allow someone who is abused to be seen as responsible for their ill-treatment, such abuse and objectification will continue.
Misogynistic lyrics in pop songs don’t help and there are far worse offenders than Tom Jones, who at least had the good grace to sing ‘I’m so willing to care for you’, even if it was only to rhyme with ‘thrilling’. It’s not just lyrics either: there are some sexually submissive images of women in pop videos that suggest that this is how females should behave in order to proclaim their sexuality and gain male interest.
I am all for people dressing as they please, doing as they please and promoting themselves as they please, so long as it has no negative impact on anyone else. Today’s women have, arguably, more choice, more freedom and more opportunity to behave how they wish to within society than their mothers and grandmothers.
Most modern men are more sensitive and we accept now that gender roles are more fluid. There is a multitude of role models, celebrity couples who demonstrate equality, respect and responsibility as a strong part of their relationship. But there is still a long way to go before all women achieve courtesy and consideration across all areas of society and all aspects of their lives.
Equality and respect between both genders are vital goals for us all, and we need to support rather than admonish the victims of abuse. Women should wear what they want and behave how they wish, within the limitations of the law, without fear of reprisal and blame and it is the best of men who celebrate them for who they are and how they wish to express themselves.
After all, as Robert A. Heinlein said: ‘Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.’