Disguising Inappropriate Touching As Joke Is Unacceptable

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao
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Brendan Fraser Experiencing Sexual Abuse

Earlier this year, Brendan Fraser had come forward with allegations of sexual harassment against former HFPA (Hollywood Foreign Press Association) president Philip Berk. He had accused Berk of groping him in 2003, which had prompted the organisation to conduct an internal investigation. Fraser spoke to GQ magazine again recently, revealing that the organization contacted him again after finishing the investigation. It proposed issuing a joint statement, which said, "Although it was concluded that Mr. Berk inappropriately touched Mr. Fraser, the evidence supports that it was intended to be taken as a joke and not as a sexual advance."


It is shocking how easily HFPA wants to reduce inappropriate touching to a joke. But if we take into account the different standards for inappropriate touching between men and men, and men and women, it doesn’t come as a surprise at all. However, this doesn’t mean that Fraser’s trauma is any lesser than that of a female survivor.

Double Standards

The #MeToo Movement has sparked a debate on what can be counted as an inappropriate touch and what cannot. However, most of this conversation is centred around male perpetrators and female survivors.

There remains a minority whose voices remains unheard amidst this global discussion and outrage over sexual harassment. That voice is of male survivors of groping or inappropriate touching.

While numerous men have come forwards as rape or abuse survivors, most men choose to stay silent about the incidences of groping. This is because the standards of inappropriate touching are very different for men and women. While women can cry foul if someone holds their hand or caresses their butt against their will, can men do the same? Will most people take it seriously if a man comes forward and says that he felt violated when a teammate came and slapped his butt “playfully” during a game of cricket? Or that he found another man squeezing his thigh while cracking a sexual joke an invasion of privacy?

People would ridicule the poor fellow and call him ultra-sensitive. But inappropriate touching shouldn’t have different standards according to the survivor’s gender. There is only one thing which makes a touch appropriate and that is consent. The knowledge that the person in front of you is okay with you touching him. This code of conduct should be practiced not just between opposite genders but within the same gender as well.


It is also essential to raise your voice. The problem with inappropriate touch among men is that it is bound by the so-called “bro code”.

We have seen it happen on cricket fields or football grounds. Teammates celebrating a catch or a goal by slapping each other’s butt. Or grabbing hold of each other’s neck and violently kissing on the forehead. For them it may be a sign of sportsmanship.

But if you are not okay with it, then say so. And don’t doubt your voice for even a second. No human being should have to endure an unwanted touch, no matter what the context is.

Raising voice is important. Inappropriate touching is an invasion of private space and a violation of one’s right to consent. I am in awe of Fraser for standing up for his rights. It is very courageous of him to come out in open and say that he felt abused. And that he cannot see an incidence of abuse as a joke. Other men must follow his lead rethink what consent and inappropriate touching mean in this new era of sensible conduct. Even between two men.

Photo Credit : Wikicommons

Also Read : Groping is an offence, Downplaying Its Severity is a Big Deal

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own

#MeToo Brendan Fraser Inappropriate touching groping