This may seem trivial, considering all that’s come forward of late about sexual harassment of women. But I believe it brings up interesting points — namely, time, attitude and behavior.
On June 12, 1899, a man named John Ray groped Mrs. Elizabeth Smith while seated next to her in the Mormon Tabernacle in downtown Salt Lake City. She, of course, objected. This did little to dissuade him. When the service ended, he followed her out onto Temple Square and groped her again.
This occurred during a time when, despite Utah’s attitude toward women then, such behavior — if noticed by other men — would have gotten Ray mob-pummeled into a squirmy bag of bone chips.
Being a strong and forthright woman, Smith followed her abuser until she spotted a police officer and alerted him to the matter. Ray was immediately bum-rushed to the city jail.
Two days later — not two months or two years, mind you — Ray’s case was adjudicated before Police Judge John B. Timmony, a man renowned for not wasting precious court time on pigs.
“You have been in court before, Ray, on the charge of insulting women. It will be at least 50 days before you come in again — unless you insult the cook at the jail.” — Salt Lake Tribune, June 14, 1899.
Ray’s wife, who already had left him before the Tabernacle crime, immediately filed for divorce. It was finalized within four months.
Wouldn’t it be great if the legal system moved that fast today? Harvey Weinstein might already be in jail/prison. The media could move on to another disaster, like the president’s dilemma on whether to nuke North Korea or Puerto Rico.
What really gets me is the pervasive mindset of entitlement men have in their access to women. It’s been going on forever. Is it a problem with our gender or just certain individuals in it?
If it’s gender-driven, how come I’m not in jail, divorced or crippled from well-earned beatings? I’m your average woman-loving/lusting guy. In fact, I’m worse.
I take medication for impulse control. I’m probably one of the most unrestrained people you’ll come across.
But not once has it ever occurred to me, “I’m bored. I’ll just go down to Temple Square and cop a feel.”
Never mind the Tabernacle assault. It was the same out on the streets back then. In fact, there were times when men didn’t even have to touch women to be tossed into the slammer.
On May 24, 1920, as part of the city’s latest crackdown on “mashers,” Salt Lake City Lt. D.H. Clayton of the anti-vice squad arrested J. Wenward, B. Taft and C. Kopley for driving around and bothering women.
Turns out, they were whistling and pulling their car in front of women crossing the streets. The three pleaded guilty and were fined $5 each for believing themselves irresistible to women.
Given male behavior today, everything we’ve tried in the past hasn’t seemed to slow men down in our abusive treatment of women.
Something will have to work. Considering that common sense hasn’t, it’ll probably have to get ugly before it does. In the meantime, just to be safe, keep your hands to yourself.