I thought long and hard today about whether to say anything at all on Twitter about the John Mason episode. I'm sick to death of arguing with people, and I know from past experience that some otherwise sensible people seem to lose all rationality when you depart from the approved script on issues relating to gender politics, no matter how carefully you choose your words. But when I saw a couple of people go so far as to actually say that John Mason should resign (!) I felt I just had to say something, although I did try to choose my words very carefully to avoid being unnecessarily provocative. This is what I said -
"John Mason's tweet was clearly ill-judged, but it's a profound insult to him to just assume he was talking about sex. People calling for Mason to actually RESIGN over that tweet have lost all sense of perspective."
And, yup, the reaction was depressingly predictable. Here is what I've learned over the last few hours -
* John Mason's comment that "The girl does not always say yes first time!" was obviously about sex. It's completely ludicrous to think that an old-fashioned, religious man like Mason would instead have been talking about asking someone to dinner, or to the cinema, or to marry him.
* OK, maybe it's not so obvious that he wasn't talking about proposing marriage or asking to go on a date, but it doesn't matter anyway, because asking a woman if she'd like to go to dinner this Friday after she told you she was washing her hair last Friday is EXACTLY THE SAME as pestering her for sex. "No" to dinner last Friday means "no" to dinner for the rest of your natural life, and if you ask the question again, that means you don't respect a woman's right to withhold consent and are basically a bit like a rapist.
* It's unclear whether the "you can't ask for a date more than once" rule also applies to women, or only to heterosexual men. (I did seek clarity on that point, but to no avail.)
* Men are literally not allowed to have any opinion whatever on what does or does not constitute harassment. If a woman states that she has suffered harassment, men should simply "shut up and listen". There are no objective criteria upon which harassment can be identified or ruled out - if a woman says something is harassment, that's what it is. Full stop.
* If a man argues that there must, in fact, be some kind of objective criteria before anyone can be considered guilty of harassment, he is by definition a misogynist. No apology is required for calling him a misogynist, and if he asks for one, the onus should instead be put on him to apologise for his misogyny.
* All men, without exception, bear collective responsibility and guilt for any trangressions against a woman's right to withhold consent. It doesn't matter that collective guilt is inconsistent with the basic principle of individual equality - that objection can be instantly magicked away with the words "mansplaining" and "#NotAllMen".
* If a man does not go out of his way to delete a woman's Twitter handle from his replies to other people on a thread that she is part of, and instead points out to her that the block function is the simplest solution if she does not like his tweets, this again means that he is ignoring women's right to withhold consent, and is a bit like a rapist. Please note : this principle does not work in reverse. Women are not required to accede to a request to remove a man's Twitter handle from their replies, and there are no 'consent' issues if they fail to do so. They are also quite free to continue talking about him on their own timelines, post screenshots of his tweets without alerting him, and make derogatory and abusive comments about him. None of this constitutes harassment in any way, shape or form, and indeed should be positively encouraged.
* * *
I lost no fewer than nine followers on Twitter (update - twelve!) simply as a result of that exchange, but I must say on this occasion I'm really glad I didn't try to keep my head down. The groupthink on this subject is literally terrifying, and it needs to be challenged.