What can we as a society do about the relentless harassment of women by terrifying men? Menacing men, threatening men, priapic men. Something must be done — and quickly. I reached this conclusion after reading a deeply distressing article by the Guardian columnist Daisy Buchanan, who announced that she has imposed a curfew on herself after a series of deeply unpleasant incursions by bestial males. ‘I can’t believe women have to live like this in 2015,’ Ms Buchanan lamented, having revealed that she has also given up dancing in case the same sort of thing happens when she is on the way home from wherever it is she dances.
I am going to repeat the full details of the assaults made on this youngish woman — not for gratuitous reasons, but because I think people need to know; they need to be shocked out of their complacency, they need to face up to the enormity of the problem, no matter how traumatising that might be.
The latest incident happened when Daisy was on her way to her yoga class. A man outside the studio said to her, ‘Hello — I keep seeing you around! What’s your name?’ Yes, I know. It beggars belief that this sort of thing can still happen in this day and age. Luckily, on this occasion Daisy had her wits about her and mumbled an answer so that the man left not knowing for certain that she was called ‘Daisy’. But she was clearly numb with fright.
Worse, though, are the bastards on trains. No sooner had Daisy sunk into the seat and taken out her paperback than she felt a tap on her shoulder and a male voice saying: ‘Hello! What are you reading, then?’
I felt physically sick when I read about this transgression and I have had to break off from writing this article to vomit again. Just writing down the words upsets me more than I can adequately express. What is it about quiet coaches and station buffets that attracts perverts, Daisy asks? Well, indeed. Mercifully she didn’t tell us what horrible stuff occurred in the buffet; it is entirely possible that some menacing pig asked her for the correct time or perhaps inquired as to whether or not the 8.22 to Surbiton had already departed. The truth is we don’t know; Daisy may be holding back because she finds relating the encounter too distressing.
The appropriate response to the man on the train, of course, would have been to stab him several times in the windpipe with a knitting needle and then stand over his lifeless body saying: ‘It’s The Writing on the Wall: Why We Must Embrace China as a Partner Or Face It as an Enemy. By Will Hutton. Published by Little, Brown. 441 pages. Satisfied, you sexist piece of filth?’ However, Daisy did not have a knitting needle with her at the time. And why should she? Not all of them knit, you know. Indeed, these days, very few women knit. If you think they all knit, you are living in the wrong century.
Daisy also related a third incident, when a mentally ill man actually touched her elbow and may have had his other hand inside his trousers. Some other men nearby pointed out that the bloke was a nutter and not to worry too much. But she was still traumatised. This incident happened when Daisy was at university in York — some ten years ago at least, by my reckoning, seeing as she is now nearly 30. But these ordeals do not diminish with time, do they? It is a mercy that she was not so psychologically scarred as to contemplate amputating the arm touched by this madman, to rid herself of the appalling memory. As it is, she is simply a survivor, a survivor of vile abuse.
The more I think about it, the more I believe that the most loathsome transgression was the man on the train — and perhaps some of those who commented on Daisy’s article by suggesting that we should have segregated train carriages, like in a very Islamic state, were absolutely correct (and yes, Jeremy Corbyn is fully behind the idea). As were the comments suggesting that all men should be sent on courses so that henceforth they would not behave like potential rapists while on a train. Most of the other comments, incidentally, had been deleted by the Guardian for failing to ‘abide by our community standards’. I fear mine was one of those deleted, although I am not sure which of the following words in my response — narcissistic, histrionic, deluded, stupid or cow — transgressed the newspaper’s ‘community standards’. Perhaps all of them, although maybe especially ‘cow’. I think that to abide by the Guardian’s community standards, you have to agree with whatever the Guardian says.
We are deep in Lord Rennard territory here. You may remember that the Liberal Democrat peer was subjected to an investigation by his party for having, on at least one occasion, asked a female colleague if she would like a cup of coffee. The female colleague did not want a bloody cup of coffee, thank you very much. Asking a woman if she would like a cup of coffee, or asking them what book they are reading, is a precursor to rape, of course. Never ask a woman if she would like a cup of coffee, not even if you are both sitting in a coffee shop. It is presumptuous and you are plainly abusing your hegemonic power as a man.
Unless you are not a man, of course. Then you can ask a woman if she wants a cup of coffee and you can probably ask her what book she’s reading and what her name is. Hell, I could trace how the bien-pensant middle-class liberal feminist left arrived at Daisy Buchanan’s point of view — because it is a not uncommon point of view — but I fear that the will to live would desert me halfway through.
This is an extract from this week's issue of The Spectator. Subscribe here.