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With the emphasis being on the way Donald Trump treats women and has, it seems, treated women for as long as the world has known Donald Trump, I wondered why it is so hard for some of the older population to see the difference between flirting and sexual assault, between fictional saucy books and bad behaviour.

I remember reading recently a comment from a Starts at 60 reader, who was also female, that if the woman didn’t like Donald Trump’s advances why didn’t she “just slap his face”? Is it that simple? I think not. I was lucky enough to get some views on this subject recently, from young women, young men, young gay men and a man of my generation. While we all agreed that sexual assault and harassment is running rife in this country as well as the world, our views differed a little.

When I was 20, you walked down the street and the boys whistled at you. You smiled and they called out. I don’t ever remember being told what they would like to do to me or being denigrated in any way. Usually it was something like “looking good baby”. This was flattering and that would be the end of it. Now if it had been “This is what I am going to do to you…”, this to me would have been unacceptable.

I, on the other hand, could go to work or to the pub and see a man I knew looking good and tell him. I could admire a man from afar and comment to my friends. We would call them hot or hunks but that was it. This is not sexual harassment, at least I don’t see it that way. Is that my generation?

Today things are different. A young woman in the group said she would be annoyed at least that an unknown male would whistle or call out to her in the street as she passed. I had to think about it for awhile. Then I remember my niece who is Australian director for EROC (End Rape on Campus) telling me about the things that were said to her on the train, or in the street on her way to work. It is what and how the things are said, I think. It is the vile language used, it is the fact that these low life’s just come out and say it. It is the fact that if the young women ignore their comments then they are called tramp, slut and worse. What have these women ever done to these men? Oh and I am sue there are some women out there who would be just as bad as their male counterparts.

To get to the men? In the group was a lovely young man who happened to be gay. He was quietly listening and then had his say. You see, it happens to the gay community too. Sexual harassment and assault doesn’t distinguish between genders. This young man made that quite clear.

To the man who is of our generation. He understood where we were coming from to a point. He stated that if you read the saucy books, isn’t this a breeding ground for this behaviour? I read some of those saucy books. He commented that if he said a woman across the room looked “hot” that he would probably be seen to be acting disrespectful. Is this so? I could see his point though. I could also see what the young women and men were getting at.

Where is the line drawn? Are the men and women of this country who use their foul mouths and their disgusting actions to belittle, abuse and assault changing the way of the world? Is this the norm these days? Can we no longer appreciate a nice looking man or woman without being frowned upon? Do we no longer know the difference and does it change from generation to generation?

The lady who said just to “slap his face” was brought up in my generation. It’s a generation where men would call out but not in what was classed as a disgusting manner.

I think we need to remember there is a difference.

When I was a teen I was assaulted by someone I knew and trusted. He wasn’t someone calling out from a building site or in a pub. He was however, vile and disgusting. When I was in my 20s I was raped several times. It was domestic assault and nobody talked about it much. Slapping faces wouldn’t have worked. Back then it is today, sexual assault and harassment in my opinion mean just that. Is it because we, the older generation were taught to accept the wolf whistles? Did it start from there or was it way back to the cave man?

Before you think a young woman or man is over-reacting, because in our day it was different, remember, it wasn’t different. It was being covered up even then.

It’s not necessarily bad to read a Fifty Shades book. It is bad to use it as an excuse for bad behaviour. Consent needs to be given no matter what.

Just as we of the older generation want the young ones to understand how we feel about the way we are treated in society, we need to to look at this growing problem in our country and back the younger generation.

Rape is rife in our schools, our workplaces and our entertainment venues. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, how you are dressed or if you have had one too many drinks, ‘No’ really does mean ‘No’.

You have rights in this country whether you are six, 16 or 60. You have rights in this country because you are living in the free world, because you deserve to be treated fairly and with dignity, no matter what.

Perhaps we of the older generation need to say it was not all right back then and it’s not all right now. Then maybe the younger generation will have the time to look at our lives and say it is not all right to treat people badly because of their age.

We are one nation and need to fight for what is right as a united nation. We need to care.

What are your thoughts on this issue? How do you think the younger generation can address the issues of sexual assault and harassment?

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Fran Spears

Born in 1953. Came to Hobart from the north west coast of Tassie to be closer to my son as I have mild chronic bronchitis. Mild and chronic in same sentence – even that makes me laugh. Have just completed and passed my diploma in Public Relations. Love to write and have lead a reasonably interesting life. My motto: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"