ON a three-hour flight back from Hong Kong a couple of days ago, I was seated next to a big-sized African-American woman.
When she saw the boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts that I was holding, she exclaimed, "How did you know I like doughnuts, darling?"
I laughed it off, thinking that she was trying to be friendly. However, throughout the flight, she got overly friendly and I started to think that she might have been sexually harassing me.
The seat on her right was unoccupied, but she chose to sleep leaning towards her left where I was seated.
When she slept, her head occupied a quarter of my headrest and her head progressively went lower till it conveniently rested on my shoulders. At the same time, she was pushing her legs against mine deliberately, it seemed.
Subsequently, when she "woke up", she asked if she could lift up the arm rest that was between us. I declined. Instead, she rested her hand above mine.
Every few minutes, she would stretch (deliberately making some form of contact with me) and put her hands into her top and adjust her bra (deliberately facing me).
I decided to take this in my stride and not alert the air crew because I did not want the situation to blow up. I did not want to be recording statements upon landing in Singapore close to midnight.
In addition, I was aware that laws on sexual harassment are not clearly defined in Singapore - there are no laws per se to make it an offence - added to the fact that I am male.
If this case were brought to court, will the judges find that I was not sexually harassed? If I were a female, would this have been different?
My point in writing this is that I feel men need to be protected too. If there were clear laws in place and if I were certain that those acts performed against me constituted sexual harassment, I would definitely have pursued the matter with the air crew and the police, rather than just cowering in my seat waiting for the flight to be over.
As a law undergraduate, I am rather surprised that Singapore, being so tough on many issues such as drug trafficking and murder, does not have an equally harsh stance on sexual harassment.
Many people also think that it is females who are victims of sexual harassment and men are the perpetrators. This is a severe misconception.
Men can be victims of sexual harassment too.
Benjamin Wong Zi Ming
This article was first published in The New Paper on July 21, 2008.