The latest attempt to criminalize boorish behavior is taking place in France, according to the UK Sun. There is a move to outlaw what many think is the harassment of women in public places, such as the street or in the Paris Metro. Acts that may become criminal offenses include wolf whistling, asking a woman for her Phone Number, and following her around. Marlène Schiappa, France’s under-secretary for gender equality, is championing the proposed law, which is also supported by French President Francois Macron.

How would the law work?

It is unclear how the proposed law would work.

Would a police officer be obliged to collar the offending man if he is caught violating the law? Would a woman who feel aggrieved be allowed to press charges after the fact? Would the law apply to bars, where hooking up is the other activity that goes on besides consuming adult beverages? Would the law be applied to both genders, i.e., if a woman harasses a man or if someone harassed someone of the same sex? It can be hoped that the French government thinks these and no doubt other questions through before enacting a law to prohibit behavior that hitherto had been regulated by custom and good manners.

Harassment depends on one’s point of view

One of the problems with passing a law that prohibits such behavior is that what constitutes harassment depends on the attitude of the person to whom the action is directed.

Some women like being whistled at while passing by a construction site. The gesture, they feel, is one of appreciation and is empowering. Many women also like the flirtatious banter that can take place in a public place, such as on the bus or commuter train, so long as it does not get out of hand. If the guy becomes too creepy, a lot of women have the self-confidence to shut it down by telling him to get lost.

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Failing that, at least in times past, another man witnessing the interchange could be relied on to come to the lady’s defense, though that apparently does not happen as often as it used to.

A law to enrich feminist lawyers?

Gilles-William Goldnadel, a lawyer, played the race card in suggesting that the proposed law is designed to outlaw “Latin pickup lines.” He also suggested that such a law would enrich feminist lawyers and clog the French Court System. The upshot is that the anti-harassment law has the potential to cause more problems than it seeks to solve. Not every bad behavior is receptive to being modified by the legal system.