Feature

Austria: Go ahead, grab my behind

The Austrian government insists there’s nothing wrong with a man grabbing a woman’s butt.

Hans Rauscher
Der Standard

The Austrian government insists there’s nothing wrong with a man grabbing a woman’s butt, said Hans Rauscher. The Women’s Ministry last week proposed for the umpteenth time criminalizing the groping of behinds—affectionately known as “the bum law”—only to be slapped down once again by the Justice Ministry. Under Austrian law, a sexual assault victim must prove that the perpetrator initiated unwanted contact that was “more than fleeting” and involved a “primary or secondary sexual organ.” Justice insists that the gluteal region is not a sex organ and therefore doesn’t qualify for protection against unwanted contact. That’s why punishment is rarely meted out to gropers, including, notoriously, an Austrian headmaster given to fondling his female students’ bums. The ministry’s wrongheaded rulings “ignore the sexual significance the buttocks hold in art, literature, and especially everyday life.” Why the focus on the behind in advertising, if it’s not a sexual signifier? Why so many rap songs extolling the virtues of a comely seat? The act of touching a woman’s bottom is “sexually motivated, and often intended as intimidation.” Perhaps we can argue over the extent to which it can and should be punished, but what is undeniable is that it is “an annoyance, insult, and humiliation that must at least be considered socially unacceptable.” 

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