An online poll by Telegraph Men has found 86% of respondents believe society is more suspicious of men in general as a result of the conviction of Rolf Harris.
The poll asked: “Do you feel that society has become more suspicious of men generally in the wake of the conviction of Rolf Harris?”
As of 20:00 on Thursday 10 July, 86.57% — or 864 votes – said yes, while 13.43% — 134 votes – said no.
The results were reflected in reports of everyday men’s experiences by the BBC.
In a BBC Radio 5 Live phone-in on Monday 7 July, several men said they felt surrounded by a sense of suspicion, while others described instances of being openly accused of being paedophiles.
‘It’s there all the time’
Several men were asked if they would feel comfortable going to help a child who they did not know who was in distress.
One man said: “If you do see a kid on the road, yes it does cross your mind that people might think there’s something sinister going on with yourself.
“It’s there all the time, it’s always in your mind. I mean when I was growing up it wasn’t, but it’s in your mind now.”
Another said: “It’s probably more difficult for a man, than it is for a woman. A woman would be accepted to do it. Sometimes a man, he could be misconstrued.”
‘Paedophile at the school gates’
A third man said: “You might be a bit paranoid, maybe, because of what’s happened and the perception that people have on, maybe, solo men now going up to a young child, but if they are still a lost child I don’t think that would change what I would do.”
Journalist and editor Martin Daubney described being aggressively verbally abused by a passer-by after he stopped to say hello to his son in the playground of his son’s new school.
Daubney said: “I was passing my son’s school, he only started school in reception last September, and it just happened to be a lucky occasion when he was outside playing in the playground.
“So I sort of stood by the school gates and I attempted to peer through, to catch a glimpse of my son – a magical moment, I thought — but a man at the bus stop had other ideas and he just came straight over and just went into a tirade of abuse really — ‘what the F are you doing?’ — and I was overwhelmed by his reaction and it sank in really quickly that of course he thought I was some sort of paedophile at the school gates.
“I was absolutely mortified that this had happened and I found myself being really apologetic and I kind of trotted off and then I felt furious afterwards, that even a son at the school gates and a father trying to catch a glimpse, was put under this magnifying glass of suspicion and I think it’s omnipresent now.”
He added: “I think the real sad thing about this is it’s actually having a real effect in the real world – if you go to primary schools, my son is in primary school, I went to about nine local schools and I was just struck by the total paucity of male primary teachers
“Males aren’t coming forward to be primary teachers because of the fear of being labelled as paedophiles, it’s just terribly sad. My son has got a male primary teacher next year and there’s only one in the school.”
By Dan Bell
Photo courtesy OliBac
What do you think is the impact of constant media reports of men as sexual offenders?
Do you think these reports are affecting the way society sees men? How do you think these reports are affecting the way men see themselves? What effect do you think these messages are having on men’s relationships with children?
Do you think these reports are an accurate reflection of men’s behaviour in general? Is a heightened sense of suspicion around all men, a price worth paying to bring perpetrators of abuse to justice?
Please tell us in a comment or a Tweet.