It Was Not the Last Kiss

Those who say the end to kissing and flirting is upon us employ cheap populist demagoguery to undermine the important ruling in Ramon's trial.

No, it was not the last kiss, despite the new chorus that has arisen to frighten us: The ways of the world have changed. It is the death knell for courtship, the end of kissing. Eitan Haber wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth's editorial: "No one has yet been born who would risk his freedom for a kiss - in its decision, the court will forge a new nature of relationships and will apparently intervene in the work of the Creator." Journalist Meirav Batito-Fried said on television: "The culture of flirting has been outlawed." These two, together with another respected band of fearmongers, men and women alike, employed cheap populist demagoguery to undermine the important ruling in the trial of Haim Ramon.

Israel should take pride in this ruling, even if, as a public figure, Ramon pays a steep personal price for it. Just as the public figures among us enjoy a nearly endless list of extravagant benefits citizens can only dream about - much more so than in many other countries - the price they should pay when they stumble must also be heavy. The sadness many feel in light of Ramon's personal tragedy (but not toward the complainant against him) is understandable and justified, but it must not blur the value of the ruling that convicted him.

The ways of the world that are liable to change, one would hope, as a result of this ruling are those that should have disappeared long ago. Courtship will not end and the kiss will not die. The court acted with noteworthy courage when it ruled contrary to widespread public sentiment and set clear limits that must not be crossed.

The permissive society in which we live will not be hurt at all. We, the men, will be able to continue to court and kiss unabated under the condition that the other party consents to our actions. It is a shame that we needed the court in order to arrive at this situation. There are countries in which a government minister would never dream of kissing a female soldier, but in the wanton atmosphere that prevails here, there is no alternative to mobilizing the justice system, as is the case for other matters.

This ruling will barely affect the average man. Even before the verdict, he knew the limits of the permissible and the forbidden in the relations between the sexes. Whether they are government ministers or simple citizens, there are many men to whom it would never occur to stick their tongue in the mouth of a female soldier when they barely know each other. The unruly men, those who thought until a few days ago that almost anything was permissible for them - to grope, kiss, embrace, rub against, pinch and harass - are the only ones who will be a little more cautious now, and that is a good thing.

But the verdict's main impact will actually be on women. From now on, each Israeli woman will know it is her right to resist and her duty to complain if a man intrudes upon her body, in any way, without her consent. No love will die as a result of this, and no courtship will be harmed. On the contrary.

Perhaps there was no need to put Ramon on trial. He himself could have prevented this outcome if he had acted with wisdom, compassion and integrity immediately after the incident. But since he failed to do so, and the complaint was submitted, the court was obliged to convict him. Not because of Ramon, but because of the ramifications his acquittal would have had on gender relations in Israeli society. By acquitting him, the court would have sent an unequivocal message to society: A woman's body is the property of the man, who is free to decide when to intrude upon it and when not to. If the court had allowed the kiss, women would no longer have been able to complain about similar or more serious cases. True, Ramon's crime is light, and cannot be compared to acts of rape or indecent acts that are much more grievous. But the argument that now there will no longer be any distinction between one act and another, between one little kiss and serial sexual abuse, is ridiculous. The court will know how to distinguish between these acts and will determine the seriousness of punishment accordingly, just as the punishment for a slap is not the same as for a severe beating, even if they are based on the same article of law.

It is difficult to predict how greatly the ruling will influence women's readiness to submit complaints. Hopefully, it will encourage more and more women to defend their dignity and their rights over their bodies. Even if some women may exploit the new situation to submit false complaints, this is still preferable to the status quo ante. It is better to have an excess of complaining women than to have terrified, submissive and humiliated women. Perhaps the pendulum will swing for a moment from one extreme situation to its opposite extreme, but it will quickly reach equilibrium in a place that is immeasurably better than the situation that has existed until now. Secretaries, waitresses, female soldiers and housekeepers, who until now have experienced sexual harassment and indecent acts on a regular basis, who have kept silent and helplessly forgave, will now know that the state will protect them when necessary. Thus, the justice system fulfilled its role in defending the rights of the weak - and of weak women in particular.

Free love will continue to blossom, and women and men will follow their hearts' desires. The "work of the Creator" will not suffer one bit, despite all the angry prophecies. But the court established an important foundation for change: From now on, a woman will also have to express her consent - what a sensational change - before we dispatch our organs toward her body and her dignity.