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I was biking down the streets of Kiev wearing short but modest white sports shorts. As I was on the road riding towards the metro, a man who was walking with two other women holding shopping bags slapped my butt as I rode past. I turned around to yell at him and he smiled smugly back at me as if he were proud of what he did. I didn’t know what to do though this has happened before to me.
I was 7 months pregnant and jogging to the corner store to get a snack. A man on the street said: “Damn girl, you in shape.”
I ignored him and kept jogging.
“You pregnant?” he asked.
I responded, “Yup!” mainly because I thought that once he realized I was pregnant, he might leave me alone.
“Is this your first baby?” he asked.
I said, “Yup!”
“Want to have another one later?”
I was standing on the corner waiting for a cab with my boyfriend and 5 of our friends. It was near several bars, and the streets were crowded. A woman was on the same corner saying goodnight to the man she was out with. He hopped in a cab and kept leaning out the window trying to persuade her to get in the cab, but she said no many times. As the cab sat at the stop sign, another man stopped in the middle of the street and started whistling and hollering at the woman. He made it clear that he was trying to provoke the man in the cab, who wasn’t paying attention. I watched and even said to my friends, “Hey look, that guy is so gross, I hate when that happens,” but I never said anything to her and the man.
After a few seconds the whistler got bored and walked on. She waved at the man in the cab and said never mind I’ll go with you. It took me a few minutes to get it, and then I felt terrible. I know what it is like to leave with someone you are uncomfortable with because it seems like the safer option. I backed away from my friends and sat down on a bench a few feet away. Immediately a large, intoxicated man sat down next to me.
I scooted to the edge of the bench. He scooted close enough that our legs and thighs were touching and began asking me all the usual questions. The only response I gave was “I’m waiting for a cab with my friends, my friends are right there.” He did the usual “That’s not your name, you’re pretty, smoke this cigarette, why are you being a bitch?” I didn’t get up, I didn’t call over my friend or boyfriend who had their backs turned. I think part of me didn’t want them to make a scene and embarrass me or make it worse. I just looked at my phone and at his friends staring at us. Finally I stood up. I hate that I didn’t think fast enough to stick up for that girl. I hate that I was too shy to stick up for myself. I hate that this happens every freaking day and it has taken me so many years to want to work on it. I’m working on it. Let’s all work on it for each other.
A few friends and I went to our favorite bar one evening. First my two friends had their asses grabbed by a drunk prick. Later, as we were standing and chatting, I glanced behind me to see a man sitting with his hand outstretched toward my skirt, wiggling his fingers. He was making this gesture to a table of people he was sitting with. I immediately sought out the bar manager and reported him. As I was walking back to my friends I saw that this drunk asshole had started arguing and was bumping chests against a male friend of mine. Apparently in my absence he had hit on my other two female friends and tried to put his arms around them. One of them pushed him off and he pushed her backwards. I ran back to the bar manager who promptly grabbed a bouncer and escorted him and his drunk friends out of the bar. Later in the bathroom the jerk’s female friends apologized to me.
A man in his late 50’s was on his bicycle and asked “hey you got a license for that ass?” while we were waiting for the same red light.
I called him on his shit and told him how rude he was. I told him he was being disrespectful and did not accept his apology. He called me something under his breath and rode off as the light turned green.
Last night, I joined a friend at a quintessential Alaskan bar to listen to and dance to live music. Around 12:30 AM, I had given up on dancing in an overly crowded space and was instead content to listen from the back of the room. At some point, I found myself sitting nearly alone, with a beer, as my date chatted with a number of mutual friends, like one does.
As I was sitting by myself, a man in his late 20’s walked by me, turning to say “you have nice legs.” When I immediately replied that he was being sexist and harassing me, he became aggressive and argued that he couldn’t help but notice them because “you put them in my face.” When I critiqued that statement, he became more and more agitated, pacing back and forth, and shrieking that I was “a crazy lady” and that he “owned the bar” and could say and do whatever he wanted. As he searched for his missing black hoodie, apparently the reason why he wouldn’t leave the space near me, he kept returning to my table, practically frothing at the mouth with anger.
As he alternated between erratic behavior–like apologizing and saying that he didn’t mean to offend me and then stepping into my face and cursing me out–I couldn’t help but notice a group of people sitting just a few feet away, watching his aggression, whispering about it, and saying absolutely nothing.
At some point, I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to move from where I was sitting, that I was so pissed off about the harassment that I refused to cede one seat at the back of the bar to him. Instead, I proceeded to ignore the belligerent man, after verbally asking him to back off and demanding that he not touch me (after he tried to shake my hand). It wasn’t until my male date noticed the harassment and returned to my side that my aggressor finally left me alone, intimidated by another man’s presence.
There is so much that upsets me about this incident, but here’s the short-list: I hate that listening to music in a public space makes me vulnerable to harassment. I hate that being alone makes me seem like an easy target. I hate that a group of people near me didn’t intervene. I hate that I wanted them to. I hate that I was called “crazy,” an ableist slur. I hate that my clothing choice was, and will continue to be, a justification for aggression. I hate that the only thing that would make this guy leave was the presence of another man. I hate that I have to choose between being independent and being safe. And I really fucking hate that this will happen again and again and again and that it’s happened before.
Random guy grabbed my ass at the grocery market.
My friends and I had just spent the whole day at music festival and were waiting for my dad to come pick us up. We were standing by a street sign so my dad could easily find us. A man in his thirties walked past us with a young woman and said, “You girls are looking good.” My sister politely said, “Thank you,” and we turned around to avoid any further contact. As he was crossing the street he shouted, “I mean, you guys are working that corner,” and we all turned around shocked by what he said but we did not respond. He then said “I mean, can I pick which one I want?”
After that I decided that I should say something to him so I responded, “No, you man not pick one, please keep walking and leave us alone.” He then responded, “Oh I can’t pick one?” And angrily I said, “No we aren’t objects, keep walking and stop talking to us.” He then shouted terms at us and then he said, “Oh you aren’t objects?! Then what are you?” And again I said, “Keep walking.” After he crossed the street he decided to turn around and take a picture of us and then he caught up with the younger woman he was with and laughed hysterically. By no means should anyone ever have to experience something like that. My friends felt uncomfortable and violated. Although I do not feel that I handled the situation in the best manner, he should not have implied that we were prostitutes, and he should not have taken that picture.
One time I was walking to my car and some guy starts calling out, “Hey babygirl, what’s up my babygirl,” etc. etc. I looked back at him and said, “Don’t call me babygirl. I am not your fucking babygirl!” He put his head down and said, “You’re right ma’am, I’m sorry.” I was like, “Hell yeaaaaaaa!!!! FTW.”
Sooo… Sexual harassment was something I experienced since I was 13 years old. Leering, stupid comments, guys trying to hit on me (“Where do you live?”..wtf dude?), public masturbation, men who rub against me in the bus, licking their lips and making kissy noises at me, staring at my body…
Anyways, I was once in Paris visiting my father. We went to a big furniture store where you could have lunch. I got a salad and the salad sauce tube didn’t work, so I asked an employee for help. He took another employee with him to get a new one and they came over and helped me to push the sauce out…well, the sauce was white and of course, one of them turned to me and said, “Well you have to squeeze with passion to make the sauce come out!” And they started laughing in a dirty way. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal, but I felt embarrassed. I don’t think it’s okay to make sexist jokes to a seventeen year old girl.