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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.
Was harassed by a man on a bus who drunkenly yelled “you’ve got a nice pair of tits, love!”
I’m in my early 20s and a student at a community college. It was late in the evening a month or so ago, and I was on campus walking to class and passed by a group of young men who were talking and joking around with each other. As I proceeded to walk one of them started to loudly make comments like “Hey, you. Can I get your number?” I knew he was talking to me, but I ignored him hoping that wasn’t the case.
I realized that the group was now walking behind me, and I didn’t know what to do. I had never been harassed in public before. I ignored them and kept walking, not indicating that I had heard them at all, but they continued to follow me saying, “Hey, I like girls with square backpacks.” That one almost made me laugh at how ridiculous it was before he said, “Hey, you in the green shirt, I’m talking to you.” I started to get really afraid that they’d try to follow me into the parking structure that I usually cut through and began to walk faster, taking an alternate route where there were more people. Eventually I stopped hearing them behind me. The whole time I could hear the guy laughing with his friends.
A couple of weeks afterwards I was waiting for the city bus and a guy looking to be in his fifties came up to me to ask me what time the bus usually came. I answered him and he walked away. He ended up getting on my bus, and sat a few seats away. As we got closer to campus, he switched seats to sit closer to me, and after asking if I was on my way to school, to which I replied yes, he out of nowhere turned and asked me, “Hey, do you want to go out with me?” I was startled, but I calmly and clearly replied, “No.” He then asked if I was over eighteen to which I replied, without thinking, yes. He continued to try to convince me, asking if I was sure because he had “a Starbucks gift card.” I again replied no. I didn’t feel threatened at the time, just because it seemed so random and he didn’t act upset or threatening; I just thought he was weird/creepy.
However, the next week as I was boarding the bus to go home, I heard someone say hi to me. I began to say hello before I realized it was the same guy. I immediately went to a seat far away from him, but as soon as I sat down he got up and took the seat behind me. It scared me that I couldn’t see him. I immediately took out my phone and dialed the first person I thought would answer. I was really freaked out and didn’t want him to try and talk to me. I talked on the phone about anything I could think of for the entire trip. After I got off, I kept looking behind me, afraid he’d follow me. When I told my sister she told me I should just take one of the metro buses instead, but I was reluctant because the city bus drops me off much closer to home, and I thought that surely he couldn’t be on the bus at all times of the day, as I had never seen him prior to this and I had been taking that bus for years.
Even so, I took the metro bus for a few days, before the weather turned especially warm and I decided to try the city bus one more time. The bus was unusually full, and I took a seat in the front where there were no available seats around me, I thought I was in the clear before the same creep came up beside me in the aisle and presented me with a flower asking me if I wanted it. I said no, and he asked again, I again said no. He left, and I got off early at one of the busier bus stops afraid he’d try to bother me off the bus. That was over a month ago and I haven’t taken that bus since.
Before these incidents I had heard about street harassment and recognized it as an issue, but I had never experienced it myself. I wasn’t prepared for how afraid and insecure it made me feel, I wish I would have said something at the time, but I don’t know if it would have mattered. I feel like it was so obvious both guys were bothering me, and in the second case it freaked me out even more that he didn’t seem to take my answer at face value. It made me afraid that he didn’t seem to have a clear sense of what the word “no” meant. I mean I repeatedly rejected him with my words and body language. Why should I have to bluntly and loudly confront him? Ugh, it happened weeks ago and I’m still thinking I should have told him off.
It was a balmy summer evening, and I was walking home from the subway along Flatbush Avenue. Just ahead of me was a girl in her early twenties in a pair of shorts. Men started hooting, and one of them began following her down the street and aggressively asking for her number, her name, and a date. She kept walking, and he kept following. I came up next to her and asked if she’d like a walk home. She quickly said yes, and I slid my arm into her’s and we walked together. The hooting kept up, but the stalking stopped. After a block I asked if she was ok, and she smiled and said yes.
As upset as I was (and still am), it feels good to be able to do something.
15 years ago, when I was 15 years old, I got off my school bus and was walking home with my saxophone case in one hand. A young adult man came up from behind me and lifted my school uniform skirt. He looked me in the eyes to see my reaction, and when I started to chase him he started running. I had no chance to catch up to him, but I still ran for blocks. It was humiliating. People around me stared.
Later that year I was walking home from school. An older gardener man came up from behind me in his bike and grabbed my butt and sped off. I had no chance to even react. I felt muted.
A couple of months ago, I posted a success story on here regarding harassment near my workplace. I’ve been reading everyone’s stories since, and sadly there are so few where the victims are able to feel powerful after an incident.
I’ve decided to make it a point to share any successful experiences that I have, to hopefully inspire others to keep going, speak up, and take action. I believe that we can make a world of difference together. We really can.
The most recent experience occurred yesterday. This one was pretty hilarious. I was jogging down a main street in Hayward, California. At one point, I was running on a slight incline, enjoying the focus and pace. I heard a bicycle approaching in the street, alongside the sidewalk where I was. I always look when I hear a bike, to make sure the person is paying attention, not attempting to assault me, etc.
When I looked at the rider, he looked back at me in acknowledgement. Then he looked back again. And again. At that point, I asked, “What?” Not in a confrontational way, but as if you had spinach in your teeth and someone continued to stare. The dialogue was as follows:
Me: “I don’t know, man. You’re making me uncomfortable right now.”
Him: *laughs* “What?”
Me: “Wow, this is really awkward, the way you’re looking at me.”
Him: “I’m just looking at you, looking to see who you are. This is how I look at all the girls!”
Me: “You know I’m only 16, right?”
Him: *pauses and looks back in a double-take* “…Woooow. Woo, oh boy! Oh…” *throws both hands up and starts riding away with increasing speed*
Me: *laughing* “Yeah that’s right, buddy, you just keep on riding!”
He hauled ass out of there like you wouldn’t believe. I wish I had recorded his reaction, or even taken a picture. One of the best ones I’ve seen. I could still hear him in the distance as he was riding away, shaking his head and “woo!”-ing in fear of being caught for his predatory actions. He didn’t look back at me once after that!
I had so much positive energy after the incident, that I was able to jog home in half the time it would normally take me. I went home smiling, laughing, in good spirits. Because I took the power back in the situation.
The funny thing is, I’m actually 25. I mean, I’ll take the compliment, but when a grown man refers to all human females as “girls” regardless of age, I automatically get the vibe that they’re a predator. It’s offensive and insulting to women, but in this instance, I used it to my advantage. I dared to be a woman who stepped outside of her house without a man next to her, and I walked away with the power.