I’m not terribly attractive compared to a lot of other girls I know. Plus I wear baggy hoodies, jeans and my hair’s naturally messy. Even so, I did experience street harassment twice in the past. What happened recently took the cake; even if it wasn’t on the street, where it happened was as public as a street was.
I was at the library, buried in a book. All of a sudden, a guy just sat down on the other end of the couch and said hi. I gave a nod, politely said hi and turned back to the book. The guy looked to be in his 50’s or 60’s. When he started rambling, I nodded and replied with the occasional “mhm” because I was taught to respect your elders.
I began to notice he was slowly sliding over to me. And his eyes were looking everywhere else on my body BUT my eyes. Some of the language he was using made me feel uncomfortable and the stranger began asking me very personal questions.
I made up a quick act about how I’m running late to meet my friend, got up and hustled down the stairs. A moment later, while scanning the bookshelves, I noticed the same guy following me. Panicking, I fast-walked through the library to the girls bathroom. I stayed in there for a few minutes and when I asked another woman to see if the guy was still out there, he was.
Lucky for me, the bathroom had two doors. I used the other exit and ran down the hall to the elevator. I was back upstairs where I could hide out in one of the secluded areas and spy on the first floor through a special window.
It took an hour before that guy left the library. Entire time, he was looking around the first floor.
The library has always been my sanctuary to escape from stress and to relax for awhile. But that creep ruined the library for me. I can’t go back there cause he could return and the librarians won’t do anything about it. The library may not be the street. However it’s still a public place and women do have the right to be in public without harassment.
I was leaving the west village to meet my boyfriend, after having worked a long shift at the west village restaurant I’ve worked at for the past two years. I was wearing jeans, boots, a hoodie with the hood up and my glasses were on. I think I put the hoodie on because it was cold out and wanted to cover my head, not to make any kind of “statement.” It was a Tuesday night. As I’m walking along Macdougal past Turkiss Falafel shop, some guy looks me up and down and says “Wow, you look like Super Girl, and if you took off your glasses you would probably look awesome!” I get endless catcalls leaving work in this area, but this one stuck with me mostly because the nonchalant way this guy said this subversive comment, with no concern for how it actually came out, like he had just sneezed and kept on walking. Who are you to tell me what I do and do not look like to you?! Would you ever say that to a guy who had his hoodie up? And who are you to tell me if I would look better or worse without my glasses on?! I do not just exist for your viewing enjoyment! I am not the couch in you and your roommate’s place that you can just say, hmm it would look better on that wall, and maybe without the couch cover. I am human being. I need glasses to see. And if girls with glasses are not sexy to you, why would you feel the need to say that to a random stranger who wasn’t even making eye contact with you.
Okay, so to start off I’ll give you a little bit of history- this incident happened 3 years ago (I was fifteen at the time). I got on a bus by the local shopping center. Only one seat was open by the time I got on because I made sure all of the elderly people had found a seat first. I was wearing a t-shirt that said University of Virginia Rowing Camp- it wasn’t revealing, just stated that I was a rower attending one of the local training camps.
This guy claims to have been a rowing coach, tells enough stories to convince me that he at least knows a bit about the sport, but I tripped him up on the difference between port and starboard- in maritime world “Port” means the left side, “Starboard” means the right side. In Rowing, this gets reversed. Any real crew coach would have caught on to the difference.
So, after realizing this (and that i didn’t have my cell phone or pepper spray with me) I got off the bus at the next stop. So did the guy. While I’m waiting for the next bus to appear, he proceeds to compliment me on my “southern accent”. I am from Connecticut, okay? The only way I have a southern accent is if you are from either Maine or Canada. I switched buses three more times. Each time I switched, so did he.
Eventually I made my way back to the center of the city and had to walk into the local police department to get this guy to stop following me. And that is only the first time this happened (it has happened three times since, in three separate cities. I was followed by a drunk guy in New York City who kept persistently trying to start a conversation about my shirt. My friend and I were both approached while walking to our local movie theater and asked by some guy who you could literally smell the cloud of weed smoke rolling off of if we wanted to go to a party. And the third time was during my first month of college here in Willimantic. A guy in a red Toyota four door pulled over and asked me: “Excuse me, how old are you?” While looking at my boobs in a way that implied what he was really asking, which was: “Is it legal to have sex with you”. I guess my real question is will it ever stop? I’m no more or less attractive than anybody else. What makes it okay for a man (or anyone ever) to do that to someone- taking away their sense of security to the point that they don’t feel safe to walk alone without pepper spray?
I was sixteen years old and my father sent me into Target to pick up a few things. While shopping I was followed around by a much older man. He would smile at me and he came up to me about three times asking me for my phone number. I tried to ignore him but he got more aggresive when I did. I told a store employee and was informed there was nothing they could do for me. But the part that upset me the most was when I told my father what happened and that I didn’t want to go into places by myself anymore, he informed me that this is just what happens when your pretty and that I just needed to ignore them and deal with the comments.
This is only the most recent story of harassment in my life. It’s not the worst either, not even the worst this month.
I didn’t have enough money to get out of the bus station. My husband had already gone through the barrier and was waiting for me on the other side. I go to pay at one of the atm like stations. While I’m standing there 2 men come up behind me, too close, and I ask them to back up. Instead they get in my face and says he isn’t doing anything, it escalates too fast. I’m terrified, I let my guard down because I was out with my husband so I didn’t have any pepper spray at the ready. I start freaking out and my husband rushes around the corner and starts screaming at these guys to back off. They don’t back off, they say they’re gonna hurt us. I really don’t want to say what my husband did next, but it was pretty obvious that he was going to kill these guys if he had to. I finally start thinking straight & run to jump the barrier and we ran for blocks.
I live in Caracas Venezuela, i see and experienced this type of verbal herrasment every day in the street, the first time was on the subway that some ramdom guy told me to smile, i was so mad
This is not that recent, but I’d like to share. I was 33 and minding my own business on an airplane. The guy next to me started chatting me up and telling me what he did for a living (military, arms development). I played along because I didn’t want to be rude. I thought, “Well, I’m on a plane to Memphis, and I’ve heard that people are more outgoing or friendly or whatever in the South.” Then it turned into a dinner invitation, which I hedged. THEN it turned into this guy knocking repeatedly on my hotel room door and saying “Helllllooooo? You were going to go to dinner with me?! Hey!” several times in a row. I was cowering in my hotel room, at the age of 33 and with several years of being in a male-dominated profession. But what could I do? This still creeps me out.
I’m so glad you guys exist. When I was 13, I accidentally strayed away from my parents as we were walking in Manhattan one Sunday afternoon when a tall man cat called me saying, “hey baby.” It was the most scary, uncomfortable and traumatizing experience of my adolescence. I quickly ran away from the man as my eyes pinpointed my parents location. As a 30 something adult now, I still get chills walking alone because of this experience.
I can’t even recall all the things I’ve heard, street harassment is real everywhere in the world, but it seems to be taken to a whole new level when we are talking about Brazil. Since it is a country that is pretty much in summer all year long women tend to wear shorts and tank tops pretty much everywhere and I have lost count of how many times my mom told me she would not let me out on the streets wearing what I was wearing–she didn’t mean wrong, it’s just that she was afraid for my safety, what makes me sad is that she had to be, is that I have to be worried and constantly looking back so that I can spot a potential raper and have time to run or call for help, it is simply not OK to walk around in fear 24/7. Once I was walking down the street with some friends and a guy catcalled us, we had been catcalled at least 10 times in a short period of time and I’ve had enough, so I showed him my middle finger and told him to fuck off (sorry for the vocabulary), don’t get me wrong I know this is not the best way to handle the situation, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. You know what my friends did? They were horrified that I even answered the guy and told me I should have just stayed quiet and kept walking. No, I’m sorry I can’t stay quiet anymore. It is not fair that I can’t run in the street anymore because my gym outfit is too provocative, it is not ok that I’ve never taken the public transport of my city because I am too afraid of being harassed, it is ok that I have to be scared of being a girl.
There are too many, sadly, to report here but I’ll relay few of them: There was one good ol’ boy who was somehow in LA and when I walked by said “Mmmmmm, I’d LOVE to have you between my sheets!” One old man asked me “Would you be willing to model nude for me?” An elderly man was walking toward me on the sidewalk and when I smiled respectfully at the old fella, he leered back with “Mamacita!” (I do not dress provocatively.)
As has been mentioned before, I have often experienced first hand that a man can go from hitting on you to insulting you within seconds if you don’t play his game. It is frightening.
The stupidest comment was one time I had cut my hand badly on a broken glass while washing dishes. I was waiting outside on the sidewalk for a friend to come drive me to the hospital; the towel around my hand was growing increasingly heavier with blood. Two young guys walked by me and one of them said pseudo-suavely “Hello, beautiful”. When I looked away, painfully cradling my gushing hand, he lashed back with “Beauty is as beauty does” with a harsh tone despite the corny cliche. A woman can’t even be injured in peace!!!
Then there’s the bus driver who wouldn’t let me out of the bus until I gave him a kiss. It was bad enough but thank Heaven, not as bad as that could’ve been.