Have you ever been catcalled, whistled at, groped, hugged, approached by a strange man, had your ass slapped or just had unwelcome comments. I have! From the time I hit puberty and ongoing. This is a common occurrence for me and I believe it has shaped the person I have become. I’ve received comments like more ounce for your bounce baby, nice body shame about the face, and does that skirt get shorter in the summer to mention a few! It has made me cautious and depressed. I hate walking down the street because I’m afraid of what comments might come out of people’s mouths. I’ve been stalked, followed, interrupted, and I hate it. I’m an overly tall woman so I often get looked at or gawked at and on more than one occasion I have even been asked to take pictures with. A few years back I worked for a Children and Youth centre and had to walk through a very unsafe area of Toronto. I again received a number of cat calls and whistles, and I don’t know what happened but I snapped. I turned around to the man who was cat calling me and I said that is not appropriate. I told him that I didn’t appreciate his verbal attack and could he refrain from doing it again. I think he was quite shocked by my response and he actually apologized. These types of activities are very damming especially for young girls. They encourage a type of inappropriate behaviour and I wish it would stop. It makes women like me, who generally are strong and professional feel demeaned and worth less than they are!
I’m an American and was walking down by the Seine River in Paris one night in 2010. A guy ran to catch up with me, and asked me a question in French. I turned my head to glance at him briefly, then immediately looked ahead again, without slowing down or stopping. When I looked at him, I quickly sized him up. His size was comparable to mine, and he was obviously drunk. I figured I could take him on if necessary, but if I needed a Plan B, there were groups of people around whom I figured I could run to for help.
Me: Je ne comprends pas le français. (I don’t understand French)
Him: (asked another question in French that I couldn’t understand)
Me: Je ne comprends pas.
Him: French (pause) kiss?
Me: (sternly) No.
He reached for my arm, and his hand brushed my elbow as I pulled it away and stopped walking, then threw my fist toward his face and stopped it just inches from his nose. Looking him dead in the eye, I told him slowly and sternly, “Get, the fuck, out of my, face.” He stood stunned for a few moments, looking at me as though I was crazy, then walked back in the direction from which he came.
In the four months I stayed in Paris, only one other guy followed me for a few blocks and tried to talk to me, but he wasn’t as annoying as that guy, nor did I feel threatened. Not like one guy in particular in Michigan…
I was working for a friend who owned a gas station. It was Saturday night, and I was all alone when a guy came in with his friend. This guy was very persistent asking me out, and I kept telling him I wasn’t interested. After several minutes, his friend finally told him, “She’s not interested. Let’s go,” and they left. Later that night, the guy came back by himself. I wasn’t behind the counter that time, and he was standing right next to me. He was much taller than I am, and I felt very intimidated. I kept telling him I wasn’t interested, trying to be polite but not too nice, but he kept asking me out. This whole time, I had my hand on my pepper spray, discreetly, ready to use it, but he was standing too close to use it safely, and was standing between me and the only way out of this small building. I was very nervous, and didn’t know what he was capable of doing. I finally lied and said, “Ok, meet me at (strip club 45 minutes away) tomorrow night. I’ll be working there.” He agreed, and started to leave. Once he reached the door and was far enough for me to use my pepper spray if needed, I said, “No, wait. I can’t let you go all the way out there. I won’t be there tomorrow night.” He asked why I lied, and I said, “Because you wouldn’t take no for an answer.” He was visibly upset, but left. I was worried that he might come back again and jump me as I was leaving for the night, but thank goodness, he never came back.
I don’t know why this guy seemed to believe he could change my mind when I was being very clear from the beginning that I wasn’t interested, but at the time, I only figured that if he didn’t respect my “No” to a date, would he not respect my “No” on a date if I had gone out with him? I hope that he was simply ignorant, and that I planted a seed in his mind that night that he needs to respect a woman’s “No” when she says it.
My story is not specific, because it happens too many times a day to count. I currently live in Medellin, Colombia, currently one of the most notorious hubs for sex tourism, street trafficking, and child prostitution. Before I decided to come here to start a vegetarian food project with a friend, I traveled mostly solo or with one female friend throughout Colombia and Ecuador. Traveling on your own has its challenges, but traveling as an independent female is another story. You are always on the streets, and thus, are in a constant state of harassment. Before you set foot out of your own city, you are constantly reminded of ‘how dangerous’ it is for you, how you ‘should travel with a group, a boyfriend, or a male companion’, how you should ‘never walk alone’ because ‘you never know what horrible things could happen to you… as a woman’. Sometimes men (and women alike) like to take additional steps in making sure you don’t venture out to foreign streets. They say ‘you are being naive’ (thank you for completely undermining my intelligence), they say ‘there are safer ways to do it’, they say you could ‘just save up more money, and go someplace else’. Before I left on my trip, I had many people do everything they could to strip me of my confidence, condescend my abilities, and essentially tell me that I was setting myself up for a horrible demise. Me. It would be MY fault, if something terrible happened to me somewhere in which ‘wasn’t my place’.
Meet Colombia and Ecuador, two of the loveliest countries on Earth. Meet Colombia and Ecuador, where I didn’t manage to escape unscathed. I cannot make less than a 5 minute walk without being catcalled, hissed at, or looked up and down in any city I have been in. 5 minutes. That’s about 3 blocks. And I’m a fast walker. I have been called (translated from Spanish): my love, my heaven, my life, my sky, my little thing, my princess, my queen, my sweet, baby, girl, white girl, beautiful, pretty, delicious, and ‘wow’. While those might sound like more than compliments to some, I am not a fan of the comments. I did not ask for them. I do not want them. I do not have a choice. These men disgust me.
That’s the cakewalk. Then comes the hissing. You know that sound you make to call your dog? Well they use the same one for women. Hissing. Don’t worry, they still call their animals the same way. There’s not much of a difference. And there won’t be later either. It is symptomatic, and no one does anything about it. Women are dogs here.
What do the comments turn into? The hisses? Oh it doesn’t stop there.
I’ve been followed for blocks multiple times. I’ve had to hide. I’ve had to turn around and yell at men stalking me. They smile. Or laugh it off. Or ignore me. Or point at me and say how much they’d like to fuck me. Or ask if I have a boyfriend. Or if I will marry them. But it still doesn’t stop.
I’ve been groped in the metros. I’ve had my hips, my arms, and my ass squeezed. I’ve had every inch of my body purposefully pressed upon. I’ve had stiff dicks and sweaty hands invade my space too many times during rush hour. It never stops.
The winks, the catcalls, the hissing, the squeezing, the stalking, the sexual comments, they are everything that signifies the complete lack of respect for women where I currently reside, and that is on all levels.
At one point at a festival, I was drunk… like almost everyone else. I was talking to a guy whom I had never met. I do not know him still. I do not remember his name. I don’t know what we talked about, and I don’t know how any of it happened. I remember flashes. I remember walking into a filthy bathroom with him. Horrible things happened. One flash I have was of him pulling his pants down. No condom. My feeling of fear, disgust, entrapment, helplessness, isolation. I could do nothing. The friend I was with had no idea… I never had the heart to tell him. I was crushed. My soul was gone. I was dead for a long time.
I was so traumatized, I couldn’t feel anything for awhile. I didn’t want to exist, or move, or speak. I was a changed person. I went from vivacious, funny, friendly, and wild, to a shell in moments. No one knew what happened, but the friends I was staying with knew it was something terrible. I didn’t know if I would find any part of my old spirit again. That was the worst part. But a different me is back.
I refused to be defeated. Before, I almost always reacted to street harassment. I would yell, I would silently put up my middle finger, I would fight back. I was strong. I was vigilant, careful, and conscious. No one thought I would be the one, but 1 out of 5 is pretty staggering.
For women, going out into the street is a gamble. I lost just one time. But honestly, I’m glad it was me, and not someone else. I still react, but in different ways. I harness all of my intensity to shock men, to scare them, to let them know without a doubt, that what they are doing is wrong. Often, I am successful. But It doesn’t stop. You can’t get everyone. Street harassment is a gateway to vicious assault, denigration, and decimation of female integrity and safety. If there is anything that I have learned, it is this: IT IS ALWAYS YOUR PLACE TO SAY SOMETHING. YOUR BODY, YOUR VOICE, YOUR DIGNITY. It belongs to you. Be strong, fight back. This is your world as much as it is anyone else’s. You might not be next, but someone you love will find their time… it’s always when you least expect it.
I had gone with my girlfriends to rainey street in austin and I was waiting outside the club in line talking minding my own business, when behind me I hear screaming of someone saying OH MY GOD this ass !!! this is perfection its the perfect ass, you are beautiful girl. I was not aware this yelling was directed to me until I felt a hard slap on my ass it hurt so bad that I turned around so angry, the guy saw I was not happy and just said ” Sorry I had to” and left.
Let me point out that even if I was wearing a short skirt or dress this is not ok, but I wasn’t I was wearing pants and a long shirt. Who thinks it’s alright to slap someone ? cuz you “had to ” ?? really ?
The same night, I was followed down the street on the way to the metro by men calling after me. One of the men followed me and proceeded to try and “buy” me as if I were a prostitute. He said he had a beautiful room, comfortable bed, until another person grabbed me and said “no” (which I am still confused about). But after I tore away (as I am used to being grabbed), the fruit stand guy grabbed the guy who had been following me and stopped him. I will never forget him: someone finally helped.
Later that night, I went out clubbing and took a taxi home with friends because I was drunk. The taxi driver told me to stay in to pay, which my friend had already paid, and my drunk friends left, which is when he took advantage of my state. Sadly, this isn’t near the first time. I am tired of being raped, sexually assaulted, groped, stalked, etc. It needs to end, and people need to step up. Unfortunately, women often can’t speak out for fear of more violence. This is a moment where men can stop up and help women who are continually being victimized.
I can’t remember the street because I was a tourist and it was 29 years ago, but it was the most blatant I’ve experienced of street harassment short of back ally.
I was six months and obviously pregnant. There was no mistaking it. I waddled. I was wearing a maternity sailors dress to my midcalf.I was not in anyway in a “come hither” fashion so any detractors can tuck that argument away. As I climbed the metro subway stairs to get to the sidewalk it was crowded but one man kept jostling me and I was afraid I would fall. He was very rough and I had to keep gripping the banister. I glanced back over my shoulder and he just looked at me and as we hit the top, he darted around me grabbing a fistful of my ass as he did so. He was gone into the crown before I could even get over my shock and humiliation. I just stood there feeling naked.
Something about being pregnant and alone made you a target for lewd behavior. I was asked to spend the night, things like, “Hey, don’t act so innocent. We know your aren’t.” and told by one guy “At least I can’t get you pregnant.” as he laughed with his friends. A drunk man at a cafe began talking to my belly and rubbing it and tried to kiss it before a Coast Guardsmen pulled him away from me.
Between these and some more personally deep history, people wonder why I believe in certain laws, or give my teen daughter pepper spray.
I was walking down the street when I heard some guys yelling from a truck. I was used to that, so I didn’t turn around. Then, I felt something hit my butt — they’d thrown a little pack of ice at it. They cheered when they hit their target. For some reason, this made me feel really humiliated and foolish.
While running early one morning in Barcelona I realized I ran by a massage place that offered for 1 hour at 25 euros. I thought it was a great deal, but it wasn’t open so I decided to take a picture of the opening hours and name. While taking a photo a man with a shopping cart passed me from behind and slapped my right butt cheek with his hand. I was fuming, but I didn’t say anything. He was laughing sinister like, and I just prayed for God to bring justice to him one day.
I was walking up the hill on my way home and had a bunch of guys hanging out of their car yelling ‘hey sexy’ and other things. One of them tried to slap my ass from the window and the car got very close to me! I was unable to say anything or so anything because it happened so fast!
After I was molested at age 9 I went right in to MMA, I never wanted to feel that fear again. Two years ago; I was walking to a bus to go met my girlfriend and at the bus stop an old man starts hitting on me. I tell him he needs to stop and that I have a girlfriend. He stepped closer and grabbed my genitals and said he could please me a whole lot more then some Faggot girl and that he could “cure” me. I slammed my elbow in to his sternum and screamed for help but when the police got there and I told them what happened they arrested me for defending my self. The charges where dropped but I still can’t get over how all I did was try to get some old ass to let me go and yet I ended up going downtown. There were so many men watched and one even went as far to stand up for the older man saying that I was the one who flaunted in front of him and got pissy.