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My parents have a house in Spain where we go almost every vacation on holiday. So 2 or 3 years ago, we were in Spain in the summer. Our house is in a little village, but you can cycle very easily to the nearby city Cambrils. We never go alone (my sister and I), because we were too young according to my parents, but that vacation, my parents allowed us to go alone. My sister is 2 years younger than I am, so I had to take care about her. The first part of the road is a dirt road with no houses, maybe 2 or 3. The second part of the road is a bicycle path along the coastline. There is always a lot of people.
So we started very happy and exciting on our trip to the city. When we were driving on the dirt road, a white van stopped and asked us something in English. I didn’t understand him so I stopped to and he repeated his question. I was standing right next to the van, so I had to look up to him. My sister had already cycled farther so when she saw I stopped, she also stopped and waited for me. The man asked me where the ‘Camping Sol’ was. I said him that I didn’t know, I only knew that, in our little village, there was a camping named ‘Oasis’. Suddenly there came another car from the other direction and the road was very small, so the van had to move a little and the other car passed by. Now the van stood 2 or 3 meters from me and I could look into his window. Before, I only saw his face, because he was so close, but know I also saw the rest and I wish I hadn’t seen it. My sister was again next to me, and she saw it too. The man was masturbating. We were totally in shock and very scared because we were all alone. The nose of the car was pointed in the way of our village, so we couldn’t go back because he would catch up very easily, and that was very stupid, because we were at 2 minutes from our home, but at 30 minutes from Cambrils. But I started biking again, because just staying there wouldn’t help. My sister didn’t start, she was very scared so I said ‘Murielle, let’s go, just bike!’. Then she started biking and we kicked like fools on our pedals. From the other direction there came another white van and we were so scared that we drove into a random side street. Then we came back to the main road. We wanted to call our mother or father, but there was no service. Finally we reached the coastline. There we stopped. My sister had cried the whole time, and while I was calling my mother, I realized what happened and I also started crying. My mother came with the car to calm us down. My other sister, who is 8 years younger than I am, also sat in the car, her hair was still wet. She was taking a bath when we called and my mother just took her out of the bath and put her in the car.
She said we had to go back, but that she couldn’t join us with the car. We were so scared and really didn’t want to drive the whole way back, so my mother putted our bikes in the trunk of the car.
When we were back home, my father asked us if we had memorized the plate, but we didn’t. because we were in panic, we just forgot.
While walking to get dinner we were honked at three times and cars slowed down to look at us. It was freezing cold out and we were covered up completely…not that that would have been a reason for their behavior. While at dinner a man was staring and made us feel uncomfortable.
I’ve been followed home from stores on numerous occasions, verbally attacked in parking lots and it wasn’t until my husband witnessed me being screamed at in a gas station that I felt confirmation I wasn’t in the wrong; but still helpless. What bothers me the most are humiliating cat calls.
I’m a jogger. I jog outside most of the time and out of a lot of those jogs I was and am still cat called. I think ‘some’ guys think it’s a compliment and women should be appreciative; but the build up over my life has driven me to lessen the frequency of my jogs. I can’t handle the humiliation so now I hesitate to leave the house and sometimes don’t bother to jog at all. Although this isn’t as frightening as some of the other situations I have been in but it bothers me the most.
Something I love, being outdoors and getting exercise feels closed off. I need to build courage to go out jog. In a progressive Country, heck progressive city…I’m afraid to jog alone for fear of humiliation and harassment.
Narrowed eyes? Check.
Furrowed brow? Check.
Tightly closed mouth? Purposeful, measured steps? Check, check.
Head up, shoulders square, and back straight? Check check check.
I am now ready to walk down the street, ride my bike, or catch the bus… and
This is no accident. After years of living in my female body, I have mastered the art of looking mean. But why would I, a friendly, outgoing, smiley 25 year old young woman, want to appear mean? It’s easy, really. I’m trying to ward off street harassment.
Through my very unscientific, personal experiments, I’ve found that I am less likely to be the target of street harassment if I look like I will bite your head off if you say a word to me. While this is not a foolproof tactic (there have been times when I’ve gotten the old “smile, honey” from a stranger even when my face appears to be literally incapable of turning that frown upside down), it is becoming my default demeanor when I am out and about in the public sphere. I make sure to take up space, walk in a straight line, say hello to no one, and set my face in stone.
And that’s not all…
My aversion to street harassment has also caused me to snap at folks who I mistakenly think to be catcalling me. (More of me being a meanie mcmeanerson) On more than one occasion, a man has made an inaudible or incomprehensible comment to me, and I’ve immediately taken it to be street harassment and responded accordingly. Loudly, angrily, and accordingly. Until I realize that the man was just asking for directions, or talking to someone else, or whistling to a song. Oops. I’d like to think that when this happens, the man at least understands what I’m up against. With street harassment being so prevalent, it only makes sense that I’d be quick to assume the worst.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not a complete jerk. I hold doors for strangers, say hello to friendly looking folks, and I can’t hide my smile all the time. I guess it’s about staying safe but also staying true to yourself as well.
I don’t want to look like a mean person. I don’t want to assume the worst when someone mumbles something to me. But, I also don’t want to be harassed in public. So I do what I have to do, and I work to change the culture we live in at the same time. While I may have a hardened look on my face from time to time, I won’t let street harassment turn me into a meanie. There is too much good in the world, too many nice people, and too many reasons not to smile.
On Tuesday at around 6pm I walked home on busy Butler St. after a productive day at my job. I like walking because I get to enjoy the sights at a slow pace, and it’s good for thinking. The only thing that sucks is that I seem to be more likely to experience shitty comments and cat-calls while I’m walking than when I drive or bike (thought it happens a bunch on a bike, too).
So I’m walking on Butler St. near 47th street in Lawrenceville with my back-pack on, feeling really accomplished and happy. I was thinking nice thoughts about a friend of mine and admiring the leaves on the sidewalk.
Then some jagoff in a truck (for those of you not from Pittsburgh, a “jagoff” is a rude jerky person) whizzes by me, sneers, and yells something about my ass. As he rounds the curve of the road, he keeps turning back to look at me. He’s too far away for me to say anything, so I just throw my hands up in a “WTF” kinda way because I don’t know what else to do. Not much of a “holla back.”
This isn’t the worst of the harassment I’ve gotten, but I feel it’s most common – dude in a vehicle. It sucked because it reminded me of times when sexual harassment has been worse. That dude made me feel like an object to be commented upon, and he totally took away the nice moment that I was having. It made me wish that guy would slam his truck into a brick wall, and I really don’t like feeling that way about people!
I know that anyone including men can experience interruptions while they are walking or whatever, but sexual cat-calls and comments seem to damage me and the friends I have talked to a lot more than just someone on the street trying to sell you something or ask you for change.
I got groped on a shuttle this past spring, towards the end of my sophomore year of college. I am a woman of small stature and I was wearing jeans and a NOT incredibly sexy shirt – not that a sexy shirt would have justified ANYTHING. I just wanted to be clear about the fact that this shit can happen no matter what you have on.
This situation really pissed me off and still bothers me now to some degree… but I’m really glad I said something.
So, I’m on the Pitt shuttle alone – it’s a Saturday night, around 10:30pm, and I’m going back to my dorm after hanging out with some friends. The shuttle is pretty busy. I stand up to get ready to leave the shuttle as it comes to a stop. As I’m trying to move to the front, a group of guys get on.
As I’m pushing my way up, one of the guys getting on the shuttle squeezes my waist, right above my hip bone, as he goes past me. It was so discreet and most likely no one else had any idea that he just touched me. Horrified, I look down at his hand and blurt out, very loudly, without even thinking really – “Do NOT touch me.”
The shuttle gets quieter, the driver is looking at me like “WTF?” and I can hear the dude’s friends laughing. I hear one of them say, “Yeah, don’t touch her,” in a mocking tone. UGH. Totally horrified and embarrassed, I fly towards the exit, get off the bus, and wish I could disappear.
I felt so shitty about that guy thinking he could just touch me because he could. I felt reduced, like it didn’t matter at all who I was – he would have touched me anyway just because he could. I didn’t even see his face, so if I see him on campus again I won’t even know it. Worse, right after I asserted myself and drew attention to us, I felt guilty, like I had been the one to do something wrong… like I shouldn’t have caused a fuss. I kept thinking that it could have been worse – he could have touched my boobs or grabbed my crotch – and ya know, it’s just my waist, so why was I so upset?
That guilty feeling went away pretty quickly, especially after I got back to my dorm room and ranted to my roommate and boyfriend. He is the one who is the asshole who did something wrong, not me, so fuck that!!! Thankfully, no one has groped me since then, but if they do I want to be sure I tell them “NO” again and make sure I can recognize their face in case I ever see them again.
Location: Outside the Cathedral of Learning, Bigelow Blvd.
Time of harassment: 10:30pm
This happened about a month ago, but this website was not up at the time. I had just left work and was on my way home when I decided I wanted to grab some food for dinner. I locked my bike up outside the pizza place, went in and ordered, and was just about to sit down on a stool to wait for my food when a guy walks in.
He comes up to me, says hello, and asks me if I want to go out on a date sometime with him. I have never seen this man before, have no clue who he is, and I sure as hell am not inclined to go on random dates with strangers. He was polite, so I quickly decided in my head that I would also respond politely. I told him no thanks, and against my strong desire to do otherwise, I followed that up by telling him I have a boyfriend.* This is how the rest of the conversation goes:
Him: “Well, I just saw you outside and you looked good. Can I call you sometime?”
Him: “Well then can I text you sometime?”
Him: “Well can I at least get a hug?”
Me: In my head, “Hell no.” But out loud I responded with “NOPE. I’m good.” And as he walks out of the store, staring at my body up and down the entire time, I am getting angrier so I loudly tell him that he can fucking leave now and to stop staring at me. He left.
I was thankful that I am an acquaintance with one of the owners there and talked about it with him afterward. He peripherally saw what was happening, but he was on the phone so he didn’t hear the conversation. After talking with him, it made me feel better to know that he also thought that guy was an asshole, and would have backed me up in telling him off.
But honestly… WTF. This man did not listen to me any of the many times I told him no, and this incident really bothered me for many reasons. Do men not hear me when I speak? Is my “no” of any value? If I had not been polite when I responded the first time, would that have made things better or worse? These are all questions I was left with.
* Also, I felt upset with myself for relying on my relationship status as a way to deflect unwanted attention. It shouldn’t fucking matter whether I am single, in a relationship, gay, asexual, or whatever! My NO should not need to be clarified in order for it to have validity. Unfortunately, in my experience, other men seem to back off more when they know that you are “taken”. Hmmm… could this be because women are viewed as property and if you’re already in a relationship you are “off the market”? Bingo.
Location: Pizza shop on Penn Avenue, Garfield
Time of harassment: 4:30 PM
Walking someone said, “smile you look too pretty to have serious face” when in fact I had my NORMAL & neutral face! I was so aggravated.
Sitting on a street cafe, sipping my latte in trendy and cultured Central London on a hot summer’s evening, I thought it couldn’t be any better. I paused from reading my novel to admire the smells, sights and noises of the streets – only to find a group of young men, dressed in jeans and brash confidence, staring at me from the opposite side of the street.
I blinked, turned away and automatically pulled down the hem of my knee-length blue summer dress; not exactly provocative, but even when wearing something revealing is no excuse for sexual harassment, it was my first instinct. I tried to ignore them, but out of the view of my peripheral vision, I could see them still gawking.
My breathing quickened as I glanced at them, and saw them crossing the street and coming towards me. I stopped, to find the cocky ringleader demand my number, claiming that he saw me “checking him out” and that I want him. I calmly said no, but was taken aback; he knocked my chair back so that my dress flew up, displaying my underwear, which his friend caught an image of on his phone. They heckled and sauntered away. Another young man sat near me helped me up, and then chased down the street for the gang! He pushed the ringleader into a wall and warned him never to do anything like that again. They left sulkily.
The kind young man returned to the cafe, making sure I was alright. Seeing that this was the example all men should follow as he was such a gentleman, I fell in love and we got married a few years later
There were two men in their mid 50’s in the elevator. As soon as I get in I hear “sexy, sexy, sexy”. I did not react because I had just finished dining with my dad and cousin and the last thing that was crossing my mind was that I would have to deal with sexual harassment. The old man became quiet right after my dad entered the elevator with me. Then, my dad noticed they were drunk.
Lesson I learned today: Sexual harassment is UNEXPECTED, I have to be more aware of my surroundings, and carry my pepper spray at all times!!! If my dad would have not been there, the harassment could have been much worst!