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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.
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.
Teenage boy reached out and grabbed my vagina as he was walking past me with four of his friends and then they ran away laughing and shouted, “shut the fuck up bitch!”
I was walking home from work at around 5:45pm today. It was a beautiful day. I was on a normally busy public street near George Washington University. However, at that particular moment, there was a brief lull in foot traffic.
A teenager, no older than 13 or 14, was walking towards me. Three other teenagers were behind him. I really didn’t look twice at them.
As I pass by the first teenager who was walking by himself, he slaps my butt. Honestly, it took me a few seconds to register what had happened. I walked a few more steps and suddenly it registered. Apparently, the other three boys were with him and were laughing.
I whipped around and said, “What the fuck?” As they walked away laughing, I continued to get more incensed and said “Really, you can’t treat women like that!” They continued laughing—one of them made a point of pretty much laughing in my face— and told me to “shake that ass.”
I immediately started shaking and crying. I’ve been lucky in my life to not experience much street harassment. This was the first time someone ever felt entitled to touch my body in a public place. And I felt powerless. Since it never happened to me before–someone reaching out and grabbing me–I had no idea what to do. There were no cops around to tell. No one really saw. The kids were laughing in my face.
It’s been two and a half hours. I can still feel the echo of his hand slapping me.
My boyfriend and I decided to go on a weekend away in Milano. I had never been there and was pleased to see what a modern city it is and how everything works.
We were going for the train back home and took the metro to the main station, and my boyfriend was leaning against the door while I was holding his arm, facing him. The car was crowded, but we all had enough space to move around comfortably. At first I thought that the guy behind me had lost his balance, and that was why he was so close to me. When he didn’t get back to a polite distance, I suspected something. I kept pushing closer to my boyfriend and the door but the guy would follow my every movement. My boyfriend got irritated, not understanding what was going on, and that’s when I realized that I was paralyzed, unable to speak up. At last the door opened and I bursted out of the car.
Now would be a good time to say that I am a militant feminist, that I am involved in politics and am used to seeing ordinary sexism for what it is. However, my first reflex has been to add layers to my clothing… I know it’s not the victims fault, and there is nothing to be ashamed of…how many times have I said that in public, in front of a crowd? But that day, I felt ashamed, dirty and guilty…
I wish I could say I shouted at him and took a picture, but I didn’t. As someone who never misses an opportunity to point at machismo and street harassment, I was speechless.
I have infinite experiences of verbal and physical street harassment with threatening, sexual undertones- but these occasions stood out to me.
I was at a festival with a group of my friends, the age demographic predominantly being about 16-21. At one point, as my friends were all in a tent, i lingered directly outside- packing some things in to my bag before i joined them. I was literally centimetres away from my group when a hulking man in his mid 30’s- evidently stronger, bigger, and able to over power me if he wanted- entered my personal space and began saying “your friends have all left you, they told me to come and get you- come to our tent”. Not only was this man clearly to old for the age demographic, which in itself made me feel uncomfortable, but he was actually lying to me in an attempt to get me to come to his tent. He had seen me in a vulnerable position, on my own, and taken the opportunity to try and deceive me into leaving with him. I felt genuinely threatened, as at that moment, it could have been possible for him to forcibly take me without anyone initially knowing or able to locate me. Considering the reports of rape at this particular festival, and his sleazy remarks towards me- it comes as no shock that i felt completely intimidated.
At this same festival, i woke up in the morning to find two men, both considerably older than me, sitting in the entrance to our tent (which they must have opened themselves). One of the men was groping my thighs and stroking my legs in a sexually threatening way- saying “i’d love to wake up to these legs”. Feeling utterly repelled, i responded with a look of clear disgust and told him to ‘get off’. He had the audacity to look shocked and offended at my remark, saying “oooohhhh she didn’t like THAT!!” and asking me if i was a lesbian. I don’t know how you are supposed to respond when you wake up to a complete stranger touching you *WHILE YOU SLEEP* without you even vaguely hinting towards wanting any attention.
In the next situation i am about to outline, i didn’t feel threatened, but i think it is a horrific demonstration of how social conditioning from acts as a catalyst for the objectification and street harassment of women. I was walking home from sixth form, when a group of boys ranging from the ages of about 9-10, shouted sexual remarks at me- outlining what they were ‘going to do to me’. Shocking. These are CHILDREN. Evidently then, they did not actually intend or even desire what they shouted at me. Clearly then, these kids have watched this behaviour in older men and copied it, influenced by the pervasive objectification of women as ‘things to hurl abuse at’- not fully understanding the meaning of their behaviour. It’s a vicious cycle- the observable harassment of women permeating the minds of young boys and presenting itself as acceptable.
My Dad explained to me that he did not realise or comprehend the impact of ‘normal’ street harassment towards women, until he was approached in exactly the same way by a group of gay men- all bigger than him- and he was put in the vulnerable situation that women find themselves in every day. Unwanted sexual advances like this are NOT compliments. They are THREATENING, INTIMIDATING and DEGRADING.
A few months ago, I went out to a Friday night dinner with my husband of 23 years at Rocco’s Tacos on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach, Florida. I wore a new dress and was feeling proud of myself, especially after having worked very hard to lose more then 50 pounds to get back to a healthy weight. After dinner, while my husband visited the restroom and before we walked back to our car for the drive home, rather than wait inside I told him I’d be out front since it was a beautiful evening.
As I strolled a few paces away from those dining on the sidewalk, two men who appeared to be in their twenties were approaching, laughing. I slightly backed up and angled my body to avoid brushing against them or others as they passed, and one of them said something that sounded like ‘Tasty!’ while his knuckles brushed the front of my crotch. He didn’t stop moving but it felt like *very* deliberate contact. I immediately turned after him saying ‘What the fuck?!’ but both of them immediately took off running — and laughing.
My husband arrived a minute after that. I told him I thought I’d just been groped and he really wanted to go after them. I convinced him they were long gone so there wouldn’t be any point. Now I wish I’d let him try, although I still think it wouldn’t have led to finding them in the crowds that were on Clematis that night. I feel violated by a couple of punks who obviously think humiliating and denigrating women at random is a fun game. When I think of putting on that new dress for a second time, I just can’t. I’ll probably end up donating it even though I spent a lot of money on it.
I was in Paris for Easter. It was early afternoon, I was walking back to my hotel, which was in a very posh neighborhood, a group of two boys and two girls were walking in the opposite direction of the same sidewalk. They were about 13 to 14 years old. The idea of any harassment wouldn’t have crossed my mind at all, I barely paid attention to them, which made it even worse. As I was about to pass them, one of the boys grabbed me out of nothing in between my legs, the other one slapped my butt. After that, they just casually proceeded in their walk while screaming laughing, including the two girls.
As an adult, who thinks of herself as a strong woman, I was caught off guard, not knowing what to do, hating myself for not doing anything, at least a slap might have done after all. Even though I already got used to whistling, being hauled, forced into conversations, etc. I was defenseless at this point, kept wondering what made them do it, and was alarmed by the fact that a kid might be a possible threat to me. However, I mostly regretted all those women around these two boys, be it their sisters, mothers, friends or future girlfriends and wives.
I don’t have a single story. I have tons of stories. Growing up I learned not to take walks, to never acknowledge people, and pretend to talk on the phone (with 911 already dialed).
I began riding a bike for exercise, as I receive less comments and gestures, although they still happen.
The most recent was when a car came up right alongside me, a man leaned out and seemed to try and grab me while yelling “HEY B****!!!” I wasn’t sure what to do, so I kept going and thankfully another car came up, so he had to go back in his lane.
I’ve had people make offers for me to sell my body, as if I were on auction. I’ve had people call me names, whistle, etc. In one walk I could have four incidents. I stopped walking to church, because it got too uncomfortable and someone would follow me consistently.
When I go out with my male friend, it is so NICE not to have the comments or be on guard as much. I was shocked the first time walking around the city with him how NO ONE tired anything. It makes me want to have an escort all the time. Which is extremely sad.
I’ve become to expect the harassment, and am pleasantly surprised when I don’t receive any. However, most of the time I get at least some. I don’t even bring up all the incidents to people, cause I know they will think they aren’t a big deal, but they ARE a big deal.
I wish I knew of a SAFE way of telling the jerks that it is NOT okay. However, I try not to engage, because I don’t want it to escalate.
While I was exploring BaoBao Bakery in Chinatown in broad daylight with friends, a middle-aged elderly man groped my butt twice in the middle of the store, first as a “tester” brush to see how I would react and then a later, stronger touch when my confusion at the first contact did not result in negative consequences. At the time, I was not sure whether the crowdedness of the store was what had caused the touches and whether they had been honest mistakes. Looking back, though, I realized the man could have easily grabbed the breads without touching my butt the way he did.
Instead of suffering in silence, I have decided to Hollaback! by posting this story. I had not taken a picture of my harasser but wish I did. This incident happened in Boston Chinatown, and I am not sure if the man spoke English. I don’t think potential language barriers should prevent women from hollering back – in whatever language they choose – and publicly denouncing their harassers for their behavior. If anything like this happens again, I will not hesitate to Hollaback!
Note: BaoBao Bakery does not deserve special blame. It merely was the location I was in at the time of this incident.