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I was sitting at the end of a bench at the Steel Plaza T Station one evening. I had my bag by my side so no one could sit directly next to me. A man came up to the bench and instead of sitting farther down away from me, he stood directly next to me. I could feel him staring at me and moved my bag to cover my legs (I instantly regretted wearing shorts). When I moved my bag, he took that as an invitation to sit next to me. Even though there was a whole bench to my left, he sat so uncomfortably close to me he was touching me. I moved over as much as I could without falling off of the bench. He asked me if I had the time and I had my cell out so I told him the time. I tried to call my boyfriend but did not get service in the station. I stood up as my train was pulling into the station. My heart started pounding when he also stood up. He leaned in close to me and said, “You have gorgeous legs.” Thankfully, he sat back down and I ran onto the train. The minute I sat down on the train I started to cry. I wasn’t brave enough to look at him as my train pulled away. I felt dirty, violated, and objectified. I will never forget his words and how they made me feel. To him it may have seemed like an innocent compliment but it was NOT. If I could confront him today I’d tell him, “My wearing shorts was not an invitation to stare at me, objectify me, or speak to me. I am a human and you turned me into a victim and made me feel like an object. Your comment was not innocent. It was an assertion of masculine power.”
Submitted by Olivia
I’ve lived in the Bay Area my whole life and have experienced all sorts of street harassment (cat calling, inappropriate touching, etc.), but what happened recently has really made me question if I should even bother responding to small talk from strangers at all.
On the night of 2/17 (approx. 8:30pm), I was making my way to the train station after my evening class and was approached by a man who looked to be in his late 30s-40s. He told me he liked my boots. I said “Thanks.” My wardrobe was basic: hoodie, scarf, long thermal + t-shirt, jeans and bright red Dr. Marten boots. He then proceeded to keep the conversation going by asking me my name, where I was heading and if we could walk to the train station together. I started to feel uneasy at that point considering that a classmate told me about a series of sexual assaults near the campus. However, despite my uneasiness, he looked harmless and seemed like he was lonely and needed someone to talk to. I was raised to be polite so I agreed to his request, but made a point to be very cautious by walking under the light and close to other people.
Once we made it to the station, we exchanged information about our goals in school, where we lived, just basic ‘get to know you’ stuff. The first red flag that I noticed was when I told him about my train exit, he responded with: “Oh well, I have the extra money to visit there so I’ll get off the same stop as you.” I was immediately taken aback and got really nervous since his train is on the opposite side of the platform. Earlier he told me that he was going home then all of a sudden changes his mind? I asked him “Do you even know anyone in the area?” and he said, “Yeah, I have a couple of friends who live there. In fact, I got my first car there.” I got my cell phone out of my backpack and started texting my boyfriend, unfortunately, since the train station is underground I couldn’t get any reception! I panicked, but did not show it.
The second red flag was when he started commenting on my looks and told me how pretty my smile was and that he was glad he met me. He sounded so OBSESSED and creepy. The way he looked at me made me feel dirty. With cell phone in hand, I told him that I had to make an IMPORTANT phone call and he should stick around so we could take the train together. He said “OK, I will be waiting for you.” I didn’t bother letting him finish his sentence and ran upstairs as fast as I could and notified the station agents about my situation. I could barely speak because I was terrified at that point. When I finally got reception I called my boyfriend and told him that I was really scared and asked if he could pick me up. The wait (about 15 minutes) felt like hours! The man never came upstairs to check on me (thankfully!) and finally my phone rang. I felt so relieved… who knows how the night could have ended if I would have never made that phone call.
I was pretty shaken up that night and still am. As I’ve mentioned in the beginning I have dealt with my fair share of street harassment, but nothing to this degree. This guy was willing to get off the same exit as I did even though he lives the opposite way! This story may not seem like a big deal, but I will never forget the look in his eyes. The last time someone followed me home I ended up being sexually assaulted so this incident brought back a lot of bad memories.
As of now, I don’t have any solid plans for my after school commute, but have decided to ignore compliments from strangers entirely. My politeness seems to be an open invitation for harassment or inappropriate behavior. I can’t dress up or dress down. Nothing seems to help! What’s a girl to do?
Thanks for reading and stay safe out there.
Submitted by S.P.
I’m often verbally harassed at gas stations by customers who tell me I “look like a video girl” while wearing a work uniform of khakis and a baggy t-shirt. A gas station employee twice my age offered to pay for my gas as he was bagging trash. Homeless men frequently “holler” as well. During a road trip with a girlfriend two men approached us as we were pumping gas and asked, “What are you two sexy girls doing in the middle of nowhere all alone?” I was terrified. Once an elderly man in a wheelchair blocked my way out of a Goodwill then FOLLOWED ME TO MY CAR, harassing me for twenty minutes insisting I “leave my boyfriend for a real man”. During a walk with my boyfriend a pick-up sped by and someone screamed, “FUCK HER IN THE ASS.” I used to wear a fake wedding ring while working to avoid harassment. It was ineffective. In fact, it may have made it worse. I almost snapped recently while walking out of Publix after purchasing diapers for my newborn son, when two men started heckling me. Instead of dropping multiple f-bombs I ignored them completely. I’ve been told to smile too many times to count, touched/grabbed forcefully while waiting tables, and much much more. It’s the equivalent of beating a dead dog.
Submitted by Jimi
It was about 7 in the evening the other day, and I was in a rush to get home. I had run for the bus but missed it. I had been standing at the bus stop with several other people for about 15 minutes until two large men appeared. I could hear them half a block away, they had been shouting so loudly. They stopped behind me, and started to call out to me. “Nice ass baby!” “I have something for you baby! A nice surprise!” I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t turn around. They continued to call at me, and at one point asked if I was legal. (I’m not.) I shook my head and one of them said in a awful voice that he would “do me anyways”. A older man at the bus stop finally turned and gave them an angry look and they left. I got on the next bus, and ran all the way home when I got off at my stop. I was so upset, I had never expected that men their age (they looked about late 30′s early 40′s) could be so rude and immature as to embarrass someone in public like that. It was a terrible experience.
Submitted by Rachel
I’m fourteen and a freshman in high school. This incident happened in seventh grade. I’m a bit young for my grade, so I was eleven at the time, and every day I would walk home from school. It was just a few blocks, and school ended at 3:30, so at the end of the day, I’d grab my bag and walk to my apartment.
One day, I was walking down the street, with no one else on the sidewalk but a young blonde woman and her two year-old daughter. Suddenly a white van full of maybe four or five guys between the ages of twenty and twenty-five drove by and slowed down.
“Hey bitch!” They yelled. The three of us kept walking, ignoring them.
“Bitch, I’m talking to you!” Another one of the guys yelled, while the others laughed.
When we continued to ignore them, they drove off, laughing, and I heard one say “Man I just fuckin’ pissed that bitch off!”
To this day, I don’t know whether they were addressing me or the mother walking behind me, but it was not okay, and I ran home crying. I also can’t bear to imagine that little girl being exposed to such misogynistic slander at just two years old. It really shows what living in a city is like as a girl.
This year, I experienced worse sexism, although not directed at me. I’m in the Gifted/Honors program at my high school. To my dismay, this does not mean the guys in my classes are any less ignorant and rude. A few weeks ago, the guy who sits behind me, was talking to his friend, and I overheard this conversation:
Guy 1: I hate when ugly girls say they’re ugly, ’cause you can’t really disagree with them, you know? Same with fat girls who know they’re fat.
Guy 2: Yeah, but you should never tell a fat girl she’s fat.
Guy 1: Why?
Guy 2: You know, ’cause she’ll, like, become anorexic or get an eating disorder or something.
Guy 1: Well anorexic is kinda good…
Guy 2: HOW?
Guy 1: At least they get skinny before they die.
I hear conversations like this on a daily basis and it makes me sick. Pittsburgh, meet your city’s “future leaders”.
Submitted by Maude
I was walking home after getting off the streetcar on a nice day in late spring/early summer. A middle aged man in a convertible drove past and honked his horn. A few minutes later, the same man drove up slowly alongside where I was walking and started talking to me “hey, you’re beautiful, you look so good today. You should come have coffee with me, etc.” I politely told him no thank-you, repeatedly, until I finally had to tell him that I had a boyfriend (because I don’t deserve to be left alone otherwise, right). He finally drove away. But I was so disturbed by it, and because I was going home to an empty house, that I walked past my house and through a secret laneway, making sure not to go up my stairs until I was sure that the car was not in sight. Needless to say I locked the door.
Submitted by Angela
I was verbally sexually harassed by a train conductor while I was on the platform of the Marble Hill Metronorth station. My train arrived on the southbound side at 4:40pm on Feb 8, 2011, the harasser was the conductor in the center car with his head stuck out of the window on the northbound track as his train was departing. His train was in motion and he shouted “Hey there sexy!” at me. As though (1) a train in motion meant he had a clear getaway. Guess what genius? The trains are timed to the minute, and you are on the clock! (2) I had no recourse. I’ll keep you posted on how the MTA responds to my complaint. This is completely inappropriate, unprofessional, and moreover illegal.
And for the record, he is in his 30s-40s, and is on the MTA payroll so he can ride the trains and shout at women who are commuting. DO I PAY TO RIDE & GET HARASSED?? No.
Submitted by Sophia
When I was around fourteen or fifteen I went with my Latin class to Italy, and we took a day trip to Pisa to see the tower and cathedral there. From the train station you have to take a bus to get to the more touristy attractions, and it was on that bus on the way back when I noticed a man standing a little too close to me from behind.
Every time the bus lurched he would press into me, and I could feel his erection – he was wearing baggy sweatpants of a thin material. I kept inching away from him but the bus was crowded and I couldn’t move much. I was completely petrified – although I was already used to men making comments about me (which seemed to happen especially frequently in Italy, although I was living in a small town at the time where I was kind of an “alternative” kid and didn’t “fit in” so maybe it’s an unfair contrast) no one had ever touched me like this before. I didn’t know what to do. Luckily, one of my friends’ mothers was a chaperone on the trip, and she caught on to what was happening and offered to switch places with me.
I have been lucky enough to have traveled extensively, but almost everywhere I’ve been it seems like someone is going to harass me – including the time, during my second trip to Italy, a young man told me he “loved my boobs” – while I was walking with my mother.
I’m now attending college in New York City, which isn’t really a reduction in the harassment. I love New York but I’d really like to be able to go a day without a wolf whistle or a comment.
Submitted by Li
An open warning to all street harassing males,
Not all of us exist to make you feel like strong, powerful cavemen who could drag us by our hair and rape us at will… some of us are LESBIANS who find you UGLY. Yes, I know, in your pea-brains, the only homosexuals in existence are the gay men who you also torment (many times because you WISH you could actually be with a FELLOW MAN you respect rather than the women you hate, yet refuse to explore your gay side because in your idiot brain, it means you would be…*ewww* more like a woman). You see, you street harassers are very, very damaged. Your definition of manhood is despising women as anything other than envelopes for you to screw/bang/pork/nail (notice the violence of these terms?) In your world, gay men are insufficient males, and lesbian women don’t exist. So when you yell something at me, or me and a date of mine, you assume that we are just dying to add you and have a “threesome”. In your mind, “lesbian”=either “woman who can’t get a man” (as if any woman can’t ‘get’ one of you desperate, ugly, hairy backed Neanderthals) or a woman just dying to add your ape-face to a threesome with her girlfriend. When one of us declares our sexual orientation, you usually come up with the original line “whyncha try some DICK, bitch?” And if I happen to be walking with a friend who is a dyke who doesn’t fit your narrow ideals of beauty (which, for some reason, you only extend to women–you MEN can be as repulsively ugly as you wanna be), my pal has to hear that she’s “too ugly to get a REAL MAN.” I wish I could gather a whole army of dykes of all shapes and sizes, from butch to femme, cissexual and trans, and tell all of you nasty street harrassers how we’d sooner do Sarah Palin than any of you…and that, by the way, “lesbian” does not mean we want you drooling while we do to our girls what you could never do to yours (ie give them orgasms, instead of STDs and unwanted pregnancies), but that we want you to leave us the hell alone.
Submitted by Gloomyboi
I was out in the mission with my friends for a birthday bar crawl and my roommate invited this guy she’s dating. He shows up with 3 extra friends in tow and they join our party and go with us to the next bar. I could tell the guys were sizing me up the whole time that we were at the bar together, but I tried to ignore their advances and just have a good time with my friends. Later on in the evening, one of the guys walked by and said in my ear- I want to taste you. He looked me in the face as he said it and kept on walking. I could not have been more disgusted. That behavior is NOT acceptable.
Submitted by Chrissy