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I was 15 at the time, and going for a run. A man of around 40 was stopped at a street corner at a red light. He saw me, leaned out his window, made eye contact with me, and gave a long whistle. I made my run about a half mile longer to avoid going the same way as that car.
So I didn’t want to share this story at first because I felt like I would be overreacting by calling this street harassment, but yeah…
In september my first year at university started and during the week I live in an apartment in the city so I can just go to class by foot. Now, there’s a restaurant in the same street and I have to walk past it to get to my class or to get to the park with my dog. When the weather is nice and the place hasn’t opened yet or they’re taking a break or whatever, the guys who own the place sits outside.
As the friendly person I am, eager to befriend my neighbors, I smile at them every time I pass. There’s one of them who sits outside more often than the others and one time he responded to my smile with a ‘ciao bella’ to which I didn’t really react as I was just about to cross the street. One evening, as I had to walk my dog, the guy that sits outside the most often was there again, so I gave him a very quick smile (the ‘ciao bella’ incident had made me a little uneasy) and was planning to walk past quickly but he started talking to me. At first, the conversation went… all right, I guess.
He asked me if I lived in the apartment a little further down the street as he apparently had seen me inside (yes, inside, as in I-saw-you-through-the-window-inside), if I was a student and what I was studying (English – Spanish) so we started talking about languages and he kind of started to switch languages as he spoke, from Dutch to Italian to Spanish to Dutch to French to Dutch to French and so on. Now, In this region in Belgium, you’re supposed to be able to speak Dutch fluently and well, you should understand French as well. As the conversation went on, he told me I was pretty in French a couple of times and how it always lightens up his day when he sees me, which made me feel even less comfortable but I felt forced to thank him for his compliments. He also asked, jokingly I hope but I’m far from sure, if he could go with me to my place for a cup of coffee. (I responded truthfully that my brother was staying over, which was “such a shame” according to him) He also said something in French which I didn’t quite understand, but I thought it was just another “you’re pretty” so I – shudder – thanked him again.
When I got home, I looked it up, because the way he had looked at me when he had said it, had been a bit… predatory? So yeah, I forgot what it was exactly, but I still remember what the website had said: “don’t ever say this to a woman in France as she will (rightfully) slap you and call the police” A couple of days later, I got the courage to tell my brother about it all (though it was a softened version, because I didn’t want him to tell my parents) and he told me about another route to get to the park. So from then on, I have to go through some dark streets and a parking lot a couple of times a day. I haven’t really seen him anymore (he once waved at me from inside the restaurant, but that’s about it I think) but I don’t know what to do or think about the whole case. Honestly, I think he is in fact a rather sweet guy and that he really just doesn’t see any wrong in his ‘compliments’ however sexual and out of bounds they may be. I’m way too scared to teach him about standard etiquette and street harassment though.
I was walking to my car when a large pick-up truck starts following me and the driver yells out his window, ” I will lick your butthole if you suck my balls!” I couldn’t see his face through his car window so I there is no other way to describe him other than the fact that he was driving a huge green pick-up truck.
This happened on the bus, very near to the station. There was a man whistling very loudly (the wolf whistle). At first, I wasn’t sure quite what was going on, but felt that unmistakable sense of being stared down as I kept my eyes frontward. When it came again, it was more drawn out and insistent. I looked over to see him sunken into his seat looking right at me. Fortunately, he didn’t follow me off the bus as I made an early exit.
A group of boys started asking me if I was going to be a ‘vagina-tologist’ in the future and told me that being that and stripping are the only jobs women should be allowed to do.
I am a college student. I was walking back into the dorms last night with two friends and a group of drunk guys were calling to us outside of their window, saying we were “really pretty” and one even yelling out what was presumably his number. We soon realized that they were doing this to everyone who passed by. They seemed like they were having a blast. Though they were not threatening, I was saddened that calling people out on the street was their idea of a fun night.
I was out for a run this morning with my two young children (3 and 1) in the jogging stroller. A man in a truck slowed down, honked, and yelled disgusting things out the window as he drove past. Yelled them in front of my children.
A man in a pickup with a female passenger honked and whistled at me as I waited to cross the street.
Exiting the commons when some man comes up behind and says “hey shawty, suck my dick?!”
(Not So) Blurred Lines
This song was one of my favorites this summer. I loved the beat. Sure, I had read the lyrics. I completely understood what the song was saying. A girl was saying ‘no’ to a guy’s sexual advances. However, because she was dancing with him and wanted to ‘hug’ him, the song says the girl is giving mixed signals–blurred lines. She’s a good girl, you see. Yet she’s an ‘animal’ and it’s in her ‘nature.’ Right. The lyrics proceed as this:
I know you want it. You’re a good girl. Can’t let it get past me. Gotta have it.
I even saw the video of the naked models being surrounded by predatory men, who are fully clothed, dancing. Robin Thicke, the singer, blows smoke into the model’s face and brushes her hair. You know, because, women are not really human. They are objects to be had and abused.
Okay, so I worked out to this song. It’s on my phone. I liked the beat. I laughed off the meaning because, well, I had never been in the situation. At least, I hadn’t been in that situation in a VERY long time. Anytime a man became too friendly, ‘no’ was usually enough for them to leave me alone. If not, I would call over a male friend and that would take care of the problem. This has not happened to me in such a long time, that I had lost a bit of my edge. I even listened to a song that I wouldn’t normally listen to because I had become complacent. I’m not a raging feminist (or maybe I am?) but I am not for women being treated solely as objects of a man’s sexual desires. All the women I have ever met, seen or known have been breathing, comprehending human beings.
Then I moved to the big city of Madrid and everything changed. If this can happen to me in a relatively ‘safe’ city, it can happen anywhere to anyone.I have had some very scary incidents since being here. None of them were because I was being careless or not aware of my surroundings. Nor did I do anything to provoke them yet I found myself in tense situations because of these so called ‘blurred lines’.
I will explain two that have happened to me personally. Let me also make the readers aware that these incidents happened in broad daylight with many people around; I guess you are never truly safe.
I was meeting some friends for drinks one day. It was a warm day and we all agreed it would be nice to share some sangria and tapas. So, I went to meet them. I went to the main metro station in Madrid called Sol. This is by far the busiest metro in Madrid. There were people everywhere, all scurrying to catch the next train. I walked down to Line 3 to catch the train myself. I was on the escalator down when a man on the escalators coming up waved at me and said, ‘Hello beautiful!’ in Spanish. The way he said it made me think he was familiar with me. When I glanced up, I didn’t know him. I thought he had mistaken me for a friend of his or someone he knew. So, I went on down to wait for the metro. Then I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn around. It’s the man. I was standing against the wall and he proceeds to put a hand on either side of my head, pinning me to the wall. ‘Hello, my name is Juan. I like you a lot. You’re beautiful. Your body drives me crazy. Let’s go get a drink.’ He said this in quick succession, trying to grab my hand.
‘No, I am meeting friends and I have a boyfriend. I am not interested. Thanks,’ I replied. He shook his head.
‘You don’t understand, I like you VERY MUCH. Let’s get a drink.’
‘No, I don’t want to. Like I said, I have a boyfriend and am meeting friends.’ I had to lie about having a partner as I thought this would make him leave me alone. He grabs my arm and people are now starting to notice what is happening. My heart is beating quickly and I can feel the panic in the back of my throat. This man was around 6’3 and at least 220 pounds of muscle. I had to think quickly, so I blurted out, ‘I am going out tonight, let me take your number and I’ll call you and we will go out.’ If someone is crazy enough to pin me in broad daylight with hundreds of people walking about, I didn’t know what else he was capable of. He says, ‘Okay! Here…’ and tells me his number. I show him I am saving it. He bends down to try to kiss me. I duck. Mercifully, the train comes at that moment. I look around me and there are curious faces looking at me as if to ask, ‘What is going on?’ I jump on board quickly and mutter to myself, ‘Thanks for helping guys.’ Needless to say, I never called him and deleted the number. I was still shaky when I met up with my friends.
Then, this past week, when I was walking to pick up a Western Union transfer from my local post office (Correos), I came across two men seated on a bench. They made some typical remark ‘Hey beautiful! How are YOU doing today?’ I wasn’t feeling well because I had bronchitis and thus, I ignored them. This time, I had a fake wedding band on my hand. As I am walking, I hear footsteps and a bit of shuffling and whispering behind me. I hold my purse tighter and keep my head up. It’s broad daylight, again, with lots of people walking the streets. I glance behind me and it is the two guys from the bench. ‘Hey, gorgeous, come here. Talk with us!’ I keep walking. I think in my head ‘This cannot be happening again. I don’t even look nice and I’m sick.’ It was all I could do to get out of bed. Then as I stop to cross the street, the one named ‘Johnny’ came up to me. ‘I like you! You’re gorgeous. I love your body, honestly. You’re driving me wild. What’s your name? Where are you from?’ I say flatly, ‘I am married,’ and show my ring, ‘and I am not interested. Please leave me alone.’ He shakes his head and smiles, ‘No pasa nada, linda, I am married too! I still want to get to know you.’ I walk. His friend disappears but Johnny keeps walking along side of me, stating all the reasons I should get to know him. He’s a good guy, he works here legally, he’s a good lover, etc. I say nothing other than ‘I am not interested, leave me alone. I am meeting friends. I have a husband.’ Because I was going to pick up money, I start to become frightened again. This man will not leave me alone. I, again, have to think quickly. I see a cafe and had told him I was meeting friends. A lie, but I couldn’t tell him I was going to pick up money. I say to him, ‘Fine, Johnny, go to that cafe and get a pen and paper. I will take your number.’ He does so, leaving me with precious minutes to devise a plan. I walk up to a table of friendly people and explain my situation. They tell me not to worry, they will pretend to be my friends and they will make sure this man goes away. Johnny comes back with his piece of paper and I say, ‘These are my friends. I’m staying here.’ The people look at him without smiling. He smiles a bit and says, ‘Okay, see you later! Please call me beautiful!’
We watch him as he leaves. The one girl, Ana Rosa, tells me when has finally left and gives me a hug. She tells me I can stay with them if I want and drink a coffee. I stay and chit-chat with them, and eventually exchange numbers with the two girls. I tell them thank you so much for saving me and am on my way. I take the bus on the way back, so I don’t have to walk by those guys again.
These are two very real incidents that have happened to me. In both examples, I have clearly said ‘no.’ It wouldn’t matter if I was dressed in a dress cut down to my navel, if I said ‘no’, I mean ‘no.’ There are no blurred lines when it comes to a woman saying ‘no.’ If we do not want to your advances, pushing them will not do you any good. Anything that is not consensual is wrong. Sex without consent is rape. Pinning a scared woman against a wall is perverse and horrid. So, I disagree with blurred lines. The only way to know if she ‘wants it’ is to ask. She is not an ‘animal’ she is a human being. She is to be respected, not to be had. If she says ‘no’ then she means no. Needless to say, I no longer find the ‘Blurred Lines’ song by Robin Thicke funny or even entertaining. It is a degradation to all women who have been put in these types of situations.
This was from my personal travel blog: www.bridgetswanderlust.wordpress.com
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