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In middle school I used to walk home by myself. Normally this was a complete non-issue, and I wasn’t nervous about it for the longest time. Then one day when I was 12 a red pickup truck full of grown men slowed as they passed, and wolf whistled at me. Shocked and a little disturbed, I froze as they passed, but then regained control of myself and flipped them the finger as I continued walking. Not even a teenager yet, I was already starting to ‘develop’ in a noticeable way and probably looked about 15. However, that is not an excuse. It is just as inappropriate to leer in such a degrading manner at women of ANY age, and it is something I have continued to face throughout my life. Men have continued to leer at me in public (and private!) places, and I am very nervous to go anywhere alone except in the very brightest daylight. It sometimes makes me wish I could trade in my body for something less noticeable, simply to escape the stares and catcalls. I am not even particularly good looking, and I DO NOT dress in a provocative manner. In fact I typically wear jeans a zippered sweatshirt everywhere I go. I feel angry and violated when strangers feel like it is their right to comment on my body in such a disrespectful way, but no catcall has ever been worse than that first time. There is no reason for children to need to be afraid just because they were born female.
Submitted by Jade
I was leaving Cosi when a young man (probably in his mid 20s) approached me. He said, “nice pussy” and reached out to grab mine. I simply blocked his hand and stared him down until he broke eye contact. I continued on my way, and looked back to see that he was still standing there. I guess he didn’t get the reaction he anticipated.
I didn’t speak to him, but if I could, here’s what I would say:
“Damn right, I have a nice pussy. But you will never get anywhere near it.”
Submitted by Kate
I was riding the train with my then-partner on the way to see a movie in town, when this happened. As we boarded the train, a conductor went up to these four kids, and warned them for disruptive behaviour. My partner and I took seats near them (which looking back seems like the first mistake) and settled for the short journey. We were sitting talking, and randomly poking each other, which is usual for us, and the four kids continued shouting and messing around.
One of the girls sat behind us and asked my partner for some gum. She said she didn’t have any, though the girl remained where she sat. She then asked if we were together. My partner and I, having nothing to hide or be ashamed of, replied that we were. The one boy in the group asked if we were in love, and my partner replied the affirmative.
It descended from there. The boy joined the girl behind us and kept asking for us to kiss for him. He kept pushing, and nearly begging for us to. My partner replied no, first jokingly, and then she eventually snapped “If you want to see two girls kissing, watch porn!”.
He whined that he had seen porn and he wanted to see it in real life – I continued to remain silent. The coach we were in was not nearly empty, and I was somewhat horrified that no one had thought to do anything but look away awkwardly. Thankfully, the next stop was ours. We stood, and I followed my partner to the door. The group followed us, and as we were waiting, they kept pushing on each other, and therefore me. Once the doors opened, a lot of people got out, while this group practically pushed me off the train. My partner took my hand and while I set off at a fast pace to get away, she slowed me down.
The boy continued to follow us, and kept on with his incessant begging. My partner and I ignored him, and spoke only to each other, until he peeled off to join the girls of his group. We were left alone after that.
I am ashamed that I didn’t speak up, and that my partner was the one to deal with this harassment. I remember this incident clearly, and feel scared by it, but it was almost laughable how this boy was clearly obsessed about seeing us kiss.
Get it through your heads – we do not exist for your amusement. We are not objects to stare at, or to entertain yourself with. We are humans, with hearts and souls and feelings, and I will not be dehumanised by your fetishisms. I refuse.
Submitted by Emma
I was cycling along on the road beside Hyde Park, just before a junction and going down a really steep hill. A man in a car had pulled into a side road to do a U-turn, and while he was doing it I drew alongside on my bike, so at the point he was ready to leave return to the main road I was in the way. For, ooh, at least 10 whole seconds. I mention this because it is the only motivation I can see for his behaviour. I raised my hand to indicate my thanks for him not pulling straight out and flattening me, only to be greeted with “Hey I can see your knickers love!”
Had I not been travelling too fast and, you know, a bit put out by this I would have liked to say, “Oh can you indeed. If that is so then I suggest you look the other way, because there is literally nothing I can do about it right now, unless you would like me to cause a multi-car pile up trying to pull my skirt down as I negotiate traffic and a hill – which would in all probability involve your car and at the very least delay your journey more than the fraction of a minute I already have.”
Instead I shouted “thanks a lot you prick” and felt humiliated, flustered, self-conscious and confused. Which is how you want someone to feel ON A MOVING BIKE. IN TRAFFIC. ON A HILL. I mean, do you WANT to cause an accident?
And although he shouted it, it was in a sort of cheerful tone of voice, as though either he was pleased about it or was offering some sort of friendly heads-up. I just don’y understand.
Submitted by Het
I am 17-year-old girl living in the Midwestern United States. I was out walking my dog at dusk on January 2; my family lives in a pretty friendly neighborhood and my sisters and I have always felt comfortable with hanging out after dark around our area. As I was coming back from my hour-long walk, I registered that my dog was starting to bristle about a car that was cruising along very slowly behind us. It was now very dark and I began to feel seriously nervous. I’d had my iPod earphones in, but now I removed them in order to feel more alert.
We (all three of us) finally reached the front of my house. Relieved, I tentatively went to cross in front of the car. But before I could, the driver leaned out of the rolled-down window and started speaking softly to me. I flinched all over. You know that sick surge of adrenaline where your heart lurches into overdrive and you feel like it’s trying to tear out of your chest? My pulse was pounding in my eardrums- he’s too close, run, he’s too close, run, wrong, wrong, wrong! The sound of it literally deafened me, and it wasn’t until a few beats later that I could tell what he was saying.
Get in the car, honey. Right now. I want you to suck my cock, bitch.
There was more. I think I blocked out the rest of it. It was the eyes that scared me the most, far more than the words. He looked hungry and unfocused, and I wanted to throw up, or scream, or both. I made myself memorize his face: white, bearded, middle-aged, big.
He laughed. Then he slowly cruised away. I forced myself to take in a mental photograph of his license plate. I chanted the sequence aloud, softly, a mantra, and sprinted across the street. Somewhere in the 100-yard dash across my lawn and to my garage, my choking fear disappeared and replaced itself with a sheer and burning rage. I marched into my house and went straight for the phone. My family, gathered for dinner, watched as I dialed the number for non-emergency police calls.
After taking my initial statement and making sure that no one in the house was in imminent danger, the officer told me to stay inside my house while he ran the plate number that I rattled off to him, and that he’d be over in about twenty minutes. Sure enough, he and his partner arrived and took a formal statement from me. They had brought a photo of my harasser and I was able to identify him beyond any doubt. He was already in their records; for what, they couldn’t say but they seemed very pleased that I was a minor because the consequences would definitely be harsher.
They shook my mother’s hand. They did not shake mine. They said I was a very brave girl. They said I should be more careful.
My anger at the man carried me through for several more hours. That night in the shower, though, I broke down completely. My fear was remembered and it caught me again, mercilessly and totally.
I now grasp what my sister and mother say about this: We live in a rape culture. On the phone with my boyfriend that night (sensitive and wonderful and sweet though he is) he couldn’t understand why this was so frightening to me. He couldn’t even begin. Why should he understand? This is something that will NEVER happen to him. We as women learn how to be afraid.
Submitted by sophiecolette
I was fifteen or so when my grandfather died, though I looked more like thirteen. At his wake, which my sister and I attended all that evening, we took a break and walked to the local Dunkin’ Donuts to get a bite to eat with a girlfriend. On the way back, a group of guys (whose faces I couldn’t see in the dark) in huge SUVs honked their horns and wolf-whistled at us. I was absolutely terrified, as this was the first instance of sexual harassment I’d ever experienced. They made comments about our bodies and how “hot” we were, dressed in funeral clothes. I hung my head down and moved faster, trying to avoid causing any “trouble.” I was well-read enough to understand what groups of men + darkness + young girls equaled, even if I hadn’t experienced before or really been talked t about it, and I didn’t want anything like that to happen to me, my sister or my friend. I wish I’d been brave enough at the time to have said something, but I didn’t. We managed to get out of there unmolested, though a few of the guys seemed to have been following us right up to the funeral home. When I told my mother about it, my sister said she was happy that they’d found us attractive, while I just felt ashamed. We’ve both learned our lessons about verbal harassment now and don’t stand for things like this anymore, but sometimes I wish I had a time machine and could go back and tell my younger self to yell at them to back off. Long after that incident, I noticed how many of my male “friends” said similar things under the guise of “compliments.” Now I say what I wished I’d said back then, “Stop commenting about my body and get lost.”
Submitted by Rachel
This was a few years ago when I first moved to NYC. I lived in the East Village was walking to Union Square like I did every morning. A guy walking towards me sidled up beside me as I was walking by and said “I can see your pussy” under his breath and really close to my ear…I was horrified. This never happened to me when I was living in Boston. I was actually shaking after it happened, but I continued on my way. BTW – I was wearing capri pants, a large tank top and sneakers – hardly a revealing outfit. Strangely, the guys that do this to me in Union Square were always sidling up to me and saying “tsst” “tsst” “tsst” – it is so gross. They get so close to you that you FEEL like you’re being assaulted.
Submitted by Alie
It’s 5:15pm on New Year’s Eve. I just get off the subway from work, and I’m walking home. An older man, in his mid 50’s, looks at me and as he passes says: “Oh, she’s got hips on her — don’t let the little (something) fool you.” The man behind him, not sure if they were together, also in his mid 50’s, passes me with his elbow out to the side and says “Hey!” as he jabs me in the shoulder. I turn around, dumbfounded and unable to find words, and give him a dirty look. He says “this is New York!” as I turn the corner.
This encounter was enough to get me looking on Craigslist for a new apartment. I know that street harassment will follow me wherever I go, unfortunately, but it has never been as bad for me as it is where I live now.
Submitted by Diane
A few weeks ago I was sexually assaulted at a company holiday party by someone I regarded as a friend. I was verbally harassed, pinned against a wall and touched inappropriately. When it happened I couldn’t move, I felt so helpless, but whether by my instincts or him releasing me, I got away. I was lucky that it wasn’t worse and have reported the incident to my superior. The issue is now being dealt with by corporate and this guy is suspended and most likely going to be terminated. I’ve also since learned that before me that night, he sexually/verbally harassed at least two other women. This guy is a pig and doesn’t even remember his attack on me, so while he gets to imagine what happened, I have to deal with this bullshit and re-build my confidence.
The day after this happened, I left my apartment once during the day to get soup and bread. I was wearing work out pants and a hoodie; as I was walking down the street, this guy walks by me tells me ‘nice body’. I wanted to scream and scream at him. I have never felt so vulnerable in my life and then I have this guy ‘compliment’ me like I am some piece of meat? It was like adding salt to the wound.
Actions and comments like this need need to be recognized as socially unacceptable and it’s important for women (or anyone!) to speak out against this behavior. No one deserves to be objectified and harassed.
Submitted by Natalie.
It was rather late, I’d say around 1 AM, and I decided to run to the 24 hour bodega around the corner. As I turned the corner I walked by two men, who I noticed were watching me walk by, nothing harmful in that. On my way back from the bodega I noticed that they were still there. As I approached their standing point, I heard one of them say “How about taking some dark chocolate home tonight, baby?” as I walked by them. Well, they were not selling any sort of food items so I realized that this was his pathetic attempt to pick me up. I simply replied “That’s okay, my saltines and orange juice will do” and kept walking.
Do guys really think saying these things to complete strangers will make a woman fall madly in love with them and accept their vulgar invitation? I really don’t understand their thinking.
Submitted by Beth