Louise’s Story: Boys will be boys is never a good excuse
After a day out in the city with my 5 year old son (who is autistic), we were sitting on a bus on the way home. A group of older teenage boys (aged roughly between 18 and 20, perhaps a little older) got on the bus, all talking and swearing, acting up, discussing the merits of each others’ girlfriends and so on.
Shortly after their arrival, 2 seats behind my son and I (with an older male passenger separating us), I realised that they were talking about me – my breast size, that I’m not thin (“Why is it fat slags have the biggest tits?”) and so on – all within obvious earshot of my son.
I didn’t realise it, but the window above my son’s seat was open, and one of the “boys” leaned forward suddenly to slam it shut, making my son jump. As he sat back down, the lad ran his fingers through my hair.
A moment later and the group was making lewd suggestions and repeatedly leaning forward to touch me, laughing and carrying on the whole time. I turned around and demanded they stop, loudly enough for the other passengers to realise there was a problem, and was laughed at by the boys, who promptly carried on – now adding an impression of my voice to their game.
Eventually the male passenger sitting behind me turned around and shouted at them, saying if they didn’t stop, he’d hit them.
At this point, though it was raining and my son was tired, I decided to get off the bus – three stops early. I live in a part of Bristol where you need to be careful after dark, but, frankly, Stapleton Road was preferable to this continuing harassment – and in front of my child.
As I reached the front of the bus, I told the driver what had happened, and that a fight was about to break out between the passenger and the boys. The driver shrugged and said “What do you expect me to do? Boys will be boys.”
This sentiment was echoed by the bus company, who said that, as there was no camera on the service and as I didn’t get either the driver’s name or the contact details of any of the other passengers, there was no way of verifying my story (because, apparently, women like to make that stuff up a lot?!) and, in any case, it just sounded like they were having “a little harmless fun”.
Interestingly, whenever I’ve told any of my male friends, they’ve barely blinked an eye. All of them have made the right noises while being obviously confused about what I’m so upset about (“No one was hurt, after all”). Meanwhile, all my female friends have been utterly disgusted by what happened – and in front of my son, who was possibly more upset about it all than I was, and now refuses to get on a number 24 service.
“Boys will be boys” is NO excuse for this type of behaviour – if I had have been the one behaving in a sexually aggressive way toward them, you can bet I’d have been ejected from the bus without question. But the message seems to be very clear: if you have boobs, you should sit down, shut up and put up with it without complaint.
Inner city bus services should ALL have CCTV cameras on them (not just on “selected services”), and bus drivers should be accountable for ALL behaviour that takes place on their buses – they carry DNA swab-kits, after all – it’s not up to them, surely, to pick and choose what’s important and what’s not. There needs to be a nation-wide policy in place to protect women (and children) using ALL forms of public transport.
Thank you for this campaign and for giving me a place to write about what happened without fear of people (men) rolling their eyes and tutting about yet another female over-reaction.
Good luck to you, and to all women who pass through this site: it’s about time someone made a serious attempt to give voice to the outrage, distress and fear this sort of thing causes.