Well, that was interesting

I posted the last post because I wanted some peace and quiet for a change (and also because it was easier than any of the other posts I’ve been contemplating, la la la). But instead it just made me confused and kind of upset.

Because the count right now is 32 comments (plus two responses) and two emails to me from readers going “what the hell? How are there so many comments on this?” Reader Olga put it particularly well: “Total conjecture here on my part, but I feel that perhaps this kind of harassment is so systemic that it goes on unnoticed by a lot of people, or that it is tolerated to a point where people wouldn’t even recognize this kind of behavior has violating someones space.”

And she’s right. At first I was policing, and I did delete one comment that said “no, this hasn’t happened to me except the times it’s happened to me,” but in the end I thought it would be more useful to leave them up and say “look what’s happening here.” No, nobody’s ever refused to stop talking to me except old men. No, nobody’s ever called out at me except construction workers. No, nobody’s done this recently. No, nobody’s done this since I was in junior high. No, nobody’s hit on me per se.

Here’s the stat I wanted to give: we have 32 comments and 2,008 views on this post as of right now (it’s only been up a couple hours but I got tired of monitoring comments). That’s about 1.6 percent of readers reporting a harassment-free existence. But of course in the end it’s more interesting to analyze the positive space than the negative, so now I’m more interested in the caveats.

Think about your experience when you read that question. Was there someone you were discounting — people you expect it from, people who were just trying to be friendly, people who weren’t perfect strangers? Did you interpret “refusing to leave you alone” as “hitting on you openly,” and feel bad that you don’t experience that kind of attention? Did you interpret “setting boundaries” as “shutting them down explicitly and decisively” and discount the situations where they kept talking as you kept walking or reading or smiling tersely? Did you wonder what it was about you that kept people from talking to you, as though it’s a failure (or a feature) when other women get unwanted attention?

What are we excusing? Why are we excusing it?

275 thoughts on “Well, that was interesting

  1. Haha, a well-known troll just tried to comment to complain about the quality of my science, because while the results — 1.6% — are pretty striking, I obviously think they’re skewed by interpretation. Oh no, calumny against my extremely, extremely scientific experiment that I was totally not being tongue-in-cheek when I talked about how extremely scientific it was, because this is a laboratory and not a blog! Gosh, how will I ever get published in a peer-reviewed journal?

  2. If you asked me two years ago (before I moved to a Big City and needed to use public transportation every day), I probably would have denied having had any such experience. I, like many of the commenters on the previous thread, chalked this up to my “don’t-mess-with-me” aura. I don’t know whether such things didn’t use to happen to me, or whether they did and I just ignored or rationalized them. I do know that *many* men have ignored my indications that I didn’t want to speak with them in the last couple of years. And I know that my previously-prized “don’t mess with me” manner didn’t change.

  3. I really struggle with the whole “setting boundaries” thing. Last night I was on a dating website that includes instant messaging and I got a message from a random guy. Pretty quickly, he started telling me things about myself that weren’t in my profile. Turns out he was someone who had contacted me over a year ago on another website and pushed for me to come over to his house to “cuddle” the first day we talked. I stopped responding then…so now, a year later, he finds me on another website and contacts me? WTF?

    And what bothers me most is that I was so uncomfortable telling him that this was creepy and he needed to back off. I did finally block him, but ew…creepy…

  4. Actually, the worst harassers of that sort I’ve personally known have been female. You know the types — the ones that insist on invading personal space, keep touching you without permission, and get pissed at you for being “rude” by not maintaining eye contact with them?

    Then again, I probably don’t get bothered much by rude men because I’m too old to be conventionally attractive, per various men’s mags. Nothing like being the invisible middle-aged woman: Too old to be “pretty”, too young/solid/etc. to be an easy robbery target.

  5. I guess this isn’t really on-topic, but I just wanted to thank you for this whole series of posts. Up until last year, I would probably have been one of the few commenting on your last post. But, then I had this old guy approach me at the library and sit down and talk to me for what felt like at least a half-hour, and I was just so flabbergasted that he’d done it (despite the fact that I was on laptop and eating lunch) that I didn’t really respond with anything except insincere politeness. I also didn’t feel like I was in any major danger, and except for a couple of really weird comments I wasn’t too creeped out, it was just a general “low-level creepiness” that I couldn’t quite put my finger on until now.

    Before that, the only experience I had with people continuing to try and talk to me when I clearly didn’t want them to was when I was a little kid out with my parents. People would come up to me often and comment on my “pretty red hair,” and they’d ask where it came from, and whatever. You’d think that the fact that I didn’t answer (and sometimes made an attempt to hide behind my parents) would signal my disinterest, but apparently we don’t care much as a society about kid’s boundaries, either.

    Hmm. Somehow this comment managed to be more on-topic and less on-topic than I thought it was going to be. Sorry about that.

  6. I almost commented on that thread, actually. I thought, well, you know, although I talk about this stuff and am aware of how systemic a problem it is, actually once I’ve shut people down they’ve stayed shut down, so I can comment!

    And then I went back to the thread before (how not to get maced) and remembered an incident which I’ve since related in which a man spent an entire 30 minute train ride loudly and in offensive, graphic detail speculating on what I’d be like in bed, what he thought of my body, etc., while I sat there smiling uncomfortably because I was so shocked. Half an hour of this and no way to leave the train. A croed of people watching. I was 17; I’m 31 now.

    And yet, originally I thought I qualified to write in that thread. Because I’d forgotten that incident entirely, or because I didn’t explicitly ask for the interaction (was it even an interaction?) to be shut down? I don’t know.

  7. I just reread this post and realized the line “Did you wonder what it was about you that kept people from talking to you, as though it’s a failure (or a feature) when other women get unwanted attention?” described my feelings about this perfectly.

    It’s quite likely that I’m forgetting recent examples of having my boundaries disrespected in public, and I’ve definitely had them trampled on in other ways, but I know for a fact that I’ll often feel this way.

    “Is it because I’m fat? Plain? Scary looking? Smelly? Why doesn’t anyone ever try to interrupt me while I’m reading or listening to music or trying to enjoy some relaxation on public transportation?”

    And then I realize how fucked up it is to worry about such things, and makes me feel like I’m drowning in the patriarchy yet again.

    This is certainly a thought provoking series of posts.

  8. What I noticed about the last post was all the “don’t-fuck-with-me-impressions” that people claim to give off, which is their reason for not being hit on and whatnot. I doubt people would adapt this impression if there wasn’t anything that they had to protect themselves from.

  9. The first thing I thought was, “Oh, well, except for those guys on the internet who wouldn’t stop harassing me for a date even after I clearly told them I wasn’t interested. But they were on the *internet,* so that doesn’t really count, because I just stopped reading their e-mails.”

  10. Rainne, that is horrible. Horrible that he thought he had the right to do that, and horrible that no one else on that train said anything. I’m just an internet stranger but *hugs* if you want them. :(

  11. In truth, I was just about to post in your previous post about people leaving me alone, when I stopped and though “Wait, didn’t I report the exact opposite of this in a post a few days ago? Well but it was only that one time and it wasn’t so bad.”, and then all the other situations at clubs, bars, public places popped up in my head again. So I’d have to say, from my experience, there’s probably a lot of truth in the “people don’t even notice anymore” theory.

  12. I didn’t comment on the previous post because I was still kind of mulling things though. I’m still mulling things through, but this has been bothering me all day. Even before the question was posted I was thinking about it and trying to decide if I could really relate to this “harassed on the street/public transit” thing that seems to be such a big part of so many people’s experience.

    I’m not sure that I can. Oh, there has been an incident or two, a weird guy in one of my classes, someone I ran into in the course of my job…

    But not strangers in the street.

    I don’t know if that’s because I haven’t lived that much of my life in cities, or if the cities I have lived in have not been large enough, or if I’ve just been lucky to live in places with cultures that don’t include much of that. I don’t know. It’s been running around in my mind though. Maybe I’ll figure something out.

  13. I didn’t comment on the thread because, while I can’t bring any specific incidents to mind, I am aware of having a barrier up. Of leaving my ipod in even when I’m not listening to it. Of having a policy of shutting someone down RIGHT AWAY if I am not up for conversation.

    Actually, why I have that particular policy probably counts. When I was 18 and just moved to the city for uni, I was sitting at a very busy bus station in a crowd of homewards bound commuters, and an old drunk guy came up and started talking to me. He was pretty funny and nice so I was being polite, although not inviting. Then he lunged for me, wrapped his arms around me and wouldn’t let go. I had to push him off since my bus had fortunately just come, otherwise I’m not sure what I would have done, not being the opinionated loudmouth I am now. I specifically remember two businessmen’s curious, but indifferent, looks. NO ONE in a crowd of about 20 people, standing close to me, even said anything or looked like they might. I also remember my boyfriend’s token soothing when I got home – you know, the ‘she’s obviously distressed, not sure why, poor helpless emotional dear, I’d better make the right noises’.

    Huh. Who knew I was still angry about that? To be fair, I’m pretty anti-social a lot of the time, so I often don’t register the difference between ‘this is perfectly acceptable conversation but I don’t want to talk to you now so please go away’ (a la often female workmates touching or invading space, physical or aural) and ‘you’re creepy and I don’t want to talk to you, please go away.’

    BUT I definintely do think of myself as ‘the one that never gets hit on’. I have a bad radar, but still… if it’s a guy in the bar talking to me and won’t stop, it’s usually about how hot my friend is. So have I internalised this and if I don’t get random unwanted attention that means I’m less feminine/attractive/deserving.

    Well, aside from a few heckles from cars every now and then, oh, and the guys who ran up behind us one night, gyrated behind me, and screamed ‘I LOVE FEMINISTS’ (how did he know?) and then looked at me expectantly, like I was going to lean in and pash him or something. Serious.

    Um. What was that I said about not havign any incidents in particular? I guess I HAVE normalised it. I’m counting all these as exceptions because ‘well, they were drunk/joking/didn’t mean it like that.’

    DAMN YOU PATRIARCHY GET OUT OF MY BRAIN!!!!

  14. In reading through the responses, like Sarv I also noticed the common theme of “don’t-fuck-with-me-impressions,” and I caught myself starting to feel guilty for the situations in which I had received unwanted attention. Because, you know, I had at one point smiled at or made eye contact with the guy, so in some way I was asking for it, and if only I was surlier I wouldn’t have that problem. I know none of the commenters meant to convey that sentiment, and the logical part of my brain knows that it’s not true, but it was weird to realize I had that feeling almost subconsciously.

  15. Oh, there has been an incident or two, a weird guy in one of my classes, someone I ran into in the course of my job…

    But not strangers in the street.

    Yeah, but…

    Who said strangers in the street?

    This is what I’m talking about. We define what we consider unacceptable harassment so narrowly that we don’t recognize it. It’s the harassment-harassment version of rape-rape.

  16. I think it’s okay that not 100% of women have had the same experience. Just like not 100% of African Americans will have had the same experiences with police. (I’ve never had a personal negative encounter with a police officer in the United States, and I’m 33 years old – yet I know plenty of AAs who have).

    But I do think it’s good for people to really think about their answer, and consider what they may have dismissed.

  17. @kate i’ve have a very similar story to tell, while i was at a bus stop, and a drunkard started hitton on me, and when i ignore him, he start hitting me. Nobody in that busy street did a damn thing.

    I landed a really good right hook right in his chin — at which point he turn to yelling threats while walking backwards away from me.

    but still nobody else did a damn thing!

    That’s the extreme, the easy to remember because it was assault. There are others, such as the guy who moved next to me and my colleague at the start of a long haul flight and wouldn’t fuck off — the lonely boy geek at an open source conference that followed me and another colleague like a lost puppy — the client who keeps thinking up new imaginary bugs so he can keep talking to me about a long finished project….

  18. I too had to catch myself before commenting in the other thread. It hasn’t happened in a long while, largely because I a) no longer rely on public transit much, b) have become a mom and thus am not often out alone, never mind going to bars or parties or what-have-you, and c) at 36, am finally old enough to not be on the radar of most doods anymore.

    But just as I started to go, “Wow, lucky me, no it really hasn’t happened,” I suddenly remembered the Nice Guy(tm) in college who stalked me, the waiter who grabbed my ass while I was on a trip to Chicago with my Girl Scout troop, the long-lost family friend who patted my then-16-year-old ass IN FRONT OF MY PARENTS commenting how “grown-up” I’d gotten… well, the list goes on.

    You’re right – we get so used to it that unless an example is particularly egregious, we gloss right over it. And even then, once we get a little emotional distance, to keep ourselves sane we often wind up minimizing it in some way, if we don’t erase it altogether.

    I’ll never forget, a friend of mine was seeing a therapist for the first time, and he asked if she’d been through anything traumatic in the past year or so. She began by saying, “Oh no, nothing at all,” but then followed up with a litany of scary incidents, including fleeing her own apartment in the middle of the night, barefoot, because her then-roommate’s abusive boyfriend attacked her when she tried to call the police. (She was uninjured, and moved out two days later when the then-roommate refused to ban the boyfriend from the premises, insisting my friend was “overreacting.” sigh!)

    It is absolutely amazing, the things we can endure and recover from. These threads are not a testament to how “safe” we all are, but rather a testament to the remarkable ability of human beings to survive.

  19. This is fascinating to me and has really made me think. (Which, duh, is the point). I can honestly say that I can’t think of a single instance of a time when I made it clear I wasn’t interested and yet, someone kept talking to me. I think that means that I haven’t had such an experience. But is it possible that it is so systemic that I just haven’t realized it? Or that I don’t set up boundaries because I feel like, as a woman, I’m not allowed to have boundaries/have to be nice? Or that I make excuses for people?

    I’m not really sure. But I know I’ll be thinking about it…

  20. People excuse it because it is part of our culture. We’re soaking in it, and it can be painful to admit to yourself that it’s all around you. It can be extremely painful to admit that this kind of harassment can come from people you love dearly–or can be committed by people you love dearly even if you aren’t the recipent of the harassment. (How many hetero women have had to explain to their boyfriends or husbands that it really is creepy to flirt with a customer service person who can’t leave and who will suffer consequences at work if she rebukes your advances?)

    I found your Schrodinger’s Rapist post via a link on one of the feminist blogs that I follow (probably Shakesville, but I’m not sure at this point.) I loved it so much that I posted about it on my LJ, prefacing it with an explanation of how I have tried and failed to communicate similar concepts in the past.

    I just want to say thank you for writing this eloquent piece. I believe that there are many good men who simply do not realize the underlying message of their actions when they ignore women’s “go away” signals. Don’t listen to the haters. Your article hit the nail on the head, which is why they are screaming.

  21. See, I’ve got that fuck-off air, and I can’t remember ever being harassed on the street or by a total stranger.

    But I have definitely, definitely had people I knew socially, or met through people I knew in a social context act in creepy, overly familiar ways and refuse to leave me alone (most notably a guy in a chemistry class who I am 98% sure had no actual sexual interest in me and just got off on making me uncomfortable). I was also stalked in high school by a female ex-friend.

    So I didn’t comment, because yeah, I’ve had people, mostly men, not respect my boundaries countless times. And not guys on the street, but men who took advantage of social situations and mutual friends to make their behavior look acceptable so I had less backup to tell them to fuck off.

    But if I didn’t think of those times and just thought of street/total stranger harassment, I could say I haven’t experienced it.

  22. Now why are some folks trying to deny my (lack of) experience because it is not “typical”? What is it with the “you must have been harassed but ignored it or forgot it” stance? Don’t we complain when guys act this way?
    I’m not going to claim to have had a “don’t fuck with me” attitude. For a great deal of my young life, I felt more like I had a “kick me at your convenience” sign attached to me.
    Know what? I’ve had at least as much trouble with assholish behavior from other women as I’ve ever had from men. They may have different ways of being irritating, but can their behavior be tied to a culture-of-rape attitude?
    Thumbs up, Phoenix Woman. I hear you loud and clear.

  23. The way that you framed the question, as a result of the comic, made it sound like you were only referring to strangers on the street or strangers on public transport. I’ve honestly never had a bad situation in those circumstances.

    I have, however, been on what I jokingly call an ‘ambush date’. I agreed to meet a guy I’d just met (through a mutual friend) for lunch. Lunch as friends. I had a boyfriend and this guy knew it. When I met him, I very quickly realised that I was on a date. A real, proper date that I had never agreed to. It made me completely uncomfortable and I’ve avoided that guy like the plague ever since. This happened three years ago and I still have his number on my phone so I can avoid him if he calls (which he never has).

    Does that count? Are you talking about any harassment we’ve experience from any man ever?

  24. Erin, cheers. Since writing that I’ve thought of others. The more I think of it, the more others I come up with. The guys catcalling me from the road? Yeah, but it’s not like I asked them to stop since it was a drive-by, so that’s not what FJ was referring to…except that the catcall itself is always disrespecting boundaries, my default position is ‘please do not call out Wooo Big Tits’, of course it counts.

    The creepy acquaintance who, when he decided he was going to try and pick me up, spent a good ten minutes attempting to insert clumsy innuendo into every sentence despite my obvious attempts to keep the conversation on a generic level (‘So is it mostly women at your office, then?’ ‘Mm, surprisingly, I think it’s something to do with the area of law I’m in’ ‘You must get really keen for some male company then, right? Do you dress like that at work?’) – he doesn’t count, right? Because that’s just conversation, and I did know him after all, and I didn’t exactly tell him to fuck off…well, no, he was wilfully ignoring my signals in order to shoehorn the conversation into a Flirting shape.

    And you know the weirdest thing? My mind turned to these things before it turned to the time I was raped. I was so busy thinking about the specific subset ‘creepy strangers who approach one on public transport or the street and do not desist in their harassment after one has said, firmly and explicitly, please go away I am not interested’ – witness that my first example was the one closest to that definition – that I forgot that rape fits into Fillyjonk’s definition.

  25. Sorry, double posting – fillyjonk, you asked above in comments ‘Who said strangers in the street?’.

    In the Crickets post, you write

    I asked for the negative space of street harassment

    .

  26. my initial thought on reading that question was “well, I don’t really get bothered in public much,” but then I realized, “much” doesn’t mean “never.” And I’m 99% sure the fact that I don’t get bothered is because, just as a consequence of my current circumstances paired with my general habits and preferences, I’m almost never on my own in public. Practically the only time is when I’m riding the bus to and from school, where I’m surrounded by other students who either don’t talk at all, or they only talk to their friends. I just don’t see people interacting with strangers in general on my bus rides, and I’m pretty sure that is not usual. It’s not even usual in this town on the bus routes that don’t go to and from campus, as I’ve seen on the rare occasions when I’m on one of those buses.

    And then there was an incident just a couple of weeks ago when I was walking a couple blocks off campus and a man in a skeleton costume and mask followed me until he came so physically close that I couldn’t just ignore him, then when I turned around (I didn’t realize until that point that this was anything more than someone walking behind me and maybe not paying attention to how close they’d gotten to me) he ran off to his buddies in a car who were cracking the fuck up like following a strange woman in public was the most brilliant joke in the history of humor. That was some fucked up shit, and I didn’t even realize it until hours later when I was home and couldn’t stop thinking about it, and then it finally dawned on me, that was serious harassment. That was humor entirely grounded in the idea of women being vulnerable from strange men in public, and that is fucked. up.

    And…I didn’t even get it. Me, thoroughly aware of rape culture and steeped in feminist thinking, and I didn’t fucking realize I was harassed by a stranger obviously trying to scare me because hey, I don’t want to overreact, he didn’t actually try to hurt me, it’s just a stupid asshole prank, right?
    I’m still processing a lot of stuff around that incident.

    So…yeah, the sheer “invisibility” of it is a big part of the whole overall problem, I think.

  27. I’ll never forget, a friend of mine was seeing a therapist for the first time, and he asked if she’d been through anything traumatic in the past year or so. She began by saying, “Oh no, nothing at all,” but then followed up with a litany of scary incidents, including fleeing her own apartment in the middle of the night, barefoot, because her then-roommate’s abusive boyfriend attacked her when she tried to call the police. (She was uninjured, and moved out two days later when the then-roommate refused to ban the boyfriend from the premises, insisting my friend was “overreacting.” sigh!)

    It is absolutely amazing, the things we can endure and recover from. These threads are not a testament to how “safe” we all are, but rather a testament to the remarkable ability of human beings to survive.

    Well, human beings in general, but women in particular. Not to derail, but I think women also have to deal with the stress-stress solecism, as well as the unhappiness-unhappiness version. We’re pressured to not speak up when we feel upset or crappy.

    It reminds me of the time I talked to my old psychiatrist over the phone about a hormone issue, and she asked me if I’d been under any stress. And I said, “Stress? What do I have to be stressed out about? I don’t even have a job!”

    This was the middle of December, 2008.

    And yes, I’ve totally been harassed on the street, on the bus, on a plane, in a car, in a boat, in a (Amtrak) train….

  28. This seems to me to be disrespectful of the people giving you their experiences, telling them that no, it’s probably not that way. How is this different that men telling women their experience isn’t reality because it’s not the reality those men experience?

    It’s very interesting and enlightening to talk about how harassment and boundary crossing becomes so expected as to be invisible or forgotten. That can certainly happen.

    Denying individuals’ experiences because they aren’t the norm or what you experience, makes me upset.

  29. Frances, I’ve been ambush dated too. We volunteered together and had socialized. He showed up on my doorstep asking me to go out to a movie right now. When I balked, he said that he had just aced a test and wanted to celebrate. I went along, thinking it was a friend thing, but he insisted on holding the door open for me (to the point of obnoxiousness) and did other datey things. A week later, he actually asked me out, giving me the chance to turn him down and he did get the message.

    But reading these posts and comments, I had forgotten about that incident until I read the words “ambush date”. But I didn’t comment on the previous thread, because I knew that it had happened to me many times despite my fuck off attitude. I think that it’s such a fact of life, that we deal with each instance as it comes and then forget about it because if we didn’t shrug it off, we’d stop leaving the house. Or we’re so relieved to have each instance over with that we don’t recognize the pattern.

  30. I think my confusion might be coming from thinking about this in the context of a different conversation. It seems like I hear a lot of people telling terrifying stories featuring strangers. Public transit seems to be a particularly common location for this kind of thing. All I’m saying is that I can’t relate to that particular story. And because it seems to be such a common story, I’m looking for reasons why.

    And perhaps something else…When people tell those stories that featuring public transit, it always seems that they encounter these kinds of situations frequently and on an on-going basis. I can think of a couple incidents, but from the perspective of life right now they seem like kind of unique one-off things. It’s hard to see them as part of a pattern, because it felt like they occured in isolation.

  31. and when I say “I’m almost never alone in public” I mean basically I only leave my apartment for school-related things or to go grocery shopping. Or maybe to a restaurant with some friends, now and then. So I think it’s more the “I don’t go anywhere or do anything” part that is responsible for my relative lack of interactions with strangers.

    And yet still, if I’m doing work in “public” on-campus space, there are a couple of men who I am acquainted with but don’t particularly like who will try to make conversation with me if they see me, even though I am clearly busy and barely look up from my laptop/notebook. I’m fine with being interrupted if there’s something school-related that they specifically want to talk to me about, that’s sort of the culture of my program. We all talk to each other about the work we’re doing, and that’s something that ultimately benefits my work too, but just trying to like, chat about life? Dude, I’ve got shit to do. And yeah, it’s just men who have done this. The women who I am not explicitly friends with and happy to stop what I’m doing to talk to, just say “hi” and keep going.

  32. I posted saying I hadn’t experienced persistent harrassment in public, and it’s true. I haven’t. I doesn’t mean that I disbelieve or devalue other people’s experiences, and I hope you’re not doing the same to mine.

  33. It bothers me that you are discounting people’s experiences because they are not what you expect. I had not had this experience (I’m 32) until my current job. I do child support enforcement in central IL. Men, custodial dads and noncustodial dads, pull this all the time in pre court meetings. But I have authority and I don’t hesitate to shut them down. If that doesn’t work, I generally have the judge, bailiff, or armed deputy just in the next room. Prior to this work I didn’t have those experiences. I don’t know why because I have observed them happen a hundred times to friends. I do have a 6″6′ 300 lb husband who has been by my side since I was 18, so maybe that insulates me.

  34. Echoing others, this whole thing has really made me think. When I read the first post I immediately thought “nah, that never happens to me”: I don’t generally get hit on on the street because I’m borderline deathfat but nor do I get negatively harrassed in general. But then I thought about it and yeah, unwanted attention happens to me all the time. Could be the teasing brigade in middle school (all boys), the online dating site men who send me email upon email, ignoring my warnings to buzz off and getting increasingly angry and unstable as I ignore them, the man who did hit on me and then tried to follow me down a dark alley on my way home, forcing me to walk around aimlessly in the streetlight until he went away. The men who would harass me when I was a cashier, demanding I smile for them, making creepy jokes, screaming profanities at me until I was in tears. The guy from class who tricked me into giving him my contact information under the guise of exchanging lecture notes, only to call me and text me a hundred times in the next few days even after he dropped the class, leading me to wonder whether he was even in the class at all or just saw me and followed me into the huge lecture hall to harass me. All these things happened and yet when fillyjonk wrote that first post, my immediate reaction was that I never receive unwanted attention from men. Society is frightening sometimes (okay, all the time).

  35. I know when my boundaries are being violated and when they aren’t. I know that this kind of harassment is pervasive, and when I hear about it happening to my friends, or to people who write about it on the internet, it makes me furious. I understand that it’s disgusting behavior, and I would never make apologies for the people who commit it. It just hasn’t happened to me.
    I didn’t comment on any of the posts about women who had experienced this kind of harassment because I didn’t want to minimize their experiences. But in the last post, you asked a question about an experience I have had, and I answered it. It may be an atypical experience, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

  36. On the topic of being harassed or negatively approached on the bus…the story that sticks out most in my mind is when it came from a friend.

    One evening, I was got on a later bus than normal after work, totally exhausted. I sat in the first seat I could find and barely noticed my surroundings, and stared out the window. A male friend who happened to be on the bus noticed me. He changed seats to sit next to me and said (in a slightly disguised voice, before I turned to see who was sitting next to me) “Hey pretty lady!”

    He thought it was funny.

    He was *stunned* when I yelped in fear and then yelled, “Goddamn you–you scared the crap out of me! DON’T DO THAT!” and punched him in the arm.

    Absolutely stunned.

  37. I’m one of those people who’ve had very few instances of this. I still can’t remember any instances of strangers continuing to invade my personal space, but I did have an officemate who was a creepy perv and would stare at me all the time and persist in talking when it was clear that I did not want to be bothered. I moved offices after a few months of this. I guess I had been trying to forget that.
    I did start wondering about my ‘don’t fuck with me’ face, though, and how I got it. I suspect it was when I was a fat geeky kid and got teased a lot.

  38. I’m a nice, educated, middle class Jewish boy with a feminist mother who’s kept her family name through 30 years of marriage. I think I’m a genuinely good guy, respect women, consider myself a gentleman. And yet I know I’ve harassed women before in the way the previous thread addresses. I didn’t think of it as harassment, through some combination of genuine dippiness and willful, self-serving blindness-in-the-service-of-douchery. I would never deliberately sexually harass someone. And yet I’ve done things that in retrospect were incredibly obviously sexual harassment. Huh.

  39. To paraphrase something I said on an earlier thread: If your commute is walking to your house’s attached garage, driving to your workplace’s attached garage, and taking the stairs or an elevator to your cubicle? If you drive to the grocery store or bank or pub because there’s nothing in walking distance from your house? If you can walk around the block (or cul-de-sac) you live in without running into anyone?

    You probably experience less street harassment.

    If you use public transportation; if you live in an apartment; if walking is your primary mode of getting around, either because you can’t afford a car or a car is impractical in your environment?

    You probably experience more street harassment.

    This doesn’t meant that moving to suburbia will “solve the problem” or that living in the city is “asking for it”. I think there’s other cultural factors, too. (A common complaint about Seattle from transplants is that people here are “unfriendly” and “it’s hard to meet people”.) But I do think growing up in suburbia is a big part of why my early-teens memories of harassment are set at school, not riding my bike to the store or the park. I rode my bike daily for many summers as a kid and didn’t get catcalled. Because they were being kind to the fat kid on the bike? Or because it was a less-dense residential area, so fewer people to call me out – especially during working hours?

  40. Besides my one and only weird boyfriend at the age of 12, who was incredibly socially awkward and did in fact spread rumors about me later on, I can’t recall anyone from outside my family ever harassing me. I don’t get any attention from strangers, probably since I’ve oftentimes got my iPod on when walking outside, and since I’m not exactly physically attractive according to the mainstream by any means (they probably think my skin’s contagious). I can’t recall a single catcalling incident, and I’ve never been hit on by a stranger.

    My guy friends are very decent; I’ve slept in the same bed as a few of them in a non-sexual way, gotten flat-out drunk with them etc and have never been made to feel uncomfortable or viewed in any sexual manner (they’re like the exact opposite of frat boys – have no idea what that would be called, but think Awesome). I’ve heard of some weirdos from my female friends, but I’ve never encountered those individuals.

    Then again, I’m only 20, and I’ve yet to live in a large city. Are there a few people in general who are sometimes insensitive to my thoughts, rambling on when I’m clearly trying to tune out? Yes, but it’s a matter more of individual personality rather than gender imo, or at least it’s generally been women who have forced me to stay longer than I wanted for their needs.

    My family, though….. I’d rather not think about them :(

  41. How about the time when I was 13, ordering french fries at a (slightly seedy) restaurant near my high school, with at least 3 of my friends, and some guy comes up behind me and starts grinding his crotch into my ass? And then I asked him to stop, and turned around again, and he did it again, and all his friends were laughing and catcalling? And I was too stunned, and too young, to actually respond in a decisive way? And then, I got home, completely mortified, and threw away my jeans and the shirt I was wearing, because y’know, there must have been something I did wrong.

    That was my first and scariest harassment episode. Reading interface’s comment really reminded me of it – same joke-y sense of “You silly girl, you didn’t think this body was YOURS, did you?”

    Most recently, today, I was walking across the street in front of this car, and the teenager driving yelled, “Hey beautiful, wanna get high?” What a charming proposal. Lemme think. NO.

    But no matter how much this happens, as soon as I’m in a safe place, I get really shaky and freaked out.

  42. new here. hi.

    So, as of now there are 37 responses in the crickets thread. I just keep thinking ‘How is this possible, I could probably come up with 37 incidents where that happened to me without trying hard?’

  43. A couple years ago, there was a bunch of posts in the feminist blogosphere about those men who tell women to smile, and then about how women are generally expected to react to others in public. I thought about it for a while, then made some changes. One was to give myself permission to ignore people at the laundromat. I didn’t have to look up every time someone went by. I could just sit and read.

    Except I couldn’t.

    An astonishing number of people were suddenly trying to get my attention. I don’t mean the women who want their laundering to be a communitarian experience; they had been trying to talk to me all along. Ditto the beggars wanting change. No, the surprise was all the men there to do laundry.

    It was the same run of men who, when I used to look up as they went by, used to look right through me as they passed. When I stopped looking up, they started trying to get my attention, in more and less subtle ways.

    One guy nearly walked into me, and only changed course when I looked up – and after that he looked right through me.

    One guy started singing along with the radio, which, as it was a classical station, was something to hear, He kept getting louder and louder, until I looked up – and after that he looked right through me, but stopped singing.

    As best I can tell, these guys need me to notice them so that *they* get to make the decision that we’re not going to interact further. It’s got nothing to do with asking me out, or even talking to me. It’s all about power and who gets to decide.

  44. Did you interpret “refusing to leave you alone” as “hitting on you openly,” and feel bad that you don’t experience that kind of attention?

    And what the hell does that mean? I should be ashamed not to be stalked by men? I don’t want that kind of attention, nor do I get it. Again, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen to other people. I was also a fat kid who was never bullied at school; again, I know that’s not the norm, but it’s my personal experience, which is what you asked about.

  45. Can you do a poll instead? It would be a lot more edifying, since page views are not a good count of who might respond, and those of us who it *has* happened to can feel that our voices are being heard as well. And those who want to discuss it can use the comments, which is what comments are better for. You can put as an option something like “yes but I have a bunch of reasons to excuse/diminish their behaviour.”

  46. lilacsigil, I don’t think anyone is saying that your experience of never having been harassed is a lie or invalid. But honestly, there ARE people who feel unattractive or worthless as a result of never being catcalled or harassed. We’re made to believe it’s a compliment, and it’s hard to shake that indoctrination. I have to admit, I’ve gotten fewer catcalls and less harassment in public in the last few years (with my workplace being a notable exception, but that’s a whole ‘nother story) and when I was in the throes of anorexia and newly single, it really hurt my feelings when strangers didn’t validate me and my weight loss. (And of course I translated “weight loss” to “beauty gain” at the time.)

    Looking back, it sounds so silly. But it wasn’t – it was the way I felt, and it was the way society was telling me I should feel. I was doing things “right”.

  47. Oh and just a PSA to the laydeez of Shapely Prose from someone on the internet*: ur doin it rong!

    “I believe that too much snark (as I so often seen on SP) is counter-productive as it polarizes the debate and encourages people on the other extremes (ie: women-haters for example) to become even more extreme, even more alienated, even more angry and potentially even more violent.”

    Oh, and not only are u doin it rong, you’re actually making dudes violent towards women. Nice going. And here I was thinking y’all were trying to make a safe space for women to talk about important issues that affect us.

    *Found in the comments here: http://www.atchka.com/2009/10/you-offend-myself.html

  48. For a second I thought I hadn’t, mostly because when strange men talk to me on the sidewalk they have been not-scary enough that I awkwardly finished the conversation without giving them any obvious go-away signals because that wouldn’t be “nice.” Then I expanded my search criteria to include non-sidewalk situations and woah, the list just keeps getting longer.

  49. We’re made to believe it’s a compliment, and it’s hard to shake that indoctrination.

    I suppose it could be, but it’s not something that I’ve thought of in that way at all, and the implication that I’m minimising actual harrassment because I feel bad about not being “attractive” is pretty unpleasant.

  50. That’s nice. First you ask a question, and when you don’t like the answer, you’re implying we just don’t realize we’re being harrassed?

  51. I was thinking “well I haven’t really probably because I’ve been so effectively socialized to be nice that I will just participate in the conversation anyway and not give off the leave me alone vibes or shut people down because it’s rude….” And then I remembered the college guy who spent an entire bus ride hitting on me despite my trying to find SOMETHING else that I could possibly do besides talk to him, and the creepy guy who said I danced pretty because I was absently moving my head to the music I was playing mentally, and the door-to-door magazine salesman who hit on me and guilted me into giving him a hug (thinking back that one was a really creepy interaction). Um. Yeah, it really is normalized, isn’t it? Urgh.

    And I’m not even out alone in public much – young, barely out of high school, too fr to walk anywhere and nowhere interesting to take the bus to. It’s harder to get harassed when you don’t leave your bedroom :P

  52. She’s not saying that every single woman MUST have experienced harassment in their lifetime and they just don’t know it, she’s responding to how some of the commenters in the last thread were tacking on exceptions, and well, don’t those count as harassment? So not all the answers were technically correct. Perhaps the original question should’ve been phrased better, but I think it’s also fair to point out that some of us have been socialized to accommodate others, sometimes at the expense of our own needs, which could result in not recognizing harassment for what it is at times.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t women who have genuinely escaped harassment, it’s just that a bit of introspection about how we personally define harassment could raise an interesting discussion. In particular, I’m interested in hearing whether others have felt a bit “weird” or “abnormal” or “unwanted” for not really experiencing it. I have, and I know it’s silly, but it’s a bit hard to construct a teenage identity completely outside your interpretation of how others see you, and outside a patriarchy that bases your worth on how desirable and available you are to men.

  53. I had two realizations while reading the previous threads on this topic. One was that I tend to dismiss harassment, however scary, from the obviously mentally ill. Sure, the homeless guy followed me down the street screaming and nobody intervened, but it’s a reflection of poor government policy, not a woman’s experience thing , right? (Why can’t it be both?).

    Secondly, I thought, how odd that all my bad experiences come from strangers. Well, except for the time that I jumpedout of a window because Relative X broke into my bedroom (by smashing the door) while stoned out of his mind on LSD and threatened to rape me. Then I actually thought, “well, the window was only about 8 feet off the ground.”

    I hadn’t really thought of myself as minimizing or denying my own experiences, but there you are.

  54. “He was *stunned* when I yelped in fear and then yelled, “Goddamn you–you scared the crap out of me! DON’T DO THAT!” and punched him in the arm.”

    I remember walking home from D&D with my boyfriend, when a pair of lads who’d also been at the game, but walked a different way (we hadn’t twigged that we lived in the same direction yet) came up behind us and one of them grabbed my backpack and yelled ‘Boo!’ in my ear. I kicked back, turned, and slapped him in the head. He started doing the whole ‘itwasajokedon’thitme!overreaction! thing, and once I recognised him, I just yelled ‘Woman! Walking in the dark! What the hell were you thinking?!’

    He thought about it for a second, then apologised.

    Of course, when we got home, my boyfriend felt the need to tell me that I shouldn’t have hit him because he didn’t /mean/ to scare me. *facepalm*

  55. Can I just say that while I didn’t comment because I have had that sort of attention from men on a few occasions, it has once or twice happened with women too. Very rare though.

  56. Hell, I can’t even say I haven’t been harassed recently, even though I’m hitting that line of invisibility.

    I was out with my man and two guys followed us really closely while one of them talked loudly about fat people. The only reason, only reason, that either of them didn’t get knocked to the ground or a long lecture on being polite is that they were black and I’m white. I figured, a lecture from a white lady on how to act might be way the hell more out of line than two guys discussing my body like I’m part of the scenery.

    Hey, I get it, I look like I don’t belong in this neighborhood. I get that harassing me is cathartic, even a bit empowering. I can suck it up in the name of realizing people got stressful shit to work out, and like it or not I’m part of the system that gives them shit. I’m still a person who wants to walk to the dollar store and back without people making me feel unsafe or humiliated.

    When does that invisibility kick in again?

  57. I also thought long before posting that I have not had unwarranted and persistent male attention in public spaces. And I also find it discomforting that my experience is now under negotiation, like it might not be valid after all. Yes, it’s true that we all experience some sort of misogyny so routinely, that we ignore and forget and dismiss some of our bad experiences. Of course that happens. At the same time, not everyone can have the exact same bad things happen to them, as someone already pointed out.

    As for what I did not count: I thought the question was mainly about my boundaries, and whether or not someone decided to respect them, so I answered accordingly. Yes, I have had a drunkard threatening to kill me. Obviously that is a kind of harassment (and by no means trivial!). However, I did not count that, because 1) the guy was barely conscious, and 2) he did not pursue me when I walked away. I think this doesn’t fit kind of behaviour that has been discussed in these posts lately.

    I’ve also worked in a café of a mental hospital, and there I have had several men talking about their delusions to me, when I wasn’t really interested. Again, I did not count this, because the problem was clearly that these people were ill, not the boundary thing as such.

    How about a male relative with severe dementia, talking to me endlessly about something I’m not interested in, and not taking my hints that I don’t really want to listen? Does not count, in my opinion, because again the problem is somewhere else than in the boundary thing.

    I think everyone has probably had someone male boring or ignoring them at some point in their life. And yet, if the conscious respect of the boundaries is the main issue here, then I can see how some of those times don’t really count as actual disrespect / overstepping boundaries.

    In the original thread, I thought the “except” remarks were mainly not the type: “It hasn’t really happened to me, expect when it did happen, but I arbitrarily decide not to count that time”. I read a lot of them as: “It hasn’t really happened to me, except in a different way, which doesn’t seem to fit the original question after all, and which I decide not to count here after giving it some thought.”

  58. While this has happened to me too often to count from strangers, while reading the “what are we excusing?” paragraph, I flashed back to my first husband, who would wake me up at any time if he wanted to talk, sometimes for hours. Even if I said, “Honey, I need to sleep. I have to work in the morning,” he’d just keep talking. I felt guilty for shutting him down — after all, if you can’t keep your wife awake in the middle of the night, who can you?
    After I re-married, my husband woke me once to chat. In the intervening years, I’d gotten better at boundaries, so I immediately told him that was not an okay thing to do. He was a little hurt but stopped doing it. I feel like I need to add, he’s really, truly not as asshole. Men grow up in the same cultural soup we do, and may not be aware of their assumptions, such as that his wish to talk trumps my need to sleep. I apparently carried that belief, also, because I never would have recognized it except for the question that FJ asked.

  59. As I went over and commented, I had completely forgotten about Annoying Facilities Dude at work. Sigh. If he does it again (he’s not always around) I’m going to try to put on the big-girl-panties and be more forceful. It’s still at the level of “he could just be profoundly clueless” and it’s just talking about things which would be harmless had I wanted to discuss them instead of working. So I want to have a really clear sense of just how creepy/annoying he his, since it will be taken seriously if I report him as being at all harassing, and I wouldn’t want to do that to someone who was clueless and thought I was busy but appreciating the interruption.

  60. I didn’t comment on the entry, because I’ve experienced on many occassions men starting to talk to me in public (usually trains, or when sitting down on a bench somewhere) without my encouragement. However, I’m not sure if I clearly said ‘no’ or tried to ignore them. I’m too scared of people reacting with hostility, so I just nod and say yes until they back off.

    One very recent occurance was in the city – I was tired from walking, my back hurt, so I sat down on a bench. This elderly man (in his 60′s, I’d say) looked over to me and said, “Nice weather, isn’t it?” My auto-reply kicks in (“be nice to the elderly! Be nice to the elderly!”) so I say, “Yes.” And then he says, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you should watch your weight.”

    Now, mentally, I’d love to have reacted with “I AM watching it and I happen to think it’s fabulous!” or “That’s none of your business”, etc. But I couldn’t do it. I was tired, it was hot, my back hurt, I didn’t want to get up from the bench, so I just said, “I’m working on it”. Which is technically true. I’m just not working on weight loss, I’m working on accepting my weight. And then this man goes into a whole rant about it and I just nod and smile and I can’t say no and I can’t bring myself to ignore him or stand up and walk away.

    So does that count? I feel like I’m being harassed, but I’m not establishing my boundaries, or even saying no. Because I’m scared already. :\

    The other occurrence is that recently, a man has started to send me unsolicited e-mails after reading my Twitter. I even had to protect my account, but he still keeps sending me e-mails, after my first insistence that he should stop. I’m ignoring him, because this type of creep gets off on attention. Nevertheless, I’ve gotten e-mails with incredibly creepy short messages with bad spelling, like “U R Yummy :-)” or “are you into cybersex?” There’s nothing I can do but ignore and filter the e-mails away (Gmail doesn’t have a blocking function) and this shithead is still getting to me.

    When reading comments on the previous entry, I was really wondering where some of the ladies got their so-called Don’t Fuck With Me field from. I’d like one, please. I seem to be constantly projecting to everyone that I am totally approachable. :\

  61. I’m saying this to anyone who is saying “I don’t get harassed because I’m too badass/not pretty enough.” No, that’s not it. It happens to fierce women and ugly women and fat women and old women. If this really never happens to you, it’s because you’re lucky. That’s it, that’s the only reason. It is not because of anything you do or what you look like or what aura of invincibility you exude. It just isn’t. This really isn’t under your control.

  62. When I was considering making a comment on the last thread, I immediately thought I should, because, I thought, I had never experienced sexual harassment or a man not respecting my boundaries (sexually or by touching). I have had multiple comments on my big ass, “hey baby”s, whistles, yelling, and other instances of boys and men saying things about my body. But that wasn’t sexual harassment because, well, I’m not attractive to most men and they were just being mean or trying to get a laugh out of their friends.

    But then I realized, wait, what the hell? All of those things are sexual harassment because it had to do with my body, right? You don’t have to have someone tell you to your face, “Hey baby I wanna bang you” in order for it to be sexual harassment, right? Well I’m not quite sure. As enthusiastic as I am about FA and stuff, a part of me still says that I had it coming and that while guys who harass me certainly are jerks, they aren’t doing anything -as bad as sexual harassment.-

  63. “If this really never happens to you, it’s because you’re lucky.”

    This.

    I recently took a trip home to see my mother and looked at some pictures of myself when I was a young teen. My mental image of what I looked like then was apparently very skewed – since I know I was skinny then I of course remembered I must have been pretty, but in fact when I looked back at the pictures I realized just looked like a dorky little kid. This didn’t stop some jerk from pulling up to my school bus stop one morning and sit there idling in his car until I awoke from my daydream wondering why a car was sitting there so long and realized he was masturbating while watching me. He waited until he was sure I noticed, then drove off. It couldn’t have been less my fault, but there you go – my first experience of street harassment. In a small, nice, “safe” neighborhood.

  64. FJ, I’d commented on the previous thread, mentioning that old men were the only men who speak to me in public, and it sounds as if you read that as me excusing the obnoxious behavior described in the previous thread because these guys were old. That wasn’t the case. I’m thinking of a time a couple weeks ago where an old guy started chatting in a grocery check out line. He made a few comments, then stopped on his own. That’s the sort of thing I was describing. Not creepy, or pushy, or long.

    In reading this post it sounds to me as if you’re translating others’ experiences and claiming that we’ve all had the creepy-guy-in-public experience and that some of us are excusing it. I’m not. I simply have not had that experience. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe that others have, or that it’s ok. It simply has not happened.

    In a forum that focuses on open discussion of all of our experiences I’m surpised to see what looks to me like an insistence that my interpretation of my experience is not valid.

  65. “I don’t get harassed because I’m too badass/not pretty enough.”

    When I said that maybe I don’t get harrassed because I’m fat, I didn’t mean that as an excuse, or saying other women should put on the same armour, but trying to work out a reason why my experience seems so rare. Maybe I am just lucky. I don’t know.

  66. People who are mad that I’m discounting their experience of never being hassled: Why are you discounting the experience of everyone on this thread who said “yeah, I thought it never happened to me, but then I realized I was making excuses”?

    I’m sure there are some people who have never had men disrespect their boundaries — who are very lucky, or have very loud headphones. I’m happy for you. But I saw — not invented, saw — people making excuses. And I thought that was worth calling out. If this post isn’t about you? Then this post isn’t about you.

    As for using the phrase “street harassment,” it’s a fair cop — I was looking at the street harassment blog and I used that as a catch-all when it wasn’t exactly what I meant. My descriptions of scenarios were, I thought, clearer — comment only if all the men you’ve encountered have respected your boundaries.

  67. Also, it was a really stupid post and I wish I’d never made it, so if that’s people’s goal you can stop now, it worked. I just didn’t want to do this monster thread again where we asked who had been harassed or disrespected or insulted or attacked, because we have had enough of monster threads. So if this could not turn into a monster thread about what an asshole I am for noticing that some people were making excuses and other people were emailing me about it in alarm? That would be neat.

  68. My first response was no, but then I thought of the homeless or poor on the street that often beg for money or just someone to notice them. I don’t find them threatening, just annoying. We do tend to excuse such behavior from the ‘mentally ill.’ I recall two of occurrences on the bus when a guy wouldn’t shut up but it seemed obvious that the man was autistic in one case and was just harmless prattling on about some nonsense that he found interesting and the other time the man was talking so crazy that it just seemed safer to ignore him. It was funny while listening to a man screaming on the bus about want to kill the president, local police, etc, that I was frightened at all but amused. Afterwards, I figured it could have been a dangerous nut job, not just a loud one.

  69. Hell, I have a “leave me alone” aura that can be seen from space, I’m 48, disabled, fat, and not very good looking, and I STILL get things that could count as harrassment. Although I tend to regard them more as entitlement, as in men feel entitled to my space, my attention, or my careful consideration of their manly opinions when in fact they aren’t. Just lately I’ve been pretty blunt in expressing that to men (and women) who violate my boundaries. Maybe I should be more circumspect.

  70. Yeah, unfortunately my comment on your last post needs to be deleted.

    There are three people (all men) I’ve encountered who either didn’t leave me alone, or were slow to, when I indicated they weren’t welcome. Two I didn’t remember at the time I wrote my comment, and they just straight up invalidate my comment. (One was a high school bully, the other a coworker who wouldn’t get out of my personal space until the 2nd or 3rd time I told him to back off.)

    The third guy…. he does not respond to non-verbal cues, at all. Positive or negative, from men or women, it doesn’t matter. I’m convinced he’s somewhere on the Autism spectrum. Annoying as that is, he does respond immediately and appropriately to verbal instructions. Is it unreasonable to not consider that harassment, when he essentially can’t see the non-verbal gtfos?

  71. I get sick for a couple of days and miss some epic comment fests. . .

    I just read through the material on the comic and I’d like to express my full support of SM’s original post.

    Just thinking about the times I’ve gotten unwanted attention makes me want to go write some therapeutically bad poetry.

    Some of the ones that stand out?

    The comic got to me, because on the Paris metro, I once sat next to a man who started up a conversation. I was reasonably polite, but he creeped me out when he wanted to know where I live. So, I got off a stop early (he followed me) and led him to the supermarket that I knew was right by the stop. I went in, picked up the biggest can of lentils, intending to hit him in the head with it should he get pushy in the Shopi. I walked around the store, staying in sight of anti-shoplifting mirrors and other customers for a WHOLE HOUR before the dude finally got the message and went outside to the bus stop. I didn’t leave the register area until he’d gotten on the bus, and even then, I took a different route home than normal to stay in crowded streets. I’m sure he just wanted a date! (yeah right) Thankfully I am used to living in cities so I am an old hand at paranoia. My boyfriend (now husband’s) reaction was that lentils are pretty heavy and thus a useful weapon, and while it would have been a shame to go to jail for it, the dude richly deserved a swift can of lentils to the head.

    Another event that bugs me happened at a salsa club, where you’re not really supposed to talk much to your partner. People dance with a lot of different partners, and the focus is the really intricate fast dancing. This one guy kept telling me he wanted to take me out (to a ball no less, who says that? Is there even a ball to go to in San Francisco?). The creepiest thing is, six months later, I see him at the same club and refuse to dance with him. I bait him saying that he must go there every night to hit on women in the same tired language–and he claims he’s never been there before. Why doesn’t he recognize me? I must not be the only dance partner he wants to take places that don’t exist.

    And another one? After a major weight loss (short lived, alas) I went to a bar in SF (need to stop going to bars) for a bachelorette party. A dudebro type walks up to me with the great line “you’re quite fit” and proceeds to embitter my evening at intervals by being entirely unwilling to stay the heck out of a bachelorette party. He even followed us to the next bar!

    Now, I am not extraordinarily attractive. I am a very normal looking person, and my going out wear pretty much covers everything (I lived in SF, so leather jackets and long pants were obligatory all year round). So, I’m not “asking for” this kind of attention. In fact, in the Paris example, I’d been returning from the library, so I likely had on no makeup, was carrying the filthy and beloved backpack I’ve used since I was 17 (the folks at Jansport aren’t kidding that those things last a lifetime), and probably looked very scholarly (read: tired and unglamorous) after a day of squinting at 16th c. books. I definitely wasn’t flirting–as I was not much of a flirt when I was single, and am not anything of one now. There is no reason for the unwanted attentions I got other than the predatory nature of the people who targeted me.

  72. OK, I’m promising myself that if I see a woman receiving unwanted attention in public I’ll say something, like “Leave her alone” or “I believe she said no” or “look, it’s your life and not mine, but do you want some backup here?”

  73. I saw — not invented, saw — people making excuses. And I thought that was worth calling out. If this post isn’t about you? Then this post isn’t about you.

    This. If you’re one of the people who just said, “It’s never happened,” this post is not about you. It is specifically about the many people who said, “It’s never happened except for the time or times it did happen.” Which is kind of like saying, “I’ve never been mugged, except for the time that big guy came up and demanded my wallet.”

    I was getting really frustrated with that sort of answer myself, and I think it’s absolutely worthwhile to look at the reasons why someone would give a response like that — without demonizing or criticizing anyone in particular who did. The point is not to deny anyone’s experience or shame anyone who put it that way, it’s to discuss the sociological implications of an “it didn’t happen, except when it did” answer, which I think is a pretty reasonable topic for a feminist blog, for all the reasons FJ laid out in the post.

    As for the question about whether part of it is that some people think they don’t get harassed because they’re not conventionally attractive, some people were saying that very thing on threads here in the last few days — e.g., “This doesn’t really happen to me, but then, I’m so old/fat/homely, it probably wouldn’t.” And that is a really warped effect of the patriarchy that’s well worth pointing out — that women are conditioned to believe that harassment is a compliment and not getting harassed must mean you’re just not pretty enough. Which is pure bullshit that reinforces both women’s feelings of worthlessness about their appearance AND our tolerance for harassment, since it’s framed as something flattering. (And please note, I mean that is the CULTURE’s pile of bullshit, not the women’s.) But if that part doesn’t apply to you, it doesn’t apply to you. It was just one of several possible reasons FJ proposed for people saying, “It hasn’t happened, except when it did.”

  74. Why are you discounting the experience of everyone on this thread who said “yeah, I thought it never happened to me, but then I realized I was making excuses”?

    I’m not! You’re not “inventing” anything while witnessing people reconsider experiences. But I’m not “inventing” my own experiences, either, and you did ask for us to recount them, which would indeed make that thread about me (and the few others in my situation).

  75. At first I was also thinking, hmm, have I ever actually experienced this? But then I realized that I had, not just a couple times in public, but MANY times online. There was the family acquaintance that I had to block on IM, who I found out was asking around several years later for my address, phone number, and new IM (um, really creepy). There was the guy who thought it was hilarious in 8th grade to threaten to kill me over IM, while citing correct information about my full name, address, and phone number. (Can’t you take a joke, bitch? Why’d you call the police, I was just kidding!) There was the other guy in 8th grade who thought it’d be hilarious to grab my boobs in the lunchroom and then lie about it. And the guy in college who thought it’d be ok to start rubbing my knee, even though I’d met him about 10 minutes before and had expressed no interest in him. And gave him the dagger stare when he started. I finally plucked his hand off my knee, but he never moved away from an uncomfortably close position.

  76. Oh, my point is that it’s so easy to rationalize, this doesn’t happen to me. Because you’re so full of self-loathing that you discount any male attention, even negative attention. Because you don’t want to believe it’s true. I had totally forgotten about the incidents in middle school until I read about them in my journal 10 years later. I remember now and it infuriates me. People tell me to drop a grudge, it’s been such a long time. But I just can’t forgive them for that violation. I can’t do it.

  77. @Annie Mcfly I’ve actually had to dump Notes From the Fatosphere from my RSS feed and add just Shapely Prose because the posts up on Atchka (and the comments) have been so frustrating and infuriating. *sadface* I was kind of hoping for awesome feminist fat acceptance from a guy’s perspective, but instead, I feel like he’s looking for people to tell him it’s okay to talk to women on public transit. I’m hoping he educates himself enough that I can add Notes back onto my feed.

  78. I’m also now remembering all of middle school–and not fondly. All the snapped bra straps and tickling (which I think happened to me because I was considered UGLY, not because I was held to be one of the pretty or popular girls) made me change to a public school. I was bookish and dark-haired and I didn’t shave my legs or wear makeup (are we really supposed to at age 12 though? really?) As it turned out, the big public school was a miracle cure, probably because I was less remarkable in a larger group of targets.

  79. If you’re one of the people who just said, “It’s never happened,” this post is not about you.

    Reading back, it’s specifically the quote from Olga and Fillyjonk’s questions about who we might be discounting that made it look like this post was also about anyone who said “It didn’t happen,” rather than just the people who did “It didn’t happen, but…” Since there’s clarification now, okay, I’m shutting up and going to bed!

  80. @living400lbs – “I rode my bike daily for many summers as a kid and didn’t get catcalled. Because they were being kind to the fat kid on the bike? Or because it was a less-dense residential area, so fewer people to call me out – especially during working hours?”

    Given that I cycle most days and have never experienced so much harrassment as when I’m out on the bike, I’m guessing it was the latter… Honestly, what is it about a person on a bike (not just a woman on a bike – I’ve seen this happen a lot to men as well) that attracts random people in the street to shout at them?

  81. I also nearly posted on the crickets thread, but then I thought of an example. And then reading through this thread I thought of three more examples, including a guy who followed me in a car, until I took out my phone and told him I was calling 911, and a guy who sat next to me and masturbated while I was in an internet cafe in Jordan. Which reminds me of the guy who physically assaulted me in the street when I was in Jordan. Also, there was that dude who wouldn’t leave me alone in Boston (where I live) and when I rebuffed him demanded to know if my pussy was too good for him.

    So yeah, I didn’t discount these, but I just didn’t think of them right away. My default is to think I don’t get harassed because I don’t have the experience of a conventionally attractive woman who gets catcalls and hit on all the time.

  82. I’d almost commented on the last post because I’ve always been too intimidated to tell someone outright that they were bothering me. Since I’ve never actually told the person harrassing me to leave me alone I figured I didn’t know if they would have. Basically, my mental processes went straight to blaming myself for anything I may have endured as a result of unwanted attentions. Despite all the signs I must have been giving through body language. Those were meaningless.

    Reading through all of the comments on this thread has been like a million lights turning on at once in my brain. And it’s terrifying. Especially when people relate stories of men treating harrassment as a joke. It makes me never want to leave my house alone again.

  83. My thought process was pretty much exactly this when I saw that thread. “Oh, I could post, unless you count harassment outside the U.S.. Oh, well, there’s been some of that, but I don’t know if I made myself clear enough. Except when I did, but . . .”

  84. There are lots of good points up above about potential biases in reporting and similar issues – but can I just say, that post made me feel really good, because I didn’t know if there would be ANY women who could report not having had that experience, and it makes me feel a tiny bit better about the universe that there are at least some!

  85. This is provoking some worthy discussion. But like a couple of others have said, I’m bothered by the tone of the post–because you didn’t get the dramatic cricket-like effect you thought you would, or that would emphasize your very good point, you’re basically saying, “No, think again! You’ve totally been harassed!” Again, I think that the point is worthy–the “it hasn’t except when it has” sticking point is relevant on any feminist board–but it can also be a positive thing if women do NOT experience themselves as being harassed. Don’t manipulate the data!

  86. Yeah – I’m really curious as to why people think this only has to be strangers in the street/on a bus. The question, as I read it, was “has anyone failed to respect your personal boundaries?” That means the FedEx guy who comes to your office once a week, your co-worker, a friend of a friend, the stranger on the bus, your best friend’s husband, and on and on.

    Weird how this was interpreted.

  87. I’ve been loving this series of posts and I’m really interested in the people who’ve said that they’ve had similar kinds of harrassment from women. I live in London (UK) and it’s pretty much a given here that you’ll get unwanted conversation on public transport if you’re a woman. It’s also pretty much a given that while most of that will come from men (and pretty much all of the sexual harrassment), you’ll get the occasional woman who wants to tell you her life story and won’t take no for an answer. I’ve always tended to chalk the behaviour of those women up to mental illness or loneliness, along with that of those men whose harrassment has been specifically non-sexual (old guys telling you about their dead wives/Jesus/the war etc.), but this thread has made me realise that when I am specifically hit on I pretty much always assume that it’s about how men are socialised to behave towards women and not about mental illness. I’m not sure what my point is except that we categorise these things so firmly (lonely old man/lonely woman/potential rapist) that I can see how those people making exceptions in the comments on the previous post came to make those exceptions.

    On a slightly different note, I was once having a conversation with my partner, her best friend and her best friend’s husband and one of us mentioned those blokes who come up to you when you’re reading in the park and ask you what you’re reading and then refuse to go away even when you flat out tell them to. The best friend’s husband was genuinely shocked and perplexed that this was a recognised phenomenon and that it was the main reason that all of us didn’t go to the park on our own any more. It took us maybe ten minutes to convince him that we weren’t just being a bit paranoid and mistaking friendly strangers for Schrodinger’s rapist. To his credit, this is because he wouldn’t dream of doing something similar, but it did drive home to me that men can make the choice to spend the afternoon reading in the park, whereas for women that choice comes loaded with the very real possibility that they will have unwanted interaction forced on them by a stranger.

  88. People seem to be using funny definitions of “harassment”. On the plus side, yes, I picked up a guy on the bus, once, because he showed his interest. So did the cute dyke bus driver a week later.

    However, in the normal run of things, I am NOT conventionally attractive – I look like a big butch dyke, because, hello, I am. Non-consensually, as an adult (I’m not going to bother with childhood sexual abuse and bullying), I have had men try to pick me up at my mother’s club (while she was in the loo), pick me up in a GAY club, call me a “fucking faggot” (!) twice on the street, say “fucking dyke”, say “smile!”, say “what’s your problem, bitch” (without my saying a word to them), give me and my femme girlfriend the evil death-glare, insist on trying to have a lengthy and meaningless conversation with me despite my saying “I don’t want to talk to you”, until I walked away, contact me on a personals site with graphic detail despite my saying I am specifically NOT interested in men, or het relationships in any form, blah blah blah blah blah.

    Ok, I’m forty-plus, and I can count the number of times as about a dozen or so. I am not backwards in asserting myself, I have the evil vibe thing going on, and yet ONE time is too many (unless you have the misfortune of dealing with the one-in-whatever genuine sociopath).

    And often it isn’t the complete stranger. I’m not sure why people have interpreted the original question in that way. Unwanted and abusive or persistent attention is just that, no matter where it comes from.

    <2% of women not ever having experiences like these sounds about right, if potentially on the generous side. It's pretty damn awful.

  89. I guess I did discount a couple of occasions – with a cleaning guy in my office and a few people at the bus stop. But in all those cases, the person seemed to me to have some sort of mental disabilities (what’s the right word?). People who couldn’t pick up on normal social cues.

    But the reason that I didn’t count those – in all cases, these people treated men in the exact same way. The cleaning guy at work interrupts all of us, creates nicknames for all of us without our permission. He stops and chats and follow everyone around. In none of these cases did I feel that the situation had anything to do with my gender, and therefore, wasn’t relevant to the original question.

    In other cases where people have approached me at the bus stop, or in the library, etc., I’ve said “I’m sorry, I need to finish reading this book, I can’t talk right now.” I’ve made my boundaries very clear, explicit, rather than the more subtle clues we can use with other people – looking away, going back to our book, just nodding politely and not responding, etc. Again, since you asked for cases where one had continued to get attention *after* indicating they weren’t interested, I don’t think these count.

  90. This has probably already more or less been said, but there are already 90 comments, and I’ve only gotten through about a third of them. I too, feel like I give off a “fuck off” vibe in public, but I hadn’t considered why until now. Starling’s post was really about why women feel the need to be on guard all the time, especially in interactions with men. Putting out an unfriendly or anti-social vibe is just a part of that. The reasons why I’m prickly and defensive about my personal boundaries comes from a whole lot of things that are actually quite uncomfortable to think about, things that one probably wouldn’t classify as “harassment” due to relationship, age, and context, but that nevertheless represented incidents when my boundaries were violated and my autonomy taken away:

    –Teenage male relatives who would tickle and try to roughhouse with me when I didn’t want to. (They used to tickle my feet and my neck. I can’t stand to have my feet or neck touched now, even by my husband).

    –Male peers who would use Bombardament and Dodgeball type games as an opportunity to target my boobs.

    –Male peers who would leer and make obscene gestures to me in the hallway.

    –Male peers who would begin scatalogical conversations when I approached my locker, making sure I was within earshot.

    –The 80 year old man who accosted me at my gym because I was wearing a university T-shirt and proceeded (for some reason) to tell me all about the book he was writing…for an hour.

    –The young man I just sent a complaint to my gym about, because for a variety of reasons, he falls into the “don’t really want to be alone with this guy” category.

    –The male students that flirt with me at the beginning of the semester only to act betrayed and appeal to my superiors when I don’t reward their friendliness and charm with the grades they feel they deserve.

    –Male students who violate the fact that I conduct my classes on a first name basis (mostly because I’m not a “Dr.” or “Professor” yet, and I can’t stand to be called “Mrs.”) and go straight to the diminutive “Ash.”

    In other words, there are all kinds of reasons why I feel on guard with men, even men whom I am related to, even (in some cases) young men to whom I am supposed to be an authority figure. I think it all counts, even though none of it would probably be recognized as street harassment, few of these cases involved strangers, and some involved individuals with whom I have ongoing relationships. But they are all examples where my boundaries were violated to an intolerable degree and where my objections were dismissed, overlooked, or used to label me a “bitch.”

  91. Toni, that was how I interpreted it as well. Otherwise it would simply be a question of who has never been annoyed by a man, in which case there really would have been crickets. But I see no point to such a question.

  92. Oh, and I didn’t even factor in online harassment in that. I’m a female gamer, and I and another female gamer recently had a conversation with a male friend about why we don’t correct strangers in game who assume that we’re dudes and how we even use different language or refuse to get on VOIP servers to perpetuate the illusion, because announcing that you are female is an invitation to all kinds of hell. He was completely shocked.

    I was the guild recruitment officer at the time, and in one of my forum ads, I stated that we were a safe guild for women (we expressly forbid rape jokes, demeaning language, and anything that even smacks of sexual harassment), knowing full well that the trolls would have a field day. Again, my male friends were shocked by the shit-storm this started.

  93. Since I’ve never actually told the person harrassing me to leave me alone I figured I didn’t know if they would have.

    You see the cultural logic behind this, right? Not just “they were ignoring my body language that said go away” but that as a woman in public you’re up for grabs. The default assumption in our ideal world, of course, would be that no woman wants to be harassed, ever. The default in our actual world is that you have to tell someone “Please don’t harass me” for it to count.

  94. Great thread/s, FJ. I’m sorry that you wish you’d never posted it, because I thought it was great and I think it’s spurring a great conversation.

    But I do want to take issue with one thing. There was a lot of explaining going on in the crickets thread, of women giving explanations for why they don’t get harassed. Whether it’s the “I give off a don’t-fuck-with-me vibe” or “I’m not pretty/I’m fat” line of explanation.

    In responding to those people, other people have said that how you look and how you act don’t determine whether you get harassed. And, I think that’s just not true. What I think is true is that the way that how you act and how you look affect your daily experience of harassment, but not in a way that makes any sense. It affects who harasses you, how they harass you, how persistent they are, the kinds of things they say, the kinds of places they approach you.

    But that doesn’t mean that you can, or should do anything to try and change their behavior. For example, I think that my tendency to make eye contact with people is a contributing factor in the fact that I get harassed a lot. My friends have claimed that I should stop doing that to reduce the incidence of harassment. But I say, FUCK THAT, I’m not going to change who I am because of some assholes. I’m a naturally curious person and I love people-watching. I would basically have to change my entire personality, and my entire way of dealing with the world around me, to get rid of my instinct to make brief eye contact with people when I look at them. I don’t know if I could do it even if I wanted to. Which I don’t.

    I also think how you look affects how you are harassed. But again, not in a way that makes much sense. For all the people saying they’re not harassed because they’re fat, how can you say that when you know so many fatties here who have a daily experience of harassment? I experience far more harassment than any of my thin friends. Also, race and ethnicity are part of how you look, and those affect how you are harassed. As a brown chick, I’ve basically never been harassed by a white guy in my life. Maybe once or twice, but it’s almost nothing in comparison to the rest of the things I’ve seen. And because of my appearance and indeterminate ethnicity, that’s part of the harassment, too. “What are you?” “Where are you from?”

    A lot of people have said they haven’t been harassed by strangers, but by work/school/acquaintances. It’s basically the inverse for me; nearly all of the harassment I’ve experienced comes from strangers. Again, I’m sure this has something to do with the way I look/act/interact with people, but again, not in a way that makes any sense. The fact is, you can’t and shouldn’t change who you are. I think we can talk about the factors that affect women’s experience of street harassment without implying that there are things they need to do differently or it’s their own goddamn fault.

  95. Sweet Machine: I see that exactly, now. A few months ago, before I started this whole process of educating myself, I probably would not have. It’s a hard thing to conceive because it’s just so overwhelming.

  96. m. leblanc has a good point there – there are different dynamics at work and some of it may have to do with perceptions of weight/age/ethnicity. I’m fairly average-sized and my partner’s fat and she gets kerb-crawled and approached in the street with casual suggestions of sex a hell of a lot more than me, but I get bus-crazied a hell of a lot more than her. Different (unsolicited) strokes for different folks, I suppose.

    Oddly, the only time I got persistently propositioned in the street was when I was about six months pregnant – over the course of a month I got hit on pretty much every time I left the house. Clearly a bit of a niche market locally.

  97. I started to click on the previous post and say “hey, this doesn’t happen to me.”

    Then I remembered that on Wednesday, not that long ago, three guys catcalled me as I was dashing down the street trying to get to an interview on time.

    *shakes head*

  98. Ashley, gawd I remember back in the bad old days of being in *WoW guild name deleted* where they would talk about going to Vegas & hiring prostitutes. Seriously an unsafe space for women, if you said something to them about it they’d gang up on you and scream at you. I had close friends in that guild who didn’t understand that it wasn’t “just hazing”.

    I’m so glad I left and met my current guild leader. Now I’m in a woman safe, woman friendly guild of raiders, where all the guys actually treat everyone like human beings. It ain’t exactly perfect but I never have to hear rape jokes or worry about men being pervy to me. I think if I could light a fire under the guild leader’s butt to post in the forums that we’re a woman friendly guild our recruitment problems would clear right up. I imagine there are a lot of women playing on our server who are looking for just the kind of guild we have. We actually did pick up a ton of new male players by being a woman safe guild, which is nine kinds of awesome.

  99. I think the reason why we are excusing or minimising past experiences is because we’re trying to protect ourselves. If we dwelled on the harassment all the time we’d have difficulty leaving the house. Unfortuantely this only makes it even harder for us to collectively to get mad about the appalling quantity of harassment and lack of boundary respect that women are subjected to and attempt to do something about it.

  100. “If you’re one of the people who just said, “It’s never happened,” this post is not about you. It is specifically about the many people who said, “It’s never happened except for the time or times it did happen.” Which is kind of like saying, “I’ve never been mugged, except for the time that big guy came up and demanded my wallet.””

    I can’t speak for anyone else than myself, but the feeling I get is that for many of us the line between harassment and non-harassment isn’t always absolutely 100% clear. Yes, this is a feminist site and harassment is not given any excuses here. And that is great. But I think there are commenters that genuinely were not making excuses. Some were at first, and later on did realize that they were indeed making excuses. Both experiences can be valid.

    The reason some people gave a bit more lengthy answer than “no, absolutely never” is that no matter how much we oppose harassment and misogyny, probably some kind of grey zone between harassment and non-harassment does exist. Conditions like dementia and autism have been mentioned as examples. I know my boundaries should be respected, no matter what, but the fact is that if I get unwanted attention from someone who genuinely is not able to pick up social clues at that moment, I can’t consider their behaviour as a conscious decision to overstep my boundaries. And I would feel wrong calling that intentional harassment. Unintentional, sure.

    Now, that is my reasoning (or my “excuse”, if you will). You don’t need to agree. The thing I’m trying to say is that maybe some people who gave a lengthy answer did in fact consider the matter carefully, and for that very reason felt like explaining how they understood the question / how they defined their various experiences in relation to that specific question. I understand that you may disagree with the way they assess their experiences, but please don’t discount their experiences altogether by implying that they simply did not see the truth behind what happened.

    As for the excuses thing, I know it exists to a scary extent. I volunteered at a help line for women experiencing violence (mental, physical, sexual, financial, whatever). Often the callers did not name physical violence at all, not in the beginning. When asked about the occurence of physical violence, they would say: “No, not really, he doesn’t hit me at all – he just pushes me to a wall / pins me down / throws things at me.” Or: “No – well, he does hit me, but not in the face / he doesn’t leave marks / I’ve never broken a bone so it’s nothing serious.” Or: “No, there’s no physical violence – except that one time a year ago…” And so on, endlessly. (Obviously these are not actual quotes, I wouldn’t quote a caller, just generalizations!)

    So, I’m not denying the phenomenon of making excuses that you refer to. I just don’t believe everyone who answered “no”, either shortly or at length, is mistaken about their experiences. It’s necessary to adopt a zero tolerance towards harassment, but I guess there will always be some room for negotiation (or at least for personal opinion) as to what constitutes harassment in which situation. And on top of that, people’s personal experiences really do differ.

    Peace!

  101. Primate- I have certainly had women disrespect my boundaries, particularly on public transit. I think it’s because I knit and many of them take it as an invitation to talk, even if I make no eye contact, just nod or go “hmm” to something they say, and have headphones on.

  102. I think we can talk about the factors that affect women’s experience of street harassment without implying that there are things they need to do differently or it’s their own goddamn fault.

    Absolutely — but I think saying that how you look might affect how you’re harassed is a different thing from saying it determines whether you’re harassed. As you said, there’s no rhyme or reason to it — one conventionally beautiful woman is left alone, one is harassed. One fat, middle-aged woman is left alone, one is harassed. One unshowered woman in sweatpants*, etc. So it’s still not that useful to say, “I don’t get harassed because of X characteristic,” when some woman who lives on the next block is probably getting harassed for precisely that characteristic.

    Which is to say, I’m nodding vigorously at your entire comment, except for the line, “In responding to those people, other people have said that how you look and how you act don’t determine whether you get harassed. And, I think that’s just not true. ” I mean, I guess the distinction here is that at the individual level, you’re right, it’s not true. If a woman looks and acts one way, and only encounters guys who prefer harassing women who look and act another way, then yes, her appearance and behavior determine whether she gets harassed. But when we’re talking population-wide, the very fact that harassment is so variable and unpredictable means that how we look and act doesn’t determine a damned thing, inasmuch as there are no obvious patterns that apply generally enough to suggest it does.

    We’re saying the same thing, I think, I’d just frame it a bit differently.

    *In fact, the only pattern I’ve ever been able to discern in my own life is that when I was in university, I could count on being harassed by religious pressure groups if I went out looking like ass, but they left me alone when I looked put-together and confident — I can only assume they were told to target people who looked like vulnerable, lonely messes. So it got to where there were days when I’d throw on overalls and a ponytail, look in the mirror, and go, “Yep, I’m gonna get invited to a ‘gospel meeting’ today!” And you know, there’s another question — does THAT count, since it was both men and women doing it with a specific purpose in mind? It was still unwanted, and very often still relentless. I’d be really curious to see statistics on how many women vs. men are reeled into cults that way, since I strongly suspect they benefited from women’s conditioning to be polite and not shut people down.

  103. This post was incredibly thought-provoking for me, and I for one am grateful for the way it shifted my thinking, FJ.

    I have certainly had the experience of my boundaries not being respected–the boundaries I verbalized and the ones that should be respected just by virtue of me being a living, breathing being without me having to fucking SAY OUT LOUD that it’s wrong to leer/grope/grab/harrass me—but what this post made me consider was that the first few examples that came to mind numbered a handful, and if I included the ones that I made excuses for, the number tripled. And if I included the additional count for the ones that I have twisted and morphed in my head into a funny story (to cope with the fact that I was horrified/terrified in the moment) the number probably doubles again.

    So, there are the usual “Hey, baby, nice legs” and “Back that ass up”s. And the friend calling to his friend “Check out the back end on that one.” And the guy saying “Damn, that’s what I call being an athelete,” when I was picking up oj in my gym clothes. The ass pats at the bar too crowded to move away with ease. And the guy who followed me to dance class saying he was going, too, if I was going, because he wanted a chance to do the two-step with me.

    But then, there are the bad date stories that I have crafted into something darkly funny: the guy who slapped my ass (hard) on a first date as I was getting into my car to leave. The blind date who stood me up, and then sent multiple emails and left messages later in the day offering–then insisting upon–cooking me dinner at home instead that night, and then showed real anger when I said no. The guy who was mad at me because I wouldn’t have sex with him on our first date, and when I commented that the making out was a bit much with my severely spasmed back quipped with exasperation “Well,your HANDS work, don’t they?” suggesting that I service him on a public walking trail. Or they guy who “teasingly” tried to pull me into a cab with him in an unfamiliar city to spend the night. When I tell these in long form they become tales of the “kooky dating world, and all its foibles”. But what undercuts that is the real fear I felt in the moment, and the deep relief I have that those situations ended then and there.

    Oh, and I just realized I haven’t included students—the one who threw a book at me and called me a fucking fat bitch. The one who threatened to slash my tires. The one who came back after school while I was alone in my room to tell me the next time I told him he had to be quiet while everyone read silently he “wasn’t going to take it so good”. The one who stood over me screaming in my face, who had about 6 inches and 50 pounds on me. They were all kids that I have excused for their behavior because I knew them, and they were in my charge, and it “just comes with the territory” of being a teacher in my district—but they were all young men (16, 17, 18) who are growing up in our rape culture and acted accordingly.

  104. notthemarimba – has that ever been sexually motivated? My experiences of having women harass me have been more to do with not respecting boundaries (if I’m reading, writing or listening to music) in order to talk at me about whatever is uppermost in their mind, rather than to hit on me.

    Although there’s the whole subset of non-sexual public transport harassment which is almost exclusively female: the “you’re a bad parent” variety when they tell you that you’ve overdressed/underdressed/underfed/overfed/mishandled your child.

  105. In my case, I welcome so much–that perhaps I should not, that it is rare for me to not welcome discourse. The rare cases when I do not, my size, posture and scowl are definitive. I am also very effective with dogs and horses.

    Interestingly, in an improv workshop, I discovered how hard it was for me to say “no” and be the heavy, be the brush-off person. This would largely account for my experience, I think.

    If you always say “yes”…

  106. I remember, before my disability, that when I would go running outside I would have every kind of harassment known to humans. Here are two especially lovely experiences: (1) I was running down the street and a man slowed down IN HIS CAR and said, “Hey baby, you’re lookin’ GOOD.” I proceeded to extend my arm and give him the finger, and he replied, “I was just giving you a compliment!” and then sped away; (2) I was running in the park one early Sunday morning, and a tall man in black sweat pants and a black sweatshirt with the hood up exposed himself to me. It completely freaked me out. I went home and called my parents in distress, and my mom LAUGHED AT ME, saying that it happens to everyone and that I was being too sensitive.

    Two forms of shaming emerge in these examples. The first is the shaming that communicates, “What’s wrong with you? You should like harassment. You should want it!” The second is the shaming from society (including women) that communicates, “What’s wrong with you? It happens to all women. Suck it up!”

    Sometimes I think it is amazing that we even leave our homes.

  107. Honestly, as I was reading the comments to your post last night, FJ, I found myself thinking pretty much exactly what you say here — and feeling sort of bad for thinking it. This was sort of my train of thought: Well, obviously none of these women have ever worked in retail. Or in business. Or ridden on public transportation. Or been out in public.

    But then I sort arrived at what you’re getting at, I think: These behaviors have been so normalized that we don’t even think there’s anything wrong with them. So what if a guy follows me around three different stores at the mall, making snide comments to his friends? He’s just being a guy! The dude on the bus that tries to engage me every day, even though I’ve made it clear that I’m not interested in talking? Well, boys can be dumb sometimes; I really shouldn’t hold that against him.

    The “boys will be boys” mentality is dangerous, in my opinion.

  108. I can’t believe I read the whole Schrodinger’s Rapist thread yesterday. That was awesome.

    I almost posted something in the crickets thread, and it would have been a lie. I guess the situations where someone intrudes or catcalls aren’t usually the same ones where I feel unsafe. I tend to get catcalls from moving cars when I’m almost at my car or the door of the building, for example. I’ve had this happen for so long, it just seems like part of the landscape, like the heat.

    My family and I used to have a big problem with lonely people intruding on us when we were out, interrupting our conversations and generally just babbling at us about something when we were trying to order food or otherwise accomplish something. I guess we were very friendly and safe looking, but it got to be a pain in the ass. It was a relief when my son became a teenager and grew his hair long so that no one could tell if he was a boy or girl; all that intrusion stopped.

    There’s a weird thing that happens to me all the time with slightly older men. They’ll say something teasing to me and when I tease back they get inappropriately offended. I guess I’m supposed to get flustered and apologetic or something. An example: I was buying a few things at a convenience store including a magazine for which the cashier couldn’t find the price. The guy behind me said “it’s $24.95.” I looked him in the eye and said “how did you know how much money I have in my wallet?” in what I’m pretty sure was a teasing tone of voice, and he got upset, took a step back and mumbled “I was only joking.” Snark Power!

  109. My first response was that I’d never had that happen to me, but I think I was interpreting it as “hit on openly”. I’ve never had anyone push into my space trying to hit on me, but I have had many men keep talking to me (at airports, in waiting rooms, even once at a job interview – always when I was alone) even after I made it very clear that I had no interest in continuing to talk to them.

  110. Blah. This sucks.

    The most recent incident that is coming to mind was when I was taking a parking shuttle from the lot to the terminal in the middle of the day. I was the only one on the shuttle and the man who was driving kept continually asking for my number, even after I had said no, said I wasn’t interested, said I had a boyfriend, said I didn’t want to go out with him. It was just him and me in the van and it really got my blood-pressure rising. I kept saying no and it just was inconceivable to me that he kept going. Pleading and asking in different ways, like if he found the right combo I would say yes.

    Ok so here’s the thing. When I get nervous… reallly nervous. I smile. I don’t know, it’s some odd defense thing that’s probably ingrained by the patriarchy. People have mentioned to me the disconnect when I have been speaking in public about something sad, or when I’ve been really angry with someone that my mouth makes a smile though it is very clear if you are listening to the words coming out of my mouth that I am not pleased in any sense of the word.

    I guess I have often wondered for me how this falsely-nice-facial-twitch, plays into the “she doesn’t mean what she’s saying.”

  111. When reading the comments of the people who said they had never experienced an unwanted and/or persistent invasion of space by men, after being shocked that so many women were actually able to say “no, this never happened to me”, I started rationalizing why it has happened to me quite so often. I started to think of all the times that this has happened to me and then I caught myself thinking things like: “Oh ok, when I was younger I used to drink a lot” or “I’ve lived in bad neighborhood” or “I’ve often walked home alone at night”, but then I had to stop myself, because that line if thinking started to feel a lot like saying that I had purposefully put myself in dangerous situations, and if you ask my mother she’ll probably agree, but I’ve never wanted to limit my freedom or my independence by avoiding situations that only women are taught to consider dangerous.

    Walking home alone at night, shouldn’t be considered putting yourself in harm’s way. And even though I do it, I’m still way too conscious of the possibility of being harassed, my entire body language has been shaped by this fear. I don’t make eye contact with strange men if the context is threatening, I walk fast and with determination, I hold my coat around myself tightly, I look straight ahead, I either ignore all advances or say “no thanks” and keep on walking, and although this behavior might stop some people from approaching me (most probably the people who I don’t have to fear, because they respond and respect the message I am putting out), it doesn’t do much to stop strange cars from doing u-turns and passing by me three times within the same block, or a taxi driver offering me a ride, and then after I say no, coming back and stopping his car on the wrong side of the street to ask me for a light, when he’s in a freakin’ car with a cigarette lighter.

    Approaching someone when not being invited to do so isn’t harassment until you have expressed that you are not interested and they don’t respect your wishes. There’s nothing wrong with taking a chance (the chance to be rejected) and approaching a girl you don’t know, but would like to no better, it’s the persistence that comes after you say “hey look I’m not interested”, that makes it so. But their are types of behavior that are harassment, from the get go, before you ever get a chance to rebuff it. Following someone on the street, leering at someone so intently that you make her cross the street so she can avoid any contact with you in the first place. When you don’t give someone the opportunity to respond in kind to your advance, whether if it’s just to start up a conversation, ask for directions, or with the intention of bringing her home with you, you’ve just invaded her personal space in a way in which she has to re-evaluate her safety.

    I think that most of these “don’t fuck with me” attitudes that so many woman have mentioned are LEARNED because we’ve had to systematically deal with these sorts of problems. Had you never encountered these types of situations you never would have developed a demeanor that told other people to stay the hell away from you. Even the situations where you were in a bar and some creep was bothering your friends or people you didn’t know, that person may not have addressed you personally, but they still created an environment rife with tension and fear for every women present. It might have been indirect, but it still happened and I’m sure it altered the way you interacted with the space you were in. Maybe you made sure to avoid his ass on your way to the bar or to the bathroom, but it had an affect whether you realize it or not.

  112. Yes. Just yes. I started making a mental list of harassments yesterday (huge, didn’t finish list as too upsetting and took too long!). Then I read this and realised that on top of the instances that would have made the first list, I have a whole load of extras that I had been making excuses for. I started reeling some of the worst ones off to a male friend, who had previously been under the impression that most women ‘only’ got wolf whistles and it was the unlucky few who might get more directly harassed. Like the time I got boxed in on a train seat by a lumbering drunk older man, who had a friend standing near us on the train and I couldn’t get away. After listening him talk about how much he hated his ex wife and how much his daughter hated him (‘because of that bitch’) etc etc we got onto how I looked like a nice girl, but I was probably going to end up being a bitch too. I was really struggling (I was about 17/18 I think at the time) and trying to be polite so as not to anger him further. Eventually I insisted I needed the loo and changed carriages, only to be followed and treated to a new barrage… Argh. I can think of so many more, including ones with lots of inappropriate grabbing and/or slapping and/or groping…

    So my friend got pretty upset too, and I am glad that I got to talk about it with him so that at least one more guy started to ‘get it’ a bit more. And I think all these posts have been incredibly thought provoking and useful — it’s been an amazing tour de force by everyone and I would have posted on the other threads too except that I was so busy reading, and dealing with the fallout of somehow ‘offending’ someone I know by posting a link to the Schroedinger’s Rapist post… So basically I’ve plopped by here to say *thanks* to all of you at SP (inc Starling!) and the great commentariat discussions; as ever, you’ve made me feel better about the world. Big internet hugs :-)

  113. I have had women refuse to leave me alone far more often then men. The only times I felt threatened was when a man did it, but in terms of sheer number, women knock it out of the park. It was not sexualized when women did it (except once. That got into a stalk-y situation), but then, there has been a single case in my entire 27 years of it being sexualized when it was a man (I have thought long and hard about this, and I’m positive that “once” is the accurate number). The sad part is that I’m just now getting over the idea that the utter lack of sexualized harassment in my life somehow makes me defective as a person. I still sometimes freak out over it – what’s wrong with me that men don’t want to harass me? Ugh.

    Oddly, my boyfriend has experienced FAR more street harassment/sexual harassment than I have. Some of it’s people aggressively hitting on him, some is just people yelling insults. He’s not some Adonis – he’s a normal, pudgy, scruffy guy with a neckbeard. He has had several near-stalkers. He’s had a waitress sit in his lap and try to lick him, in a pizza place, with me next to him, while he’s telling her to stop. There’s a bar near our house he avoids walking past at night because he keeps getting harassed (not sexualized – just straight-up threatening to beat him). I’ve never had a problem – hell, I’ve been IN it, at night, by myself. Nothing. He’s had construction workers yell insults at him. He’s experienced people following him in a car, tossing stuff out the window at him while he’s walking down the street. He has a full beard, so it’s not that these people mistake him for female. I’ve always found it strange that our experiences flip the norm. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, and I swear I’m not trying to turn this into “what about the MENZ???” I think it is a very weird situation, and definitely not the norm. I just wonder what causes the role-reversal.

  114. “Well, obviously none of these women have ever worked in retail. Or in business. ”

    which in fact would be the point. Because after all, if someone gets in your face at work, about your work (i work in a library and before that at a helpdesk, you don’t want to know how privilege plays out there between patrons and staff– and if the person is important enough you just have to deal)… crickets. But I don’t see how that validates the commentary on the previous posts.

    When I first read the essay about xkcd I was confused, because I don’t understand this kind of feminism, despite thinking of myself as a third wave feminist and trying to understand the kind of privilege analysis going on here because it looked useful Then I read the commentary, and I understood. Then I read more commentary, and I began to be uncomfortable.

    By the time I saw the “crickets” post, I was ‘oh god here we go Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem and that antiporn lady again if this is modern feminism etc. I don’t think I belong here.’

    (I don’t know if you’ll post this, and that’s ok with me; the rules are fluid enough to make it make sense that if I disagree I should just go away. But I wanted to *say* it.)

  115. Jenne I feel like I want to respond but I’m worried that I don’t think I really understand your comment, at all. The commentary on the comic thing was quite varied… Personally, I fell into the camp of not even understanding what the comic was trying to do in the first place, so stared at it about a million times and read all the commentary and had to think a lot before I began to think I got it, but could also see the flipsides that were being argued. I’m continuing to make up my mind about it, especially as I didn’t even know anything about the comic artist himself to begin with. I don’t share your experience of being made to feel uncomfortable by the initial post, or the comments-in-general (I get that specific comments might piss you off but is that the same thing as the shape of a debate pissing you off?). Could you clarify a bit?

    I’m also struggling to understand ‘oh god here we go Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem and that antiporn lady again if this is modern feminism etc. I don’t think I belong here.’… I get that there are criticisms of all feminist thinkers and in particular there has been much feminist (and non feminist I guess) critique of Friedan and other ‘big names’ from the second wave, although i don’t think we can just discount the impact of their work entirely… but I don’t get the link you’re drawing with this recent batch of posts and discussions and the critiques of those thinkers… Am I just being slow to catch up? Cos at the moment I think I disagree with you but I can’t quite figure out how to put ‘why’ I do and I want to check I haven’t thoroughly misunderstood (given my current levels of tiredness, i may well have).

  116. It was just him and me in the van and it really got my blood-pressure rising. I kept saying no and it just was inconceivable to me that he kept going. Pleading and asking in different ways, like if he found the right combo I would say yes.

    Oh, man. That reminds me, taxi drivers came up on one of the other threads, too, and I’ve had some bad experiences there myself — often when the cabbie is taking me home, and all I can think is, “Great, this asshole won’t take no for an answer, and he knows where I live.” A couple of times, I’ve asked to be let out a few blocks from home, to make sure he doesn’t see exactly where I live. (I only ever say the corner in the first place.) So then I’m walking home alone in the dark, which was part of what I hoped to avoid by taking a cab.

    I’ve had cabbies beg me to come to bars with them, interrogate me about my dating life (and, more recently, married life — that doesn’t stop ‘em), start going on about how beautiful I am, et fucking cetera — and there I am, alone in a moving car with these fuckers, not really knowing if I’m going to get dropped off at home after an annoying ride or taken somewhere else and assaulted. More than once, I’ve sat there wondering if I should jump out and run at the next red light.

    And you know what’s really fucked up? When I read lah579′s story, my first thought was, “Well, I certainly hope you reported that asshole to his supervisors, at least.” But I have never once called up a cab company and reported a driver who hit on me and scared me — which has happened about 4 or 5 times since I started living in an urban environment, when I was 20. (I’ve had lots of other deeply unpleasant convos with cabbies, but right now, I’m only counting the ones that truly scared me.) Because A) All I could think about was getting out of the damned cab, and B) I knew how unlikely it was that anyone would take me seriously. “Well, he kept asking me to go to a bar with him.” “But you said no, and he dropped you at your destination, right?” “Well, he kept telling me how pretty I am and asking questions about my boyfriend.” “What’s wrong with that? You should be flattered! He still did his job, right?” And if you spell out that dude was hitting on you while you were trapped in a moving car he was driving, which is substantially more frightening than hearing the same lines at a bar, for instance, you just sound paranoid. Of course. Because if nothing truly bad did happen, then you obviously had no real cause for alarm. QED.

  117. By the time I saw the “crickets” post, I was ‘oh god here we go Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem and that antiporn lady again if this is modern feminism etc. I don’t think I belong here.’

    (I don’t know if you’ll post this, and that’s ok with me; the rules are fluid enough to make it make sense that if I disagree I should just go away. But I wanted to *say* it.)

    I’m not deleting your comment or banning you. I am, however, rolling my eyes a lot. I mean, there’s really nothing to say to a comment like that except, yeah, maybe you don’t belong here. There are blogs I don’t feel I belong on, because I’m not especially radical (despite what many of my critics would have you believe), and at some point, I cease to be feminist or progressive enough to really get on board with a lot of the stuff there. But what I don’t do is post comments about how they’re doing it wrong and alienating people like me, because, you know, who cares if I’m alienated? They’re doing their thing. I’m doing mine. There’s plenty of internet for all of us.

  118. Recently, I’ve most often been harassed by men while in the public law library. Which sounds for all the world like “oh, it’s not because you’re a woman, it’s because they’re hitting you up for free legal advice” (I’m an attorney). Which they were, and which I have also seen done to male lawyers.

    The difference, though, is that men (never a woman – yet) who hit me and the other female lawyers up for free legal advice do not stop at the first “no.” Not even when we use the exact same language and tone of voice as the men.

    I had one last week who was so persistent, even after I repeatedly explained that (a) I would not take his case, (b) I do not practice family law, (c) here is the number for the local bar and for Legal Aid, and (d) stop asking because I’m not going to say yes, that I actually left early, with work undone, just to get away from him.

    It doesn’t only happen there, just happens there most frequently and persistently. It’s like my usual “fuck off and die” aura evaporates when I walk in the door.

  119. Betty Friedan & Gloria Steinem & that antiporn activist are part of the second-wave feminist movement widely criticized for making feminism all about the experiences of a small subset of upper middle class white well-off women and discounting other perspectives. When I was a kid and exposed to 2nd wave feminism, that’s what I feel like I saw as problematic in it, even though I was all for equal rights and for getting rid of the culture of male privilege.

    I have grown up and lived in a world where anyone, male or female, encountered in public is someone I evaluate as possibly being verbally and even physically abusive to me for a wide variety of reasons, chief among them my appearance. That they may be guys engaging in white privilege is less important to me than that they feel– men, women, kids, white, Asian, Near Eastern, whatever– that they have a right to be pissed at me for intruding on their public space by existing, or even saying “Excuse me”. (Yes, I have been verbally attacked in a public place for saying “Excuse me” to get past another person. Female.)

    So, when I look at this discussion, I think it’s really not for people like me.

  120. By the time I saw the “crickets” post, I was ‘oh god here we go Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem and that antiporn lady again if this is modern feminism etc. I don’t think I belong here.’

    Well, for one thing, I don’t think that SP is what defines “modern feminism,” as if that’s a monolith to begin with — and Friedan and Steinem are not exactly the people we’re most influenced by here. Like Zenoodle, I really can’t say I understand your comment. But here’s what I do understand: if you’re uncomfortable reading this blog, you’re allowed to stop. We welcome conversation here, but if this is not the blog for you, well, then it just isn’t, and we’re fine with that and you may as well be too.

  121. So, when I look at this discussion, I think it’s really not for people like me.

    Since I don’t know what you mean by “people like me,” I can’t really address this — but we have discussed how perceptions about race, class, sexuality, and gender perception affect assessments of safety, over and over, in the monster threads of the last few days.

  122. The strange thing about this question is that I have a strong sense that it has happened to me, but when I concentrate I can’t come up with a single concrete example. But I also routinely get ugly bruises on my thighs that I didn’t know where came from. Eventually I caught myself running into the corner of a table, then thinking, “That was so annoyingly stupid that I’m going to just forget it ever happened.” And, apparently, I can do that.

    I think this reinforces Olga’s thought that many people shrug it off, even work to shrug it off, and then can’t remember later. This doesn’t actually mean it’s not upsetting or affects us either. Running into the corner of a table hurts like hell for a bit.

    Oh, and I just thought of an example where I couldn’t brush off a man. Hah. So there you go.

  123. I have one hell of a ‘fuck off and leave me alone’ attitude. People rarely approach me.
    But I’ve definitely experienced street harassment.
    Also, somehow, me dressing kind of skanky + fuck off and die attitude + creepy guy = creepy guy confusing me for a dominatrix? The problem there wasn’t me, and it wasn’t the guy thinking “she looks skanky yet unapproachable! That’s hot!” It wasn’t even that he told me I looked nice. It wasn’t that I responded positively to the compliment. It was how, when I walked briskly away from him, he felt the need to follow me for several blocks, muttering sexual things just loudly enough for me to hear them, but not quite loudly enough to make out what he was saying.

    And Jenne, I may be misreading you and talking past your point entirely, but there are different kinds of bad behavior. These threads are talking, mostly, about threatening, sexualized street harassment.
    I was once yelled at by a little old lady on an airplane because I, some teenager who wasn’t paying any attention to her whatsoever, wasn’t helping her with something, possibly with opening her airplane peanuts.
    That’s not quite what we’re talking about here. It’s similar, in that a stranger felt entitled to my time and attention. But I wasn’t threatened and it wasn’t gendered, and it isn’t relevant.
    I’ve been teased for being shy, including teasing from adults when I was a child, in ways that were needlessly cruel. That is also not relevant, because even though it was threatening (what sort of jerk ass threatens a kid for being shy?) it wasn’t sexual.

  124. “These threads are talking, mostly, about threatening, sexualized street harassment.”

    Fillyjonk’s question was: “Comment only if the men you’ve encountered have consistently respected your boundaries and acknowledged your right to have them…. I’m not talking about guys hitting on you specifically. I’m talking about any insistent attempt to insert themselves into your consciousness, positive or negative.”

    And that’s NOT restricted to threatening or sexualized or even street interactions.

    And that’s what I find problematic about this discourse, especially in light of the followup question post to which I’m responding– because it seems to me that fillyjonk is inviting her readers to look back and see how their experiences of non-threatening, non-sexualized, private or whathaveyou interactions with males are really basically the same as threatening, sexualized, public interactions and thus prove the point; that it seems like those people who are saying “um, this isn’t my experience” are going to hear that really, it is, and they just don’t know it.

  125. Although I’ve been very busy with my home life as these monster threads have gone down, I have been reading the comments (including some of the odious ones that don’t make it through). And it’s gotten me thinking about moments in my life when I learned to make excuses for men. When the message really sunk in: Your feeling wronged and violated aren’t really the issue here. Something else is the issue — whether it’s the guy’s being given the benefit of the doubt, or your own fault for not having stopped it, or even just a male observer’s take on how he would have responded in the same situation. (That is, if he forms that take WITHOUT also realizing that for his little thought experiment to WORK, he has to be a woman, so he’d best actually listen to some. But I digress.)

    So, like, when I got groped in a train station in college some people I confided in told my story to a third party – without my permission – because they thought he could help me learn some self-defense skills. You can see the kind of thinking wherein this is construed to be helpful, right? I mean, they were on Team Help A Sarah Get Skills Not To Get Groped! Clearly they meant well. Sigh. Or when some guy showed me his erection on the way into a church meeting, and whichever church person I told kind of chuckled that he was probably drunk and you really don’t need to be afraid of the drunk ones because they’re too drunk to fight you. Or when I was sexually harassed and someone very close to me (not my husband) said “Oh, well he [the harasser] can’t help that.” (I got royally pissed. Later, though, we talked about it and she eventually said that after working with so many characters over the course of her career, she realized that she’d come to view a lot of bad behavior as “normal,” and that she might need to do some thinking about that.)

    Which is part of why it makes me so angry to see men thinking that the MOST important thing about the Shrodinger’s Rapist post is how hurt they are at having assumptions made about how they might be rapists. Privileged people have assumptions made about them ALL THE TIME — they’re just often nice, flattering ones. Oh, but THOSE aren’t a moral outrage. It’s not an outrage when you’re falsely assumed to have good motives, or to mean well, or to really be harmless because ha ha ha you’re drunk, or that you’re the “head of household” or that you’re the one in the family who makes the important decisions, etc.

    No. The only real moral outrage is that sometimes some women, who are afraid of being raped, and whose trust you have not gained, allow for the POSSIBILITY that you might rape them… perhaps because if they see any news coverage of pretty much any rape ever, they know that the first question will be “Why did she allow that to happen?” And this is one of MANY assumptions people make about men; it just happens that this one is unflattering. So unfair.

  126. I seriously doubt that people are going to re-cast their experiences from non-threatening to threatening just on SM’s say-so. I mean, she’s awesome, but seriously. If people are re-casting their experiences, it’s probably because they’re doing some serious thinking and analysis about the things that have happened to them, which is their right.

    And, it’s been repeated, but it’s not being suggested that the things in this post are true of every person with no harassment experiences, all that’s being suggested is that it might be true of some of them.

  127. FJ, as someone who commented in the last post (as just sara, but it’s such a common name that I’ve picked a new tag), I think I just don’t count things as harassment that other people do. I don’t mind when someone talks to me on the bus if I’m not getting creepy vibes from them, even if I’m reading when they’re talking to me. I don’t mind if they continue the conversation, even if I don’t necessarily push it myself – sometimes it’s just because I don’t have more to say, not because I actively want them to leave me alone. I don’t mind if someone approaches me and starts chatting with me in a random public setting. I’m not in denial about any of this – it just doesn’t remotely bother me, and never has. When things bother me, I have no hesitation in owning them. The truth is that I have only had three experiences in my life that I would quantify as harassment. All of them happened when I was out with a male friend, and one was from a woman.

    This doesn’t mean I’m denying the experience of other women, or saying they shouldn’t count experiences as harassment that I wouldn’t. It’s simply saying that I analyze my experience of these events differently than other people might analyze their experiences of the same events, and that’s why I posted on your last thread. And since no one but me is in my head, no one but me really gets to say how I feel about Event X.

  128. fillyjonk is inviting her readers to look back and see how their experiences of non-threatening, non-sexualized, private or whathaveyou interactions with males are really basically the same as threatening, sexualized, public interactions and thus prove the point; that it seems like those people who are saying “um, this isn’t my experience” are going to hear that really, it is, and they just don’t know it.

    Oh, goodness, if I had never been invited to look at my own experience through a different lens than the one I’d been handed by the dominant culture, I’d never have realized a lot about what was and was not my responsibility or my fault.

    What Fillyjonk said was:
    We define what we consider unacceptable harassment so narrowly that we don’t recognize it. It’s the harassment-harassment version of rape-rape.

    So, yeah, I also read that as an invitation to look at the things that we’re in the habit of excusing, and draw connections from there to things most of us will say count as “harassment.” But isn’t there a place for gently drawing attention to some of the things we’ve learned to put up with? Some people genuinely experience themselves as hideous and ugly and unlovable, too; but that’s not beyond challenge here.

    Plus, there’s also a difference between saying, “No, really, I’ve considered it, and I did not experience X as a violation, and I know when I feel violated,” and saying, “No, it couldn’t possibly have been a violation because I’m 100 percent responsible for making sure men behave well and I failed to do so in X instance,” or “No, I haven’t really been violated except for X, Y, and Z things that I experienced as violations.” Do you think you’ve heard the first kind of sentiments get dismissed?

  129. @A Sarah: I hate this whole Learn-Self-Defense-And-Get-Pepper-Spray attitude. Because those are great things when you’re in the midst of an actual sexual assault, but they’re completely worthless when a guy “accidently” gropes you, or crowds you on the train, or makes lewd remarks. I mean, what are you going to do? Mace him? No. (Despite the tongue-in-cheek subtitle of the SR post.) Because you’d get the “Crazy bitch attacked me when I was just being friendly!” complaint, this time involving the cops. And the argument “Well, he made me uncomfortable so I knocked him down and dislocated his shoulder” is not going to be a success.

    The problem, I think, is that we confuse this red-in-tooth-and-claw power (the power to injure) with a more subtle and much more relevant power: the power to do stuff with impunity in the presence of others. Harassment that does not rise to the level of requiring physical self-defense cannot be prevented by being really good at self-defense. Unless, of course, one walks around in one’s black belt, or carries nunchucks or samurai swords, which is again a matter of social or perceived power.

  130. …and having finished the comment thread, I see that the above post was possibly unnecessary =\ Oh well. Sorry for not finishing reading before commenting! (What an inauspicious way to delurk.)

  131. Men Who Explain Things! I am familiar with the breed. I have a dear friend who majored in International Studies and spent three years in Japan. Shortly after her return, we went out for sushi. A man came up to her to demonstrate how she was eating the sushi incorrectly. That didn’t last long, as the rest of us at the table laughed out loud at him.

  132. Taxi drivers! Thanks, Kate – I completely forgot about taxi drivers. They never stop. My last cab ride from O’Hare involved the driver explaining why I should cheat on my husband with him.

    And I laughed nervously, turned up my headphones and wrote it off until I read this thread.

    Thinking about it now, I know I became so used to harassment when I was younger (and thinner, and prettier, and much more friendly and open, and prone to go to bars) that I feel like it doesn’t happen to me at all now. And it still does, a lot. In different ways and in different places, partly because I’ve moved to a new city where people don’t start as many conversations on public transit but also there are more street-corner crazies.

    I keep thinking I’ve gotten a lot better at shutting that kind of thing down over the years, but maybe I’ve just gotten better at ignoring it.

  133. I have, of course, been subjected to the Male Intrusion on various occasions, and it was decidedly unpleasant. It took the shine off Paris, off Trondheim, off [lots of places]. And you know what? I can still tell the difference between that and the unlucky decent bloke who said something when I wasn’t in the mood, or whose leg ended up between mine because the Tube really was that crowded. I had no objection to the man on the underground who asked if he might give me his number when we’d been stuck there forever waiting for a train and everyone was whinging. (Actually, the poor bloke and the leg incident was really funny, because he was genuinely horribly embarrassed, and about 50, and married, and it was not his fault that I was standing under his armpit and the train braked hard right then. But if he had been horrible I would probably have reacted in a very similar manner and tried to get out of it politely, not for the sake of making someone innocent not feel shit for the rest of the day, but for hoping I could escape the day without someone actually assaulting me.)

    Which is to say, I agree with fillyjonk. When men are unpleasant/aggressive/intrusive to me in public, I don’t say anything. I am polite, I try to get out of it without being obvious. I hope it’ll just stop. And I know that that is VERY different from the man or woman who says something casual that is simply ordinary conversation directed to me as a human being. Believe me, the Innocent Nice Guy doesn’t suffer because I’m a paranoid bitch. I suffer, because I’m scared that other people won’t see he isn’t an Innocent Nice Guy.

    Which is in fact what annoyed me about the cartoon – in real life, the stick woman would practically never react as the stick man fears, because she knows that the rest of the carriage would not support her.

  134. Ok so here’s the thing. When I get nervous… reallly nervous. I smile.
    I do that, too. I hate it, but I don’t know how to

    I once saw a documentary about the WWII Japanese camp women; they interviewed one woman who had been a camp prostitute and she gave the entire interview, describing everything, with a small, apologetic, polite smile on her face.

    It was pretty horrifying.

  135. I think of it as not happening to me that much. It’s probably partially because my ADD makes it hard to remember more than one specific incident at any given time.

    It happens a lot.

    It doesn’t happen on the street, because I’m from rural Michigan and I drive everywhere. It happens/ed in class and walking on campus, when I was still in college, and at restaurants and in stores, and a few memorable times when I was at work some dudes would harass me and the other women working in my department, separately and together. And in bars, my god, in bars. I think a lot of women don’t define what happens in bars as harassment because–I don’t know–men in bars have a reasonable right to expect that you are single and there to find sex, or something. “Your boyfriend ain’t here now, is he?” “Just let me buy you a drink. Just one drink. Come on, just one drink! …Bitch.” Because this is just how men interact with women in our culture.

  136. I had the weirdest experience last year – the minister of my church sucked on my fingers, and the initial response I got from the person I thought witnessed the event was, “You shouldn’t tell anyone because I don’t think you should make it hard for _____. ”
    That person, the one I went to first, is a lawyer, and a lesbian, and, I thought, a feminist. (jumping to conclusions, obviously, with the lawyering and the sexuality.) Then her wife got involved and told me that none of this would have happened if I had better ‘boundaries’. Both of them made it clear that what I had taken as a really, really, creepy and disturbing thing was, in fact, nothing at all, and pretty much my fault. Luckily, someone else saw the finger-sucking, (it was part of a ‘joke’ on the minister’s part, and I was frozen with panic and disgust afterward) and was disturbed enough to talk things over with me and encourage me to make a BIG DEAL out of it, instead of trying to convince me that I was just overreacting to an innocent prank.

    When it happened, I thought of it as a pretty clear-cut example of harassment – but there were others, women who present themselves to the world as being very pro-woman and feminist, who thought it was no such thing – it was simply an attempt at humour that met with a humourless target. They might even have had the same reaction if it had happened to them, and not counted it as harassment.

    I’ve often wondered whether I was overreacting – so I’ve been very glad for the past week’s postings here. It’s so easy to feel like I’m just too uptight – that it’s my job, in this case, to keep my mouth shut and not ‘make it bad’ for the man – but then that makes it bad for me, because I’m now afraid of this guy – I won’t sit next to him in meetings, I won’t take communion from him, and I am counting the days until he retires and I need never see him again.

  137. I think sometimes people just put negative experiences out of their heads. When I first read the crickets post, all I could think of was the one time a guy asked me out on the train and was so agreeable and respectful when I told him I had a boyfriend. But I didn’t comment because I felt like I was missing something and now that I’m reading other people’s experiences, I’ve remembered about 5 experiences where men have disrespected my boundaries… and I’m sure if I kept thinking about it, I could come up with more.

  138. I haven’t had any memorable verbal harassment but I have been inappropriately touched several times. I mentioned in the previous post about the man who pressed his dick into my shoulder while on the subway. I screamed at him and he did run off. I also looked down once to see man’s hand lightly touching my thigh I screamed and ran off that time. I wasn’t scared because he appeared elderly and frail.

    The creepiest of all was on an escalator. The man behind me put his entire hand on the back of my head and under my hair. I again just ran.

    I am not bothered that so many women on this board say they have not been bothered. They do have a right to their own experiences and it in no way negates mine or any one else’s.

    The don’t fuck with me face can even bring on a reaction. How many fellow sour pusses have ever had a man tell them to smile? It happened more when I was a kid but I bet they still think it.

  139. How many fellow sour pusses have ever had a man tell them to smile?

    I hate that SO MUCH. I once had a man tell me “Smile! It can’t be that bad!” while I was walking down the street thinking about a recent death in my family. Yeah, it is that bad, asshole, and I don’t exist for your pleasure.

  140. Seriously? I am a very clued-in, savvy feminist.

    I work in the mental health field, and am pretty good at reading my own behaviors and emotional responses as well as “reading” others’ behaviors towards me. You asked a question and I answered.

    Not happy to see I’m being doubted.

  141. How many fellow sour pusses have ever had a man tell them to smile?
    I hate that SO MUCH. I once had a man tell me “Smile! It can’t be that bad!” while I was walking down the street thinking about a recent death in my family. Yeah, it is that bad, asshole, and I don’t exist for your pleasure.

    I get that. All. The. Time.
    It seems like every time I’m upset about something and walking around in public, there will undoubtedly be some guy letting me know that my problems aren’t real. The amount of smiling women are expected to do on a full-time basis is staggering.

  142. Having on a “don’t fuck with me face” doesn’t really discourage creepy men, in my experience. I always have that face on in public, as well as intentionally forbidding body language, and yet years of firsthand experience have shown that it’s really not much of a deterrent. Some men are that delusional. For me, having an arsenal of cutting, bitchy, pre-thought-out responses has been very helpful. For example:

    (1) “Smile, sweetie.”
    “I don’t work for you, a**ole.”
    (2) “Can I give you my number?”
    “No.”
    (3) “Bitch.”
    “Oh, you’re smart as well as cute.”
    (4) “Make me a sandwich.”
    “Buy me a diamond.”

  143. @ Lisa: I’m sorry that you are offended that you are being doubted, but I think the doubt that has been mentions comes from our individual experiences. Personally, I’m shocked that it hasn’t happened to some women when it has happened to me (and my friends) sooooo many times. I certainly don’t walk around with a victim sign around my neck and do give must people the benefit of the doubt before I label a situation potentially dangerous or their actions as harassment. Is it all pure coincidence that it happens to some people so much and to others not? I really don’t believe that the answer lies in the person’s individual looks or age or “don’t fuck with me attitude”, because their are situations where that clearly wasn’t a factor.

  144. Oh I hate being told to smile more than ANYTHING. I used to oblige but now I look up, make eye contact and say very steadily “I am not your fucking entertainment” and keep walking.

    Usually I get a “fat bitch” hurled at me after that. If I’m feeling feisty, I call “WHAT OF IT?” over my shoulder as I walk away.

  145. How many fellow sour pusses have ever had a man tell them to smile?

    I get that all the time too. I hate it. My natural expression is very dour (downturned mouth, etc.) so it requires physical effort to even make my expression bland and it’s tiring.

    I’ve had the “people don’t bother me *as much* in public because I look hostile by default, plus I’m fat” moments too. This has not prevented people from talking to me, including men, and including creeps, at various times. Avoiding sexual harassment, well, a lot of it is luck, really.

    The thing is, the nonsexual violations of boundaries are connected to the sexual ones, no matter what Jenne and anyone else would like to believe. All those comments on being fat, or lazy, or bad mothers, or anything? All of it is part of a larger whole – a rape culture, a patriarchal culture where women exist for others – we exist to be looked at, to be talked to, to be at the convenience of everyone around us except ourselves, whether this means:

    We are there to keep some sad lonely person company in public somewhere (nonsexually) or

    We are the receptacles for uninvited parenting advice or even unsolicited parenting compliments in public.

    We are examples to be judged and censured when our fatness transcends whatever the other person determines is normal and healthy.

    We are being judged by other women for what we wear, how we act, and we convey those judgments both verbally and not, regardless of whether the judgments are positive or negative.

    We are to dispense whatever information we have on any topic that the other person needs help with, especially if we have any expertise in the area they need, regardless of any disclaimers we offer.

    And of course, being Female In Public means we should be available to service any man who wants sex, whenever he wants it. At the least, we must give any man who decides he wants it our attention and he will use any method he choses to force us to give it. Because what is never important in the bad interactions with men is what the woman wants or what her boundaries are, what matters is his desires of the moment.

    Because we’re women in a patriarchal culture. Whether you regard the guy on the train who kept bugging you as street harassment or just an unfortunate soul who possibly had a mental impairment, whether you feel you were personally sexually harassed by a stranger or were never sexually harassed by a stranger in public, you’re still a woman in this culture who has to cope with the reality of Being Female In Public in some fashion. Right now we’re talking about street and sexual harassment, but to act like these things are off in their own little corner and have nothing to do with nonsexual harassment, like this isn’t on an enormous continuum of behaviors with massive implications, is disingenuous at best and dangerous at worst.

    DRST

    (Who would like to put in disclaimers: 1) that the discussion of who says what to whom and when in public is also part of the larger issue of social relations which is worthwhile but another level beyond what I’m addressing here and b) Men get harassed in public and I’m well aware of this and please to not be getting in my grill about ignoring the menz because I will laugh at you. This is a discussion about the experience of women in our culture and insisting we must address men’s experience too at the same time is Derailing Technique Number 1 and I will not engage with it.)

  146. How many fellow sour pusses have ever had a man tell them to smile?
    I fucking hate that. Walking along, minding my own business, and some asshat tells me to fucking smile. (Sorry for the gratuitous profanity; this is a REAL pet peeve of mine.) First, what’s it got to do with him? Second, he doesn’t know anything about me, whether I have reason to smile or not. This falls in the category of Failing in One’s Moral Duty to Be Decorative.

  147. I work in the mental health field, and am pretty good at reading my own behaviors and emotional responses as well as “reading” others’ behaviors towards me. You asked a question and I answered.

    Not happy to see I’m being doubted.

    But..you aren’t. As Kate said

    If you’re one of the people who just said, “It’s never happened,” this post is not about you. It is specifically about the many people who said, “It’s never happened except for the time or times it did happen.” Which is kind of like saying, “I’ve never been mugged, except for the time that big guy came up and demanded my wallet.”

    If it never happened to you, it never happened, and this thread isn’t about you.

    Hey, we live for gratuitous profanity here.

    It’s actually my mission in life.

  148. When I read your post I first thought ‘well I guess it didn’t… wait, no, it has happened, often, even. It just didn’t usually bother all that much.’ by which I didn’t mean ‘That’s just not worth bothering about, why do some women make such a fuss about it’ (I hope) ; but sort of…. especially with the previous guest post (which made me slightly uncomfortable) before it, that I didn’t totally identify with the thought and kinda wanting to say… you know this feeling isn’t universal to all women?

    Even though the fact that this sort of behaviour is seen as okay for men is absolutely outrageous, and the fact that some women are very upset by it is entirely legitimate; there was a part of me that wanted to say it didn’t bother me all that much. I wonder how much that impulse may have played with the people who did comment.
    So yeah, that sort of mild level harassment has happened to me, but I never felt bad about myself for it (I probably enjoyed it a little at times), I most often than not was able to say ‘hello’ back or ‘thank you’ to random people if they started talking and leaving it at that, and I never felt like I should be scared of them, or like I was totally out of control. This, obviously, is just my feeling; other women are fully entitled to feel differently. But I almost had the impression I was getting told that I should feel scared and out of control – which I didn’t appreciate. And yeah, that may be internalised kyriarchic rationalisation on my part, I don’t know.

    Also, from reading this blog, you seem to be a very, very smart person. I’m surprised you didn’t anticipate that by posting a ‘comment if you’re a special snowflake’ post, you’ll get a lot of people answering. There’s nothing more tempting to a person with a spirit of contradiction ;)

  149. @ Olga – the context of the ‘minister sucking on fingers’ incident… not actually that interesting, and full of boring details, so I’ll try and condense. It was choir practice, and the choir director and her wife had brought in a puppy. I held it for a moment, it started crawling up my chest to lick my face and I hastily gave it back. (not a big fan of the licking by pets) The choir director said, “Well, that’s what babies do.”

    I said, “Not my babies”. ( Who are human, and not actually prone to face-licking)

    The minister, who was standing way too close said, “You know what babies do, don’t you?”
    Expecting a punchline, I said, “No”. And that’s when he grabbed my hand and proceeded to suck on three or my fingers with audible sucking noises, for the space of time it took for me to think, Oh dear God, the minister is sucking on my fingers with his old-man mouth and he’s making noises ewwww ewww ewww ewwwwwwwwwwwww yuck!. One of those classic ‘it was only for a few seconds but it felt like an eternity’ moments.

    I didn’t tell that part in my previous post, partly because what happened was more essential than how it happened, and also because how it happened became part of the big deal – the head of the Personnel committee felt that he knew exactly who was to blame – the women who brought in the puppy. His reasoning was that if they hadn’t brought in the puppy, the whole thing would not have happened. And that was kind of funny, because the women who brought in the puppy were also the ones who told me not to make it bad for the minister, and it was all my fault because I have faulty boundaries.
    The whole thing made me realize that my problem is not my boundaries, but my desire to not cause a fuss – I didn’t even go and wash my hand right away, because my first thought after the incident was to not embarrass the minister by calling attention to how freaked out and disgusted I was. I waited until we were practicing the first song, and then slipped out and scrubbed my hand until the skin turned pink.

    I did, however, make quite a fuss afterward – in the end, I wanted my daughters to see that what he did was NOT OKAY, and that women have a right to stand up for themselves. At the next big meeting of all the local churches, we had a two-hour seminar about sexual harassment. The minister had to apologize to me in front of the head of the Personnel committee- I think he was also given a stern talking-to about his behaviour by someone with higher authority in the church.

    So, not an entirely satisfying ending – the minister was called to account, but a lot of people really didn’t understand that, as my husband put it, “It’s not up to anyone else to define what harassment is – if you felt harrassed, it was harrassment.”

    Sorry – that’s why I left out so many details above – because it really is a long story!

  150. @Olga – I’m not shocked at all that there is a small minority of women who have not had these experiences. It makes sense to me, just as it would to find out that there’s a small # of men who have never harassed a woman or given her unwanted attention.

    And who get’s harassed/attention given and who doesn’t only sometimes has to do with “victim” signs, so to speak. There are plenty of men out there who are ignoring women’s signals re: openness to communication, etc… and will harass even the most assertive, boundary setting woman.

  151. @Caitlin: Looking at Fillyjonk’s last paragraph asking us to think really hard and make sure we’re not discounting possible harassment-qualifying exchanges, it certainly does come across as doubt about our own interpreted experiences to me.

  152. Looking at Fillyjonk’s last paragraph asking us to think really hard and make sure we’re not discounting possible harassment-qualifying exchanges, it certainly does come across as doubt about our own interpreted experiences to me.

    lisa, I can see where you’re coming from on that. But FJ explained that she was making this post in light of the comments she saw on the previous post that said: “No it’s never happened to me, except or x or y or z occasion, but that was okay for this reason or that reason I’ve been socialised to accept, and so it can be excused and isn’t harrassment.” She is talking to those people, not to those who are genuinely sure nothing like this has ever happened to them. (And fyi, I totally believe that there are such women, and I believe those who say they’re one of them.)

    It is worth talking about whether experiences where men disregard boundaries in ways we’ve been socialised to accept still count as harrassment, even though we’ve been encouraged to disregard them or diminish their seriousness even in our own minds. It is worth looking at why some experiences get classed as “not harrasssment” when they look exactly like it. It is all a conversation worth having, because so many people did post “It hasn’t happened to me, except when it has”.

    If this is not you, then it isn’t. If it isn’t about you, it isn’t about you.

  153. @Caitlin: Yes, it’s totally worth talking about all these ideas. But given the long history in our culture (expecially around this kind of topic) of women’s and girls’ experiences being discounted, I mean *literally* being told “that didn’t happen to you”, I think it’s important that any message approaching the “are you sure you had/didn’t have that experience?” be framed very carefully and cautiously with with the utmost respect. And certainly the questions in that last paragraph were asked of me.

    And even if this particular angle on this topic doesn’t apply directly to me, I still want to express my thoughts about it.

  154. I have also had my share of men pushing their way into my personal space and generally acting as though their desires always trump mine (from the less dangerous-seeming — old men rambling about their dinner last night to the moderately threatening seeming — assholes commenting on my weight, to the out and out freaky –I’ll spare you the details on this one). What I really wonder about is how to deal with it. I know women have been socialized to “be nice” to men, but sometimes hitting them in the face seems like it will just escalate the situation, and (IME) a firm “I’m sure thats all very nice, but I’m not interested, go away” just gets steam rolled by their assholery. How should I respond? Just walk away? But I really don’t trust some of these guys enough to turn my back on them.

    Advice, pls?

  155. And even if this particular angle on this topic doesn’t apply directly to me, I still want to express my thoughts about it.

    Well yeah, of course, and you have that right, and I can see where you’re coming from. I’m just expressing my thoughts in response.

  156. I’ve really enjoyed reading what you all have written here. One theme has been the right of women to be left alone when men want to impose themselves on them through conversation (and maybe even implied or actual physical threats). Extremely important.

    I’d like to add a corollary right: The right TO talk to strangers in a normal, decent, fun, civil way (carefully respecting boundaries, of course), and NOT EXPECT TO BE CREEPED ON. That, if a stranger turns out to be a creep, it shouldn’t be the woman’s fault for chatting “in the first place.”

    To imply that women who _do_ try to help give directions, for instance, or who are willing to share a joke in a bar, are to blame when the stranger turns out to be creepy, is to deny women the right to participate fully in our public life.

  157. I am officially de-lurking… but I need to start getting to these conversations before they EXPLODE from now on.

    I also thought about responding to the other post, because I was having trouble thinking of anything I thought fit the criteria, other than random obscenities on the street. In the last five minutes, though, I remembered the last time I went out dancing with a group of girls. Some dudes latched on to us and stuck THE WHOLE NIGHT. One would stand behind me with his eyes on my ass – I like to dance with my hips, because, you know… it’s… dancing? – and his hands over his mouth, shuffling from side to side in time with the music. It was severely creepy, and I literally turned him around and pushed him away a couple of times. He came back again and again. Eventually I guess he realized that I wasn’t going to change my response… and moved on to another of the girls in our group.

    That’s the most fitting example I have, but certainly there are countless others. Reading this thread is making me feel very ick about going out tonight.

  158. But Lynn, only sluts and unshaven lesbos want to participate fully in our public life!

    GET BACK IN YOUR CORNER, WOMAN.

    Really good point, Lynn. And yeah, the assumption that any voluntary initial contact on the the part of the woman = complete consent to anything and everything that might happen after, including being raped, is — for you MRA types out there — a lot of the reason why “more women don’t approach men”, given that we have no idea which of you are threats or not. It’s kind of like rape culture just fucks up everything.

  159. Can I be both?

    If Barack Obama can be a black supremacist/secret muslim/communist all at the same time, then I think we can manage to be unshaven slut lesbians.

    Note to literal people: I do not mean any of this. Except for the unshaven slut lesbian bit.

  160. Note to literal people: I do not mean any of this. Except for the unshaven slut lesbian bit.

    Hah. As all those things, I must now hate you forever.

  161. I have to say, I really appreciated reading the experiences of women who have not had to deal with this whole discounting-of-self that so many of the rest of us have dealt with. While a number of commenters I noted added certain caveats, marking out certain experiences as having not “counted”, there were still lots of comments from people who really had lived free of this sort of harassment. It was… reassuring to know that even if it happens to a lot of us, not everyone has to deal with it.

    As to my own experiences… it is weird the way you’ll think of only 2 or 3 incidents…and then oh yeah, that one time, and that other time, and then and then and then until you have a string of memories. A lot of it sort of blurs into a mass of being-treated-shittily, but I have a few more memorable incidents.

    The childhood sexual abuse, not going into that here, enough said really.

    The guy who cornered me in broad daylight at the end of my road when I was 12, who wanted to take me to this “really cool party” he was going to. Who was probably in his 30s, and would not take any of my excuses for an answer until I convinced him someone was expecting me RIGHT NOW and I had to go RIGHT NOW.

    The bullies in school who would ping my bra strap, grind their crotch against the back of my chair, surround me to invade my space and try to force me into conversations designed to end in some joke about me etc.

    The girls at school that were the reason I risked kidney damage (and actually wet myself on the way home twice) because I was so afraid to go in the girls loos I would just try to NOT WEE ALL DAY, because going into a stall was apparently an invitation for them to bully me. Outside the loos it was boys only, don’tcherknow.

    The guy when I was… maybe 14/15? Who “bumped” my shopping trolley a couple of times while I was getting groceries for my mum and then turned up outside the shop trying to offer me a “lift home” which, after I said no enough times, decided to convince me by pointing out that he will PAY ME £50! For taking me home… yeah…

    I got my first kiss on holiday with my mum when I was around 16. The young lad in question was leaving before me. I was waving him goodbye as his bus departed and another “friend” we’d made had his arm around me in a “friendly” kind of way. Then proceeded to shove his tongue down my throat before the bus was even out of sight. And grind against me kinda grossly on the dance floor. And harrass me for sex. With really bad “logic”, as though the right code words would make me say yes.

    The group of guys at my college who took great pains to make sure I knew every day

    The bus driver who used to take me and my friends to college when I was 17 and who always insisted on me standing up front and chatting to him, and who would persist in flirting with me. He “made it up to me” by refusing to accept payment for bus fares. The fact that I didn’t want to be in debt to a complete stranger twice my age who obviously had other intentions? Or wanted to talk to him? It wasn’t like I could just skip that bus without being late for class.

    The guy who was a friend-of-a-friend at a party when I was 17 (we were all sleeping over) who crawled into my sleeping spot with me and decided being asleep meant I wanted it. And who didn’t get the hint when I woke up, removed his hand from my crotch, did up my pants and WALKED OUT OF THE ROOM, and so followed me until I found a room with other people in.

    The endless stream of guys that yell out those oh-so-entertainint and original insults about the short fat bird with big tits. The boys near my old place of work that would loudly discuss how they were going to “force” one of them to sleep with me, met with streams of “oh no ewwww yuck duuuude!” and much hilarity.

    The guy who decided my reason for being at a bar while my friends got their table had nothing to do with the round of drinks I was buying and who felt it really quite important I understand that my breasts were very large, and wondered where I “got them done” and who, when I leant forward to get my change, decided that was the perfect opportunity to put his hand into my top, under my bra to grope me.

    The kids a few nights ago that have taken to hanging out in the public area directly outside my house and kept on offering to “do me” and who, when I ignored them, offered to get their “big black friend” to do me instead (racist, much?) followed by a not-at-all threatening “oh, you live there do you, bird?” as I approached my front door.

    And… and I’ve just noticed how long and spammy this comment is already and I haven’t even covered all the specific incidents I mention.

    What does it say, that we tend to remember so many of these incidents with such clarity even years after they happen? And people act so surprised and insulted when we speaking of our fear of schrodinger’s rapist. I’m just glad there have been so many good, decent men in my life to balance it out and keep me sane.

  162. It’s kind of like rape culture just fucks up everything.

    Yup. I find it even fucks up trying to explain to basically decent people (usually men) what rape culture is: it’s a self-reinforcing fucker-upper force!! :-(

  163. No, Caitlin, no! I will totally stop supporting equal rights for gays and lesbians unless you give me unconditional love and cookies. AND IT WILL BE YOUR FAULT!!

  164. I do agree that many women dismiss harassing behavior because we’ve gotten so used to it. I know I have. I’ve gotten used to just shooting dirty looks at the guys who make kissing noises at me as I walk down the street or ignoring guys like the one who yelled “hey giiiiirl!” at me from his bike last week (I’m not a girl, asshole; I’m a grown woman). I think the other thing is that many of us don’t even notice the stares and leering. I’ve recently become more aware of it, and while I don’t get catcalls more than once a week or so, I do notice men staring at my boobs as they walk (or drive) by as though my body is public property and exists for their viewing pleasure.

    This truly isn’t to discount the experiences of women who haven’t been harassed or objectified, but I also think we’re not always even fully aware of the extent to which our boundaries are broken in public spaces.

    @Jenne, my impression of third wave feminism is that it is much more broadly defined than second wave. I consider myself a third wave, non-radical feminist. I don’t necessarily agree with every comment made about the xkcd comic, but I also don’t think that SP or any other single blog defines what feminism is for women today.

  165. No, Caitlin, no! I will totally stop supporting equal rights for gays and lesbians unless you give me unconditional love and cookies. AND IT WILL BE YOUR FAULT!!

    It will, Sniper, because ONE MEMBER OF AN OPRESSED GROUP SPEAKS FOR ALL OF THEM since PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT LIKE YOU ARE ALL THE SAME, and thinking like that IN NO WAY MEANS YOU WERE PART OF THE PROBLEM ALREADY.

    HOW DO I LIVE WITH MYSELF?

  166. IF I CAN’T OPPRESS YOU IT IS THE SAME AS YOU OPPRESSING ME!

    Oh, man. I need to lay off the cough syrup. It makes the wine taste bad.

  167. BunnyMazonas, I just wanted to send some internet (((hugs))). I started to make a list yesterday and had to stop because it was upsetting me and taking too long — I don’t think your comment was at all spammy. It makes me SO ANGRY that a woman can’t go to a bar to get some drinks for her friends and not run the risk of being openly groped, or be allowed to get on the bus and sit there in peace, etc. SO ANGRY!!!

    And now I’m worried about the kids near you who have been calling stuff out to you… and it reminded me that this is like an extra facet to the problem… what about kids? I mean, my boyfriend lives on what is generally known as being a dodgy estate (although plenty of people there are lovely), and one of the problems with this is that if I walk over there, there are often groups of kids (I’m guessing they range from 10-18? I’m crap with age-guessing) hanging out trying to look tough and who often shout stuff, especially at people who don’t live on the estate. On the one hand, I don’t want to tar groups of kids with the same brush, so I don’t want to look nervous as I pass them, because if they’re ‘nice kids’ I don’t want them to notice my worry and feel judged (and then maybe be more angry at the world than they were already?). I also don’t want to look nervous in case they’re less nice, and think I look like a good/easy target for some verbal/other abuse. But it’s hard. Last week, within two days, we had really positive interactions with some of the local kids over a situation with a stray dog, and a situation where I got baited, yelled and whistled at by a lad and two girls, who were quite young but big and strong enough (and outnumbering me) who frightened me as I walked back from the local shop. As I approached I was wondering whether to skirt around them by walking on the road/crossing the road, or keep going. I kept going and passed them in a bid to look un-bothered, and I think they figured out this whole thought process had happened, giggled with each other and began the yelling. The boy was being encouraged to wolf whistle and yell by the girls… it was weird and I felt all icky about it afterwards… And realised I would not do well as a teacher!!

  168. I was maintaining my optimism during these two threads with thoughts like “there are women who haven’t been harrassed in the world! Progress!” and “Well OK, but being able to identify harrassment and name it properly is progress, too” , and then Jenne popped in and waved her thirdwave=post-feminist=MRA membership card.
    So depressing when women use the freedom people like Friedan and Steinem helped give them, to deny it to others.
    I’m going to the fluffy kitten thread now.

  169. So, I was actually reading this very post just now on my iphone, on the train on my way home from work, and I’m thinking about the stories everyone’s told here and about the stories I could tell, like from last night: at a friend’s band’s show, a foreign tourist asks me a question, I answer, he continues to make conversation as I’m trying to get away, then later on makes a big deal about wanting to buy me a drink, and when I say no thank you, presses the issues because he’s “not trying to pull anything”, “just trying to be nice”, he doesn’t “expect anything in return” etc etc; then having to explain my personal rules to my roommate [I don't accept drinks from people I don't know, no matter how nice they seem, no matter what they say. It's just not something I feel comfortable with and I'm not willing to break that rule.]. And, yeah…this guy seemed perfectly nice, harmless, whatever but a) I’ve got a dude, so I’m not on the make, and b) most importantly I OWE THIS GUY NOTHING and I’m damn tired of feeling like I have to be polite, like it’s my responsibility to be the f*cking welcome wagon or something. Fuck that. So all of this is on my mind, incidents like last night’s, or worse ones, or ones that are more ambiguous. They’re all stewing in my head and the more I thought about them the more ANGRY I become, the more fed up I am.
    Anyway, this is where my head was not 40 minutes ago, as I’m on my way home. I get on the train, 2 stops later this guy gets on and sits next to me. Big guy. BIG. One of those scary big all around built like a wall dudes who is not only big, but knows damn well how big he is. He sits next to me, and right away he’s in MY space. Not out of necessity. This guy was large, but this wasn’t a “I just happen to have more flesh than can fit in my alloted space, so some of it may spill into yours, I’m sorry” this was on purpose. Elbows out, into my ribcage. Knees spread, pushing my legs way over to one side. ON PURPOSE. He did not need this space, but he wanted it, because it was mine and he could take it. I’m a pretty wee person, and this guy was literally twice my size. And I could’ve just gotten up, there were more seats around, but I didn’t want to because this was my space he was taking and I was just tired of this kind of shit, every day. I was fed up. And I looked up and saw him reflected in the window and he was smiling, as he was elbowing me, spreading his legs further and further, and he knew how angry I was, and just kept on. I really wanted to say something, but I didn’t…he didn’t “seem” scary to me, douchy sure, but not outright scary but I didn’t know for sure. So I waited until my stop came and I grabbed up my stuff and as the doors opened [we were sitting right by a set of doors] I got up and looked at him and took a deep breath and got as far as saying “FYI, dude, but unless your nuts are the size of bowling balls–” he looked me in the eye and SCREAMED at me “SHUT UP!!”. And, you know, I was sort of shocked by this because honestly I hadn’t really expected a reaction. Maybe a smirk, but that’s it, you know? And he SCREAMED at me. He screamed at me to shut up. Because he gets to invade my space, but I’m not allowed to speak my piece. So I was shocked and just spat out a “fuck you” and jumped off the train, and hurried my ass home looking over one shoulder the entire way, until I got into my house and locked the door. I drank a shot of whiskey and have just been sitting here at my desk every since shaking uncontrollably and trying not to cry because holy shit! That was SCARY, y’all! And infuriating. I am scared and really really angry and frustrated because, although this was definitely an extreme case, this shit happens every goddamned day and I am sick to death of it.
    Anyway, I just had to share that story here partially because it’s apt, but also because both of my roommates are out and my boyfriend’s busy and it’s 3 hours ahead where my family and my best friend are and I needed to get this out so I don’t stew on it all night [though I'm sure I will anyway].

  170. I don’t doubt the small number of women who say that they don’t feel like their boundaries are violated by men. I am bothered so infrequently now that I’m surprised when it happens, but I am now 35, I live in a small northeastern city now so I don’t take public transportation often any more, and I am white in a largely Latino area. I speak Spanish but typically when people speak to me they do it in English, and I’ll ask if they want to switch to Spanish if everyone was conversing in Spanish until it was my turn at the counter. I think the assumption that I don’t speak the primary language or am not of the culture (which I am not) of the neighborhood I am in probably keeps strangers from approaching me. There could be all kinds of reasons why someone doesn’t have a lot of interaction with many men. Someone pointed out upthread that if you live in a sparsely populated area and drive everywhere you’re less likely to have your boundaries violated than if you take the subway and live in an apartment in the city. Add working in an extremely female-dominated profession, not going out much, and you can have a life that minimizes interaction with men you aren’t related to, planned or not. I used to belong to a gym that had a separate weight/machine room for women, and I never used any other part of the building. I just didn’t want to open myself to the possibility of men bothering me.

    It really has varied in my life, though. Last time I took the metro in DC at night with a female friend, a man asked me, “Are you married?” Not even hello. Just was I available to him. Not whether I was interested. And that was damn respectful compared to going to a baseball game with my sister, where the men in the row in front of us persisted in talking to us for several innings, until the place started clearing out and they found some closer seats. Those guys just wanted to talk at us, despite my telling them to turn around and watch the game. My sister tried the good-girl approach and mentioned her husband and waved around her wedding ring. They didn’t care. They just saw two women unaccompanied by men at a baseball game – male territory! – and figured it was our job to listen to them prattle on about themselves. When I told them a second time that we wanted to watch the game and be left alone, one of the men told us that we were the meanest fan he’d ever met. Did we feel sexually harassed? No, there was nothing overtly sexual or even really flirtatious about how they talked to us But it’s definitely indicative of the culture we live in. I doubt two brothers would have been called mean for wanting to watch a game and talk to each other instead of interacting with strangers. In fact, when I do go to baseball games with my brother, no one ever bothers me.

  171. I’m sure Jenne isn’t reading any more, but I’m pissed off that she came in here to prate the “second wave” vs “third wave” malarkey. Ok, sometimes it’s relevant, but in this discussion, no. We are not talking about porn, separatism, prostitution or “sex positive feminism” (the quotes are because it annoys me that there is a label for it like that, not that I don’t consider myself to be sex-positive).

    Also, hello, the bloggers here are Gen-X or younger, so if they were second-wave, they were manning the barricades and burning their bras in their nappies.

    Finally, I really don’t know what’s so intrinsically “second-wave” about discussing harassment, in the full continuum, which is about persistently or forcefully trying to force one’s attentions on someone, whether they’re conversational or physical.

    Failing to STFU and go away when told to is not the same as rape, but they are on that same continuum. That’s what rape culture, as opposed to rape-the-act, is all about.

  172. As Japan has been mentioned a couple of times, I thought I’d share a link about public transport harassment in Japan. I’m not sure if it’s OK to post a link that may be disturbing, so let me explain first what happens in the clip. (It’s just people talking, so there is nothing graphic or anything like that – it’s the attitudes I find disturbing.)

    The reason I’m sending the link is that it so precisely illustrates so many of the horrible attitudes towards the whole phenomenon of public transport harassment. It just blew my mind when I saw it.

    It’s part of a learn Japanese -type talk show, and there’s an American guy who starts talking about train molesters, Chikan. There are two Japanese women in the talk show as well, and they’re genuinely embarrassed throughout the clip.

    First the guy asks the other woman if she’s been molested. When she says she hasn’t, he comments: “Well, you gotta be pretty [to be molested].” (Way to go to make harassment sound like a compliment.)

    Then he proceeds to complain how the women who get molested never DO anything about it. (Way to go to shame the victim.)

    Then he explains that when public transport harassment happens in America, the other passengers don’t just ignore it, they “get up and beat the crap out of the guy”. (Way to go go to be a racist, and a rather delusional one at that.)

    Then he asks the other woman if she’s been harassed, and when she says no, he again points out that HER kind of women don’t get harassment in the first place. I didn’t really catch what kind of women he was referring to, so I was a bit baffled. Next he claims that actually it’s the stupid girls that get molested, so maybe he meant that smart ones don’t. (Way to go to accuse harassment victims to be stupid.)

    The lowest point is when the sleazy dude mentions the special subway compartments for girls. (They do exist.) He says (and I’m not making this up): “Compartments just for girls? That’s where I wanna ride!” And then he chuckles in a leering way. (Way to go to be a “jokingly” threatening creep!)

    And in the very end, he suggests that actually we need compartments for the girls that WANT TO BE MOLESTED! (Enough said.)

    So, if someone wants to watch this, it’s in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_eRYG095Ls

    It just sums up so much, I can’t wrap my head around it.

  173. [I don’t accept drinks from people I don’t know, no matter how nice they seem, no matter what they say.

    Me neither, Jinxie. It’s manipulative — it creates an obligation in return (the way salesmen give you a free gift to get you to buy something) to spend time with you, WHICH IS WHY THEY DO IT; there are too many situations where I won’t be able to watch the drink the whole time until it’s opened, poured and given to me; how do I know you haven’t slipped something to the bartender earlier to add to it; as soon as I’ve taken a drink from you that’s a “relationship” in the eyes of a jury if it all goes wrong; and, most importantly, because I *will* have repeatedly said no, it means you are prepared to override my wishes to the point where you will do something I have repeatedly, explicitly said no to. And you thinking you’re staying anywhere near me after that?

    (The above is another example, for any men reading, of a thought process you’ve probably never had, and I have never not had.)

    Also, Jinxie, that sucks in exactly the way we’re talking about here, and I’m really sorry. That kind of unredressable anger is so infuriating I want to punch walls. (Or capslock a lot. That helps too.)

  174. “While this has happened to me too often to count from strangers, while reading the “what are we excusing?” paragraph, I flashed back to my first husband, who would wake me up at any time if he wanted to talk, sometimes for hours. Even if I said, “Honey, I need to sleep. I have to work in the morning,” he’d just keep talking. I felt guilty for shutting him down — after all, if you can’t keep your wife awake in the middle of the night, who can you?”

    And this would be why I’m getting a divorce.

    You know I think the subtle forms of ignoring women’s boundaries are in some ways more infuriating than the blatant boundary violations from strangers. Less frightening, sure, but it creates this constant drip-drip-drip of anger and resentment when a man is making it clear every day that he feels entitled to your attention whenever he happens to want it, and that he’s not inclined to pay the slightest bit of attention to your not-now-leave-me-alone signals.

    My soon to be ex still thinks that he’s entitled to babble at me endlessly even if I’m not responding, actively ignoring him, or rolling my eyes and walking away. Nothing short of “shut up now” works, and even then it doesn’t work for long. And then of course there’s the OMG why are you being so mean to deal with.

    This whole series of posts has been eye opening for me in that it’s made me realise that I’m great at handling the more blatant attempts to violate my boundaries but I often let the little things slide, and I need to not do that any more.

  175. I too have been told I walk around with a ‘fuck off’ face…I have been told this by friends, family, and even some teachers! (the teachers didn’t say ‘fuck off’ but put some other euphemism in its place)…but I have been harassed, grabbed, followed, pinched, and cornered into unwanted encounters many many many (a lot of) times.

    This has happened in all situations too: on the bus, walking down the street in the middle of the day, walking down a very busy street in the middle of the night, in a club, at school, at the library, at the gym, in my home town and abroad.

    This has nothing to do with how uninviting my (or anybody’s) fuck off face is or not. These ‘encounters’ do have to do with misogyny and patriarchy which are clearly alive and well.

  176. Ugh the “smile!” thing. I once got that in London in the form of “smile, it might never happen!” I think he was quite startled when I snarled “it already did” at him.

    My mother had died about a week earlier.

  177. Holy shit Jinxie, that sounds terrifying.

    This is why so many women don’t speak up – you can never be sure when you’ll encounter one of those guys. And if they’ll stop at yelling.

    Also, that link about train groping in Japan? I know we’re all about non violence and etc but I’d kind of like to knee that guy in the nuts. Also ugh about train groping in general – it’s kind of like, pick your poison. In Japan men generally won’t get all up in your face verbally like they do here, but instead they’ll just grab your ass! And then American men will laugh at how hilarious that is! Doesn’t matter which box you open, there are dead cats in most of them.

  178. Last night, walking home from my job in a bar, I got what was almost a parody of harrasment. I live in uni halls, and these guys started singing pretty woman at me, to which I responded ‘are you calling me a prostitute?’, which lead them to conclude with ‘pretty woman…I want to cut your throat!’.

    Which, kind of cracked me up. I think this is partly due to the fact that I was in a safe, well lit space surrounded by people, I was pretty sure I had met the boys before and they were five flights up from me, making it impossible for them to invade my personal space. . .

    Feelings on this?

  179. One of my most memorable experiences happened about 8 years ago. I went to get my hair done at the mall salon. I came out, shampooed, perfectly coiffed and feeling good about myself. Apparently that seemed to translate as “hey, come talk to me” to this old guy in his 80s. So he came up to talk to me. He was a little shorter than me, with a birds’ nest of whitish-gray hair on his head, big glasses and sad, watery eyes. He was cute in an old mannish way. He said, “you look like Elizabeth Taylor,” which is an easy cultural reference point for a fat-ish girl with dark brown hair, but it stopped me in my tracks anyway because I think Elizabeth Taylor’s beautiful, although definitely getting weirder in her old age.

    I said thank you and gave him a smile because I was happy with the compliment and still feeling good about myself. In my mind, I thought the exchange was over and started to move on. He said, “wait.” He said, “I’d like to take you out to dinner some time,” and then backed off a little and added, “or lunch, coffee…something.” He must have read my completely surprised expression (me thinking, how is it that I walk out of the hair salon, get complimented by a sweet-looking old guy, and suddenly he’s hitting on me?). I started to laugh, not knowing what else to do, so surprised was I by the situation.

    He shushed me. He put his hand on my arm and pulled me away from the open spot where we were standing in the mall and said, “shhhh. Not so loud, honey.”

    I can’t remember what I said after that, other than something to try and politely get out of the situation without hurting the guy’s feelings. I know it shouldn’t have mattered if I was polite or not, but in my mind, I still kept thinking of him as a “cute, lonely old man.” He made a few more attempts at trying to get me to agree with him, which I continued to politely decline. He finally got the impression that his attempt at hitting on and controlling me wasn’t going to work, so he realized it was time to stop. As if he should have ever started.

    He said something like, “ok, honey, I’ll leave you alone,” and then asked me for a kiss. “Can I have a little kiss?” he said. And I hate to admit it, but I said “ok.” I bent my head down and he kissed me on the cheek. Harmless enough, right? Except he wasn’t my grandpa, my uncle, my father…he was some strange guy who had approached me to hit on me and who I was now letting kiss me on the cheek.

    Never mind that he was in his 80s. I didn’t want the interaction to occur – the whole thing, not just the kiss. His initial compliment was nice, but I was feeling good before he complimented me, and his intent to offer the compliment was masking an ulterior motive. I excused the whole interaction because I kept thinking to myself, “he’s a lonely old man.” Which may very well have been true…at least the “old” part wasn’t up for debate. But he still behaved like a creepy potential rapist by trying to get me to do something *he* wanted me to do, regardless of how I might have felt about it. I was angry at myself for months afterwards for going along with his shit, and wish I’d come up with a better way to get out of the situation.

  180. he continues to make conversation as I’m trying to get away, then later on makes a big deal about wanting to buy me a drink, and when I say no thank you, presses the issues because he’s “not trying to pull anything”, “just trying to be nice”, he doesn’t “expect anything in return” etc etc;

    Oh, man, this happened to me just the other night. After I spoke at Marquette, I went for a drink and a bite at the hotel bar. Sat there reading a book, happy to finally be relaxing after a long day. Went out to the patio to smoke a cigarette. It’s getting cold, so I’m the only one out there. A minute later, fortysomething douche shows up on the patio — he obviously waited until I isolated myself to approach, which is always a GREAT start.

    So, dude comes up behind me — I’ve registered that he’s there, but still figure he might just be out for a smoke and not there to bother me, whatevs — and the first words out of his mouth are, “Do you want to go to the east side with me?” (And you know what’s fucked up about that, besides the obvious? I was telling Al this story, and I was like, “In some ways, it was refreshing that he got right to the point. Because there’s nothing more infuriating than the guy who comes up and says hello and asks your name or something, and when you’re like, “Yeah, not interested,” he gets all, “WHAT I JUST SAID HELLO GOD WHY ARE YOU SUCH A BITCH I WAS JUST BEING FRIENDLY.” At least in this case, he left himself no plausible deniability.)

    Anyway. I, of course, say no. And for the men who are oh-so-worried about their brethren getting yelled at unfairly, let me point out that I was extremely polite — even though his opening gave me no real reason to be, frankly. (The politeness is habit, as we’ve discussed in some detail already.) I said, “Oh, no thank you” and smiled, in fact. Dude responds to that with, “No, really, my niece says that’s where all the good bars are. We should go!”

    Me: Really, no thanks. I’m in for the night.
    Him: Listen, I don’t want you to think I’m trying to bother you, I just thought… I mean, the last thing I want is to seem like I’m harassing you, I just…

    THEN WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU STILL TALKING?

    Which I did not say, of course. Politeness. Habit.

    Our story doesn’t end here, but let me pause to highlight an interesting point about that conversation (which I think has come up in some form on these threads, but then, once again, everything has). Yesterday, I was reading this post on Gawker, about a man who has a sign with the N-word on it (referring to the president, of course) outside his place of business, and says he’s been using that word all his life, *shrug*, but ALSO says he is not a racist! Why would anyone think he’s a racist? The blogger points out that this is what it’s come to: “racists across the nation have somehow vaguely internalized the lesson that racism is bad. But all that means is that they don’t think anything they ever do is racist, because that would make them bad people.” (See also: My father-in-law.)

    And I think there’s a similar thing going on here. Some guys have “vaguely internalized” that it’s bad to keep talking to a woman after she’s said no, because that can be creepy and frightening, but they know they’re not creepy and frightening, so they’ll just explain that to her — by continuing to talk long after she’s turned them down! This isn’t the first time I’ve had a guy say shit like that to me — “I don’t mean to bother/harass you or anything!” — and it’s like, IF YOU KNOW YOUR BEHAVIOR MIGHT BE PERCEIVED AS A BOTHER AND/OR HARASSMENT, WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU BEHAVING THIS WAY? (Note: I am not talking about “Sorry to bother you, but do you have the time/a light/whatever?” I am talking about responding to a “no” with, “Really, I’m not trying to…” AND YET, YOU ARE. And really, if you’re concerned about me thinking you’re a creep, the thing to do is respect my boundaries and stop talking — which will improve my opinion of you immeasurably — not stand there explaining that you’re really, really not a creep, thereby continuing the conversation I just told you I don’t want to have.)

    Anyway, did I mention the story’s not over? So guy tells me he doesn’t want to harass me or anything, and I’m like, “Yeah, OK, just… NO. Thank you anyway.” Finally, he takes the hint — or so I think — and leaves me alone.

    I finish my smoke and go back into the bar. Guess who’s now sitting next to the bar stool where I had been before? So I pick a different bar stool far away from there, tell the bartender I’ve moved, and go back to reading. Finish my drink and flag the bartender to tell him I’d like to close out — and Creepy Dude sees me raise my arm, flags the bartender himself, and says, “I’d like to buy her next drink!” I say to the bartender, “No thanks, I’d like to close out,” and dude is all, “Come on!” Me: “NO THANK YOU.” I turn back to my book while waiting for the check, and conspicuously flash my wedding ring in Creepy Dude’s direction, not that I think it’ll even register.

    I pay the bill and go out the hotel’s front door — where A) I know a bellman will be nearby, and B) I’ll be in an open space instead of a fenced-off patio, to have one more smoke before bed. Note that I made those calculations even though at that point, I truly thought the guy must have gotten the message, and did not expect to see him again. Lo and behold, just as I’m texting Al, “Ugh, creepy dude has been annoying me all night,” Creepy Dude WALKS OUT THE FRONT DOOR, clearly having followed me. And that’s the moment where I start to feel out-and-out panicked, instead of merely annoyed. He looks over at me, I very deliberately keep my eyes on my phone, while watching him out of the corner of one — and fortunately, he just got in a car and left. But like, seriously, WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT? I don’t know if he really thought he might have one more chance, or if he knew he had no chance and just wanted to fucking intimidate me at that point (it worked!). But why on earth would you keep following a woman who’s turned you down twice, when, according to you, you don’t want to be seen as a harasser?

    I can only assume it’s because that’s the key point — they don’t want to be perceived as harassers, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to give up their god-given right to completely ignore women’s boundaries. So they somehow convince themselves that Bad Harasser Guy and Self-Proclaimed Good Guy Who Simply Won’t Take No For An Answer are two very different entities. Which just… gah. The mind boggles.

  181. I work at a library, and I’ve had patrons who talk to me for way too long, wink suggestively at me, deliberately touch me when handing over their library card, and lean over the desk invading my personal space. However, I feel that I can’t say “leave me the fuck alone” in that context, because it’s work, so I just try to act as professional and non-friendly as possible in hopes that they might get the hint.

    They also usually read my name off my name tag and start using it. I don’t know why I find this so creepy, because, you know, it’s my name. But it seems weird to have someone use your name when you haven’t actually introduced yourself to them.

  182. I can only assume it’s because that’s the key point — they don’t want to be perceived as harassers, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to give up their god-given right to completely ignore women’s boundaries.

    Of course! Just like it’s so much worse to be called a racist than it is to be subject to racism.

  183. Wow, this really hit home for me. I definitely have experienced what I considered invasive and even threatening behavior before, and could have listed and described those experiences. But then I started thinking about the whole “what was I excusing” thing… And there are SO MANY TIMES I’ve been trying to get work done in Starbucks, with headphones on and books stacked on my table, and been interrupted by men (always, always, always men) who seem to think I owe them an hour of my life conversing. They’re usually older, and I usually “comply” and chat with them, all while groaning inwardly and wondering why me and watching the clock tick with no progress. I suddenly (duh, right) realize that even if they’re just being “friendly” (some have given me a creepy vibe, too, though not all), I DON’T OWE THEM ANYTHING. I don’t!! And I know it’s a whole mishmash of reasons why I felt compelled to engage with them–my upbringing and gender conditioning etc.–but I feel pretty liberated. I don’t think I’ll be doing this anymore. I can just ignore them or tell them I’m busy and who cares? What are we excusing, indeed? It’s really true, isn’t it, that women are just expected to be available for men in a whole variety of contexts. And I can already hear the comments telling me not to work in a coffee shop if I don’t want to have these experiences…

  184. They also usually read my name off my name tag and start using it. I don’t know why I find this so creepy, because, you know, it’s my name.

    Because they’re claiming ownership. Seriously.

  185. Zendoodle, thank you for interweb hugs! Kids are the worst for me – not in terms o fhow scary they are, although they really can be because they tend in my experience to be more spiteful and excessive… but because I feel utterly unable to do anything about it. In some fantasy in my brain I can feel better about grown men doing this shit because I can spend a few hours afterwards telling myself that I totally WOULD have kicked his arse, really, honestly!

    Kate’s creepy guy at the bar reminded me as well… it really is NOT that hard to approach women in a non-threatening manner if you are interested in them and they seem sociable. My OH met me at a uni nightclub-type goth affair in one of the lecture halls. I’d stepped off the dancefloor and was sitting on the steps nearby for a breather – lots of people, open light area. I’d obviously came on my own and was making social chatter with a few people. So he comes up, stands several steps below me on the staircase so he was slightly below my eye level when I was sitting, gives me his name and ASKED ME IF I MINDED IF HE SAT DOWN AND CHATTED FOR A BIT. So we did. He sat on a step below me, close enough to talk but politely outside of personal boundaries, and was open and honest and listened and let me lead the conversation. Then when I was ready to dance he wished me a good night and went his own way. Later that night we bumped into eachother again when I chose to sit next to him and he took that as his permission to invite me to spend some time with him. Nothing presumptious, nothing impolite, and I know that if I had said no when he first came to chat he would have left me to it without a second glance.

    HOW HARD IS IT?!

  186. (trigger warning)

    thirtiesgirl, my attempted rapist was in his 80′s. I was 15, and despite the fact that it should have been easy to get away from him, it really wasn’t. And I still have that recall thing that happens with trauma, where I remember exactly how he touched me, and what the quality of light in the room was, and how his lips felt, and how afraid I was of hurting him when I tried to get him off me, and how I had to explain to his daughter why I wasn’t coming back to work ever, because he “didn’t remember” the incident, and how I didn’t want to humiliate myself by telling the truth, so I lied through my teeth to protect him.

    And your experience sounds very much like the lead up to my experience, except I was completely clueless. And I don’t think anyone except my mom and maybe one or two other people know this, because the people outside my immediate family I told dismissed it completely as him being lonely and me exaggerating stuff. (Girls have such vivid imaginations, you know.)

  187. Okay . . . TMI? There was a point in there, about how you handled it as well as you could, and guilt, and who we’re expected to be able to trust, and how horrifying that is when that’s violated.

    I promise. It just got a little sidetracked.

  188. Jinxie: That sounds so scary and you were so, so brave! If there were other women there I hope they saw that you spoke up and then EVEN after he screamed at you you defended yourself. That is awesome.

    And wow, he sounds like a total turd. I’m so sorry. And incredibly impressed by you.

    Anita: That sounds… so like something I might do. Accepting responsibility for the whole thing, not telling anyone to protect the criminal, all that. You poor thing.

  189. @Kate: I don’t know where you stayed in Milwaukee, of course, but it’s my home town and if it was near Marquette, then “the east side” was like, blocks away. And if you were at the Pfister, yeah, ALREADY EAST SIDE. Totally a lure to get you in his car, I fear. Mister “If I’m Doing It, It Must Not Be Harassment.”

  190. @notemily: What you’re describing is really common for just about every woman involved with pretty much any job in which they have to be social to “customers.” I give out free samples, and every time I’m giving out something good like lemonade or ice cream, WITHOUT FAIL someone will make the comment, “This is sweet. Almost as sweet as yoooou!” And every time I feel like a jackass as I smile, blush, and fucking thank them for the compliment. *shudder*

    The touching, winking, and taking up all your time while you’re working are all completely annoying. Although I’m not sure the nametag thing is quite the same. I’ve had both men and women read my name off the tag and start calling me by my name. Usually they’re regulars that I too will start recognizing by face and/or name. For a few creeps it might have something to do with ownership, but in my opinion, most people just want to get to know the people who work at their local library, or coffeeshop, or deli, and get on a first-name basis with them. Walk in and automatically go, “Hi [yourname]! How ’bout this weather, eh? Any new mysteries in?” I know my local librarian’s full name. But then again, I don’t wink at her or make up excuses to touch her.

    You know that sesame street song that goes, “These are the people in your neighborhood…?” *sidetracked*

    Or maybe that’s just where I live, and these guys really are just being creeps. I’ve no way of knowing, as I don’t go to your library. I just thought I’d present the possibility. I know it won’t make it any less creepy to you when they do this.

  191. I’ve been thinking for days, as I read comments on Starling’s post, trying to remember my first experience with unwanted attention from a man who just didn’t seem to get that he was making me horribly uncomfortable. I think I finally remember the earliest: I was nine. I was in front of the public library in the smallish town where I grew up, waiting for my parents to pick me up. A strange man walked up to me and said, “You’re beautiful.” I don’t remember what I said back to him–probably smiled nervously and stammered and looked for my parents’ car. He asked how old I was and I lied and told him I was twelve. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I do remember him telling me at least once more that I was beautiful, and I said something like, “You said that already,” and he said, “I can’t think of nothing else to say.”

    Creepy, very creepy. I was a child. I developed early (I’ve worn a bra since I was eight years old), but I think it was still clear that I was a CHILD. Unlike a lot of commenters on these threads, I luckily was not assaulted. My mom drove up in the car and I got in and we drove off. But it was frightening, and I think that ever since then, I’ve been at least slightly wary of strange men walking up to me and trying to engage me in conversation.

    Since this is the Fatosphere, I feel safe relating this strange conflict: I am never quite sure if men who hit on me when I am sending “please leave me alone” signals, or who catcall at me from passing cars or whatever, are doing it ironically (as in, “watch me hit on the fat chick, hur hur.”) I suppose in the end it doesn’t really matter–neither of them respects me as a person, and they make me equally uncomfortable.

  192. Um, I didn’t mean to write a book up there. My main point was that I wonder if some of us fatter folk excuse the pushing-boundaries thing because they don’t really mean anything sexual about it–they’re just making fun of us. Not that that’s any better.

  193. This just won’t get out of my head. I didn’t think I had anything to be triggered by. I almost posted on the crickets thread, because I think (?) I can say I had never been harassed while on the T or the bus. And still, I can’t recall any instances in that specific setting.

    But *not* in that setting?

    How about that time in Central Square when I was alone, walking down the street in front of Pearl and a group of six or seven men (whom I remember as mostly or all black) followed me for a while; then one of them said, all slow and slinky-like, “Put your mouth on it, white girl.”

    I don’t remember what I did after he said that. I don’t know now if I ducked into a Starbuck’s, or just got to my car as fast as I could, which would have involved ducking down a little alleyway to get to the parking lot in the back? I honestly can’t remember, which scares the fuck out of me.

    Another time I was with my sister, who is MTF transgendered, and another guy in Central Square walking behind us said something about her being “a red-haired sex kitten.” I was terrified; my sister was not, and just smiled. When I asked her about it later, she said he was just giving her a compliment and that I was waaay overreacting. When I was like, WTF that was a THREAT you MORON, she just shrugged, then said I was jealous. I could not get my head around her reaction at the time; now I think it’s some sort of combination of narcissism (she is *very* narcissistic) and some sort of residual male privilege (she transitioned in her early 30′s, only a couple years before this happened) or left-over attitude such as shown by the dudes who’ve been invading this place the last couple of days: even though she’s transitioned and presenting as a woman, she’s still looking at things through male eyes. (Which I don’t know if it’s relevant, but an interesting twist on the discussions we’ve been having the last couple days. I mean, talk about how men are trained to not even see it! Even when they’re not men!)

    Or then there was the poly guy I’d known for like 15 years, who I’d thought of as a really good friend, who was attracted to me and let it be known all the time. Even though I consistently said I was not interested and probably never would be, he always, always, always, teased me about it, by making sexual comments. All the fucking time. Because it made me uncomfortable, and because he enjoyed tweaking me. That went on for years. I finally stopped being friends with him a few years ago (for different reasons), but ONLY LAST YEAR did I put it together that was he had been doing all that time was sexual harassment.

    And as far as non-sexual stuff, guys not respecting boundaries, how about my fucking father? He’s the kind of guy people dread at the family reunions, the guy who’d corner you and just talk and talk and talk. All the fucking time. Completely one-sided conversations, too, and a complete inability to listen if you actually had anything to say. He’d get pissed, too, if you tried to shake him off, or, heaven forbid you get to the point where you’d tell him to leave you alone; then he’d get mad and all hurt and stuff. Sound familiar?

    I have always had an extremely low threshold for (strange) people talking to me. Some guy says hi to me, I’m very likely to start right off with ‘not interested.’ Which has gotten me a reputation here and there for being a super grouch; now I know my instincts have always been right, and I am grateful for them. Not, obviously, that it prevents anything. Duh.

    Damn. Had to get that off of my chest; sorry to spew it everywhere here. But I actually feel physically ill over all this, reading everyone else’s comments about what’s happened to them, and being triggered when I thought the trigger warnings didn’t apply to me. I’d really like to go upstairs and fucking knit, you know? But it’ll just go round and round in my head, not matter how much Weird Al I put on.

    It’s all making me so stabby, as they say. I’m feeling it pretty literally. Like right now I couldn’t be sure I wouldn’t try to hurt some dude that came up to me and invaded my space. I’m that angry.

  194. Oh, and speaking of name tags, whoever said it on whatever thread it was (at least I think it was here at Shapely Prose!) about the ‘forced teaming’ stuff being something common to both salespeople and predators, thank you. Now I understand why I went OFF on the cashier-dude at Sears who, after handing my mother her credit card back, then said, “So, Carolyn, did you want to purchase the extended warranty for that?”

  195. Oh! Or the time I was at a Hallowe’en party with my (then) brother, dressed in one of his award-winning cardboard costumes, that of an ATM. (This was about 10 years ago and he’d been going around the local public parties hoping to win the cash prizes–the year before I think he made something like $1200 in one weekend). The local radio guys were there, and when I was out on the dance floor the DJ came up to me and asked if he could “make a deposit”. With a microphone, and said in a ‘sexy’ voice. I balked, of course. When I complained to the station later I was told, oh, that’s just his schtick.

    Even better was my brother’s reaction: he was mad at me for not being more agreeable and playing along, because he thought I cost him a prize.

    Sorry for hogging the thread; I think I must be molting.

  196. When I worked at a bookstore, and had to wear a nametag, for a long time I changed it to read “Inga.” That way, I knew that if a phonecall came through for “Inga,” it was not anyone who actually knew me, or needed to speak with me specifically.

    I started doing this just before some weirdness happened around a dude who specifically wanted ME to help him carry books to his car at night. And I asked a couple of my male coworkers to help him instead (since, you know, I was manning a damn cash register and couldn’t just up and leave, and also since I was getting a bad vibe from the situation), and they happily did.

    Guess what, next morning? A call comes through asking for “Inga.” \I didn’t answer it.

    My boss didn’t like the whole ruse though, and made me change my nametag back. Pffft.

  197. When I worked at a bookstore, and had to wear a nametag, for a long time I changed it to read “Inga.” That way, I knew that if a phonecall came through for “Inga,” it was not anyone who actually knew me, or needed to speak with me specifically.

    My God, that is a BRILLIANT idea.

  198. I also want to chime into this discussion to say — yeah, I’ve been sexually harassed a lot. By strangers, and by not-strangers. On the street, in school, and at work. As a result of this, yes, my blood pressure goes up a bit when a man I don’t know approaches me in a weird context, and I tend to be wary.

    That said — I’m also a weirdly friendly, welcoming person. And I’ve been hit on, or complimented, or just addressed and spoken to in ways that *totally didn’t bother me,* and actually ended up being pleasant for both parties.

    Despite my, you know, uber-bitch-hairy-feminist man-hating ways, I’ve struck up humourous and enlightening conversations with men who I probably never would have gotten to know otherwise. I’ve been charmed and delighted and had some lovely moments.

    The difference between those situations, and the former? Basic respect. Having my (obvious) boundaries respected. In some cases, no, I didn’t feel like talking, and so gave a weak response, or a polite non-response, or just said “no” to someone talking to me — and they didn’t push the issue. I count those times as successes, and those men as DOIN IT RIGHT.

    To any guy reading this who feels like we’re saying “It’s never okay to talk to a strange woman in public, ever!” — what we’re really saying is It’s never okay to harass a woman, or discount her wishes, even if you think you mean well.

    It’s really not that hard, honest.

  199. I’ve been following this series of threads with interest, and I thought I’d share what just happened to me about an hour ago.

    I went for a date with a guy I’d met online. From the very start, even before I’d actually physically met him, I had this weird feeling. It was more than first-date jitters, I just felt odd and uncomfortable. But I told myself to go anyway, because we’d planned to meet up and I didn’t want to disappoint him (socially conditioned as a female to always please others first? Yup). As we were milling around the video store, I just kept feeling this weird vibe. And rather than ignore my feelings and stick around, I said to him, plain and simple, “You know what? Sorry, but I’m just going to go home. This isn’t really me.” It felt awesome, and I wouldn’t have given myself the right to just say “fuck his feelings, I’m following my own” if it hadn’t been for these posts and comments.

    Then, not fifteen minutes later, I was outside the subway station having a smoke when a man came up to me and started hitting on me (and not in a friendly way – more in a creepy, leery way). And again, rather than talk to him like I probably would have done even a week ago, I just turned and walked away.

    It’s really sad that simply not talking to someone I don’t want to talk to is a skill that took me so long to learn, and one that I wouldn’t have learned if it weren’t for Shapely Prose. It’s really sad that we’re taught to make nice and be pleasant even when we don’t want to be, because a man’s opinion of me matters so much more than my opinion of him.

    So, thanks for all this conversation. It’s important, and from now on I’m giving myself the right to exist in public spaces without expecting or tolerating harassment.

  200. I admit, I was nearly one of the people who answered that thread. Then I had to stop and ask myself what spectacular crack I was smoking.

    As a fat woman in California, I have been so used to being ignored by strange men that the exceptions tend to fade into the background for me. The problem, of course, is that that also leaves me sometimes temporarily dismissing situations that, at the time, made me incredibly uncomfortable.

    The first time was when I was about nine, and with my dad in a motel swimming pool. A man in jeans came barreling out of his room, jumped over the edge of the railing and dove into the pool as fast as he could. He then proceeded to pay a tremendous amount of unwanted attention to me, including intercepting my swim to my dad by stepping forward to grab me under the arms and pick me up out of the water. (My dad did nothing). Now, I loved swimming, and did it as much and as long as I could (in water, I was an athlete, and even graceful), but I almost immediately begged Dad to go back inside. He could not understand why. I was nine and remember feelings so scared and creeped out, and so baffled at my dad for being so…well…stupid and such a fail at protecting me.

    The second time came when a creepy little fuck at the County Fair took the fact that I was wearing a tank top at thirteen as an excuse to grab my crotch. I elbowed him in the face; at the time I was more mad that he ruined my game of Spy Hunter than anything else, but then the shaking began, and I spent the rest of the Fair following close behind this or that adult or larger friend.

    Third time? More creepy little fucks in my weekend art class, who would insistently crawl under the table to get a look at my underwear even after I went to the teacher (she did nothing), cried, yelled and kicked at them, and pointedly asked them to stop. They just grinned; it was a game to them. I started wearing pants to thwart them, and wore nothing but for years after.

    In adulthood, I’ve faced more males wearing that intrusive grin as they proceeded to act like utter creepers. Wannabe pimps, groups of guys in beater cars, an incredibly skeevy old bastard on BART who “liiiiked puh-lump wimmens”, drunks…For a long time, I went out of my way to look nondescript and non-sexy, but I still got slimed.

    Nowadays, it doesn’t happen anywhere near as much, and is quickly dealt with when it does. I both have m’nuzzle with me a lot of the time, and a small arsenal of keep-the-fuck away skills, some of which are…let’s say…more creative than average. For example, quietly going over dialogues or passages of my current writing project out loud. Of course, I’m actually checking flow and editing on-the-fly, but it’s amazing how many intrusive types get uncomfortable when I start muttering certain things to myself.

    Oh, did I mention I largely write horror? :D

  201. “That said — I’m also a weirdly friendly, welcoming person. And I’ve been hit on, or complimented, or just addressed and spoken to in ways that *totally didn’t bother me,* and actually ended up being pleasant for both parties.

    Despite my, you know, uber-bitch-hairy-feminist man-hating ways, I’ve struck up humourous and enlightening conversations with men who I probably never would have gotten to know otherwise. I’ve been charmed and delighted and had some lovely moments.”

    Hey there brain twin.

    That’s been the oddest thing about this for me, seeing all these ranty men whining about how mean we all are, because honestly, I’m pretty damn friendly in public. But, you know – boundaries, people! It’s as simple as approaching people in a polite respectful manner, and not approaching those who don’t want to be approached. How hard is that, really?

  202. Irony: was visiting with friends last night and had to walk back to my hotel in Milwaukee around midnight. It’s only 3 blocks, well-lit area and there were two major concerts going on downtown so there were people out on the street. I had my phone in my hand, but it was also below freezing so everyone was kind of speed walking anyway.

    Got back to the hotel and was text messaging one of my friends because they were worried about me walking late at night and I said I would text when I got back to my hotel safely. I get in the elevator and some dude gets in after me. I am looking down, intent on typing on my phone (I don’t text a lot) and dude says “Having a good night, ma’am?”

    I shrugged and made a noncommittal noise. Didn’t look up. He got off the elevator and that was that.

    Would I classify that as harassment? Probably not. I’ve learned in the last three days that Milwaukee is really one of those incredibly polite Midwest cities where people are just friendly. Also the “ma’am” part suggested to me it wasn’t much of a come on. Then again, I wasn’t looking up from my phone or giving any indications I was looking to speak to him, so why did he feel it necessary to say anything to me in the first place?

    We had one of the possibly strung-out homeless guys approach three of us on Friday evening on our way to dinner. We blew by him, though our conversation halted for a second, and once we were past him he screamed “fuck you” at us for blowing him off.

    (Sometimes I get horribly creeped out in my teeny tiny rural town where every sound seems magnified because it’s so quiet, but the last couple of days have reminded me of how much stress I avoid by living somewhere I can so easily avoid other humans.)

    DRST

  203. So, thanks for all this conversation. It’s important, and from now on I’m giving myself the right to exist in public spaces without expecting or tolerating harassment.

    :D And this is the stuff that makes the last few days entirely worthwhile.

  204. @My Short Skirt – I’ve started this comment over like five times now and can’t find the right words. Just, thank you. And brava.

  205. My Short Skirt:

    I’ve got like, this emotional lump in my throat and I can’t quite articulate the feeling because it’s too big.

    Applause.

  206. @My Short Skirt, oh hooRAY! That is so important to me. I think I started thinking about Creepy and how we’re socialized to accept Creepy when my little sister started working at a hardware store when she was sixteen. She’d come home with these stories of men hitting on her. Middle-aged men. Young men. Old men.

    See, she is really nice. Just the nicest person you could hope to meet. And utterly beautiful. And she’d be a little creeped out, but feel like she had to respond to these dudes, or call them, or give them her number, because she is nice and not doing so would be mean. So we’d sit on her bed, and she’d tell me about it, and I’d go over the conversations and say, “Look, do you see what he was doing here? Do you see how inappropriate that was? You don’t have to call him. He was manipulating you. He was pressuring you.” (Once, “Babe, he told you he sells drugs, for crying out loud. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO RESCUE HIM.”) It is really important to me that we as women feel free to Just Say No To Creepy.

    I am so glad that you are more comfortable with Just Saying No To Creepy. I just want to give you a baby-flavored donut and a high-five.

  207. @DRST: For a minute there, I thought you were running into Kate’s harrasser. Not that there are not plenty to go around in Milwaukee, as anywhere else.

  208. Then again, I wasn’t looking up from my phone or giving any indications I was looking to speak to him, so why did he feel it necessary to say anything to me in the first place?

    My first thought is that he may not have been looking a you when he said it. Often when I’m in public spaces I will say hello or good morning to people while my mind is elsewhere, and I might glance at them but never really *look* at them. Or he might have said something just to be polite out of habit. Whenever I get into an elevator and there’s only one or two persons in it, I acknowledge their presence, even if it’s just a nod.

  209. Whenever I get into an elevator and there’s only one or two persons in it, I acknowledge their presence, even if it’s just a nod.

    I always do this too, though I’ve never thought about why – just seems like an oddly intimate situation, being in a little box with someone, I guess.

  210. Going back to the original post from FJ, the “crickets” thread gave me a lot to think about. I really don’t get harassed all that often, especially not on public transit. But because “that kind of thing doesn’t happen to me”, and has never happened so severely that I’ve been more than disturbed and annoyed, I tend to minimize or forget the times it does happen. I try to find some reason for the magical pubtrans Ignore-Me Field because if it’s just luck, someday the die roll could go the other way.

    Sigh. At least me panicking about this resulted in a fabulously-non-inflammatory conversation about privilege with my boyfriend. I’d been afraid to find out that he was harboring latent jerk tendencies, but in this particular aspect he remains a genuine Non-Creepy Dude.

  211. I can’t believe I read the whole thing. And it makes me so, so angry. I am enraged at male entitlement, the enforcement thereof by both genders, and the subtle and not-so-subtle interpersonal violence so many of us deal with as a matter of course. There are no words for how fucked up this is. And when it’s so ingrained that even the victims of it can no longer see it happening to them, that you cannot explain it to them, or to the men who don’t get it, that even those of us who DO recognize it can revisit a hundred small interactions we’d put out of our minds and realized that we’ve put up with far more than we should have to…christ…there are not enough teaspoons in the world.

    I am 5’10″ and 285 lbs, 37 years old. I am a large white woman, and that carries some privilege, in that I don’t get a lot of crap from people in general, and my fatness, and perhaps now my age, often make me invisible, I think. I go to a lot of live music shows, frequently in bars, alone, and I am rarely approached by anyone. I don’t know why that is. I get stared at a lot, and I don’t know why that is, either. Regardless, I have been subject to many occasions of intrusive male attention over the years, starting in the 5th grade and as recently as last night. I’m a musician, and we tend to be huggy people, but I received several bits of physical contact from the host of my show that made me think “too much–stop that now,” with my husband standing right there. I didn’t say anything. So many of us never say anything, because we’re afraid it’ll make it worse in a hundred ways. But today, I’m bugged again at the entitlement. That it never occurred to him not to do that. That a hug in greeting somehow implied that further contact was okay. That if we don’t wrap ourselves in what amounts to a behavioral burqa, we are asking for it, and if we do, we are mean, nasty, joyless bitches unwilling to fulfill our role as the public horse.

    Fuck entitlement.

  212. I commented on the other post but only a minute or two ago, so my comment wasn’t there when you wrote this new post.

    I don’t think talking to someone is the problem. I talk to people all the time. I see someone waiting at the lights with a cute dog and I’m like “oh cute dog” and smile. I don’t think that’s weird and creepy. Nor do I think it would be weird and creepy if a guy did it.

    It’s talking to someone when they make it plain that they don’t want to talk to you that is the problem. With some people you have to make it more plain than other people. If I’ve turned away, answered in monosyllables and tried to read my book, then 90% of the time that’s enough. 9% I might have to put it into words, “I don’t feel like talking right now”, and that’s enough. That’s annoying but I don’t think it’s a big deal as long as they respect that. It’s the other 1% where they will ignore both non-verbal cues AND the straightforward “don’t talk to me” instruction that is the real problem. And fortunately, I haven’t encountered that.

    In my experience, other women are a little more attuned to picking up the non-verbal cues, but they do still miss them from time to time. It’s annoying but the reason I am tolerant is because I remember having to learn social cues as I grew up. It wasn’t something I was born with – I had to work at it.

    I don’t know if women are more or less likely to ignore the straightforward “I don’t want to talk to you”, because I’m probably less likely to give it. Sometimes I’ll have a conversation to be polite and this is more likely if I don’t think the agenda is sexual.

    (Obviously my percentages are made up for illustrative purposes).

  213. PS Re my comment about the agenda being sexual… Just to clarify, I realise that women can hit on other women, but I think I can tell the difference! Usually when a woman is making conversation with me, it’s just that. When a man makes conversation with me, it could be either.

  214. @Primate, I’m surprised. I lived in London for 5 years, until this year actually. I read my book in the park regularly and saw many other lone women doing the same. I never experienced harassment in the parks. I can’t actually think of an occasion where someone, man or woman, even spoke to me when I was reading a book in the park. Admittedly, I only read my book in the park on sunny days, so with London weather being what it is, that’s definitely not every weekend.

    I’m also surprised by your comments about the Tube. I’m sure I’ve had conversations on the Tube from time to time, especially when they are running late or particularly crowded. I didn’t have any bad experiences commuting or during the day. I didn’t tend to catch it on my own late at night when the drunks were out – that might have been different.

    If it’s relevant, I swing between being ‘normal weight’ and ‘overweight’ on the BMI scale and a lot of people would consider me pretty.

    I’m not denying your experiences in the slightest. I’m just surprised because my own were very different.

  215. This thread made me wonder how often I’ve harrassed someone. OK, I shouldn’t think that anyone feels particularly unsafe with me (short thin white woman, I look like would blow over in a strong breeze, which isn’t quite true). But I’ve made men feel uncomfortable by expressing sexual interest in them. And only realised it long afterwards, because the guys in question were too shy, or too well-socialised to knock me back openly.

  216. Having said that I’d experienced nothing in the previous post, I now recall an incident where I was at a business conference. A guy from the conference came to my hotel room late at night and banged on the door. I didn’t even know who the guy was but he knew my name. He sounded drunk and wanted to come inside. I made sure the bolt was on and yelled at him to go away or I’d call security. He argued for a while but eventually did.

    I wasn’t excusing this incident in the previous comment thread, I’d just forgotten about it. It was 10 years ago and nothing further happened so I don’t think about it much. It was creepy at the time.

    While he did go away when I told him to, he clearly crossed a line by coming to my hotel room in the first place. If he’d propositioned me in the bar it would have been OK* but coming to my hotel room was a step too far.

    * OK because unwanted attention is not harassment, only persistent unwanted attention after the recipient has already said no. It would be a sad day if we had no flirtation or propositioning at all coz sometimes it IS welcome.

  217. Talk about making excuses for assholes: I just realized that I’ve been thinking this whole time “Well, it has to be sexual to really be creepy,” when in fact the scariest thing that has ever happened to me was a totally non-sexual street-harrassment incident: I was 9 years old, walking with my mom in a touristy area of a big city, and one of those sidewalk portrait artists approached us to insist that we should buy a portrait from him, because “the little girl is so pretty”. I was intrigued (the flattery was a good strategy), but my mom flatly said no and kept moving, and the guy grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me back towards his easel setup, probably about 20 feet before my mom caught up. I don’t think either of us even hollered — I froze, my mom ran after us, grabbed my other wrist, and yanked me back, and he threw up his hands and went back to his spot. And I have basically completely discounted this as “actually creepy” because, well, you know, all he wanted was money, he wasn’t actually trying to rape me or anything. No, he just grabbed a child away from her mother on the street and took off running with her. Obviously nothing creepy here!

  218. My boss didn’t like the whole ruse though, and made me change my nametag back. Pffft.

    TFN, I have to admit I’m kind of peeved with your boss.

    I mean, you were protecting yourself, and I don’t see how you were hurting him/her/company integrity/blah blah …

    If you’re still following the thread, was there any rationale given as to why your ruse (which I think is genius, BTW) was so egregious? Any at all?

  219. I can only assume it’s because that’s the key point — they don’t want to be perceived as harassers, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to give up their god-given right to completely ignore women’s boundaries.

    Of course! Just like it’s so much worse to be called a racist than it is to be subject to racism.

    Well, you know, KH & SM, it is all about the feeeeeelings of the person instituting the harassing or racist behavior omgwtf is wrong with you for assuming otherwise.

  220. The Other Caitlin
    “OK because unwanted attention is not harassment, only persistent unwanted attention after the recipient has already said no. It would be a sad day if we had no flirtation or propositioning at all coz sometimes it IS welcome.”

    I totally disagree on that one. It sounds like you’re saying that a person has to say “no” for unwanted attention to count as harassment. Depending on the context and the specific actions/words used, unwanted attention is basically the definition of harassment. That’s the whole point of the attention being unwanted.

    For example, I’m walking down the street. Someone in a car slows down and screams, “OOOH BABY, I WANNA PIECE OF THAT ASS” and zooms off. I never said no, but I can’t imagine seeing that as anything but harassment. Or let’s say I’m in a bar with a friend, and we’re deep in conversation. A stranger comes up to me, interrupting my conversation mid-sentence, and asks me out (politely!) – still harassment IMO, because I was obviously busy talking to someone else, and I gave absolutely no signals that I wanted him to approach me and ask for my number. In the second situation, had I been sitting alone, making periodic eye contact with the guy, and smiling? Definitely not harassment. That’s welcome attention.

    Also, my dictionary gives this definition:
    proposition – informal – an offer of sexual intercourse made to a person with whom one is not sexually involved, esp. one that is made in an unsubtle or offensive way.
    Really? A sad day if we had none of that? I can’t imagine being sad never to experience that again.

  221. * OK because unwanted attention is not harassment, only persistent unwanted attention after the recipient has already said no.

    OtherCaitlin – Maybe this is a legal definition or a workplace policy at some companies, but the general definition of harassment (apart from the military definition) is:

    “subject to aggressive pressure or intimidation”

    I think it’s also interesting that the origin of the word comes from French and German words that meant to set a dog upon, or to call a dog to attack.

  222. RE London and street harrassment, I lived there for 6 years and it was wierd. On average I got less harrassment there than here (California), but what I did get was really fucking nasty and way over the line. Like when two older guys decided to talk to my boyfriend about me, while staring at me, culminating in one of them going “yeah, you should piss on her, that’ll show her” (it was crowded and I was tired so I was sitting on the ground, bf was standing). My femmey, very skinny boyfriend was as scared as I was, I think.

    I actually wonder how much harrasment I just don’t notice because I’m usually listening to music when I’m walking around so I juat don’t hear it. Also interesting data point – I get bothered more when I’m not in heels. Hidden Tohru brought up something in another thread about how very tall women may get less in-your-face shit and I think she may be right, because even putting on heels seems to decrease the extent to which men feel free to approach me in a bullying way.

  223. “I think it’s also interesting that the origin of the word comes from French and German words that meant to set a dog upon, or to call a dog to attack.”

    No. Way. That is cool. I am so going to be trying to find a way to bring that up in conversations now. Huh, maybe to the next guy trying to get cute.

  224. was there any rationale given as to why your ruse (which I think is genius, BTW) was so egregious?

    No, it was basically seemed like a dick move to me then (I was 19), and it still seems like one now.

  225. Your boss was ridiculous. Has anyone had a boss who wanted to put everyone’s picture, name, and email on a website? And then can’t understand why the female employees object? Sheesh.

    When I was tutoring for a private language school I had a student (about 22) who wanted my home number so he could phone me any time with questions. I suggested that he use his many reference books to help with homework, but he didn’t take no for an answer until I mentioned that my husband wouldn’t appreciate me getting phone calls from a young man. The idea that I might want my own space was ridiculous to him, but a jealous husband! Well, that’s understandable.

  226. I just wanted to say thanks for the huge volume of thought-provoking stuff I’ve read while catching up over the last couple of days. It’s given me a lot to think about.
    I’m definitely in the invisible middle-aged bracket now (44, going grey and rarely wear make-up), but reading all this has reminded me how stressful I used to find it, being told to smile by builders, crossing the street to avoid wolf-whistles, and so forth. It’s been years since I’ve had to deal with any of this. I remember the driving instructor who caressed my knee while showing me how to change gear, and – this is the worst – my husband’s uncle groping my breast at my aunt’s funeral (not his wife, his sister-in-law, but still). I didn’t do anything about any of these encounters except move away, because I didn’t want to make a fuss. My 15 year old daughter knows about the funeral groping incident (because I thought I’d better warn her about the uncle, whom we see now and then, fortunately rarely), and she says she’d slap him if he tried it with her. Previously I’d been saying to her, “no, it was a funeral, you can’t make a fuss when everyone’s so upset”, but after reading all this, I think I’m wrong. Harassment is harassment, whatever the circumstances, and if someone has the courage to stand up to it – in circumstances where they are not endangering themselves by doing so, of course – then good for them. Thanks again for this discussion, all the threads of it. It’s really made me think – what do I tell my daughters?

  227. I’m honestly not sure anymore whether I still get called fat or ugly or their equivalents. I learned to not hear those by the time I was eight, because my older brother reduced my older sister to tears with those repeatedly. She wasn’t either, so I realized he was just making noise because it got a reaction.

    I do sometimes notice it if someone hurls those at me on the internet, because I wind up howling with laughter since they’ve never seen me and are too dim to come up with something to say that even pretends to make rational sense.

    Feminist awakening can be really hard for those of us in heavily male-dominated scientific fields if we’ve been living under the ‘exceptional woman’ umbrella. (Nancy Pelosi is a famous example of Exceptional Woman syndrome.) Here’s how it works: In fields with severely entrenched misogyny, quite a lot of men will be happy to have a very few women around who out-achieve most of the men, so they can point to them and say there’s no sexism problem, it’s just there are so few women like these exceptional ones who can do this very difficult work. And when you’re surrounded by men who constantly praise you for how exceptional you are and how delighted they are to work with you, it can be hard to think you’re experiencing any sexism.

    What woke me up to what was going on was doing a little research. I got impatient with men asking me why so many women start out in engineering but leave. My answer was, “How would I know? Whatever it is obviously isn’t affecting me any.” They’d agree with that.

    When I got fed up with being asked that question one time too many, I started sifting the web for answers. What I needed, of course, were perspectives of women who had either left or were considering leaving STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

    It turned out the blogosphere was full of them.

    So I read and read and read. And I noticed the same things being repeated over and over, and the clear overwhelming answer was the Death by a Thousand Cuts. When you live awash in a sea of neverending petty misogyny, sometimes mixed with “bigger” attacks, sooner or later a sane person makes an effort to get away from at least some of it, somehow.

    So why am I different? From my reading I realized the same things that were happening to the women who left or were thinking about leaving had been happening to me all along.

    One biggie that jumped out at me was the huge inequalities that still exist at home, with regards to childcare and homemaking. That’s a huge topic among STEM women, as is the intractability of male partners with respect to pulling their own weight.

    Huh.

    Without realizing it, my response to “I need relief from some of the onslaught of sexism” has always been to chuck the guy, not the career. That’s easy to do if you don’t have children and are basking in the “exceptional woman” bubble. It’s a whole different matter otherwise.

    That’s what woke me up.

  228. Sniper, I was talking about this recently, and several of my male friends mentioned that it hadn’t even occurred to them why I (and other women) don’t post our phone numbers and addresses in our school’s directory or on our facebook profiles. I mean, clearly that speaks to their male privilege, but I’m glad they got it.

    On a more disturbing note, I had a conversation the other night in which a friend’s boyfriend repeatedly refused to acknowledge why women feel uncomfortable or harassed when men catcall us and that there’s a connection between verbal harassment and physical assault against women since they both derive from male privilege and the feeling of public ownership of women’s bodies. All three of us (myself, his girlfriend, and another friend) were trying, more and more heatedly, to explain. Finally I just left.

  229. All three of us (myself, his girlfriend, and another friend) were trying, more and more heatedly, to explain. Finally I just left.

    Absolutelychilling. Which reminds me of the time when a guy I briefy dated gave my phone number to his friend who proceeded to prank call me. It was a joke! Why was I so mad?

    Grrr.

  230. I was trying to be concise, but I agree that if the attention is aggressive or insulting or intimidating then it qualifies as harassment even without verbally saying no. Men yelling things from cars is harassment. That guy coming to my hotel room was harassment. If the guy is your boss or teacher and you feel that saying no is difficult it could well be harassment too.

    I think that actually saying “NO” is one clear boundary that a guy should not cross and my mother raised me to be assertive and say “NO” when I need to. However, I do agree that there are other boundaries.

    But I disagree that unwanted attention is the very definition of harassment. If it’s not crossing any creepy boundaries like those mentioned above, then I don’t think it’s harassment until the recipient has made it clear that it’s unwanted.

    Say I go to a bar alone or with a bunch of girlfriends. If a guy smiles and makes eye contact and says hi and offers to buy me a drink, that is not harassment. If I say ‘no thank you, I’m not interested’ and he persists in trying to talk to me, that would be harassment.

    When I was 19, that attention might have been welcome. If the guy in question was attractive to me and I was in the mood, I would have chatted with him and maybe danced and seen if the flirtation led to anything interesting. Now I’m happily married so it’s unwanted and I’ll politely decline. The guy’s behaviour is the same in both scenarios so I don’t see that one is harassment and the other is not; the key ingredient is what happens after I say “NO”.

    To give a non-sexual example… a charity fundraiser (of either gender) who asks me on the street if I have a minute, or a Jehovah’s Witness coming door to door to try to save my soul. If don’t want to deal with it, I’ll say “I don’t think so” or “not today” and walk on/close the door (or I might ignore them but by physically walking away that also counts as “NO”). The attention was unwanted to begin with but unless they ignore my “NO”, I don’t feel that they are harassing me.

  231. I guess looking forward to a hypothetical future where there is no longer male privilege and we have true equality… would that be a world where no one spoke to each other without express permission… or would it be a world where we spoke to each other freely but everyone, no matter who they are, felt confident and secure in saying no? I would hope it’s the latter and while we don’t live in that world yet, I try to enact it as much as is practicable.

  232. Other Caitlin, that’s how I see it too. I don’t think men should feel that they’re never allowed to talk to women in public just because the attention might be unwelcome, but they do need to watch for signals (or outright statements) that the woman is uncomfortable with the interaction and wants it to end. It’s more about respecting the other person’s signaled boundaries in my mind.

  233. It hasn’t happened to me. Even on a rethink – because it is worth pondering what we put up with and/or rationalise – it’s not something I’ve experienced.

    However, as I (just) wrote in response to the previous post, and with a nod to those who brought it up this time around, I have occasionally felt that this must indicate some sort of personal flaw. As if society is only mean to those whose existence it deigns to acknowledge. Pretty idiotic. But it’s not only connected to a ‘desire’ for male attention, since I’ve felt just as torn about missing out on stereotypical ‘female’ interactions – be it bitchiness, fashion commentary etc.

    However, these feelings are pretty infrequent, and while it’s shitty to think that a lack of harrassment can at any point lead to inner turmoil, on balance that same lack has given me a rather more positive view of the wider world and the general public, particularly about the influence of obnoxious media on day-to-day life.

  234. Fantine said:”My main point was that I wonder if some of us fatter folk excuse the pushing-boundaries thing because they don’t really mean anything sexual about it–they’re just making fun of us. Not that that’s any better.”

    That really rings a bell for me. I find it hard to figure out whether random harassers are targeting me for being fat or just harassing me because I’m a woman. And when strangers have harassed in a sexualized way, there is this knee-jerk denial that it can’t be happening because I’m fat.

    One of the most infuriating type of guy-forcing-conversation-and-demanding-attention that has happened to me is when a guy in a bar wants to talk at me, and go on and on, after making it VERY clear he isn’t hitting on me. Like SUPER, SUPER CLEAR I’m not hitting on you, fatty, but isn’t it great to just talk to someone and really pour your heart out sometimes? Don’t we all need someone to talk to? And when you try to shut someone like that up and tell them to leave you alone it isn’t pretty.

  235. It’s so interesting to me the difference btwn this discussion and the voir dire for jury duty I had in Brooklyn lo these many years ago:

    Judge: “How many of you have been victims of a crime?” (everybody’s hands go up)
    Judge: “Keep your hands up if you were PRESENT during the execution of the crime. Hands down if you returned to your car or home to find it had been broken into or that your car was stolen.” (most hands come down)

    Not one single person in that courtroom (about 100 people) had not had a crime committed against them, but to the judge only those where the victim was actually present (mugging and armed robbery, to name two that were mentioned) counted. I guess otherwise there would be no one to sit on the jury?

    Whereas here we hear people saying but THIS particular bit of harassment doesn’t count because….

    Interesting difference, ne?

  236. @Alison S
    It’s really made me think – what do I tell my daughters?

    JMHO, and really not my business ’cause I’m not their mom, but what about asking them to read the threads because you think they are important (and perhaps mention why – directions from my mom always went down better if she could give me a reason for what she wanted other than “because I say so”), and they can form their own opinions, and then you all can discuss together what you think?

    Oh, and @ m. leblanc – I forgot to say this the other day
    re: “What are you?”
    GARGHHHH

  237. Re Sniper: Your boss was ridiculous. Has anyone had a boss who wanted to put everyone’s picture, name, and email on a website? And then can’t understand why the female employees object? Sheesh.
    Yeah, we had a bit of that in my school district. My mom used to teach computers at the local middle school, and the principal got very pissy with her when he wanted the kids to do webpages about themselves and she pointed out that it was not that bright to post lots of information about teenagers complete with pictures on a school-district linked webpage. *sigh*

    As a 17-year-old girl who lives in the boondocks, I always thought I had never really experienced sexual harassment. Lots of other bullying, sure, but sexual harassment was only done to pretty big-city girls, none of which was me, so I’d never experienced it, right? Wrong. The first time I remember being really scared was when I was up in Denver for the St. Patrick’s Day parade with one female friend and two guy friends. A drunk man in his twenties came up behind us and asked my female friend and I (we were all 15) to “ditch the losers” and come have a drink with him. When we said no, he persisted, and literally chased the four of us down the block until we ran into a bookstore, whereupon he stood outside the store and screamed obscenities at us for about five minutes. Looking back, it was scary as hell, but we all rationalized it and laughed at it. The worst consistent harassment I experienced was this summer, when I was a delegate to the Colorado Columbine Girls State Program. Unfortunately, a wrestling camp was at Western State College at the same time, and we experienced a lot of harassment from them. The first day, a bunch of them came and sat next to a group of us, interrupted and dominated our conversation, told us it was stupid of us to do “some political thing” when women are too stupid for politics, and told me I was a liar when they brought up Twilight and I said I loathed the entire book series. We tried to politely ask them to go away, then less-politely, but they stayed and bothered us until one of their coaches came over and yelled at them. They were constantly “accidentally” brushing up against our breasts and butts in the cafeteria lines, and cutting in front of us as if we weren’t there. Our director spoke to their coaches, who basically said “Boys will be boys, and they aren’t really hurting anything.” Assholes. The worst part was the verbal harassment- due to the dress code of the program, all the girls were always dressed quite nicely and made up well, with the majority of us wearing skirts and tailored blouses or dresses and heels. Because of this, the boys seemed to think it was open season to comment on our appearance, making remarks like “Oh, all dressed up just for us!” and “I wish I could make girls wear skirts all the time so they’d look as hot as you do.” (Those comments were not made to me directly, but almost all the girls I talked to said they’d had at least one guy say things like that to them.) The comments that were made to me directly were nasty enough that I wanted to do a little impromptu eunuch-ization on the boys who said them: Once, as I bent down to unlock the door into my building, two guys walked by and said “You didn’t have to display your ass like that for our benefit!” and the other time I was re-pinning my brooch onto my shirt and a guy offered to do it for me in a really creepy way, then acted all offended when I said that I really didn’t need his help, thanks. It really pissed me off when I told a couple of friends about it back home and their attitude was “You guys should have taken the compliment, why did you get all offended?” It took all I had not to scream at them “BECAUSE IT IS NOT A COMPLIMENT AND THEY WERE DOUCHENOZZLES WHO WERE MAKING US INTO NOTHING MORE THAN OBJECTS FOR THEIR OWN SEXUAL PLEASURE YOU ASSHATS!” It’s really a shame, because those memories really tarnish what was otherwise a fantastic week in an empowering all-female environment that was created specifically to give young women a safe place to explore their potential. Too bad that damn wrestling camp had to be their to spoil it with their misogyny and male privilege.

  238. Paula Sankelo: “Conditions like dementia and autism have been mentioned as examples. I know my boundaries should be respected, no matter what, but the fact is that if I get unwanted attention from someone who genuinely is not able to pick up social clues at that moment, I can’t consider their behaviour as a conscious decision to overstep my boundaries. And I would feel wrong calling that intentional harassment. Unintentional, sure.”

    Mm. I doubt I understand the above quite correctly. Consider the following a non-linear sort of reaction.

    I’m an autistic man. I don’t want a free pass to harass women because I don’t pick up on unspoken social cues. What I want is clear communication.

    In reality I’m not likely to speak to you, but in the hypothetical event that I should sit down beside you on the train and annoy you by commenting repetatively about how attractive you are or regaling you with a recitation of my touching epic poem, “Some Day I Hope I Get To Touch A Boobie” you will go a long way towards affording me human dignity if you tell me to fuck off early rather than suffering through it and making me into a horror-story or a laughing stock for later. You could even be nice about it and go for, “Guy, that is totally inappropriate. Leave me alone now.”

    Tragically, it seems that many of the women who’ve posted find that directly telling men to leave them alone results in dramatic bursts of verbal abuse, or violence. So women and people with interesting neurological conditions who would really benefit from plain speech get robbed of dignity.

  239. OMG Grafton, I have not been laughing all that much in the past few days because I am incredibly sleep-deprived and a little cranky, but that epic poem bit has me SOBBING WITH LAUGHTER. You rock.

  240. I was thinking about “what are we excusing?” yesterday, after two (female) friends were telling me about a party they had in their house on Saturday. There about 12-15 people there, all female except for two gay guys and one straight guy the friend holding the party knew from class. The straight guy, let’s just be clear, was not drunk. He had a couple of drinks; he was barely tipsy. But their story of the party was basically the story of him.

    He kept going into their rooms and touching things without their permission and wouldn’t stop when asked to. He started playing one of their (expensive) guitars and wouldn’t stop til the owner phsyically took it from him. He then whined and moaned about how mean they all are and how he wanted to play guitar until one of the others said she *might* walk to TO HER FLAT, IN THE DARK later to get him a guitar if he was THAT bothered for god’s sake, at which point he at least stopped whining. He then asked her FOUR SEPARATE TIMES during the party if she was going to get the guitar yet (while it was getting later and later at night/early morning), interrupting conversations and following her around to do so. When she finally said “FINE!” to get him to leave her alone, he offered to walk with her and couldn’t understand why she said no. Apparently (hilariously) when the women were talking among themselves he kept announcing “I think I’m pretty sociable, fun, entertaining and interesting” to, like, no one, so they’d look at him for a moment and then go back to talking among themselves, at which point he’d announce it again.

    Basically, he hassled them all evening, repeatedly invaded their boundaries, demanded they went out of their way to keep him happy even though they’d barely met him before, and could not understand why a room full of women didn’t want to spend their night hanging on his every word (god only knows what he thought about the gay guys). But when I said to my friends that I would have thrown him out about the time he refused to stop going into their rooms, they started making all sorts of excuses, it wasn’t that bad, he was just annoying, blah blah blah. They completely diminished his actions down into “amusing annoying party story”. While this wasn’t harrassment or that, it was blatant male privilege in action. But they excused it completely because it was a guy doing it, and eh.

  241. Just posting to say that I almost left one of those comments saying “This never happens to me, except when it does”, but then realized that it wasn’t at all what you were looking for. It may help that I’ve been sifting data for the last three days, so I’m somewhat attuned to it.

  242. Notemily’s upthread comment and One Jewish Dyke’s comment made me think about the life choices I have made and how deeply they have been influenced by Schrodinger’s Rapist. I chose to attend a women’s college (albeit one in tight consortium with co-ed schools). I chose to enter a predominantly feminine profession (librarianship). And when I found myself in a library that had creepo patrons and an invasive male boss, I switched to a all-female-staffed library with a private patron base and armed guards to enforce the exclusivity and to protect staff from any patrons that go creepo on us. And although I do use public transportation, I ride it with my husband (or a few friends from work who get off at the same time I do — including the aforementioned guards). I hadn’t realized the lengths I go to to feel safe, but it really has influenced my life.

  243. @ Sniper: Your comment made me think of the awful boss I used to have. Our evening schedules were accessible on the website, with password “protection” that could be hacked by my 5 year old niece (the password was “password”), and then the asshole had the nerve to virtually demand of us that we put our photos up on the website as well. So x person who the creepos have a name and photo of will be leaving the library at y time (and in the dark).

    It was abundantly clear at that point that he didn’t give two shits about the safety or wellbeing of his staff (esp. with his penchant for publicly humiliating us in the library).

  244. @Caitlin “While this wasn’t harrassment or that, it was blatant male privilege in action. But they excused it completely because it was a guy doing it, and eh.”

    He sounds like an immature guy with a massive sense of self-entitlement but I’m not 100% convinced from your description that either his behaviour or the women’s reaction is a gendered thing. It might be but it might not be … I can imagine a girl/woman demanding attention at a party and getting the same reaction of “oh she’s annoying, let’s just ignore her”. Some people, male or female, have an inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement.

  245. Happy to be of service, Starling. It’s my most moving and emotional work. You may need to move to another seat.

    Caitlin (the other one): I think it’s possible to give counter-examples of most of these complaints with genders reversed, but I don’t think that makes it a non-gendered thing. It’s this privilege/dominance aggression sort of thing, but that in itself is gendered?

    Way up the thread there somebody talking about her experiences not making eye-contact with men in the laundromat. I don’t want to look people in the eye much, as it’s sort of horrible. I was forced to do it as a kid, and as a young adult got sick of living my life doing something I don’t like that but was bullied into doing. I performed the same experiment as the woman who posted. With much the same result — avoiding eye-contact would cause people (men) to speak to me aggressively, or bump into me, or get noisy near me, or otherwise violate my personal space. People don’t like it if you don’t acknowledge their existance and if they think they can get away with letting you know they don’t like it or can force you to do it, they will. This sucks.

    I’m pretty sure it’s gendered though, because I turned thirty and put on a necktie and now I can ignore people a lot more often, with zero consequences. That’s probably adult white male white-collar privilege, and the woman who posted about the same thing will not, in this world, get that option. I’m automatically a rung or two further up the deserving-of-respect ladder, which is creepy.

    I’ve certainly had the experience of the woman who behaves like the guy in the party post — I remember my undergrad geek social-group being invaded by a woman who figured we’d all fall over ourselves to help her with her homework and buy her drinks, and she was pretty furious when she figured out that the social-rank she’d enjoyed as High School Prong Queen didn’t count with us. She thought she was privileged and better than us and that we should want to do her favours and hang on her every word. I no longer run into divas like this. But sixty-something year old men still think my mom and her friends should be just dying to listen to them babble, cook for them, and ooh and ahhh over their body parts. Possibilities: It’s gendered and the women lost their little bit of extra privileged when they stopped being 19, while men retained theirs. Or: Self-entitled women Grafton encounters now do it in some subtle way that he misses. Or: ?

  246. I became acquainted with street harassment quite early. I got boobs like a pin up by age 11. We’re talking serious K N O C K E R S and this brought out every trenchcoat wearing traveling freakshow within 200 mi. I remember immediately wanting a boob reduction because I wanted to just be a kid and not have to deal with wildly inappropriate attention from significantly older men.

    I was so ashamed of my girls because they brought me the wrong kind of attention; name calling from other girls, groping attempts by boys and of course nervous adults at school looking the other way and blaming ME for the inappropriate behavior of others.

    It was those experiences that have made me really direct with people who do this sort of thing. I remember a particularly disgusting dude in a 7-11 who stood behind me in a long ling and kept grinding his crotch against my ass. At first I thought it was the line moving but then I was like, “oh hell no!” and turned around and loudly said, “If you do that thing with your cock again, I’m going to fucking slap it off.” And I stared him down. I was shaking with rage and I couldn’t stop there. I cursed out every other person in line who pretended they didn’t see it because they didn’t want to deal with it or assumed there was something I was doing, you know like holding a slurpie and some gum, to encourage the behavior.

    Yeah, I got le boot, but I felt so much better than I would if I had done nothing.

  247. @snarkysmachine What do you mean by you got le boot? Do you mean that 7/11 security staff kicked you out of the store? That’s outrageous!

  248. “I’m an autistic man. I don’t want a free pass to harass women because I don’t pick up on unspoken social cues. What I want is clear communication.”

    I mentioned autism as one of the examples that have been used several times in the thread. To illustrate something from my own life experiences, I mentioned someone with dementia (which is a more fitting example I think). What I meant to illustrate was this: if harassment is defined as someone not respecting my boundaries, I think the decision not to respect my boundaries needs to be conscious, otherwise I would “excuse” that behaviour as not being intentional harassment.

    “In reality I’m not likely to speak to you, but in the hypothetical event that I should sit down beside you on the train and annoy you by commenting repetatively about how attractive you are or regaling you with a recitation of my touching epic poem, “Some Day I Hope I Get To Touch A Boobie” you will go a long way towards affording me human dignity if you tell me to fuck off early rather than suffering through it and making me into a horror-story or a laughing stock for later.”

    And in reality I usually love to chat with people on the train, and that poem sounds cool :-) I could have written something like that at some point in my life… But yes, I totally agree with you: if I didn’t want to be bothered and found the situation awkward, it would be best to tell you that directly. (And I probably would, at some point, although I wouldn’t tell you to fuck off.) (And a lot of women wouldn’t speak their mind aloud because, as you pointed out, they’ve had really bad experiences with speaking their mind to strangers, and now are understandably wary to do so.)

    I still think the point I was trying to make is valid: if you really were totally unable to pick up my initial unspoken “leave me alone” clues, you wouldn’t be harassing me intentionally. Not the way I see it, at least. In order to make a conscious decision to not respect my boundaries, I think you need to be aware of the fact that a boundary is about to be overstepped. In some cases it’s abundantly clear when a boundary is about to be crossed; in others, less so. (And I guess that goes for everyone.)

    So, I don’t mean that people with neurological conditions get a free pass, but at the same time, I don’t think every case when someone doesn’t read your body language and non-verbal cues correctly counts as harassment either. I was thinking about the shades of gray thereof. If I told you to stop talking to me, and you would then make a decision to continue, fully knowing I don’t appreciate your attention, that I would count as harassment.

    Now I can’t stop smiling, thinking about that poem. :-)

  249. Upon reading the responses in the crickets thread, I was surprised at how many women were only thinking of this in terms of being hit on by strangers or “strange men.” This was clarified in one of the ETAs, but I still found it intriguing.

    This response (along with the self-blaming of somehow not being attractive enough) appears to reflect and to relate to the persistent myth of rapist being strangers-in-bushes.

    In my life, this persistence takes the form of male students (I teach at a privileged high school) demanding my attention, two separate male colleagues acting in a way that borders between fairly typical male harrassment and sexual harrassment, and the older men in my family not reading the social cues nor respecting boundaries. This is in addition to actual harrassment by guys when I was in high school and the occasional creepy-guy-at-the-bar.

  250. “As best I can tell, these guys need me to notice them so that *they* get to make the decision that we’re not going to interact further. It’s got nothing to do with asking me out, or even talking to me. It’s all about power and who gets to decide.”

    IIII – you have that spot-on!!!! Thank you for saying exactly how I feel when men feel they are being “ignored” by women!

    The very same thing happened to me recently when doing my own laundry. Only for me…it was a deliberate social experiment I guess, on male-power issues. And I got the same results as you!!

    What a rigmarole these guys caused just trying to force me to look up at them. But I deliberately flat-out refused to acknowledge them. That took their power away and all three of them (I did this with three men) after having spat-their-dummies out…just sort of gave in, in the end and sat down. Then I felt A) finally left alone and B) quite triumphant that I had not been dis-empowered by them. Just a tip…next time, although it is very difficult I know, try not to look up at all. They do give in.

  251. The other Caitlin said: “would that be a world where no one spoke to each other without express permission… or would it be a world where we spoke to each other freely but everyone, no matter who they are, felt confident and secure in saying no?”

    Good point. I guess what it boils down to, for me, is that anyone approaching a stranger ought to be aware that, by doing so, they are basically asking a favor of that person – asking for time, attention, mental/emotional energy – and that the person doing the approaching is not actually *entitled* to these things. In part, it has to do with the willingness to back off if there is any hint that the approach isn’t welcome, no questions asked, and, in part, with the approach itself. I’ve had guys say “hello” to me on the street in a way that was friendly and respectful, and guys say it in a manner that indicates that I, lone woman, must acknowledge and show respect to Mr. Guy in all his Male Awesomeness. The behavior that follows tends to confirm the initial impression – one such guy followed me for half a mile questioning me about my love life, and another, when my response was apparently too quiet, yelled “what’s wrong with you? Don’t you speak?” But these guys were already disrespectful at the “hello” – with their body language (stepping into my path, blocking my way) tone of voice (loud, sudden and aggressive) timing (while I was trying to cross a street in busy traffic). Like TFN said, it’s about basic respect. It kind of mystifies me how guys claim not to understand what is appropriate – I’m an autistic woman, and I (think I) can understand basic courtesy to strangers (no offense to Grafton, whose poem title made me chuckle).

  252. I’m not a post-feminist, if post-feminist is the gender/sex equivalent of post-racist. Our society is absolutely full of gender oppression, and I absolutely don’t think geeks get a free pass, because the majority of the gendered crap I’ve experienced involved geeks and geek culture.

    I did read further here, and thank you to Sweet Machine for making an effort to respond to me, and to The Other Caitlin for clarifying her stance.

  253. The closest I’d ever gotten to the kind of thing we’re talking about was at a con once, when the stereotypical mom’s-basement gamer geek at the table with me was so socially clueless that he kept talking about his character to the back of my head when I turned away from him. I saw him do the same thing to a boy later in the afternoon, so not so much. Am I lucky, I wondered, or just oblivious?

    And then last night I was walking down the street and a guy (a rather skanky guy, all things considered), said, “You’re too beautiful to be wearing them baggy clothes.” I stopped dead, turned, and said, “I beg your pardon?”.

    Note: when someone says “I beg your pardon?” in that tone, it does not mean they haven’t heard you; it means they wish they hadn’t.

    Anyway, he repeated his comment, and I said, “And what makes you think it’s appropriate to say that to women on the street, sir?”, and turned and kept walking. Alas, I was not quite fast enough to be unable to hear him start into the “Well, I’m so-o-rry” (I was just trying to compliment her, the bitch!) routine.

    New experience for me. I’m not sure how I’ve avoided it all this time.

  254. I just remembered that the creepiest, most unwelcome situation I’ve been in was with another woman.

    We’ll call her M. M is gay and, after finding out I’m bi-curious (for lack of a better term), would hit on me constantly. M would say things like “You know if I really wanted to, I could have you like that.” M would tell me all about her sexual conquests. M would try to kiss me on my neck.

    I did not want M. I would make this abundantly clear. And yet she would treat this as playing hard to get.

    The final straw came at my 21st birthday party, where M got incredibly drunk and screeched in my face that I was rude for not kissing her, why didn’t I ever kiss her, she was a good kisser and I should just do it already.

    I didn’t think of it at first because you only asked about men.

  255. I just read a report in an english newspaper that reinforced for me the very real dangers women face from men in these situations.
    An English soccer player was “celebrating” in a night club and harassing a number of women, all of whom turned him down, he was leering and touching.
    i should also point out that he’s a big guy, over 6 foot and strongly built. Finally he starts hassling another young women who again turns him down, he continues to touch and insult her despite her protests, her friends gather round and try to deflect him so what does he do? punches her right in the face, breaking her nose and cheekbone with a punch so fierce it actually knocked down a couple of bystanders.
    When the bouncers started FINALLY to escort him out he protested that he’d done nothing wrong. she deserved it after all…And his football clubs response:
    “we have no choice but to sack him, we can’t have a player who has to spend 18months in prison”,
    notice the lack of condemnation of his behaviour. No comment about how disgusting his behaviour is, how wrong it is to assault women.
    This is the world we live in. This is why women get scared when men approach them, a “flattering” comment might quickly turn into a violent assault if the man doesn’t get what he wants.
    For all the “but i’m i nice guy” posters, think about this, i’m sure this man thinks he’s a nice guy, a nice guy who just got provoked by a bitch/whore/slut.
    It always seems to be our fault. Too nice? asking to get raped. Too mean? asking for a punch in the face.
    I don’t have a solution, but i do think it’s about time men started taking some responsibilty for sorting this out. It’s a problem of masculine culture. These men need to know that other men don’t support their behaviour. it’s like racism, every time a white person sits back and doesn’t challenge a racist comment or joke, they reinforce the behaviour and condone it. Men have to stand up and challenge other men.

  256. I am not a nice guy.

    Certainly I’d like to help put a stop to this rubbish. I have no idea if my disapproval would do anything, as I am not a cool guy either.

    But I honestly don’t think I can be relied on to accurately tell when I should intervene. I’ve encountered situations where I think a woman is being hassled, but they’re not so clear cut as her getting punched in the face, or even directly saying, “Leave me alone.”

  257. @Little My –

    “I don’t have a solution, but i do think it’s about time men started taking some responsibility for sorting this out. “

    There’s your solution, right there in the second clause of your statement.

  258. (Been meaning to go back and respond on this thread for a while…)

    Colleen:
    My first response was that I’d never had that happen to me, but I think I was interpreting it as “hit on openly”. I’ve never had anyone push into my space trying to hit on me, but I have had many men keep talking to me (at airports, in waiting rooms, even once at a job interview – always when I was alone) even after I made it very clear that I had no interest in continuing to talk to them.

    Kristine:
    I’d almost commented on the last post because I’ve always been too intimidated to tell someone outright that they were bothering me. Since I’ve never actually told the person harrassing me to leave me alone I figured I didn’t know if they would have. Basically, my mental processes went straight to blaming myself for anything I may have endured as a result of unwanted attentions. Despite all the signs I must have been giving through body language.

    This all sounds familiar…
    I’ve noticed that I tend to feel like I’m not “supposed” to be anything but scrupulously polite if there’s nothing overtly sexual/attraction-related about the unwanted attention/conversation, and “overtly” is the key word–I also feel like I have to always give people the benefit of the doubt that the conversation is purely platonic, and I think I tend to do this to a somewhat ridiculous extent. (“Is my coworker REALLY bumping into me on purpose, or does he just not pay much attention to where he’s going? He seems to bump into me an awful lot…”) And then of course, if I don’t speak up, I don’t know whether someone would have left me alone if I had spoken up…

    I’ve almost never been hit on openly, but I’ve encountered men who might have been talking to me only because I was a reasonably attractive female (usually at least 20 years older than me), who went on and on about their theories of the world or the possibility of rabid foxes in the neighborhood, despite monosyllabic answers on my part.

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