Last Thursday, on my way from work to my workout, I was standing on the street corner waiting for the light to change, when a young man sidled up to me.
Out of the corner of my eye, I watched him inch his way into my personal space. I could feel him staring at me as I resolutely directed my gaze straight ahead.
I sensed him trying to catch my eye and set my face to “don’t talk to me” while I willed the traffic light to change quickly so I could book it out of this guy’s reach.
He grabbed my arm and as I whipped my head around towards him in alarm, leaned in and quietly told me, “I want to fuck you.”
He looked nervously triumphant as he searched my face for a reaction, an asshole grin on his asshole face.
My face was frozen, a mask of shock, while my brain took a moment to absorb the vile words he’d foisted upon it.
As a woman, of course, I’m used to a certain amount of inappropriate commentary on my body and what strangers might like to do to it being hurled at me on the street, but this, coupled with the fact that he actually touched me, was extreme.
And then came the fury. He had the good sense to begin to back away as my face unfroze. He actually began to jog away, all the while looking back at me when I (bizarrely, as I am quite tiny and nonviolent as a rule) took an aggressive step towards him and hollered “That’s fucking sexual harassment, you disgusting creep!!”
As I turned back to cross the street, I apologized to an older woman standing next to me, who looked shocked by my outburst, since of course, the man had made sure that I was the only one who could hear his vulgar little announcement.
“I normally don’t swear,” I said.
I was still shaking with rage and adrenaline when I arrived at the studio, and it took the entirety of the hour-long class to get my breathing back to normal.
I wish I could think of the perfect thing to say to men who do things like this. The perfect thing that would not only convey what it’s like but make them actually feel all of the horrible feelings that a violation like that brings up.
I wish I had the power to know what reaction men who harass me are trying to get, so that I could be sure to do the exact opposite.
I want the man who said that to me to have to linger in the doorway of the studio after his workout, wondering if he should spend the money on a cab, peering out into the night to make sure no one is lurking outside, waiting to make good on the desire they somehow felt entitled to express to him earlier, waiting to fuck (Sir, I believe you mean rape, since I have given not a hint of consent, you’d like to rape me, let’s not mince words shall we?) him while he tries to walk home.
How do you guys handle situations like this?
Also, have you ever heard of Hollaback? It’s an organization dedicated to bringing awareness to and ending the all-too-common problem of street harassment as well as a place for people to share their stories of harassment and get some support. I dig it.