Hands up if you've experienced street harassment.

by Laura // 28 May 2008, 16:34

Cath Elliott has written an excellent piece on street harassment over at The Guardian's Comment is Free, and once again the comments section has filled up with comments from arrogant little pricks whose thoughts on the matter can be summed up in one of three ways:

(1) When will these bloody misandrist women stop whinging and get the hell off the net?

(2) Street harassment hardly ever happens and it's all ironic, harmless fun anyway.

(3) But women love it and ask for it - look, they've got boobs!

I really don't think I need to waste any time taking down these these charming (for the most part) gentlemens, so instead I thought I'd ask for a quick hands up of anyone who's experienced street harassment; no need to leave a description or anything unless you want to, just a nod to show how depressingly normal street harassment is. And because, unlike the CiF commenters, I actually understand that street harassment is one of those things whose effect can only be measured and understood by the victim, you get to define what it is.

I'll start the ball rolling with a big hands up (and that's just one of many).

Comments From You

Hannah // Posted 28 May 2008 at 17:10

Of course...

JoJo // Posted 28 May 2008 at 17:14

On my 25th birthday I was walking down my road to my flat when an older man called something out to me as I went past his parked car. I went back and said something to the effect of, it's not acceptable to say things like that. He tried to justify himself by saying I was wearing jeans which made my bum look nice, and if I was going to do that, well he was perfectly within his rights. I can wear what I like without it being for your benefit, etc etc., I said. I was too disgusted and p*ssed off at having a crap birthday that I left it at that, I wish I'd been more articulate.

rooroo // Posted 28 May 2008 at 17:15

Aside from the wolf-whistling (which I get around by having my mp3 player on) once a guy called me a lesbian because I ignored his calls to come to his car and give him my number. Oh, what could have been!

Graceless Atthis // Posted 28 May 2008 at 17:16

How depressing that my first thought on reading this was 'Who hasn't?'
...so that would be a yes.

Smart Blonde // Posted 28 May 2008 at 17:23

I have. Apparently my friends and I are "three nice bits of treacle" (said in the most horrible tone) according to some idiot the other day.

Ellie // Posted 28 May 2008 at 17:48

I have. I've yet to come up with the ultimate response, so I have to hope that they understand the resigned yet disgruntled eye-roll.

Anne Onne // Posted 28 May 2008 at 17:48

I have. Nothing too serious but it's still annoying. It's totally random, and really not a compliment. Like, I have no intention of dating anybody that walks up to me on the street and starts trying to get my attention.

I remember one in particular...I got a wolf whistle from a guy driving a red convertible(!) and I ignored him. Actually, I was walking with my sister, and I casually said 'sad git', which I hadn't realised he heard (not that I cared, I wasn't really thinking about him and his feelings), and he gave me the finger...nice. So much for compliments. Sour grapes, anyone?

And lest anyone starts the whole 'men like complimenting lovely-looking ladies' spiel, I don't dress up walking around town, haven't been wearing make-up whilst out, and my clothing could hardly have been said to be 'sexy'. Women are harassed whatever they wear, and raped whatever they wear, because they are women, nothing more nothing less. And you simply can't avoid either, because you aren't hiding the fact that you are female, and it is that fact which these harassers pick up on and react to, nothing else. and I shouldn't have to pretend I don't have a vagina to not be raped or harassed, because people with vaginas also have the right to walk the streets without fear, as have LGBTQ people and POC.

Oh, and I could have been walking around in a bikini, and it still would not mean I wanted attention. Because, believe it or not, women don't live their whole lives worring about what perfect strangers think about them.

Laura Woods // Posted 28 May 2008 at 17:51

Who hasn't??? Apart from the usual wolf-whistles and comments, with the inevitable insults or cries of "cheer up, love!" when I don't fall over myself with delight at the "compliments" hurled my way, I'm also regularly kerb-crawled on my way home. I'm not sure what it is about my jeans, trainers and bulky jacket (my usual uniform) that screams "prostitute" to the casual onlooker... I can only imagine that the types of guys who kerb-crawl just automatically assume that any woman out on her own after dark must, by definition, be a prostitute.

P.S. Just a quick hello to everyone here - I'm a long-time lurker but first-time poster!

Redheadinred // Posted 28 May 2008 at 17:52

Of course. I can't go out without being honked at, and people have asked me to 'suck their cock' when I was just walking down the street. I live in a quiet little town as well, it'd probably be worse in a city. Whenever I mention it to my friends, they confirm that it's not just me, they get it all the time too.

Something less hurtful, but still strange, is when young men with friends go 'excuse me... he wants your number! He really fancies you!' I get they're probably just trying to wind their mate up, but it's weird.

Rosie // Posted 28 May 2008 at 17:55

Yes. A few car honks whistles, but more often just random remarks, which may be overtly sexual or just telling me to 'smile'. Which makes me feel horrible.

Shev // Posted 28 May 2008 at 18:04

Again.... who hasn't?

First time when I was twelve (I developed early), last time a couple of weeks ago (a good twelve years on) - and not even in the street, but going on a bloody hike in the fields - some tool and his mate were eyeing up my mates, and I heard one of them say, "no, that one." He then proceeded to leer at my breasts, say "Nice t*ts, darling," and, in response to my death stare (I was walking uphill at the time - I am generally far more vociferous), yelled back at us something that rhymed with rigid witch. I have no idea what that could be.

It's not even always sexual - my partner recently got chased all the way down (our) street by a group of lads yelling "Oi, geezer bird. You a BOY or a GIRl or WHAT." And the other day, we were walking into Oxford town centre of an evening (single file, as is polite when the pavement is busy), and a group of lads (yes, them again - never girls for some reason) walking towards us, talking at the top of the voices, and one of them noticed us teeny little women making our fragile way towards them, yelled out "This is my bit of pavement." No, I am not joking. Now, he was walking right on the edge, his mates were taking up most of the rest of the pavement, the road was busy, and I was in direct line of collision. Did I step off to make way? Did I heck. When guys are expecting you to give way for their masculine prowess, they get taken very off-guard when you shoulder barge them instead. Sometimes they even fall over. This is much funnier when they are over six foot two, and you barely make five foot. And, what cracked me up even more, is the look of little-boy-lost when I wouldn't play his stupid game and risk my life stepping into traffic.

*Don't take it.* Obviously, pick your moments (don't put yourself in danger - use a bit of sense. Obviously don't go picking fights, this is not a nice thing to do). But one of our greatest weapons is that it is unladylike to yell in the street - it is unladylike to swear, it is *totally unacceptable* to call a man on his behaviour. It is shocking to them, and upsetting, and they may get angry, but they sure as hell will think again next time.

Katchen // Posted 28 May 2008 at 18:07

yup; got threatened with rape on my way home just under a fortnight ago - when I responded angrily the creeps followed me down the road ("It was just a joke - there's no call for that type of language!") until I mimed dialing 999.

Luckily the boy-chick was just around the corner, but having to be rescued would have been... aggravating.

Wish I could say this was anything other than the most recent occasion.

a. brown // Posted 28 May 2008 at 18:07

I was catcalled while walking my dog. The two teenagers (in an SUV, of course) got stuck behind a bus and I was able to walk over to where they were and chastise them from the sidewalk. They couldn't move their car, so they had to sit there and take it. I asked them if they'd ever talk to their sister or mother like that, and they'd better hope neither of those women ever find out how nasty their mouths are.

Priceless.

Marlow // Posted 28 May 2008 at 18:12

I also wondered 'who hasn't?' when I saw this. I'm fifteen (although I do look a bit older) and it's a bit creepy getting stupid comments when I pass much older guys... thing is, they think they're doing a nice thing and flattering us...

jenniferdrew // Posted 28 May 2008 at 18:17

Perhaps we should ask 'has any woman not experienced male sexual harassment? I most certainly have and I know many of my feminist colleagues have also experienced this so-called male pasttime. Adult males are not the only ones increasingly teen boys and pre-pubescent boys are indulging their male privilege by sexually harassing women and girls.

Now I know where all misogynsts are - they're all busy writing women-hating comments on CIF.

Jo // Posted 28 May 2008 at 18:34

Turns out, men find it impossible not to harass you if you just happen to be a woman out with your partner who is also a woman... They appear to see it as even more of an incentive to try and exercise ownership over you. Gah.

Clare // Posted 28 May 2008 at 18:38

Count me in, Wolfwhistling, comments, etc. I work in a university building, and last September had to complain about the workers building the new building opposite. They were leaning over scaffolding and wolf-whistling female students as they went past to the extent that I couldn't concentrate on my work because it was constant. I complained to the building services department and the behaviour stopped.

Anna // Posted 28 May 2008 at 18:41

yeah, most recently about a month ago in which in broad daylight I was stood by a busstop in a street full of people, group of teenage boys walked past, one grabbed my tits, one stuck his hand in between my legs from behind, and to finish off they threw a bag of dog shit at me, all the while continuing down the street. Noone said a damn thing, including myself.

deviousdiva // Posted 28 May 2008 at 18:41

Oh, all the time. Like you said it's "depressingly normal". So much so that at times it hardly registers as harassment if you know what I mean.

Disgusting.

ellie // Posted 28 May 2008 at 18:45

I didn't really realise until I came to uni but now it's true...who hasn't?

Saranga // Posted 28 May 2008 at 18:48

I have. Whether that be cat calls, whistles, getting called a lesbian, leered at, having a random guy massage my shoulders for a few seconds at last weekends hen party (seriously, I know he was drunk, but how is that ever ok?!), gettigng roped in clybs, having abuse cos I was a metaller, and lastly having some random guy point at my stomach and say to my boyfriend (not even me) 'that's disgusting'. Fuck you.
And that's just off the top of my head.
Angry now.

Bethan // Posted 28 May 2008 at 19:03

Yup.
And far, far too often. I've been reading the Guardian article with interest. I love the 'well if the girls are gonna flaunt it, they're gonna get stared at' line - as if all women are constantly dressed for, and begging, for sex. I wore a wonder bra ONCE when I was a naive 15 year old and decided that it wasn't worth the hassle. So I went back to my 'modest' clothes, not because I'm ashamed of my body but because they're more comfortable and more me. This hasn't stopped the perverts though.
To mention but one horrible experience: there was this bloke who followed me home from work everyday for a month, alternating between spewing degrading obscenities and mock horror that I should take his gestures of friendship (!) in the wrong way. Oneday, having refused an invitation to go back to his, he reminded me that he knew where I lived (and often watched me from his flat) and threatened to pay me a visit later that night to 'teach me a thing or two' - I screamed at him in the street, but this only seemed to increase his obvious pleasure in taunting me. It was only when our paths crossed at the supermarket one Saturday, and he had his toddler-aged daughter with him that he fianlly stopped.

Kimberley // Posted 28 May 2008 at 19:20

An update on that Israeli tourist: she's been remanded by an NZ mental health unit after allegedly assaulting a bar worker. See
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10512685
(Can links be embedded? There's no preview...)

Since the warmer weather started, street harassment has been running at about once a week for me. I've been blogging about it and got some good discussion which helped.

Alex T // Posted 28 May 2008 at 19:33

Yep, all the time. Lots of stories, not enough time to type, just putting my hand up!

Helen G // Posted 28 May 2008 at 19:34

I have. I find it intimidating enough that I won't use public transport at night.

Seph // Posted 28 May 2008 at 19:39

*raises hand* I often go shopping on my own, and there's a noticible difference in the amount (and sort) of comments I get when i'm alone, with female friends or with male friends.

PC // Posted 28 May 2008 at 19:47

Yep - some old pervert told me what he'd like to do to my "peachy little arse" when I was a 12-year-old boy having a swim in the local baths. But my girlfriend gets wolf-whilsted every day so I guess I can't complain too much about one incident!

Kuja // Posted 28 May 2008 at 19:50

My dress sense is unusual and it's amazing how much it changes wolf-whistles and flirting into confused looks and abuse. It's definitely not better, but I don't understand how my body is so different in a pair of jeans than it is in a floor length jacket. Is a little bit of non-conformism all it takes to ward off these men?

But unfortunately yes, whenever I look passable in the eyes of fashion or if I wear any old pair of heels, I'm greeted with car horns and "alright darlin'?!" The worst thing is, even the most eloquent, cutting and sarcastic response doesn't have an effect on these types of men. They think it's their right to comment on you like that and nothing changes the way they act. :(

The Huntress // Posted 28 May 2008 at 19:52

Yep, very often. Too many times to mention. I'm glad there's now a law against wolf-whistling by builders etc. Whether it'll be enforced is another thing, but the law is a good start.

Pippab3 // Posted 28 May 2008 at 19:58

Yup, *hand up*.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 28 May 2008 at 20:01

Yup, in the street repeatedly. And had sexual harrassment in the workplace.

Stephanie // Posted 28 May 2008 at 20:04

hands up. too many stories to recount!

Mary Tracy9 // Posted 28 May 2008 at 20:10

Yes.

This made me chuckle: "But women love it and ask for it - look, they’ve got boobs!"

Of course we are permanently asking for it! I mean, we are on this planet and all!

Mary Tracy9 // Posted 28 May 2008 at 20:15

Yes.

This made me chuckle: "But women love it and ask for it - look, they’ve got boobs!"

Of course we are permanently asking for it! I mean, we are on this planet and all!

Deborah McAlister // Posted 28 May 2008 at 20:32

*raises hand*

Emma // Posted 28 May 2008 at 20:35

In the last year I've been stopped three times by men who's tried to intimidate me into giving them my details/meeting up with them/going to a party with them. I've been stopped once and asked "how much?". The amount of calls and annoyance I've recieved from men passing in cars is unbelievable, though many of them are commenting on my weight (becasue we know what a woman needs is a random man yelling fatty out of a car window at her). The amount of hassle has increased significantly since summer started and I switched to skirts since they're cooler.

E-Visible Woman // Posted 28 May 2008 at 20:39

Yes, yes and yes.

Another point: we're not only noticing this because we are hyper sensitive feminist - my friends and colleagues who don't really think or know about feminism also have constant complaints of street harassment from men.

spiralsheep // Posted 28 May 2008 at 20:41

Yes, on multiple occasions.

Saskia // Posted 28 May 2008 at 20:47

I have taken to listening to music whenever I go out so I don't have to listen to men calling out to me. They make me so paranoid that I often hold my skirt to my legs with my hands. The other day I came home and told my dad about one man who had particularly upset me and his only consolation was 'Well you'd better get used to it.' Some consolation.

Althea // Posted 28 May 2008 at 20:52

I was on the bus the other week, and when I blew my nose the two "men" on the other side of the aisle said "urgh" and then when I laughed, proceeded to call me "dirty bitch" over and over and over while they were getting off the bus. Not. Fun.

Li // Posted 28 May 2008 at 21:07

What woman hasn't? I've had comments on my body and wolf whistles, luckily I've only been groped once but that once was when I was 14, okay it was at the Croydon Megabowl which isn't technically a street but the guy who touched my arse was just as much of a stranger.

The most unique incident is probably when two of my friends and I were propositioned by a man when we were coming home from the supermarket. He wanted to have a multi-ethnic foursome.

My younger sister (17) is so intimidated by street harassment that she prefers to walk down a dodgy deserted alley or go out of her way down quieter residential streets than take the main road to get home from school, something I completely understand as I did the same at her age and even younger. That main road has teenage boys on the pavement at that time who are bad enough, but my sister told me that men in vans regularly slow down and drive close to the kerb as they pass her, which is really frightening.

Kirsty // Posted 28 May 2008 at 21:18

Hand firmly up. One question to guys out there who do this sort of thing - Has it actually got you anywhere with a woman? Because being called 'sexy tits' by any old bloke in the street is really the way to get my number!

Cath Elliott // Posted 28 May 2008 at 21:23

Thanks for the mention Laura, and thanks everyone for your comments.

As a couple of people said in the CiF discussion, it's a shame we even have to raise the issue of street harassment in 2008, but it's pretty clear from comments here and on the blog that it's absolutely necessary that we do so.

Maybe one day the message will get through. I'll not hold my breath though.

Victoria Hughes // Posted 28 May 2008 at 21:25

God, yes. And all my female friends also get shouted and whistled at on a regular basis. I've seen men wolf-whistle at my grandmother, for God's sake. She went over there and gave them a piece of her mind, which was pretty funny, but still, sometimes I despair.

Sarah // Posted 28 May 2008 at 21:29

I was harassed by a group of teenage boys when walking home through the local park on Sunday afternoon. They started by asking for my phone number and saying I was 'nice' - I have no idea if they were being sarcastic, probably, but anyway then it progressed to one yelling at me to give him a blow job, then they all got in my way asking me to give them one too and wouldn't let me past. I finally shoved my way through and walked off with them yelling and jeering at me. Probably they didn't mean me any harm, but I felt shaken and upset by the whole thing, and was a bit scared - maybe it's silly, but there were five of them and all bigger than me so it was somewhat intimidating.

The sad thing is I probably won't go through the park any more, which is a shame as it's a nice walk. I already gave up running since moving here, because of the harrassment. I wonder if men who do this realise what effect they're having on women's lives, and how this sort of thing restricts our activites.

Bekah // Posted 28 May 2008 at 21:39

All the time, until I started driving, and now instead I get road harassment from male drivers who harass me while trying to intimidate me and my tiny car with their 4x4s.

Holly Combe // Posted 28 May 2008 at 21:40

A few years ago, I challenged a guy who thought it was okay to give my arse a pat as he walked past me in the pub. (We hadn't even had a chance to speak before, let alone develop the kind of playful relationship where arse-tapping from either one of us wouldn't be a problem.) Anyway, he looked completely shocked and one of his friends approached me afterwards to say I had "really hurt his feelings." I then had to endure a frosty reception from her for the next few months until she eventually forgave me for my apparent unpleasantness.

Not exactly a story of street harassment but I think it illustrates just one of the potential obstacles you can come up against if you dare to react when someone invades your space!

Nicola // Posted 28 May 2008 at 21:40

Yup.

Lauren O // Posted 28 May 2008 at 21:49

Yes, definitely. It's happened to me more during the two months I've been in England than during my twenty years in America. And I am just counting street harassment that has happened literally on the street, not the guy who shoved his tongue down my throat in a club. *shudder*

RookRiot // Posted 28 May 2008 at 21:55

*Hand raise*

I get the "nice legs" when I'm wearing shorts. A drunk man once asked if I and my cousin were "naughty girls" as we frolicked around in pound shop cowboy hats - at which point our mothers showed up and asked what he was doing. The look on the guy's face was -priceless-.

Sometimes it's not "hey sexy" type comments - while walking around in a baggy t-shirt with "I Don't Love You" printed across it, several older man stopped in front of me and read it aloud as if there was something "wrong" with it, while another young man yelled "the feeling's mutual!" on his way past.

Rachel // Posted 28 May 2008 at 21:57

Yep, where I'm living at the moment I encounter it on almost a daily basis. I even made a series of photographs based on my experiences.

Edward Green // Posted 28 May 2008 at 22:07

As a guy with long hair who wears fairly fem clothing I get comments & whistles from men who mistake me for a woman.

Amity // Posted 28 May 2008 at 22:10

Many, many times. The most memorable, however, involved a physical confrontation that could've ended much worse than it did. I was 22 and walking home with some groceries. A man approached me and kept getting in my face, telling me to 'smile, baby.' Not in th mood for it, I told him to leave me alone and go harass someone else. He persisted, I retorted again and then he started getting angry, calling me a bitch.

As I waited for the light to change so I could cross the road and get away from him, he suddenly shoved me into traffic. Thankfully the car coming managed to swerve in time but I landed on my hands and knees with my shopping rolling away. I was so angry,I grabbed a tin and whacked him over the head with it, drawing blood and knocking him backwards. He doubled up a fist and glared at me but took off running when a valet from the hotel across the road began running towards us shouting that he would call the police.

I sincerely hope that bastard never told another woman to smile.

potemkin // Posted 28 May 2008 at 22:20

a day without harassment stands out more to be honest.
although, being a gender-blending type, there is extra fun in anticipating what kind of harassment it will be. either disgust/ anger when you can be discussed at length and loudly in front of you (my nightmare is a bus full of teenage boys) or on one occasion spat at by a particularly charming chap. alternatively, the minute you are with a girl who happens to be wearing attire that obviously merits such attention (high heels, milord) , you get rather burly men following you out of bars, stroking said girl and asking incessantly for her phone number. when you object to said behaviour, your gender is questioned and you are threatened with death underneath a passing bin lorry.
but we all enjoy a good bit of fun, right? ahem.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 28 May 2008 at 22:35

I was harassed today walking home from work near my office, from some guys in a car in slow moving traffic.

Roxsie // Posted 28 May 2008 at 22:36

O/

I find that it happens much more frequently when i'm back home in Nottingham than when i'm at uni in Aberystwyth. In Aber you always know someone who knows someone so if it happens it tends to get back to the harrasser. Nottingham it's just outrageous. Okay i'm twenty and 'well proportioned' but it even happens when i'm wearing clothes that cover me up completely.

Okay not on the street but i'd taken a friend to a gig for her 18th and managed to get to the front and this guy behind me kept groping my bum so when he did it again i just threw my head back hard in his face.

'The sad thing is I probably won't go through the park any more, which is a shame as it's a nice walk. I already gave up running since moving here, because of the harrassment. I wonder if men who do this realise what effect they're having on women's lives, and how this sort of thing restricts our activites.' I just don't let it restrict my activities, after all it's their problem not mine. If i want to go for a walk at three in the morning then i should damn well be able to go for a walk at three in the morning and nothing is gonna stop me if i want to.

Anne Onne // Posted 28 May 2008 at 22:41

Actually, the most recent one was a few days ago - I was waiting for someone next to a train station, and looking at a flyer for a new restaurant that someone had handed me, when a random man walking past said to me 'I'll take you out', which I ignored, and he carried on.
It wasn't an instance I felt afraid or threatened, but it encapsulates the fact that even the milder street harassment is unacceptable. I was literally minding my own business, and there was no way that man could have had any reason to think I cared about his opinions or whether he even existed.

To him it was probably something he said because he felt like it, just a throwaway comment he vaugely felt I was supposed to find a compliment, because he gave his opinion.

To me, it was a reminder that as a woman, I am not my own person, as far as many men are concerned. My rights and desires to go about my business ignored by other passers-by don't matter, because in their eyes, they have the obligation to share their brainless opinions whenever a thought relating to someone else presents itself. They feel they have to express their thoughts, and I should just accept them.

And just a reminder, because we all need to hear this sometimes: We don't deserve this. Nothing we do or wear warrants this behaviour. It is not a compliment, and you are right to feel insulted, or put off or annoyed. We aren't in the wrong for expecting basic courtesy, and it is not unreasonable to expect strangers to hold off giving their opinions when they are not asked for.

Genevieve // Posted 28 May 2008 at 23:00

Yep...
http://journals.aol.com/redwall33/TheMindofGenevieve/entries/2008/01/07/something-is-messed-up-heresomething-isnt-right-wbr/3268

Alex B (male) // Posted 28 May 2008 at 23:35

I had no idea how common an occurrence this was. I take it it happens more when you are on your own / with only other women? Do you think it's a small number of men that harass lots of girls?

Nadia // Posted 28 May 2008 at 23:51

I have experience street harrassment many many times before. It starts off with the drooling type of stare and then you just know he's waiting for the opportunity to say something stupid. I've come to realise you have to treat idiots like they are idiots. Ignoring just frustrates me, so I just rudely tell guys to stop staring or get a life. If they persist to annoy me, I start swearing at them in public. Men's ego hates that...

Seph // Posted 29 May 2008 at 00:08

In my experience, if i'm on my own or with a couple of girls harassment happens a lot, if i'm hanging out with 1 or more guys it almost never happens (unless the guy i'm with is mistaken for a woman). It also seems to be a large majority of guys that do it, but I think a lot of them don't realise that they're being hurtful, it's just something they're 'used to' especially since a lot of women seem to take it as a 'joke' or even a 'compliment'.

EBaezaChavez // Posted 29 May 2008 at 00:21

@ Roxsie----totally agree about Nottingham, its the worst! I get so much more hassle there than I do at Uni in the North.

Most horrible experience was walking through Notts city centre late at night after my bar job had finished and a car full of guys pulled up by me, then three men got out and chased me down the road. I got away, but it was frightening, and I gave up the job soon after.

Grim to say the least.

Genevieve // Posted 29 May 2008 at 00:26

Alex B--
Not quite sure. I've never been harassed when in the company of a guy, just alone and with other girls. However, as I read in one of the other comments there are people who will harass women in men's company.
The people who I have found least likely to harass me are men in the company of other women. I'm suspicious of nearly every guy I see near my downtown office, but if they're with a woman, I relax.

Shea // Posted 29 May 2008 at 00:35

Oh yes.

I was told by two men in a car that they "would like a piece of that" as they drove past me on my bike. (I seem to get more harassment as a cyclist, I won't speculate why, except could it be they see it as a invasion of their (road) space?). I gave them my usual, patented disapproving head shake and Queen Victoria ("we are not impressed") look, but its just tedious.

In my more die hard environmentalist days I had a t-shirt saying "stop f*cking my o-zone--- get out and walk!". BIG and I mean BIG mistake, I got more hassle and racist/misogynist comments in one day that in the previous three years. Perhaps it was too provocative, but still, in agreement with Anne Onne above, shouldn't we be able to walk around in a bikini if we want to without being shouted at and threatened? After all we are regularly treated to the sight of overweight, sweaty men without shirts in the summer months, and I have yet to make a derisive comment to them.

Siún // Posted 29 May 2008 at 01:22

I find a sharp 'fuck off' works surprisingly well, but only if I take every shred of humour and amiability out of my voice. Most street harassers really seem to want to believe they are engaging me in some delightful game, like a puppy who is shredding your stuff, but a lot less endearing.

Anne Onne is spot on about the 'right to be ignored' - the idea that anyone has the right to interrupt a stranger's life to deliver their opinion on them is unimaginably arrogant to me, and while obviously not all men do it, I've never experienced it from a woman, in any sense, never mind in a sexual one. It's an even more gendered behaviour than most.

I think this is one of the many forms of sexism that 'nice' men have a hard time seeing - they're not targets of it, and it's (in my experience) much less likely to happen when they're around, so, like the queen thinking the world smells of new paint, they don't really believe it exists. A very nice man once asked me seriously if builders 'really' whistled at women passing building sites. I tried to explain that this stereotypical scenario is the relatively (obviously not really) cheerful, seaside postcard end of a very destructive, violent spectrum, which is pervasive and unavoidable if you are a woman and you ever leave your home.

Emma // Posted 29 May 2008 at 01:28

@Alex B

I've been harassed once I can remember as an incident when I was with men. Two men and two girls sat outisde at night. Two drunken men approached us. They kept repeatedly asking if the two girls were dating the two guys. We made the mistake of saying no at which point they started making sexually suggestive comments. Nothing outright threatening, just making us incredibly uncomfortable.

Anne Onne // Posted 29 May 2008 at 01:40

Alex B, if you haven't read this old post by George Mason on when he realised street harassment was a problem, you might want to. It echoes what you said.
http://www.thefword.org.uk/features/2007/03/suffering_in_si

You won't have seen this to this extent, because unless you are a really 'unusual' looking man (and get harassed in turn), any women with you will appear 'out of bounds' to other men. It's not your fault, and it's not a privilege you should lose, it's something we'd like for ourselves, too. That is, to not be harassed.

I imagine that street harassment happens in a sort of triangle. At the bottom, you've got the most common form, which is wolf whistling, telling women to smile, and other less threatening behaviours that are still invasive (since the woman was not paying attention to the man). This is probably fairly common, and probably done by many men, because society propagates the idea that randomly going up to a woman who wasn't looking at you or reciprocating, and telling her exactly what you think is a compliment.

Thinking this is acceptable as a whole leads to some people in society taking mroe extreme actions along the same scale, which I imagine get rarer the more serious they become. These are much more extreme behaviours, and are thought of as acceptable by fewer men the more extreme they get, and I would hope that there are relatively few men who seriously assault or rape women off the street, but it is still a behaviour on the same continuum- beleiving that you 'own' another person, and your wishes and whims matter more than theirs, to the point where you don't see them as human, and don't consider their wishes at all.

I would say these kinds of men are more put off when women are with men (not when they are with other women!) because society gives the tacit message that men own other women. Hence, the stranger would be afraid he might offend a woman's boyfriend if he was being sleazy with her, because she was 'with' him, rather than worry about what SHE thinks, or if SHE wants attention. (though the idiots never seem to think a woman out alone or with friends might have a partner!)

We get this reinforced again and again in media, where we are told people 'steal' partners, and 'mess with one's girl', all of which implies an ownership over the woman. There is the same for attached men, but to a lesser extent.

This is an example of why women's issues are everybody's issues, and especially why they are men's issues. All of us would not have got harassed if there were not male harassers in the picture, and these men need to be taught this is not acceptable.

Adele // Posted 29 May 2008 at 01:47

I'm a 17 year old schoolgirl. I get honked at and yelled at (while wearing a school uniform) at least once every few months. And this is while walking home from school, hunched over and tired, in the most unflattering uniform in the world.

Anon // Posted 29 May 2008 at 02:33

Me too. (Or me 64 at this point.) There's a low-level harassment that seems go without saying, but sometimes things happen that stick.

Men have often kicked, grabbed or forcefully pushed me (even at the top of stair cases) when I'm out in my wheelchair. It's scary. Sometimes it's just plain hurtful. Once or twice, I've been in a shop waiting to pay for something and the man behind me decides to wheel me out of the line. Just like that!

The first time I went out in my wheelchair my mum and I were so shocked when an aggressive man leaned over me, shook my wheelchair and quickly thrust his groin in my face as he squeezed past. There was about three feet of space in front of us he could have easily used without pressing up against me or moving my chair at all.
I was sixteen.

The second and third time a man did "the groin thing" it still bothered me. Now I just see it as something that happens but it's still upsetting to think about.

On good days I walk, and my disability is completely invisable to the rest of the world. On some "walking days" I feel incredibly vulnerable.

Three years ago, on one of these vulnerable walking days, a man cornered me in a park.

I was 18, he seemed about 40. I'm petite, fragile from my disability and slender. He had huge muscles and stood head and shoulder over me.

He leered. He gave me this grin and nodded his head over and over and over again as he looked me over. He goes, "Yeeeeah. Oh yeah," and keeps nodding and grinning.

I felt sick. My heart was pounding and I didn't know what to do. How do I get out of it? How do I make him go away?

It took me three years to go back to the park he scared me so much. I felt dirty. I felt ashamed. I even blamed myself. It was a hot day but I flung on two jumpers when I got home to cover myself up. I wanted to take a shower so I could somehow shower him away and how he looked at me, but that would involve taking off the jumpers. I couldn't do that. Didn't want to be seen, even alone in my bathroom.

I remember years ago when I'd been shopping with my mum. We were getting back into our car and a man nodded and smiled at my mum as he walked down the road. She nodded and smiled back.
His smiled widened and said loudly, "Tits out, love!" and kept walking.

Stunning.

JaneL // Posted 29 May 2008 at 02:35

I'm 19 now, and the first time it happened I was 12- and I wasn't a particularly early developer. When I was 13 I looked 13, and men still shouted out of cars at me and my 13 year old friends who looked 13.

And it's just unremitting; the endless primate looks and comments and stupid car horns that always make me think I've accidentally got my skirt tucked in my knickers or something embarrassing.

And that's what I can't stand. Because if it was just about girls' boobs in summer dresses, that would be crass but managable. It's the fact that more often than not these men seem like the fact it flusters me and that there's a delay timer on my response, meaning I can't make one. It's not actually about me; quite often I think I stand for something and maybe they're not even sure exactly what.

And it's being watched and watched and watched.

Because it's not friendly and it's not appreciative, and it's not even meant to be.

On my bike the other day a man at a bus stop ran in front of me and looked up up skirt (I had shorts on underneath because I was cycling- but he only learnt that because he'd looked).

Occasionally something egregious happens, like the old man who'd started talking to me on the ferry back from a family holiday who followed me on to a lower deck (when feeling uncomfortable I'd made my excuses) and intimated to his son to come over, which the son did holding a condom between his forefinger and thumb.

And sometimes it's just being stared at, by someone who wants you to know they're staring at you.

And when I can, I shout back. But you can't shout down a stare. And when I worked in the pub I couldn't say the withering things I wanted to back to the regulars. Or else, they drive you out of their like they did the 'fat barmaid'. And at least I had the luxury of making a choice to leave, at least for me it was just a temporary studenty job.

But you know, the most eloquent bit of orratory you deliver pavement side can be shot down by even the most underevolved of these men, because all they need to say is "don't flatter yourself, love" and the joke's suddenly on you.

And you know, my breasts aren't even that big, Mr/Ms 'It's All The Fault Of The Wonderbra Wearer's In Low Tops' of the world.
Because, you know, though I happen to conceal mine in an entirely non-wonderous bra they're still sort of, pretty much permanently attatched so what do you really expect us to do?

(oh, dear that was the first thing I've commented here, although I've been reading the blog for a while. Insomnia and anger, I'd imagine)

lauredhel // Posted 29 May 2008 at 03:34

I'm another "Who hasn't?" Generic street harassment (hoots, hollers, leers) started when I was about 13. I've been exposed to a couple of episodes of flashing, several episodes of public transport frottage which left me absolutely mortified. Pub harassment, also; the comments, of course, but also gropes of breasts and buttocks out of the blue from strangers and acquaintances, that sort of thing.

Sylvertongue // Posted 29 May 2008 at 03:53

Hell yes. Most recently, a guy getting in face while myself and two female friends were walking down the street. He leaned into my space with, "Hey, beautiful." The most unsettling thing about that incident, though, was that when I snarled at him to fuck off, (he did, shocked) one of my friends chastised me for my "rudeness" and apologised to the creep.

And no, not because she felt that we'd be in danger otherwise...because she felt I ought to be complimented.

Kristy // Posted 29 May 2008 at 04:21

I find it difficult just walking down the road! I know i am being constantly looked at and judged by people in cars or walking past and so its not just the arrogant ones (the ones who make a point of mentioning aspects of my appearance that turns them on) that make me personally feel uncomfortable but just the feeling of being examined by everyone. We bought a treadmill because i felt so unsafe going for a run around the block!

cb // Posted 29 May 2008 at 06:39

Yes.. and when it is combined with comments it can be really upsetting (even when the men making the comments assume they are 'complimenting' ugg) . I've had issues about how i look etc (as I'm sure isn't uncommon).
When I shared a flat with my sister, some local guys seemed to think we were lesbians and often made comments walking around. It wasn't even worth the breathe to respond and I had no intention of justifying myself or correcting them.
One time, I was subjected to an extensive critique on my chest-size and body form which still upsets me when I think about it and that was a couple of years back!
I used to live in Italy and the culture is a little bit different there - but somehow it seemed less threatening, I don't really know why - but a -lot- more random 'feels' and 'bumps' on public transport - yuck. The way one tended to deal with that was to raise your voice really loudly and tell the creep to keep his hands to himself. Other women on the bus would be very supportive in this and the jeers would hound them into embarrassment - usually. I'm not sure if it stopped them though.

Liz // Posted 29 May 2008 at 07:57

Yes I have; quite a few times.

Rachel // Posted 29 May 2008 at 08:12

'Come on love! Smile! It might never happen!'

When I am Queen all these men will die in the first wave.

And yeah, as you say, hasn't everyone? I know I have, and lots of my female friends...

jessthecat // Posted 29 May 2008 at 08:57

Just wanted to add my name to the list. I especially get harassed when I'm riding my bike. Comments along the lines of 'keep pedalling love!' when going up a hill or whatever. Maybe people think they are being nice or encouraging but I just feel so uncomfortable when doing sporty things like cycling as they seem to be 'male' activities. It makes me feel like I'm stupid and incompetent because I'm a woman and somehow that I shouldn't be riding a bike because that's not a ladylike thing to do. Grrr...

Lindsey // Posted 29 May 2008 at 09:06

3 particular incidents stick out in my mind:

1) My first harassment at age 13 when a teenage boy cycled past saying "fucking size of them tits" apparently thinking aloud #eyeroll#

2) In Boots when buying condoms I was followed through the packed shop by 2 teenage boys who kept asking questions about my sexual habits. I think I put him off a bit saying "well obviously not with you" but I wish I'd been a bit more brave - at that age it might have made a difference.

3) when at the bus stop a man came and sat next to me and I felt his hand on the seat get a little to close to my thigh. I stood up, pretending to look out for the bus, only for him to fully cup my bum with both hands! I glared at him and he asked if I 'had boyfriend' (his english wasn't great) I said yes as the bus arrived and he didn't even get on it - he was literally cruising the bus stop for asses to grab! *rage*

Also, when walking down busy main roads and every other male driver is looking at you (sadly the ones who honk are a minority compared to the ones who stare) does any one else fear being responsible for a major traffic accident?

Austin A (male) // Posted 29 May 2008 at 09:08

Being a non-conformist with regards to gender I also experience harassment due to wearing skirts out in general public. One particular time I remember being followed by two teenage boys making comments about my gender, asking me to lift up my skirt and show them what's underneath. Then there are general shouts at from random people, or just the looks of disgust. It makes me worry a lot about wearing skirts in public and generally I'll only do it if I know I'll be going somewhere not in public and amongst friends.

One thing which people may or may not agree with me about, I do enjoy appreciating people's appearance, specifically the clothes they wear (particularly if it's more alternative) and occasionally I will wander up to someone, tell them that what they are wearing is particularly nice, then turn and walk away so that I don't seem imposing. Do people think that is intrusive too?

Amanda // Posted 29 May 2008 at 09:11

Yep, Shouted at, wolf whistles etc. Nothing too threatening but it still not ok!

Jessica // Posted 29 May 2008 at 09:30

I have, but rarely. I am lucky not to have had any of the nastier comments which I hear my friends complain of.

Until recently I wondered whether this was because of the area I live in, but I have come to think it is because of what I wear. I have never been leered at or had any other comment made while I am wearing a suit.

I have an hourglass figure, and my suits flatter my figure rather than hiding it. However, the only harrassment I have ever suffered has been while wearing casual clothes. I have been forced to come to the conclusion that the men who would wolf-whistle me if I wore jeans are afraid of my pin stripes and shirt.

Have other people had the same experience?

batty // Posted 29 May 2008 at 09:36

First time I was about 12, walking the dog in a field and some creepy guy patts my ass. Nice. It's been a pretty relentles torrent since that day foward really. Welcome to womanhood eh?

Jennifer-Ruth // Posted 29 May 2008 at 09:38

*puts hand up*

I hate being told to "smile!" or "cheer up!" by random strangers - I have asked my male friends about this and not one of them had ever experienced this. My female friends on the other hand...

The other week I had leery football fans shouting "Nice tits" as I walked home from work. Most incidents of street harrassment I have experienced have been that sort of thing.

However...there was this one time that when I didn't respond the cat-caller got aggressive - it was evening and getting dark. He followed me for over 15 minutes yelling that I was a "cunt" and that he was going to "rape me." I felt so threatened, it was extremely upsetting. And basically, I think that is how all cat-calling comes across - it might be "just for a laugh" or "harmless fun" to the man cat-calling, but for the woman it could be one step away from something seriously nasty happening. You don't know that stranger. You don't know what he is thinking. He could easily be one step away from turning aggressive.

I would be surprised to learn of a woman who has not experienced street harrassement (and would love to know where she lives).

Steph Jones // Posted 29 May 2008 at 09:55

Yes, quite a few times - mostly 'cat-calling' (I really dislike that term), and some sexual provocation in the past when I've been occasionally 'read' as transsexual - for some reason men seem to think if you are a transfemale, you must be 'up for it', or that sex/appealing to men must be your 'motivation' for being a transwoman - well, guys its not!!!

And as for the bloke leering at my chest yesterday on the train and calling me 'orlright babes' - well, I'm just fine thankyou but I'm not your 'babes'.

Laura // Posted 29 May 2008 at 10:13

Hi everyone,

Thank you so much for commenting - I'd like to say I'm surprised at how many comments we've got here in less than 24 hours, but of course it's not in the least surprising. As Jennifer Drew said, it would be simpler to ask who hasn't experienced street harassment, but then we wouldn't have this bank of evidence here to show those guys who just don't get it, or who (like Alex) genuinely just weren't aware that this was so widespread. Again, it's not surprising that you weren't aware of it, Alex, as the answer to your question is that being harassed when with a man is much more unusual than when alone or with other women.

This trend really reveals the attitude of many of the men who commit street harassment: woman is seen as public (male) property to be commented on, assessed, made fun of, used for sexual kicks, and if she's with another man he "owns" her and so is seen to have the monopoly on her body. A number of friends have told me stories of being harassed, only for the man to notice she is with another guy and apologise to HIM, as though he were encrouching on his territory. The trend also reveals how malicious this so-called "low level" sexism or victimisation can be - targetting lone women is way to intimidate and assert power, to show us who is in control, who the public space really belongs to, and where our role in it lies - as eye candy or tool of sexual gratification. If we can't provide either of those things, we'd best stay indoors.

Austin - personally I wouldn't find your behaviour intrusive, but I think that would probably have a lot to do with the way you dress and present yourself (from what you've said) - I'd see you as a kindred spirit and not a typical bloke out to intimidate me.

I'd like to reply to everyone, but it's not really possible! So just to say that, even though I expected a big reaction, many of your experiences have been really shocking (anon in particular) and I think women need to start pulling together, like those Italian women on the bus, and standing up for each other and ourselves collectively in public spaces, asserting our right to be there and embarrassing the men who behave like shits.

Alison // Posted 29 May 2008 at 10:22

It happens frequently; I've had wolf whistling, comments, thumbs up and barking. It's a disgrace that in this day and age men take it upon themselves to harass women going about their daily business in this way.

I always just ignore it. Why they think it's supposed to make our day is beyond me. Typical male arrogance, we're put on this earth solely for their benefit.

Charlotte // Posted 29 May 2008 at 10:30

another "who hasn't?" One road on my way to uni is particularly bad, it's a fast road so guys can shout/whatever out the window and are gone quickly before anyone notices who it is (not that they'd care, I imagine). It doesn't happen very often thankfully; I usually walk with my boyfriend and it never happens when I'm with him, only the infrequent times I'm walking on my own.

Re: Jessica's comment about what you wear, I find that it doesn't make much difference if I'm wearing a skirt/ low cut top, I can be covered up in a jacket and scarf (which I usually am) and it's still the same. I only ever drive when wearing a suit for work so I'd be interested to see if I notice a similar difference...

Clare // Posted 29 May 2008 at 10:30

I once got groped and fingered by some frankly, gruesome old men in a pub quite randomly. It was at the crush at the bar and I was too scared to say anything. Sad thing was, I was 17 and can remember feeling ashamed, like I'd invited it by being there, rather than angry at how they dared.

Clare // Posted 29 May 2008 at 10:33

Oh, and being 7 months pregnant doesn't seem to stop catcalling either.

Samara Ginsberg // Posted 29 May 2008 at 10:44

*raises hand*"

And Laura: "woman is seen as public (male) property to be commented on, assessed, made fun of, used for sexual kicks, and if she's with another man he "owns" her and so is seen to have the monopoly on her body. A number of friends have told me stories of being harassed, only for the man to notice she is with another guy and apologise to HIM, as though he were encrouching on his territory. The trend also reveals how malicious this so-called "low level" sexism or victimisation can be - targetting lone women is way to intimidate and assert power, to show us who is in control, who the public space really belongs to, and where our role in it lies - as eye candy or tool of sexual gratification." - Damn right!

I've often read features written by middle-aged female columnists to the effect of "I don't get harrassed by random builders any more, boo hoo, I feel so ugly, if you wolf whilstle me it will make my day!" But the whole point is, as long as this behaviour happens then every time we step outside the house we are submitting ourselves for approval. If it didn't happen in the first place you wouldn't feel the need to worry about the opinions of random men.

It's so few men who do it (think about how many men you pass in a given day, and how many actually even look at you), and it makes me angry that such a tiny minority can make our lives so bloody difficult, our blood pressure skyrocket, our walk home from the station at night a terrifying experience. And it makes me even angrier when people belittle it, deny that it happens, tell us we should find it flattering, etc etc... GRRRR!!!

lauredhel // Posted 29 May 2008 at 10:48

I've just realised that I can't recall a single episode happening while I was walking my German Shepherd or one of my Dobermanns, which I've had and walked regularly for a couple of decades of my life.

Which confirms to me that it's all about creating a credible threat, not about expressing appreciation or trying to make a connection.

Cic // Posted 29 May 2008 at 10:55

Seems like a strange question. Since I was about 13 I have had wolf-whistles, car horns, comments etc. more or less constantly on the street although since I turned 30 it's happened less. I suspect that is partly to do with my more-confident stance, and unwillingness to bow my head nervously when passing men on the street. Now if I get any comments, I just stare blankly at the men in question or raise my eyebrows, which has the gratifying effect of making them look embarrassed.

Most recent bad event was being surrounded by group of provincial lads (or at least that's what they looked like) out on the town in Notting Hill Gate who all started leering, then grabbing at me. Very frightening. I nearly hit one of them with a DVD I was trying to take back to the shop and stopped myself just in time. 7pm, busy street. Nasty.

Cara // Posted 29 May 2008 at 10:56

Yep *puts hand up*. Who hasn't?

Several times...quite recently when it was hot, some guy called out from a car, just something like Awright darlin' - nothing overtly sexual but as has been pointed out, if you ignore it, it can rapidly go from Hey gorgeous to &*(()() ing bitch etc. Anyway *sighs* I realised summer was here and yet again, if women dare leave the house in clothes that reveal any flesh - and I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, nothing particularly revealing - harrassment follows.

Compliments are fine. A woman once came up to me and told me she loved my shoes. It made my day. But harrassment is not about appreciation...it is about - as Laura said above - showing who is in control of public space, that women are only there to be assessed and admired, or not, by men.

A comment on the Cath Elliott piece interested me - someone said that men would take her hat from her head and try it on. That reminds me of one incident at a bus stop, where a guy just grabbed my scarf and pulled. I was freaked out - for all I knew he could've been a mugger/ psycho rapist and murderer trying to grab me by it and drag me off. All I could manage was What do you think you're doing? - after realising his intentions probably weren't criminal and unfreezing. He thought it was hilarious and didn't get what my problem was until I really let him have it. Hopefully he learned not to grab strange women by the scarf. Freak.

Another time I remember, some guy who was handing out fliers just shoved one into my bag - again at a bus stop, as I had opened it to get my pass.

It sounds trivial, but both felt as if I had been violated in a small way. I reckon guys wouldn't dare invade another guy's personal space/ property in this way; women are seen as public property who men may touch/ comment on etc. at will and her feelings don't really come into it. *Rage*.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 29 May 2008 at 11:00

This thread is incredible. I think it's the longest one we've had here - obviously strikes a chord!

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough when it comes to street harassment : Martha J Langelan's Back Off! It has whole sections on dealing with street harassment and incredible ideas for tackling it. There is a technique called "confronting" which is explained, and there are other ideas such as pretending to be doing a survey on street harassment and turning back to the guy who just whistled at you with a clipboard and asking him lots of questions about why he harasses, what he thinks he gets out of it, does he have a mother and sisters etc etc - its' brilliant. It talks about harassment from construction workers and what to do about it. There is also a section describing how women have gathered together to undertake group actions about harassment. Please please read it if you are angry about this issue. It'll make you feel better!

saranga // Posted 29 May 2008 at 11:01

I should have included being told to smile, constantly, from the age of about 3 and being followed by blokes down the street. For a few years when i was by myself on the train between Headcorn and London I would ALWAYS have a foreign bloke sit next to or opposite me and try to talk to me for the entire journey. I was about 18, looked about 14 and was trying my best to ignore the git and read my book. Not nice.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 29 May 2008 at 11:12

Further to my cheer-leading for the Back Off! book, there's a good review of it here.

And I forgot to mention that it includes a chapter on how men can be allies for women around harassment.

mia // Posted 29 May 2008 at 11:17

Yes, yes and yes.

Emma // Posted 29 May 2008 at 11:24

@Austin A, I'd find that intrusive. However, it should be noted I'm a fat girl, so most of my life I've been subjected to complements followed by jeers or mockery, especially if I show any sign that I believed them, so the compliment would automatically seem insoncered to me, pretty much however you delivered it.

Also, if a man, however non-threatening or whatever he was wearing, approached me, told me he thinks I look good, then walked away, I would feel threatened. It breaks me bubble. It reminds me that I'm constantly being evaluated on my body, my clothing, my hair, by all the people around me. It would make me feel conspicuous and watched. If you walked over, struck up a conversation, even if it was about innane shit like the weather, and gave me a little space to respond after making the compliment, then it would feel like a compliment, because you're taking the time, even if only briefly, to know and appreciate a little about me as a person, not just as a physical presence.

((I've been sat here deliberating whether to post this, because I feel like I should take it as a complement if someone did what you're descriding to me, that I'm somehow not entitled to feel upset by it, and that's the problem in a nutshell really, isn't it?))

And, just in general, hell yes to the constantly being told to cheer up or smile. Maybe I don't want to smile. Maybe I'm not here to facilitate you and the expression on my face is not relevant to you in any way. I also get a lot of blokes commenting to me and using pet names on the street. I am not your love, your pet or your dear. Please don't use those names for me.

Sabre // Posted 29 May 2008 at 11:24

A few weeks ago I was rushing along the pavement in a quiet residential area and noticed a group of three boys (they did not look older than about 20) loitering on a street corner. I saw them eyeing me up and down and got the familiar 'oh crap, please don't talk to me' feeling. As I walked past, one of them said "hey laydeez" (in a triumphant 'hey woman, there's a big man here' kind of way) and when I completely ignored them and kept going, head down, I overheard them saying how rude I was and how stuck up some girls can be. Grrr

Qubit // Posted 29 May 2008 at 11:29

Not as much as everyone else but there are certainly some things I can think of.

Most significantly I remember being in Woolworth when I was quite a bit younger (can't remember exact age) and someone pinching my bottom. I felt dirty for quite a while after that.

Another weird one I remember, although it may have less to do with being a woman, was me and a female friend being approached early evening in a quiet area and being asked if we thought the security camera in the area was working. The guy then ranted about the Labour council and big brother. That was possibly harmless but we weren't sure so left as soon as possible.

In a similar vain to how this behaviour is perceived I was walking behind a group of girls discussing the recent (stranger) sexual assault of a girl from their uni which had taken place down a quiet street (which weirdly is the main route to some uni halls) at 2am one morning. The discussion of the horror of the incident was followed by 'well what did she expect walking home alone at 2am'.

Cara // Posted 29 May 2008 at 11:36

Remembered another time - on a bus when 2 foreign guys were blatantly staring at me, I mean really staring making me feel very uncomfortable - I made eye contact in the vain hope of intimidating but one said, in a really sleazy way, You alright? - I moved to another seat, and heard them laugh, indicating they knew *exactly* what they were doing. Morons.

Cara // Posted 29 May 2008 at 11:40

And 2 weirdos who decided to literally jump right in my way as I was walking down the street minding my own business...so I had to move out of the way which was kind of the point, yep, men own public space.

And "smile" OMG...I am soooo sick of that...

If only we could slap these idiots. Really.

(I did shout something insulting after the guys that jumped into my way ;-) made me feel better anyway.

I will definitely have a read of that, Catherine, thanks.

Cara // Posted 29 May 2008 at 11:43

Oops - not that being foreign made the guys any worse or really had anything to do with the incident - I wouldn't want anyone to misconstrue that!

Jessica // Posted 29 May 2008 at 11:49

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting on my bicycle at a red light in Shoreditch, and some guy creeped towards me and caressed my hand (which was on my bike's frame) up and down.

He was drunk, but fuck me if it's an excuse. I was absolutely creeped by it.

Li // Posted 29 May 2008 at 11:53

I thought I should add, because of the (load of crap) idea that it has anything to do with the way a woman is dressed - I've found that the level of harassment I get has absolutely fuck all to do with how I'm dressed.

They harass me if I'm wearing trainers.
They harass me if I'm wearing heels.
They harass me if I'm wearing trousers.
They harass me if I'm wearing a skirt.
They harass me if my top's low cut.
They harass me if I'm wearing a coat -
I got yelled at by some guy in a van once whilst wearing a thick coat, jeans, hat and scarf. With flat shoes. How's that for "unsexy"? But still, he yelled.

Lucy // Posted 29 May 2008 at 11:56

I had just left work having had a terrible stressful day and was wearing nothing that anyone could interpret as 'provocative' yet I was approached by a group of men, one of whom yelled 'SLAG!' in my face.

Laura // Posted 29 May 2008 at 12:02

Just heard a guy in the street outside my window shout 'Oi, sexy girl, sexy girl...Come on darlin', you know you love it' at someone. What a shit.

Davina // Posted 29 May 2008 at 12:08

They've closed comments on the CiF thread - shame, as I was going to link to this post in my comment (in retrospect probably not a good idea, given the ferocity and just general mean-ness of some CiF commenters - don't want them coming over here!).

I was going to link because some men & women just don't believe it's as widespread as it is, or believe it happens because women wear low-cut tops, etc. - anything to excuse what is blatantly just plain harassment.

For me it started when I was 13, and it has never really stopped. As Samara said, it is infuriating because it is not all men who do it, just a minority of pervy/abusive/dangerous men.

Men who smile at me? Ok. Men who say 'good morning'? Ok. Men who say 'I just wanted to tell you, you look really pretty today, hope you have a good day'? (as happened to me a week ago) Ok. Quite nice, actually.

Men who deliberately walk in my way, block my way, get way too close to me and mumble something sick in my ear, beep at me, yell out of their cars (and roll the window down to specifically yell), spit out of their cars, walk up next to me as I'm walking and ask me questions about my body - NOT FUCKING OK!

Those are all older men - haven't even gotten onto the 20-something lads and then the teenage boys..

Angry now.....

Traykool // Posted 29 May 2008 at 12:10

There is building going on outside my job and I walk the long way around to avoid the comments from the workers. It's a horrid feeling. And if I want to go to the shops I ask one of the lads from work to walk with me. The things they say are so crude! I'm so sick of it!

anna rannva // Posted 29 May 2008 at 12:26

i got harassed when i walked past a group of rudeboys with one of their "i am a tough man with a penis-dog" , but i was in a group of 6 of my male friends. that was the first time i got harassed when i was with other guys, usually its when im on my own or with girlfriends. once i was waiting at a bus stop, for a bus as you do when i was asked if "i was out on business" aka a prostitute, stupid man! im at a BUS STOP thats why im standing on the street! he felt pretty stupid and scuttled away. ive been harassed too many times to mention, and i want to be happy today so i wont go into them otherwise i will spend all day angry.

Louise // Posted 29 May 2008 at 12:29

All the time. I ride a bike everywhere, and some men seem to think that's enough to warrant a hilarious comment about keeping fit, nice bum, etc. Especially they're in a van, and god help me if a microscopic strip of flesh dares to show between my top and back of my trousers!

It's not even the comments that bother me, it's the whistles, the hisses, the sleazy noises as I pass.

Sarah // Posted 29 May 2008 at 12:38

About when it is appropriate to compliment someone on their appearance or clothes or whatever, possibly a good guidleline is - would you say the same thing to a man? If not, why not?

It's also important to remember that many (most?) women have been subjected to years of annoying and frightening harassment when just trying to walk down the street, so keep that context in mind when you consider giving a stranger a 'harmless' compliment or accuse her of over-reacting if she seems hostile or upset in response.

Soirore // Posted 29 May 2008 at 12:43

Yes a few times but only when alone. My *favourite* was "Oi you! Didn't I f*** you last night?" a bizzare thing to shout I thought, and he carried on yelling sex stuff while I walked swiftly away. He was in a group so I didn't want to engage with him.

essjay // Posted 29 May 2008 at 12:54

Yeah, another "who hasn't".

First time I can remember - I was 13 and 'fully developed'. A whole 36B, well worth of comment doncha think (

24 years and too many incidents on, I go for public humiliation in the possibly vain hope that they'll think twice before doing it to someone else. Even if this is a vain hope, at least I don't walk away fuming and feeling powerless.

I try not to use bad language, thereby leaving me with the moral high ground. "Fuck off" doesn't make someone look small. Drawing attention to their behaviour does.

Guy wanking under his coat on (a busy) tube whilst rubbing his knee up and down against mine - loud and incredibly polite "Excuse me, would you mind not doing that please?" At least 50 people stare. At him, not me.

So called "artist" in Covent garden who thought it was funny to wallop me on the backside with his toy sword as I rushed by, head down, late for a meeting. At the advice of Westminster council, to whom I complained first, I called the police. With the backup of a nice policemen standing behind me, gave him the third degree on how and why he thought it was acceptable to raise cheap laughs from someone who was literally just walking past and not showing any desire to be drawn into his act (I phoned and cancelled the meeting while waiting for the police - this was more important). The audience for me telling him off was MUCH bigger than the one for him hitting me. Nice.

Unfortunately, we have to take our own safety into consideration - in both those incidents there were enough 'witnesses' that I felt safe enough to challenge. It makes me feel angry and sick when I have to shut up and put up.

Most men manage to show some respect most of the time. So there is NO excuse for any of the rest of them.

Ollybeth // Posted 29 May 2008 at 13:05

When I was fourteen or fifteen, I used to get harrassed by a man on my way to school every morning. He was a car-park attendant and I had to walk through the (usually deserted) carpark to get to school, and every time he saw me he'd wolf whistle or ask for my name or make lewd comments. My school had uniforms so he knew damn well I was just a kid; he must've been about thirty. I didn't really know how to handle it, especially when my glare-o'-death didn't put him off, so eventually I thad to get my dad to come with me one morning and tell him to knock it off. It still makes me angry to this day.

Annika // Posted 29 May 2008 at 13:11

I read this post, as I'm sure you all did, and thought "Who hasn't?"

Seriously, street harassment is something in which we all experience on a daily basis. So much so, that some women may not even class it as harassment as they are so used to it.

The different experiences written here prove that no matter what your background is, or what you look like, or what you are wearing, the street harassment is always there because we are women.

We identify it as a concern. We identify it as a problem. We know it happens to ourselves, our friends, our sisters and even our movers. We know how it makes us feel. And from looking at the comments on the Cif page, we can see what response we get when we express all this.

Questions is, knowing all this, what are WE going to do about it?

I'm definately up for some awareness raising and campaigning (spelling??).

Whats the plan?

Susannaaaa // Posted 29 May 2008 at 13:14

The first time I can remember was walking past a group of teenage boys when I was about 12, just when I was beginning to develop in the chest region, and being asked "Can I suck your titties?" When I didn't reply another one yelled "Hah, I forgot, you don't have any!" I think the fact that this was blatantly untrue (and being aware that the only reason they shouted in the first place was my recent development) has meant that I've never been under the misapprehension that these sorts of taunts are meant as actual compliments.

Recently though, having avoided most of this kind of shit all winter (mainly by being a recluse), for the first time this year I wore a skirt and high heels to the Eurovision party I attended on Saturday.

I took a taxi to my friends' flat but due to funds had to get the bus back and walk home. By 2 am I was literally round the corner from my flat, in a pretty nice residential area of Glasgow, when some guy got out of a taxi, absolutely steaming and blurted "Awright hen?" at me. "Uh huh." I replied curtly, speeding up. "Gaun hame?" was shouted after me, and when he got no reply, "C'n ah come?"

"No!" I shouted back, and he thankfully didn't pursue the matter, or in fact me, beyond shouting "Please!" just as I turned the corner.

Christ.

Sarah // Posted 29 May 2008 at 13:34

Hand Up!

My worst experience most recently was walking home from work on a Saturday night and two lads passing me in the street. At exactly the moment we crossed paths one stuck his hand out and groped my breast. They didn't stop or anything, it was a grope and run! They didn't even run, actually, they just carried on their merry little way. I was so shocked, all I could do was shout 'Fuck You!' after them (didn't feel it wise to follow them and keep shouting, since I was alone, they were obviously drunk and it was dark). Their only response was to laugh. Man, did I want to hurt them!

In response to what happens when you are with another guy; I was walking with my boyfriend when a car slowed down and a guy shouted out 'I'll give you five quid for her'. So offensive. Talk about possession!

Ariane // Posted 29 May 2008 at 13:42

I've never noticed ordinary street harassment (aimed at me). I'm not sure whether this is because I am oblivious, or am just so uninteresting that I have never caught anyone's attention.

But I have seen and heard plenty, routinely, aimed at others.

Anna // Posted 29 May 2008 at 14:01

"There is building going on outside my job and I walk the long way around to avoid the comments from the workers."

Complain to the site manager - my dad has been working on various sites for the last 20 years and says if there's any complaints about verbal harassment, however minor, that worker is out on his arse quicker than he can say "give us a look, then".

Harpymarx // Posted 29 May 2008 at 14:14

Yeah, "who hasn't"....

I was off sick last summer from work and was getting myself back together, confidence wise etc. such as going out enjoying the sun etc when some creep of a bloke stopped me on the pretext of asking for directions then decided to harass me about whether I had a boyfriend (????!!!!!!!).

I walked away and the joker followed me. Before I have said "f&ck off" etc. but my confidence was low.

And I just felt so bloody crap and powerless re the incident that his sexual harassesment knocked me back and I became angry with myself.

And many women do end up blaming themselves when it is NOT our fault but this patriarchal/capitalist society likes to make us think it is..

And why the hell should women have to put up with this sexist crap!

I am not angry at myself anymore.

Oxymoron // Posted 29 May 2008 at 14:32

Hand up, and one for my sister.

I've also found that cycling evokes more responses, but also walking alone, walking with friends, walking with my boyfriend...

The instance that stands out in my mind is cycling home from work about nine in the evening. I was on the pavement (don't trust the cars in my area!) and there were 4 or 5 lads about 16-17 years old on the pavement taking up the whole space. I said excuse me and they let me through and I said thank you. As I went past they said something along the lines of 'that's alright darling' and all leered at me. I was furious, not only because I was expecting better, but also because it was so patronising! I'm 17 myself and it just felt like they were talking down to me simply because I was a woman.

My sister sister gets leering and comments all the time and has now talking to saying "I'm 15 you pervert" with a death-look and walking away, but even this doesn't work all the time. I was with her a few weeks ago buying ice creams, we walked out of the shop and some guy yelled "didn't I fuck you last night" at her, to which she replied as above, and he laughed in the most disgusting way and made some comment about "even so..."

It makes my skin crawl! But I also hate that I feel so guilty when it happens. Hearing all of your stories on here has made me more determined to call it up when it happens though. Thank you and good luck to us all

Jess // Posted 29 May 2008 at 15:03

I am student and I live in a rough area of South London and I get some form of it almost every time I leave my flat.

It is humilliating and scarey, if i ever protest about the comments or "kissy noises" or leering, often men become agressive.

This needs to stop, I am sick of living in fear and embarrassment of being a woman. Street harassment is one of the main reasons why I became a feminist.

Rachel // Posted 29 May 2008 at 15:36

Yes, of course! Damn, I wish I hadn't looked through the comments before writing mine - was just reminded of a particularly nasty bit of harrassment when I was 12, the kind of thing you put out of memory for ages at a time and are unpleasantly surprised to remember :(. But it's happened more recently as well. I'd be surprised to find any woman who hasn't been harrassed in the street, really.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 29 May 2008 at 15:41

I hear you Jess - maybe we need a marketing campaign: "Street Harassment Makes Women Become Feminists"

Maybe that will make them stop!!!

Sara // Posted 29 May 2008 at 15:45

cat calls, shouts from men in cars (who, strangely, don't like it when you shout back), groped by a guy in a club, etc, etc, etc. hand up, yup, right here.

Mulierb // Posted 29 May 2008 at 15:51

Yep, two or three years ago in a club in York i was walking through a crowded club with friends and inadvertently walked through a group of men, one of whom pulled me backwards by my hair. Cos I didn't know who did it i could only shout a general 'F*%$ you' at them.

Then the other year in a club in Dublin a guy kept grabbing me from behind when I was dancing with friends. He wouldn't let go and I kept shoving him off, and finally he nearly pulled me over. I was so angry and upset that I turned round and kneed him right in the um, you know. Last I saw he was hopping off the dance floor, bent double.

Its hard on a day-to-day basis when you don't feel brave enough to challenge that kind of behaviour or when other people present just ignore it and you feel you have no support.

rattenmaus // Posted 29 May 2008 at 16:01

*raises hand*
During the summer I literally can't leave the house alone without having strange men shouting or whispering obscenities at me.
They tell me that I should smile, that it's a pity I'm so pale, make sounds that are supposed to illustrate the movement of my boobs, tell me disgusting things they want to do with me - most of the time the latter is even yelled.
If I don't respond I'm called bitch or lesbian (how else could I resist such charms!).
Sometimes it's little old men that look like they wouldn't hurt a fly, whispering "cunt!" under their breath as they pass me by.
I also have been groped in a bus when I was about 14, and there have been attempts to do this since then, but I always managed to weasle my way out before somebody actually touched me.
There have been construction sites and road works right next to my house for the last three years, and when it comes to harrassment it has been the worst time of my life. I never walked past those sites without being subjected to some kind of harrassment, most of the time blatant stares at my chest, accompanied by big grins or approving nods.
Most of the time I'm too scared to say something to the workers, because I know I have to pass them again the next day, and if I do so much as glare at one of the angrily they will chuckle at me and whisper to each other while they grinningly stare at me walking by.
It doesn't matter what clothes I wear, if I look like I'm happy and confident or sad and shy. It has nothing to do with how I carry myself.
It has become worse though since I have started dying my long hair red.

In all those years of constant harrasment in public there have only been two occasions where somebody tried to help me. One time I wanted to leave a train, and some drunken guy (there was a singing soccer club, the song being about how they would kill the players of the other team and rape their wifes...) grabbed me by the arm and wouldn't let me leave the train, telling me to stay and party with them. I was around 16, that guy was in his forties. Then a little old lady who had looked like she was asleep, I bet she was about 70 or even older, suddenly jumped to her feet, grabbed that guy and told him to get off me. I had to run to be able to still leave the train so I couldn't thank her, but she was my hero of the day, maybe the year.
The second time was about a year ago, when a group of youngsters kept calling after me on the street, I tried to ignore them, and then this woman (around my own age, 23 at the time) jumped in and told them I was her friend and they should let me be. She even came to me and asked me if I was okay, but I was so angry at the guys and at myself for not defending myself, that I was kinda rude to her, and I'm still sorry for that.
I wish more people where brave enough to help girls in such situation, and be it only yelling back at the jerks.

Virginia // Posted 29 May 2008 at 16:21

Another me too. The first time I remember particularly was a bloke trying to look up my skirt when I was cycling home from school - I ended up falling off the bike trying to avoid him, then luckily a car came round the corner and he ran off. The police suggested I stop wearing a skirt on my bike. The most recent (and I'd almost forgotten it until I started reading this thread, because it wasn't terribly bad as these things go) was when visiting a friend a couple of weeks ago. I stood on the steps of her block of flats to have a cigarette early one evening, and a bunch of youngish men were walking by and stopped to offer comments on my appearance. I ignored them, they took offence, I told them to fuck off and they took greater offence, but by that point I'd finished my cigarette and retreated into the building.

In the intervening 25 years I have been followed home, shouted at, grabbed at, told to smile, &c &c, all many times. I don't consider myself to have had particularly bad experiences of harassment, compared to some of my friends and some of the posters on this thread, but oh yes it has helped make me a feminist and angry.

LauraR // Posted 29 May 2008 at 16:53

Yes, I have been harassed in the street. This is my first post here, by the way, so hello everyone! I am a long-time lurker and love the site.

In common with many women here, it started when I was about 13. Now in my thirties, it has abated somewhat but it is interesting to think about why that might be. I used public transport a lot more in my teens/twenties, and that is where I recall most of it taking place. One man once groped me in full view of other people on the (packed) bus; nobody said a word - some people even looked away - and I, being naive and 17, was too embarrassed to complain. That's just one example. An awful lot of the harassment took place literally on my walk from the bus stop to my house. Men have approached me in the street, stood in my way, groped me, leered at me out of vans/cars etc. I can honestly say it used to make my life a misery.

How I wished I could have been invisible. I now travel everywhere in the car and consequently don't get it as much. But it saddens me to think about how I have made conscious decisions not do some things so as to avoid the harassment. For example, I enjoy running to keep fit. I have run outdoors but find it easier to run on a treadmill in my own home. I had to weigh up the disadvantages of running outside: men shouting things from moving vehicles; men using their fingers/hands to demonstrate what they would like to do to me; men throwing water bombs at me from moving vehicles; a field-full of men ostensibly playing football who turned and stared quite openly as I ran past - the list goes on. By running in my own home, I avoid all of this - and that is, quite simply, an absolute relief. I do of course also miss out on all the advantages of running outdoors: fresh air, differing/challenging terrains, sunshine, rain, feeling the wind in my hair. And that is sad.

It is for the same reason that I've never taken up cycling. If men would just let me go about my business, there's a lot more I would do outdoors. As Anne states above, we should have the right to be ignored. How awful that 50% of the population is treated every single day of their lives as though their only purpose for living is to provide sexual titillation for the other 50%.

My next worry is my 6-year-old daughter, because I know she's got it all to come - and that, quite frankly, makes my blood boil.

I don't think we should take it lying down.

xapplelnx // Posted 29 May 2008 at 18:07

Of course. *sigh*
Car honks, whistles and comments. Luckily nothing too bad, all things considered, but it's not about the severity, it's about the frequency and the fact any kind of harassment is harassment and must stop!

vicky // Posted 29 May 2008 at 18:26

I've also experienced harrassment, and I'm aware that it affects the way I move through public space, particularly when walking through busy sections of towns late at night when I tend to look down to avoid catching people's eyes, distract myself by listening to loud angry music, and scowl. I'm also deterred from running outside because it does seem to attract more comments (and have female runner friends who make it a rule to never wear shorts and a sleeveless top at the same time because it just attracts to much attention from some men).

I do tend to cycle to work and find this attracts a fair amount of idiot commentary, but am never sure how much of this is because I'm female per se and how much just because I'm a cyclist (a surprising number of car drivers seem unable to accept that cyclists ARE allowed on roads) - often comments / insults are pretty incomprehensible when shouted out a moving window of a rapidly overtaking vehicle .

But I totally agree with other posters that harassment is about power not flattery: I once got groped while working as member of a security team in my students' union at an evening event - In contrast to the dressed up girls enjoying a night out, I was wearing a baggy top, trousers and no make up. Clearly my harraser was attracted by the idea of undermining my authority rather than my skimpy attire.

Gemma // Posted 29 May 2008 at 18:29

*raises hand*

It was worse when I lived in Aberdeen- there was a guy in my building who was just a complete tosser. Stopped me on the stairs- at first I thought he was just another lost foreign student (I was well known around the building as a warden) but then he started turning up at my flat etc, and was totally persistent. Followed me to the supermarket- I told him no many times and his only response was to say 'but you are not married!' and continue. He gave up eventually, thank god. I also got regularly groped at clubs, especially The Priory, which I just had to stop going to.
It makes it worse as well that I'm fat- men seem to take being rejected by a fat girl particularly badly. Like I'm just going to fall into their arms at first leer. Then they bring out the 'fat bitch' line, like I've never bloody heard that one.
(p.s I often wear band shirts and I don't mind if someone wants to know about the shirt or is GENUINELY interested in what I'm wearing. As a fairly eh, ad hoc dresser, that happens every so often)

Andi (male) // Posted 29 May 2008 at 19:55

Am I a rarity, then, in that I've never whistled, catcalled, harassed, or indulged in any of the sh*t being laid at my gender's door here? Bloody hell.

A couple of things, though. One, I think a distinction needs to be drawn between simple 'looking' and more concerted and concentrated 'staring'. After all, women's bodies (and, conversely, men's bodies) are designed by nature to be sexually compatible and desirable. Which of course in no way justifies behaviour which intimidates, demeans, or denigrates. But still, the sexual urge is one of the most powerful fundamental instincts in the human (both genders) animal, and sight is the primary initial expression of it.

Secondly, and anecdotally, a very good female friend of mine positively revels in the attention she gets in the streets, and has been known to stop, initiate conversation, and occasionally stay the night. Takes all sorts, I suppose.

Finally, thought you might like to know that I found this thread through a "best of the web" link on CiF, so at least the moderators are trying to balance things out.

fenris // Posted 29 May 2008 at 21:39

last time i was harassed was all of three hours ago... car drove by as i was walking the dog, and the pricks within screeched something (could have been either "tits" or "bitch", unsure) extremely loudly, almost jumped out of my skin. i gathered composure quickly enough to give them the finger but... fucksakes! it's a little village and i was just trying to walk the dog!

the worst one for me was when i was walking through a pedestrianised part of a city centre, where some street performer was bellowing to a crowd through a microphone and speakers... i think he was a comedian or something. as i walked by he said to the crowd, "this is what i like about glasgow in the summer" and pointed with both hands at my boobs. yes it was warm, and yes i had no jacket on, and therefore yes i suppose i am to expect public humiliation involving a crowd and fucking....loudspeakers! i was in a state of disbelief for a couple of minutes as i walked on, not really comprehending what had happened properly, so unfortuntely i didn't confront him. though clearly if i'd had the chance, the fact that he had a laughing crowd at his disposal would have made that very difficult for me.

that day i was wearing a top that was low-cut-ish, but not showing off miles of cleavage, long sleeved, and it fit me snugly but not obscenely. still i questioned whether i had "asked for it". this is one thing i REALLY hate. recently i have tried to wear nicer clothes that flatter my body (though not showing much flesh, and i never wear a skirt above the knee), because i am rather down on my appearance and am trying to combat this by wearing clothes i actually like rather than dull things that i use to hide in. this isn't made easy when i am aggressively letched at and made to feel as if i need to wear potato sacks to ward off pervs. i am aware that they will sleaze at anyone no matter what the person is wearing, but still i have the guilt reflex. i also have fairly large boobs and a smallish waist and am conscious of the fact that the better my clothes fit, the more my boobs are accentuated, again making me feel that i am provoking such crap. as if my body itself is at fault. i feel a big conflict between wanting to do things that will help me like the way i look, and wanting to make sure that nobody will look at me and will not threaten me. there is this split in our culture that makes sure women can't win either way... we're pressured to invest heavily in our appearance and made to feel worthless if we dont measure up, and then made to feel guilty for being looked at.

fenris // Posted 29 May 2008 at 21:44

andi - i don't have a problem with being looked at, in itself. i don't mind a polite smile or glance. we are talking about people who invade personal space, or threaten to, who treat us with massive disrespect, and become physically or verbally aggressive when we do not respond approvingly. the above forms the vast majority of my experience of male "appreciation" of my appearance. when a man is polite and respectful and knows when to back off it is an entirely different matter. eg, i was once told that i looked "lovely" and then left alone, no invasion of personal space and no aggression, this i did not mind.

Dave // Posted 29 May 2008 at 22:28

*raises hand*

Of course I have, what man or woman hasn't? Walking past a group of girls on a friday/saturday night in town is the worst.

MariaS // Posted 29 May 2008 at 22:33

Many many men telling me to smile.
One old man when I was a teenager putting his hand on my back & feeling my bra straps under my clothes, I was stood at a road crossing.
Once in a nightclub someone unidentifiable who kept touching my backside.

It's like we don't belong to ourselves. :(


Depresso // Posted 29 May 2008 at 23:02

Yet another raised hand...

More times than I can remember, though the highlight would be spending the entirity of Marilyn Manson's set at the Big Day Out trying to stop some 44 yr old guy from randomly groping me. The creepy thing was, during Placebo, he'd been holding his mobile aloft so his wife could hear 'their' song.

A couple of months ago, walking back from work (I'm a care worker, so dress for function, not style!) a group of younger guys who were hogging the pavement walked past in the other direction. As they passed, within my comfort zone, one growled 'Saucy' at me. It sounded too threatening to be brushed off as a 'joke' or a 'compliment'. A couple of weeks ago, in exactly the same place, a car full of similar guys (wouldn't be surprised if they were the same ones) honked at me and laughed when I looked up. I was texting, as I tend to do when I'm walking between clients. The got the fingers this time, but I don't even know if they saw it. Next time, who knows. But I know there will be a next time.

Oooh, just remembered; another time and another place in the small town I live in, a week or so ago. A car passes me, coming from behind. Just as he comes up behind me, honks his horn. No need. The teenage girl walking in the other direction, who looked at me with a "what's-he-honking-at-her-for?" look of disdain on her face (again with the work clothes, my elderly clients worry about me if I'm not adequetly dressed!)? Isn't it sad that there's women and girls who are going through life thinking that that kind of attention is a positive thing, to be garnered and cherished?

Thene // Posted 29 May 2008 at 23:38

*raises hand*

I was once upskirted by a man with a camera phone while I was waiting at a pelican crossing in outer London. That's the worst incident I've ever had to deal with.

Jack // Posted 29 May 2008 at 23:48

I have - the response over the last day says enough - suffice it to say the suburbs aren't east london an even that was a bit rough

Rosie // Posted 30 May 2008 at 00:44

Andi, please don't get defensive. I don't think anybody has said that 'all men harrass' or even 'most men harrass'. And, speaking for myself, though I'm sure others here are the same, I am certainly willing to accept that men get harrassed by women too. I think what people here would suggest, though, is that it is done more *frequently* by men to women, and that being accompanied by a man decreases the liklihood of a woman being harrassed.
Nobody is laying the blame on an entire gender, but on the people who DO harrass, and on the aspects of society which present this behaviour as normal.

Rhona // Posted 30 May 2008 at 00:58

@ Andi -

(oh god, long post alert...)

I think the problem many male commenters have made (in varying degrees of bewilderment and/or offensiveness, especially on the CiF thread) is that most - admittedly not all, but most - women do *kind of* object to being seen purely as sexual objects. I, myself, prefer people to engage with my mind and personality rather than my vagina. I don't think this is unreasonable.

You state that "...the sexual urge is one of the most powerful fundamental instincts in the human...".

Fair enough. Biology is biology. However, gender, and the roles we ascribe to it, is a social construct. The vast majority of men are capable of containing their 'rampant sexuality' to the extent that they do not wildly ravish every female they come into contact with. Similarly, most women are not so distracted by crazy baby-making urges that they throw themselves, splay-legged, into the paths of unfortunate blokes innocently minding their own business. The reason for this is that most of us have learned to behave as rational adults and save sexualised behaviour for appropriate situations in the company of other adults who will (hopefully) return any such signals of desire.

Similarly, I notice, on Cif, there are several 'but what about teh menz?!!1!!!?'-type comments, on how some poor souls have been called out by women in the street. I'm not going to condone this or make a joke of it (two wrongs not making a right and all that), but let's look at this in terms of numbers - put 20 women in a room and ask how many of them have been verbally harrassed in the street. 19, 20 hands up? Now, put 20 men in a room and ask them the same question. Three? Maybe four or five? This is primarily a women's issue because it primarily affects WOMEN. That's all. No great conspiracy.

Sexist aggression aside, staring and public commentary is rude. Get it? It's just rude. We don't stare at black people because of the colour of their skin or at disabled people because they happen to be in a wheelchair or whatever. So why should 50% of the population 'get over themselves' and accept daily harrassment just because they are in posession of a double XX chromosome?

*sighs*

As others have said, this is not about making somebody feel good, or being complimentary - this is about POWER and intimidation.

There are woooooooorlds between a pleasant and polite compliment from somebody of either sex and boorish, aggressive leering and catcalling. Until men (including the 'nice' men) learn to tell the difference, then I'm afraid that we have a long way to go in terms of defining what are acceptable methods of normal social interaction.

(On a lighter note - I'm shocked that nobody has yet mentioned Eddie Izzard's hilarious routine about groups of dickheads shouting at women in the street - "They gather in groups of about four or five, representing their collective IQ...when they're shouting 'show us your tits!', what they're really saying is 'I'm an arsehole! I'm an arsehole!'" ;))

Chris Thorne // Posted 30 May 2008 at 01:02


I'm another male commenter. And I have, akin to Andi's experience, never once in my entire life made any untoward or unwelcome comments towards women in public places. It is what a gentleman considers one of those things which is simply not done. Ever.

I have, when I have noted that sort of behavior and have been in a position to be able to do something about it, confronted the men responsible. Including the occasional rough physical confrontation. On the occasions when that has been out of the question (I'm not about to fight ten men at once for the sake of chivalry) I have done my best to produce enough distraction to allow the women in question to take their leave of the area.

When it is imperative for me to speak to a woman in public with whom I have had no previous acquaintance, I strive to do so in the same manner in which I would hope to have my own female friends and family treated: with careful respect, and due desexualization of speech. I don't ask random women for dates on the street, nor do I comment on their appearance. The women who are close to me don't like it when strange men do that to them. I assume the same is generally true of most women, and I comport myself accordingly.

Of course, I was raised in the sort of classically patriarchal Christian Caucasian environment which postmodern feminists openly despise, and which you all have now largely managed to do away with by means of public policy. And you don't seem all too keen on the results of your grand experiment, now that you are having to live in the midst of it, if the foregoing comments are any indication. I convey my regrets to one and all of you. There is an old saying: Be careful what you wish for, as you might get it.

As for myself? I am going to continue to act in a gentlemanly way, and (the best efforts of a determinedly gyneocratic State notwithstanding) raise my younger male family members to be proud, independent, self-reliant and polite gentlemen. They are not that way by nature, trust me.

--

Sharon // Posted 30 May 2008 at 02:05

Obviously I've been hassled just for being outside my home. I don't know a woman who hasn't been.

It happened most often when I was at school aged 14 to 17 and was embarrassing, infuriating and occasionally frightening when a van would go by and a man's voice would shout out. As I got older I think I learned to stand tall and not look so easily cowed as when I was younger.
People who do it should be bloody ashamed of themselves.

Grame Carter // Posted 30 May 2008 at 02:21

It is difficult. Women frequently complain that no blokes ever chat them up etc, and then they complain when it happens.
Obviously it shouldn't be intimidating, but if someone asks for your number, they are just showing interest

Shea // Posted 30 May 2008 at 02:49

@ Dave--- I'm sorry but I just don't think men have any idea. You get harassment from a group of drunken women in a city centre, you know it isn't a real threat. Chances are you're stronger and faster than all of them and you don't have the threat of sexual assault or rape hanging over your head.

We face harassment in every sphere, every city, every day of our lives. We modify our behaviour to avoid it. We get blamed for inciting it for having breasts/pretty faces/low cut tops/existing. We are constantly forced to be on our guard. When I see a group of men walking towards me, even in a public space, even in broad daylight, my stomach lurches. I can't help it, I feel my pulse rate quicken and I get in fight or flight mode. You cannot in all honesty tell me you live like that, on edge- the way we are forced to.

I acknowledge men get harassment and it can be horrible for them, but its not even on the same level as what most women have to put up with and it just devalues women's experiences to make the comparison.

Degero // Posted 30 May 2008 at 03:53

The most that ever happens in front of me is someone telling me how hot my girlfriend is. No one really catcalls her when Im around. She gets all pissed sometimes like Im somehow going to magically stop asshats from saying shit to her when Im not there?

Sorry if this is a bit off topic but she just complained to me less than 3 hours ago about how I was gone for a few seconds to go to the bathroom and they said shit but nothing ever happens when Im there. I don't know what she expects me to do even if I was there. Beat them up?

CommonSense // Posted 30 May 2008 at 06:39

You're abunch of spoilt brats bitchin' about how hard it is to be rich.

Hazel // Posted 30 May 2008 at 08:43

*raises hand*
sadly, haven't we all experienced street harassment?

Cockney Hitcher // Posted 30 May 2008 at 10:17

I convey my regrets to one and all of you. There is an old saying: Be careful what you wish for, as you might get it.

Chris, your understanding of feminism is extremely poor if you believe that feminists have ever wished for sexual harrassment.

Sexual harrassment is a clear manifestation of patriarchal attitudes towards women and its continued existence (yes, continued – funnily enough it existed even in the golden age of the ‘classically patriarchal Christian Caucasian environment’, when men were legally allowed to rape their wives) shows how far feminism still has to go in order to create a truly egalitarian society.

They are not that way by nature, trust me.

I'm sorry you have such a low opinion of men. You may be surprised to learn that some men (such as my feminist partner) actually find it easy to respect women.

Soirore // Posted 30 May 2008 at 10:18

Chris - I really resent your implication that feminists are somehow to blame for men harrassing women in the street. It is not something that has just started since the supposed destruction of the patriarchal upbringing you enjoyed. (By the way it's still here).

When I reached my teens my mother warned me that men may act like this in public and told me about her own experiences which were more frightening than any I've experienced. She was flashed at and aggressively propositioned many times in her early teens and she grew up in the delightfully patriarchal 1950s. My grandmothers' generation also had to put up with street harassment but possibly more frequently than we do from the material I've read. Especially during WW2 when supposedly chivalrous gentlemen would think it was their right to have sex with any young woman they wanted while they were on leave.

It is great that you don't harrass women in the street, a respectful man wouldn't, but it would be even nicer if the men threatening us would accept our complaints and leave us alone when we tell to rather than waiting for a man to be offended by it.

John F // Posted 30 May 2008 at 10:20

Have read various articles, but never felt the need to comment until now.

I am a man who considers himself reasonably enlightened - I know that I'm not perfect, but the remaining flaws I'm putting down to social conditioning, and working on ironing out :)

My reason for commenting is because of some of the previous male comments on this page - the ones complaining that women have "got what they wished for", or that they don't know what to do and wish that their partners would stop complaining to them about it, or that women want it both ways.

I can't imagine what it is like to be harrassed because of my gender, and I know that I can't do that much about it. However, I do know that never-ending support nnd reassurance is the only acceptable response when my wife has experienced this - along with confronting it if I happen to be present. I know that changes in the structure of society to make it less male-dominated are not an excuse for men to think with their genitals - chivalry was not just about men holding open doors, it was also about keeping women at home sewing tapestries.

I know that there is a difference between the subtle and pleasant rituals of courtship (that sounds so old fasioned!) and lairy comments about a womans body / copping a feel.

And yes, it does happen to men as well, but any discrimination or harrasment of men is insignificant compared to the ongoing and systematic discrimination and harrasment of women - so stop being such a girl, and learn to live with it....*

And finally, just for you guys - I'm pretty sure that a woman who is not a complete stranger will occasionally appreciate a positive comment about their appearance. But make it a "you're looking well today", or a "that's a nice dress" rather than a "you're looking sexy today" or a "that dress makes your arse look great" eh?


* THIS IS A JOKE - MY USE OF SEXIST LANGUAGE WAS DELIBERATE IN ORDER TO HIGHLIGHT THE RIDICULOUS BEHAVIOUR OF MEN WHEN WOMEN COMPLAIN ABOUT HARRASMENT. Please don't kill me kthnx

Jennifer-Ruth // Posted 30 May 2008 at 10:47

Okay, for the men, I'm gonna clear up a few issues.

So, you say you aren't like the other men - the ones that grope or make lewd comments or are aggressive. You just want to talk/get a date/just be distracted by something you find aesthetically pleasing. Because these are normal, non-aggressive acts and that most men are nice, respectful guys, you wonder what we women are so upset about.

Well, try putting yourself in a woman's shoes. Firstly, try and imagine that your body is easily treated by some as public property and therefore can be commented on by prefect strangers.
Imagine being approached on your lunch break at work and asked if you would like to go for dinner by some guy whilst you queue to buy a sandwich. Imagine being told to "Cheer up, it might never happen!" when you were simply waiting for a bus. Imagine them yelling "Nice cock bulge!" across the street.

Not so bad? Well, let us go further down the line. What if the guy that asked you for dinner then decides to get in your personal space while you queue and touch you? What if the guy who asked you to "Cheer up" starts calling you an "arrogant fucking bitch" when you don't respond? What if the guys that yelled across the street about your cock then start to follow you, shouting that they're "gonna rape you"?

I know what you're thinking - it's hardly ever gonna esculate to that level, right? Well, all it takes is for it to happen ONCE - some guy gropes you, becomes sexually aggressive, threatens you. Now, how are you gonna react to other cat-calls, unwanted approaches or groups of rowdy men? Are you going to wait to see if it is one of the "nice" men? Or are you going to get away from the situation before it turns nasty? (and trust me, *every* woman has experienced the situation where it turns nasty)

You also have to remember that women are raised in an environment where we are *constantly* told to watch out for strange men, to make sure we don't walk alone at night and to protect ourselves from rape. And if we *don't* do these things and something bad does happen, well, often the blame is turned onto us. We shouldn't have been in that dark alley/talked to that man/worn that low-cut top!

If you lived being constantly told to be afraid of sexual assualt/rape and that you had responsibility to prevent it...if you had experienced sexually threatening behaviour in the past...how would *you* react to be approached by a complete stranger getting all up in your personal space and asking you out on a date? Seriously, think about it.

So, you probably feel a bit trapped - in an environment like this how can you approach a woman without appearing like one of those arseholes? The unfortunate truth is that you can probably never be sure if you will be accepted kindly or not - it depends on the woman's own personal experiences. I would suggest that you keep it off the streets though. Put yourself in *her* shoes.

But there IS a way to change this. That friend that you have that thought it was funny to grab a stranger's boobs in the club? Tell him that it is not appropriate and not funny. The time you saw those guys yell horrible things out the window of their car to your female friends - yell back and tell them to fuck off. When you hear someone say, "Well, she was walking home on her own late at night, that is practically asking for it." tell them that that is victim-blaming and is cruel and unfair. Why? Your silence indicates APPROVAL - to both the men and the women affected by it.

Stand up to these men.

Rose // Posted 30 May 2008 at 10:53

All the time. I hate it. I never feel flattered, only threatened and embarrassed.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 30 May 2008 at 11:04

I feel that this thread is in danger of getting diverted. I don't think we need comments from men along the lines of "we are just chatting you up" - Please read the stories above. All of them. Then read them again.

I would ask you to consider that we are talking about things on a different scale here, it is the context in which the harassment occurs that makes male to female harassment important for us.

Consider the following:
- Have you ever changed your route to avoid harassment?
- Do you tense up when you pass a line of stationary traffic?
- Have you ever feared being raped, attacked or killed as a result of the harassment you suffered?
- Have you ever been followed along the street by a lone woman, and feared for your safety?
- Have you ever received emails telling you that you must be afraid, very afraid of walking alone and you must take precautions at every opportunity to prevent yourself becoming a victim?
- Do you cross the street to avoid passing a lone man as you walk home?
- Have you REGULARLY been shouted at by women in cars when you walk past them?
- Has this been going on regularly all your life since you were 12 or 13?
- Have lone women ever tried to intimidate you and exert their power over you by muttering "Slut" or "Bitch" to you as they pass you?
- Have you frequently experienced female strangers commenting on your physical appearance in the street?
- As a young boy, did you regularly experience street harassment aimed at you by older women?

I am not saying all women have experienced all of the above but that a lot of us have. We are not talking about one or two occassions but in many cases regularly over the course of our lives, from a young age.

If you are a man who respects women, then good for you. Please let us share our stories without being diverted down other conversations.

Everyone else, please continue to share your stories of street harassment, that is what the thread is for.

palau // Posted 30 May 2008 at 11:16

We've all been harassed, yes - but what are we going to do about it?

Well, we could start by consistently backing up other women and girls when we see it happening. Hands up those who've stood by, mute and embarassed, while another female has been harassed - just grateful it's her, not you?

And how many victims of harassment don't make a fuss, because they are conditioned by our culture to feel it's somehow their fault?

I say shout out, make a noise and a fuss. Assault is illegal. You'd be surprised how many other women will back you up if you only have the gumption; me for a start.

I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman but I do have the voice of a fishwife and a nice line in heavy, swinging handbags.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 30 May 2008 at 11:26

My last comment might have come across a bit grumpy. I'm just frustrated about having to go over the same old ground over and and over again. But perhaps the other members of the FOI team moderating this thread think its useful to air some of these comments in order to address those points, which is a valid point of view, so apologies if I have come across as a bit control-freaky! I just hope we can have a more productive discussion than the one over at CiF which sparked this whole discussion in the first place! :)

Laura // Posted 30 May 2008 at 12:04

I agree with Catherine's first comment - this thread is for those of us who have experienced street harassment to speak out, share our experiences and dispell the myths about street harassment in the process. If certain people can read all these comments, along with Catherine's points above, and still not get it, then I think they're a bit of a lost cause.

This thread has been fantastic so far - and kudos to those who have engaged those who don't get it - but we won't be letting it decend into a frustrating, unproductive CiF type debate. Insightful comments are of course welcome, but nothing that fits into the three points I made in the original post.

Lindsey // Posted 30 May 2008 at 12:04

I forgot my most tragicomic incident!

I was 15 and going to the newsagent to buy my mum a paper when 2 little girls on crutches started following me. One of them, I guess about 8 years old, was commenting on my clothes and grew more and more angry as I ignored her. It climaxed with her screaming 'why won't you answer me you f*cking four eyed c*nt' as I ignored her and her friend laughed at her for being so cross.

Why do people think that by shouting at you in the street you owe them a response?

Laura // Posted 30 May 2008 at 12:09

Comments have been reopened on Cath's original CiF piece if anyone can stomach it...

John F // Posted 30 May 2008 at 12:09

Catherine - don't think your comment was grumpy at all - this didn't need to become another debate on the issues surrounding harrasment.

The only reason I posted is for the same reasons that I would confront people who made that comment / wolf-whistled etc. They need to know that it is unnacceptable to think and behave like that - and that finding it unnacceptable is not 'merely' a feminist or female viewpoint.

Sorry for derailing - I'll go away now :)

Sabre // Posted 30 May 2008 at 12:37

Looking at some of the comments from men here and also having had conversations with male friends it seems to me that some men are very confused about what is and isn't acceptable regarding street harassment.

Commenting on a woman's appearance in a flattering way is fine. A few weeks ago a man came up to me and said 'you've got the most beautiful smile I've seen all day'. It was a bit weird but OK, and it made me feel good. If that man had said to me 'you've got the most beautiful tits I've seen all day', that would be very bad, and I would have felt angry and uncomfortable. The difference is that his comment was relfective of my personality/general demeanour, not any of my (sexual) body parts.

Men: As a rule it's OK to make pleasant flattering comments but steer clear of sexual comments, especially accompanied by leering/body gestures. Sexual comments from a stranger tend to be threatening for women. While it's true that some women will not mind, or might like it, most/many will hate it, so if you're at all unsure, just don't do it! Most of the time a nice smile (with eye contact, not boob-eye contact or similar) will do a better job of flattery than a comment anyway.

Women like to be valued as people, not objects, so make sure your actions and comments reflect that!

Anna // Posted 30 May 2008 at 13:49

My most recent examples are of being groped in public by strange men, apparently for the sin of being in public. I still feel angry and humiliated whenever I think about it.

The first one I yelled at, but he just kept walking, cuz heaven knows he had no idea why some woman was yelling at him in the middle of the street.

The second one was right in front of a store clerk, who just blinked at me and ignored it.

People tell me that if that ever happened to them, they'd hit the guy. Yeah, cuz I want to give someone who already thinks I'm not a person an excuse to seriously hurt me.

Qubit // Posted 30 May 2008 at 13:53

I don't really speak for the site especially being new myself but everyone is welcome to comment, men and women provided the comments are constructive. John F, I so far have found your comments constructive they haven't denied women's experiences, trivialized them or been victim blaming. When most men who reply claim this is no big deal, just a joke, complimentary , doesn't happen or are victim blaming I begin to lose some faith in them so thank you for reminding me they are (hopefully) the vocal minority.

Interestingly my boyfriend said he often used to have his bottom pinched in bars however this was always by other guys. I haven't asked what he thought about it but he didn't feel disgusted in himself for it, the way I do when it happens to me.

Anna // Posted 30 May 2008 at 14:09

"Imagine being told to "Cheer up, it might never happen!" when you were simply waiting for a bus."

Oh dear god I hate that more than almost anything else. I used to get it continually off men - generally the older, fatter kind - when I worked on the tills in Morrisons and never quite had the courage to reply "Actually I'm feeling like shit because I got raped, so it's already fucking happened".. but wish I had.

Cara // Posted 30 May 2008 at 15:01

Lindsey - yeah, I went to uni in Liverpool and a couple of times little kids shouted at me in the street. What is that?!

John F, I found your comments fine - I think Catherine's comment was aimed at the other guys?

palau - I like your point that women should be supportive of each other.
It does happen; I was once accosted by a guy on a night bus, sat next to me despite there being plenty of empty seats, drunkenly rambled - could barely make out what he was saying he was so drunk - I asked him to repeat himself (ah, the female impulse not to be rude) several times and then said I was tired and not up for chatting, he rambled on at which point another woman told him to leave me alone. :-)
Less helpfully, a "chivalrous" guy then offered to walk me home...hmmm not falling for that one, he creeped me out more to be honest, the drunk guy was really just being a drunken idiot and probably harmless...but the old "I'll walk you home, it's not safe with all those men around" often turns into Mr "Knight in shining armour" being one of those men.

Rachel // Posted 30 May 2008 at 15:26

Another hand up here.
Also, another one who can't stand being told to "smile". My facial expressions are my own business - it is not up to random street pervs to dictate and control what my face is up to.
Very recently, I've had one charmer try to chat me up in a hospital waiting room - he really didn't seem to get the message when I ignored him repeatedly. I've also been barged off a pavement and had obscenities (I think) mouthed at me.
Previously, I've been flashed at, agressively chatted up in bars and called a bitch/slag/whatever when I decline, yelled at out of car windows, rubbed up against on the Tube and repeatedly told to bloody smile. The worst time was when this man kept following me up a street, demanding to know who I was and where I was going, and then standing way too close to me at the pedestrian crossing, asking in a weird voice "do you like sex?". I legged it into a pub.

Jennifer-Ruth // Posted 30 May 2008 at 15:38

This has been a very powerful post. Sexual harrassement effects everyone. But as someone said earlier, what are we gonna do about it?

HollaBackUK anyone?

http://hollabackboston.blogspot.com/

http://www.hollabackchitown.blogspot.com/

http://hollabackaustralia.blogspot.com/

http://hollabacknyc.blogspot.com/

shatterboxx // Posted 30 May 2008 at 15:59

Both hands raised to the sky here... Once I was walking to my then-boyfriend's house. I passed three guys on the street all of whom made comments like 'I would' and called me a slut as well as barging into me deliberately as I walked past. I told my boyfriend about it, he expressed sympathy but definitely didn't understand why I was so upset about it. I guess it's just that 'well, shit happens so get used to it' attitude... which really pisses me off by the way. Men don't HAVE to behave that way and I certainly know men who would never dream of doing something like that. Anyway, that's just one incident in MANY. I swear we could write a book with all of these incidents. Maybe we should. I'd be happy to carry copies round in my bag to smack upside the head of those cheer-up-luvs I seem to meet so often...

John F // Posted 30 May 2008 at 16:07

"Interestingly my boyfriend said he often used to have his bottom pinched in bars however this was always by other guys. I haven't asked what he thought about it but he didn't feel disgusted in himself for it, the way I do when it happens to me."

That's because us right-on enlightened men are so determined not to be homophobic that we shrug it off. Its tough being decent person when you happen to be a middle-class white straight male :)

Steph Jones // Posted 30 May 2008 at 16:15

Jennifer-Ruth: yes to a HollabackUK!

Shara // Posted 30 May 2008 at 16:48

It's normal and commonplace no matter what continent you happen to be on...

...but what's really bad is balking when someone makes a pass at your ~obviously~ young 12-year old charge....Just because she has a school girl style skirt on.

Laura // Posted 30 May 2008 at 17:44

Sabre said "Men: As a rule it's OK to make pleasant flattering comments ..."

While I personally might not mind this in some situations, I would actually suggest not making any kind of comment to total strangers in the street. How many women would actually go up to a man and compliment him on his appearance or smile? I think the fact that it's seen as OK for men to do it to women is still a reflection of the concept of woman as public property, there to be admired or mocked according to her appearance, and while this kind of comment is not offensive as such, some would still consider it an invasion of privacy: it is based on the assumption that men have the right to approach women.

How's about we all just smile and say hello to each other as a sign of friendly respect for another human being, without any gender or appearance stuff getting in the way?!

Smart Blonde // Posted 30 May 2008 at 17:46

HollaBackUK sounds like a great place to start!

Rachel // Posted 30 May 2008 at 18:26

*hand up* nothing unusual (a depressing statement in itself), in particular men (and the rare woman) seem to feel that they're allowed to comment on my size when I pass them (I'm a size 18, not that huge...). Also, once a man yelled something from his car at me then threw an apple at me, very bizarre!

I also wanted to second what Laura said. I don't really take it as a commpliment if a strange man compliments my appearance in the street. It would just remind me that I'm constantly being appraised by people who know nothing about me on the basis of my appearance. Hardly a compliment.

Jack Leland // Posted 31 May 2008 at 00:02

Hmm. Just in reply to Laura Woodhouse, not enough women go up to men and say hello or offer flattering comments. Obviously many of the assaults or insults described here are terrible, but in general men justify their need to approach women by pointing out that someone has to approach the other and women tend not to make first moves. And, yes, many men meet nice, willing women through these methods (random chatting up on the street, not assault and insults), and it's a numbers game.

Ariane // Posted 31 May 2008 at 03:52

Wow, what's with the "smile" and "cheer up" thing? I've probably heard it a couple of times in my life, and always thought of it as a fairly random, surreal, maybe even kind, comment, rather than harassment. But I can see how it would be really bad if it happened constantly. I live in Aus, maybe it's unique to the UK?

lauredhel // Posted 31 May 2008 at 05:13

There is a Don't Look Don't Touch blog in the UK. Maybe you could work together?

Anna // Posted 31 May 2008 at 08:42

I don't mind 'are you okay' or the like, it's the 'cheer up love/darling/babe, it'll never happen/you've got a face like a slapped arse/you look like I was about to bite you (though I will if you ask nicely).

shatterboxx // Posted 31 May 2008 at 10:06

Ariane, yes it is harassment. No one's ever assumed that I'm unhappy for a good reason... It's just them wanting me to look happy so they can feel better about being selfish. So they don't have to think that maybe making comments about a woman's appearance is intrusive no matter what they are.

Ariane // Posted 31 May 2008 at 15:15

Yes, I wasn't doubting it was harassment, the sheer numbers of people reporting it make it clear it has nothing to do with genuine concern. Probably indicates I misinterpreted it when it happened to me too. It's just... unexpected? Not a big part of the harassment I see.

But yeah, constantly and flippantly being told to cheer up or smile or whatever is essentially someone else taking ownership of your moods and emotions. Clearly uncool. Isn't it nice to know their is a whole universe of diversity in the way people are crappy to each other?

Little Jo // Posted 31 May 2008 at 15:39

It's worse if you run. I don't know why but almost all men feel obliged to comment on your secondary sexual characteristics if you break into a run. I've been running and ignoring the unwelcome nonsense for years. I do it for enjoyment6 and cardiovascular fitness. Men seem to think I do it for their entertainment and to improve my appearance (to them). I've even been followed for a mile or two by a police car, wheel spinning, leering, switching lights and sirens on and off to show off. I remain completely aloof. Treat them as though they invisible and inaudible. They eventually lose interest. If we all do it collectively with conviction the practice of harrassment will similarly fizzle out.

Sarah // Posted 31 May 2008 at 20:02

When I read this, I thought back over every time I've been harrassed and/or groped, and tried to remember a time I'd said/done anything remotely sensible about it. I couldn't think of one. I like to avoid conflict.

But I was inspired by this post, and so when on Saturday a random man in a club grabbed my breast I turned around and said something like "that's mine, what on earth do you think you're doing?" to which I got a response something to the tune of "frigid bitch, just having a laugh". Realising I was not going to get a sensible response, I told him to grow up, get a life, and stop committing sexual assaults on people. His response? Poured his pint over my head.

I couldn't quite believe it.

Cara // Posted 31 May 2008 at 20:41

Laura - "How's about we all just smile and say hello to each other as a sign of friendly respect for another human being, without any gender or appearance stuff getting in the way?!" Completely agree. It would be nice if we had communities. I just endured a bus journey with the most antisocial teenage brats I have ever seen. Then again, in a city it is always going to be a bit anonymous as you never know whether the person you say hello to might be a total weirdo.
Jack, I also agree that women should approach men - but I think many don't feel able to because of the harrassment we suffer. I wouldn't do it as I would be convinced the reaction would be rejection - either "Ugh you loose slut throwing yourself at me" or some humiliating comment about my appearance. Yes I know men have to cope with rejection, but women generally don't react in either of those ways. I guess the man's role is being seen as active and pursuing women, and it's hard to change social conditioning.

Mulierb // Posted 31 May 2008 at 20:52

Sarah, that's truly awful. What a total asshole. I think if I had have been there with you I would have lost it and attacked him (and i know that's not a cool response either). My sympathies.

Jack Leland // Posted 31 May 2008 at 22:04

Cara,

I understand your point and I am sure that happens (though usually men do not reject advances from women by calling them sluts or insulting their appearance; usually we are happy that a woman has come up to us to talk and curious to see what's what even if she doesn't seem to be our type at first glance), but I do have to say that there are a lot of men who wouldn't hve a problem with -- and I really don't mean to be provocative -- being harrassed by women the way many women on this thread have complained about being harrassed by men. They would, again, say it's a numbers game and be grateful for the increased interest, even if it meant more crazed, obnoxious female stalkers. I have heard this from other men so many times it is not funny.

Redheadinred // Posted 31 May 2008 at 22:25

I forgot - someone once stopped me with a clipboard in his hand, looking like he was doing some kind of charity. Our exchange went like this:

Him: where are you going?
Me: Not telling you.
Him: On your way to see your boyfriend?
Me: haha.
Him: How many boyfriends do you have? You're very good-looking.
Me: Goodbye.

This is at least more fortunate than a friend of mine who had a similar experience, only she decided to be friendly. He was about 43, and she got talking to him, and revealed her age (then 16) at which he said 'Legal, then' and grabbed her arm and tried to haul her into his car. She yelled her head off, and no one came to her assistance, and eventually she managed to break free and run off. I discovered later that she had been raped before, but only because of a bastard I knew who found it hillarious.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 31 May 2008 at 23:32

Sarah - that's terrible, I am really shocked. I hope you are ok and had people with you to help you out! You poor thing. :-(

Nancy Decker // Posted 01 June 2008 at 04:31

I am incapable of riding my bike to work without getting cat called i have been wearing awful jeans and a baggy t-shirt and i still get cat called its ridiculous

Gemma // Posted 01 June 2008 at 11:45

Just remembered- I've worked in and around building and construction since my teens, and every company I've been with has a policy against harassment. If builders harass you, look at the company they are working for and then write to them, giving details. If the company are reputable, the harassment should be dealt with and the harassers formally disciplined. I know that it can happen and often does.
I've also told off guys I work with for whistling etc. I don't like it myself and don't tolerate it being done to others.

Sarah // Posted 01 June 2008 at 13:22

Thanks for the support! My friend and I just left, she bought me cheese and chips on the way home, where a nice dutch man told me a joke about english men!

I was just wondering, does anyone have a failsafe, or even a "usually-works" line they use in these situations? One that avoids pints... :)

Sarah

Steph Jones // Posted 01 June 2008 at 15:47

Sarah: what a shocking experience.

I suddenly remembered this FWord blog from back in January too:
http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2008/01/hollaback_girls

I did notice that the www.hollaback.org.uk domain appears to be available?

There was a guy sitting diagonally opposite me on the train yesterday (e.g. seats with table diagonally opp), and I noticed that he kept staring at me, and his hands were suggestively moving in his groin area. A few times I looked, and looked straight at him, and he suddenly flinched and started staring out of the window. It was so bloody blatent!

Anne Onne // Posted 01 June 2008 at 17:35

Sarah, that's awful. So are a lot of the stories here, especially Amity's.

I don't really know what you could do. Each situation is different, and although it is important to try and shame harassers or get a bit of dignity back, it is also important, first and foremost to look after yourself. If the situation feels threatening, do what you can to get yourself out of it and get help.

I don't know what kind of snappy comeback to recommend.I'll be interested to see what others come up with.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 01 June 2008 at 18:14

I think, if I remember correctly, the Hollaback UK site was launched with a lot of publicity and was taken down soon afterwards basically because the owners received so much hate mail for doing it. :-/

Sorry if I've mis-remembered that.

Cath Elliott // Posted 02 June 2008 at 00:20

Sarah - My daughter had a similar experience recently in a club where a guy came up to her and shoved his hand between her legs. She reacted by yelling in his face; the bouncers came over to see what the fuss was about and kicked him out when she explained what had happened.

He was still hanging around outside when she left, but luckily she was with a large group of friends and so he didn't dare try and approach her again.

Personally I think the police should have been called, as it was clearly a sexual assault.

I think Hollaback would be a great idea.

taimatsu // Posted 02 June 2008 at 01:42

I don't get catcalled or harassed much these days, for some reason (I don't get out much, maybe that's it) but I've been groped on the street a couple of times, once when I was 14 or 15, which was really distressing. And it's not like I looked all that grown-up, either. The second such incident was when I was about 19, and I got my wallet nicked in the process as well. Hate it, all of it.

Laura // Posted 02 June 2008 at 09:52

Jack -

Have you even read the rest of the fucking thread? This IS NOT about approaching people because you're interested in getting to know them - it's HARASSMENT, it's UPSETTING, and it can be fucking scary and abusive.

"I do have to say that there are a lot of men who wouldn't hve a problem with -- and I really don't mean to be provocative -- being harrassed by women the way many women on this thread have complained about being harrassed by men."

Again - did you read Catherine's post? Most men wouldn't have a problem with it because they haven't grown up with the constant fear of rape, haven't been repeatedly told not to walk alone at night, to avoid strangers etc etc. Whether the men intend it or not, this kind of behaviour very often triggers off a "shit what if he attacks/rapes/assaults me" line of thought. Men don't see a group of women in the street and cross the road due to fear. I do it every fucking week.

This kind of harassment actually forces us to modify our behaviour - I know there's at least a few comments above where women mention taking different routes to work or having to pay for a taxi due to fear or just wanting to get somewhere in peace - and that's fucking oppressive.

Anna // Posted 02 June 2008 at 10:15

Speaking for myself when on my way home from parties I now take the route through the back alleys and up the woods - deserted, very, very dark, and fucking terrifying - as opposed to walking past the pubs and clubs, because the level of harassment I get on a nightly basis is disgusting. I've had men say absolutely everything, I've had a group of drunken middle age men follow me home saying they are going to rape me, I've had men reach out and grab me as I walk past. All the time, every time I walk past. None of these incidents were once-offs, or even twice-offs.

So instead I now walk home through what would classically be considered a much unsafer route - because I know that if I do get attacked and raped when I walk home that way then at least it will be the classic 'stranger rape' and I've got what, a 20% better chance of conviction?

It is desperately sad that I have to think like this, but I honestly don't know a woman who doesn't in some degree. And I do have to think like this, because when I did get raped the police refused to believe me on the grounds I was a) seen talking to the men before and b) intoxicated, because of the way society drills it into your head that it is your fault [silly female, what WAS she doing drunk, alone and out of the kitchen], because of the abysmally low conviction rate, because, above all, men think it's okay to behave like this because that is how they are told it is okay to behave.

shatterboxx // Posted 02 June 2008 at 11:41

I had a chat with a friend about street harassment and the threat of assault, and she said something that made me think 'shit, we have a problem here...' She said that if she were attacked while walking home alone after dark, she would automatically feel guilty and blame herself for not being 'safe' enough. I pointed out that women can get attacked at any time of day and also in crowded places, but this didn't seem to change her mind. Looking at this subject closely has made me confused and slightly scared at the insanity of blaming the victim in these situations..

Also, has anyone else noticed the trend in the CiF comments? (and possibly comments towards this subject in general). Basically, what the anti-feminists are saying is 'I don't have a problem with men complimenting me blah blah you're all wrong blah blah... Oh, but, then again... It IS wrong to attack and intimidate women in this way.' Does it NOT OCCUR to any of them that that's EXACTLY the same argument as we're putting across? We're not talking about harmless compliments, we're talking about harassment!

Toni // Posted 02 June 2008 at 12:29

Yep.
I have to walk past a long line of traffic on my way home from work, and everytime I dread it. I used to enjoy running but have stopped due to being shouted at and humiliated.
Also had many embarrassing and inapproproate comments passed about the size of my chest. The first one I remember took place in my local swimming baths when I was about 11 and some guy shouted 'you've got no tits love'. I was mortified and I'm still self concious to this day :/ I hate that I've let them have an effect on me.

Anne Onne // Posted 02 June 2008 at 14:20

Shatterboxx, it's because people are trained first to empathise with the men, and protect their interests. That's why whenever there's a discussion about inappropriate male sexual behaviour (harassment, rape), people feel the need to first protect the interests of men who are 'innocently' minding their own business, even though it should be clear we're not after men who are not threatening or harassing or raping. But the rape apologist atmosphere lingers, and even in feminist discussion, we get repeatedly derailed by men insisting they just want to be polite, women going on about how they like compliments, and you shouldn't deny them that, and feminists having to endlessly affirm they don't believe all sex is rape, or that they don't hate men. We shouldn't have to remind people what harassment or rape are every two minutes, and people should not spend half their time railing against the imagined but nonexistant persecution of innocent men. We won't get anywhere whilst any discussion about crimes against women are turned around to be about protecting men from false allegations!

I feel quite sad that so many women seem to feel a need for comments from strangers. It's more than them not minding a neutral innocent comment, the patriarchy has encouraged some women to almost crave comments from strangers, to the point where they isist on comments on their appearance, and feel insulted when they don't get harassed. I really wish society could move past the need to appraise women you don't know( and do know) on appearance.

Victoria // Posted 02 June 2008 at 15:18

What sort of society are we living in if we have men/boys commenting on an 11-year-old girl having "no tits"? That's ridiculous. I'm sorry to hear that comments like that have affected Toni to this day. It seems that women and girls can't win either way because if an 11-year-old girl HAS started to develop then that seems to unwittingly provoke comments as well. For fuck's sake!

habladora // Posted 02 June 2008 at 20:27

Here to raise my hand - lots of times over. Not too long ago, two guys drove by in a truck while I was pushing my grocery cart to my car. One leaned out the window and yelled something personal - and graphic- about what he though of my body before they sped off.

You guys, I was with my mother-in-law.

Really, I don't know exactly why, but it was so humiliating.

moochy // Posted 03 June 2008 at 00:35

Frequently. It started when I was 11.

lou // Posted 03 June 2008 at 15:49

Again - who hasn't? Constantly from the age of about 13, ranging from whistling, hissing and tounge clicking, through to actual groping. To the extent that I think I now filter out most of the low level stuff.

I don't have a problem with men coming and telling me politely, and unaggresively, that they like me, and I always try to be polite in return.

However I do though, have problems with unsolicited groping, and blokes shouting out comments. Particulalrly since I've found that they tend to get quite aggresive if you respond negatively. This type of behaviour is not being done because the men concerned are actually interested in me - what woman actually shouts back "thank you for that lovely comment about my breasts, yes I'd love to get in your car" - its being done because they think its funny, or get a kick out of, intimidating me.

Mia // Posted 03 June 2008 at 15:56

Countless times... of all scales from the irritating, entitled 'smile, love!' to really disgusting things.

Jack Leland // Posted 03 June 2008 at 19:21

Laura,

I did read the thread and I did not mean to be provocative (or apologize for rape), but I do want to take issue with some of your replies.

I understand the difference between assaults/insults and boldness, but many women who have been harrassed or who fear it think ahead and wrongly assume a bold man is going to insult or assault them. Many men take the risk of being misunderstood as potential harrassers anyway because for them it is a numbers game and the more women to approach, the more opportunity to have to meet one who responds positively. So some of the perceived harrassment that upsets women is caused by men who are not actual harrassers who feel they are perfectly justified in being misunderstood, because their reasoning is that someone has to approach someone and they haven't actually done anything wrong. I understand that you are talking about the bad men (e.g., rapists), but many of the good men know full well that they appear to be bad men to some women when they are going about their business, and have no interest in changing their behavior.

Obviously you are right that most men have not been raped by women, and so do not fear being raped by women. But men have other fears and take precautions as well. A man who is out at night in a bad neighborhood could be mugged, or a guy at the wrong sort of bar could be attacked for any number of trivial reasons, etc.. It is not as if men take no precautions and ignore the risk of violence from other men.

As for men not crossing the street when they see a group of women, while that obviously doesn't usually suggest to men that violence might happen, unprovoked ridicule might happen. Some women feel free to comment on some men they see when they walk by. A guy might not want to be ridiculed by a group of passing women, as that isn't very pleasant. I have known shy men who are socially inept for precisely that reason, the fear of public ridicule by groups of women. And the fear stems from having been treated that way, say, in grade school.

The point is that men modify their behavior, too, and internalize the risks of violence from other men (or mistreatment from women), too, and even though they don't fear being raped by women, they say they would be willing to put up with the potential of having to modify their behavior more and a greater potential of violence from some women if it meant an increased chance or more opportunities to meet women overall. Their attitude is just that it's a numbers game, and the more the merrier, even if some of the women exhibit behavior that contributes to an oppressive atmosphere.

I didn't say I endorsed the view, but the men who hold it think they are practical and optimistic.

Laura // Posted 03 June 2008 at 19:44

Jack,

"Many men take the risk of being misunderstood as potential harrassers anyway because for them it is a numbers game and the more women to approach, the more opportunity to have to meet one who responds positively. So some of the perceived harrassment that upsets women is caused by men who are not actual harrassers who feel they are perfectly justified in being misunderstood, because their reasoning is that someone has to approach someone and they haven't actually done anything wrong."

Whether they believe it or not, they ARE harassers, because the women they approach feel harassed. As I said in the original post, harassment is not something that can be defined by those who have not experienced it, let alone those who engage in it. You're right, some men do feel the have the right to approach women in the street, even if that is just to get to know them (though I must say I don't know anyone who does this or has been on the receiving end), but that is still an invasion of privacy and it is still based on the assumption that women walking around minding their own business in public spaces are actually there for men.

Jack Leland // Posted 03 June 2008 at 20:00

Laura,

I do not mean to be impolite (and feel free to correct me if I have mischaracterized your views), but you seem to be saying that if a man says something that most women would not find offensive, but the particular woman he says it to feels harrassed, it is harrassment. The problem with that is there is no way to know whether the particular women you are approaching will feel harrassed if the behavior you are engaging in is generally socially acceptable to women. It seems a bit overbroad to call men harrassers for saying polite things to women in the street, thereby actually lumping them in with rapists and men who commit assault or insult women or say crude things to them.

I understand how this is not a problem for you from your perspective, because you simply don't think men have a right to approach women in public. But anyone has the freedom to approach anyone in public. It is simply not an invasion of privacy to say "Hello. How are you today?" And then men who do this (and there are many) do not assume that women in public are sex objects that "there for them," they are simply trying to meet women.

It seems that if your rule were, say, the law, men would not be allowed to speak in public unless spoken to and would not be allowed to travel in large groups without female accompaniment.

Laura // Posted 03 June 2008 at 20:15

No, I don't think men should approach women in the street. Say hello, fine, but the street is not generally an accepted place for meeting potential mates. Yes, sometimes you might get into a conversation with someone on the street, and end up going for a date or something, but I really don't think it is socially acceptable to try and chat someone up who's just walking to the shops or to work.

In a bar or club - fine, that's normal and not a problem as long as the guy leaves the woman alone if she asks him to or is clearly not interested - if nothing else, they're not trying to get somewhere as they are in the street. But part of the point of this thread was to show men that making comments about or at women on the street is part of a wider problem, which negatively impacts on our lives, and if they (and you, seeing as you seem so keen to defend men who approach women on the street) really respect women, they won't risk making us feel threatened by doing so.

Jack Leland // Posted 03 June 2008 at 20:39

Laura,

I think we agree more than is apparent. Obviously, most people -- male or female -- don't want to be chatted up randomly on their way to work. But people on their way to work are usually dressed for the part and part of a group of others doing the same, e.g., a crowd exiting a train station. There are plenty of situations other than bars or clubs where people are on their free time, e.g., sitting at a cafe on the weekend, in the park at lunch, in the supermarket, etc., and dating coaches who advise both men and women encourage them to chat up people in these kinds of situations. That is a far cry from catcalling. It's just what older single people do to try to meet people, and men who do it aren't any closer to rapists than women who do it. Maybe if you were 35 and single, you'd be more sympathetic!

Obviously, I agree with you in theory and agree that using strong language is preferable and laudable (men do not have the right to x; if men respect women they will modify their behavior in ways xyz), but dating coaches would disagree that meeting people in public is wrong; their advice is that it's the best way to meet people, and if one agreed with you categorically, it would be paralyzing to his social life and foreclose the possibility of a man randomly saying hello and having something respectful and nice to say to her.

Laura // Posted 03 June 2008 at 21:29

Well let's just say that the advice of those dating experts certainly wouldn't work on me! The only times I've been approached in such a manner have been by creeps, one of whom proceeded to follow me around the park after I rebuffed his offer of a cup of coffee, the other followed and harassed me for a week or so. So unfortunately my warning bells would be ringing if anyone approached me in that way.

Jack Leland // Posted 03 June 2008 at 21:41

Laura,

Ha! I didn't write dating experts. I wrote "dating coaches". I make no guarantees on the expertise of dating coaches.

But the next time I see you in a park, I will be sure not to compliment you on your wonderful contributions to this blog. Wouldn't want to offend! ;)

Anne Onne // Posted 03 June 2008 at 22:13

Jack, there are plenty of places where people deliberately meet to be sociable, or to find a partner, or to meet potential friends. Personally, I'd think it much better to start a hobby or join a class or community of some sort, and meet new people and get to know them in an environment where they feel comfortable and open to meeting new people. No matter how desperate you are, there can't be such a dearth of places where people meet to socialise that you must feel compelled to approach people who are minding their business and not noticing you on the streets.

And I second Laura- though I theoretically agree that it is possible to be approached in a non-sleazy manner, I have yet to experience it!

Jack Leland // Posted 03 June 2008 at 22:38

Is it much better to find a hobby class and so forth? Sure. And dating coaches say that, too. But my point isn't that people are so desperate they just have to bother every person they see on the street.

My point is that many men simply see meeting women as a numbers game and use every means available (not because they are desperate), whether that involves classes, bars, clubs, or approaching women on the street. The mere fact that a man is doing the same thing on the street does not convert it into harassment, and a suprising number of people are responsive to it; in fact, dating coaches advise women to do these things to men while they are minding their business at the grocery store, etc. It's not a big deal.

The big deal is when the approach itself is sleazy. You'll get no argument from me against the proposition that "sleazy men suck" or "men shouldn't be sleazy". I can't think of anyone who would defend the normative value of sleaziness.

Jack Leland // Posted 03 June 2008 at 22:47

Is it much better to find a hobby class and so forth? Sure. And dating coaches say that, too. But my point isn't that people are so desperate they just have to bother every person they see on the street.

My point is that many men simply see meeting women as a numbers game and use every means available (not because they are desperate), whether that involves classes, bars, clubs, or approaching women on the street. The mere fact that a man is doing the same thing on the street does not convert it into harassment, and a suprising number of people are responsive to it; in fact, dating coaches advise women to do these things to men while they are minding their business at the grocery store, etc. It's not a big deal.

The big deal is when the approach itself is sleazy. You'll get no argument from me against the proposition that "sleazy men suck" or "men shouldn't be sleazy". I can't think of anyone who would defend the normative value of sleaziness.

Qubit // Posted 03 June 2008 at 23:45

A while ago I was walking home in the late evening, it was dark and the area I was in was very quiet. A guy, who I may have seen once before but I don't remember approached me and asked me out (very politely). I got myself out of the situation by excusing myself and saying people were waiting for me and were worried about me.

In no way was his behaviour threatening however the fact there was nobody else around, it was dark, he was a lot bigger and stronger than me and I didn't know him made it threatening. He may have been a lovely guy but I doubt many women would have responded positively.

The thing is I wouldn't class that as harassment as while in the situation I had to be cautious when away from it I am prepared to give the guy the benefit of the doubt.

None of the behaviour people have listed here is a way to chat up women or even meant as a compliment. It is to get pleasure from making them uncomfortable, scaring them or startling them. Or are you seriously suggesting grabbing a women's breasts randomly or shouting about how you will rape them is a chat up line?

Approaching a person is always a difficult issue and the reaction will often depend on past experience. However I would say a genuine hello and a compliment is unlike to receive a strongly negative reaction especially if you are prepared to accept an 'I am sorry I am busy' as an excuse to move on. Unfortunately experiences with a lot of bastards and an acknowledgement that if the guy does try something there is probably very little you can do makes most women cautious.

shatterboxx // Posted 03 June 2008 at 23:49

Jack, I think it's different approaching someone on the street than in a social area such as a club of some kind. People on the street aren't looking for people to talk to them (unless they're holding a clipboard). I know I certainly don't want anybody I don't know approaching me if I'm walking along alone, minding my own business. I have met men who did not harass me in public spaces before, and once I did actually go for a drink with someone I had met in this way. But I wouldn't recommend it as a way to get dates! I ended up feeling uncomfortable, as the guy turned out to be arrogant and pushy. The street just isn't the place to meet people. Also, I'm not sure I like the idea of dating for men being a 'numbers game'. It sounds a bit depressing!

CassandraSays // Posted 04 June 2008 at 01:58

Sarah - I've had that exact same thing happen to me (guy grabbed my boobs in a club, I told him to knock it off, he did it again and I pushed him away, he poured his drink over my head). Not fun at all. I REALLY wanted to knee him in the nuts but he was a foot taller than me and I was afraid he might actually hurt me.

He was also about twice my age.

So yeah, add me to the list. A couple of weekends ago I was harassed three separate times, two of them by groups of men while walking about 8 blocks in San Francisco. I was wearing jeans and a tshirt. The one lone guy fell into step with me at a crosswalk after I had pointedly ignored him and proceeded to follow me for several blocks, babbling the whole time "what's your name? come on, tell me your name. you're so hot...yeah, you know it, don't you?". Now, the chances of that man actually harming me in broad daylight on a busy street were fairly low, but the thing is that you never know. All it takes is for one guy to be nuts, and for bystanders to do nothing (which is the norm), and you could really get hurt. And being confrontational often causes the harasser to get more aggressive.

I've learned that ignoring them is usually the best tactic, though sometimes you have to acknowledge them in some way or they'll actually grab you so you do. You learn how to defuse situations, living in a city, but that does not make the behavior acceptable or less frightening on a gut level. It's a wierd feeling, that combination of fear and anger that you get when it happens.

And Jack...shut up and lisen to what people are saying to you for a minute. If a majority of women are saying they percieve being approached in the street as harassment, guess what? That means men shouldn't be doing it. You keep saying it's a numbers game - well, most women don't like being approached that way. The numbers argument works both ways, and frankly one person's right to feel safe trumps the other person's desire to get a date by a long shot.


I mean, I'm usually fine with people smiling at me and saying hello if it's clear that they're being genuinely friendly (and yes, we can tell), but someone actually stopping me in the street and trying to pick me? Not OK.

Sylvertongue // Posted 04 June 2008 at 11:41

Jack, the mere fact of you coming here to tell us what you believe is not harassment does not make it not harassment. Listen. Read.

I do not want to be approached on my lunchbreak because some guy feels like he's entitled to a date and I happened to cross his path that day. I *especially* don't want to be approached on the pretext of appearing to be "dressed for work" or not - that's the "she was asking for it" line. I just want my lunch, and random men approaching me scares me. That's all.

CassandraSays said it: my right to feel safe is more important than your perceived right to a date.

BareNakedLady // Posted 04 June 2008 at 11:45

Nancy Decker said:
I am incapable of riding my bike to work without getting cat called i have been wearing awful jeans and a baggy t-shirt and i still get cat called its ridiculous

*raises hand to add to the list*
Yep, I get catcalled. And I echo the sentiments saying that what one's wearing etc is irrelevant. My breasts are not big. I will not necessarily be wearing revealing clothes when I get comments. I am not especially attractive or especially ugly. But I have had comments, been followed home, been whistled, been groped, and been punched (no reason, no dialogue, the guy was walking past and just punched me in the chest). Talk about it being dependent on the woman's clothes/body/etc, as in some of the CiF posts, is just total bollocks. I know you all know that already, but I just needed to say it again!

Also, in arriving late to this post and reading through all these responses at once, I have noticed the contrast in replies phrased as 'I get harrassed' and those phrased as 'men harrass me'. The quoted post from Nancy (and I don't mean to pick on you Nancy, yours was just the example I picked) being a similar case in point - she writes 'I am incapable..' not 'men are incapable'. So many posts are in the passive voice, and looking back, I instinctively wrote my experiences the same way. What's that about? Is it just easier to write about our own experiences that way or is there something else going on with the language? Feminist language experts, I await your deconstruction. :)

Cara // Posted 04 June 2008 at 17:26

Echoes comments made to Jack - read and learn. You come across like the superior man who thinks women need to be told how things are.

Anyway. I was going to point out that the clothes women are wearing do make a difference. Yes, we are still harrassed wearing grungy jogging clothes or whatever, but certain clothes make it more likely. I was just recently on holiday and walked into the town wearing a strapless top, it wasn't particularly low or tight but in the part of the world I was in the shoulders are eroticised...I could not believe the catcalls and harrassment I got...another day, same time, same route, wearing a long skirt and loose T-shirt, nothing.

Note - I don't mean this post to come off as racist, in fact it is hilarious how Daily Male and Torygraph types complain about dark men harrassing "our" women while thinking builders yelling Get yer tits out etc is just lads being lads...hmmm...so I don't mean to be racist. but equally I don't think excusing male bad behaviour on "cultural differences" grounds is helpful, either. Men should still be called on it. But even if what type of clothes are considered "sexy" and the form of harrassment varies, the mentality is the same, builders wolf whistle girls in short skirts and low cut tops more and guys hanging around on street corners in Muslim countries harrass women showing their shoulders, but it's still the same "she was asking for it" mentality and white men still think that - look at the Amnesty rape survey figures. So white people should most definitely not feel superior.
Lesson - harrassment occurs everywhere.

Holly Combe // Posted 04 June 2008 at 17:48

Jack: do you think that some men see meeting women as a "numbers game" precisely because they view women as moving objects to be randomly approached in the name of increasing one's chances of getting one? And, if so, isn't that kind of positivist approach a bit limiting and objectifying when it comes to considering the complexity of human interaction (i.e with women possessing the same capacity for action and sense of selfhood that is taken for granted in men)?

I have to say that such a focus on numbers would actually seem quite desperate to me. I also suspect that, in some cases, it would indicate the rather privileged assumption that women who don't approach men in the street are passively waiting to be picked out and that it is up to such a man to "take the bull by the horns" and go for it because if he didn't, the human race would die out.

This is purely hypothetical but, if I was a man, I think I'd take the view that it is NOT my job to approach any women who look like they're just going about their business and if some shy woman out there is sadly disappointed by my lack of approach, it's not my problem. Certainly, I know of men who've said as much and would much prefer not to force their interactions with women in some over zealous effort to make sure a good one doesn't happen to pass them by.

I certainly don't think it is always a bad thing to approach a woman in the street in any way shape or form but, I wonder, what would happen if more men played it safe in this area, in the effort not to be misconstrued as one of those dickheads who genuinely do try to intimidate women in order to make a point about their status as men? I would suggest this might actually create the kind of space and freedom that would perhaps make more women feel able to politely approach men they like the look of, without the fear that they are going to immediately lose control of the situation (a fear that is facilitated by the sex-beast male stereotype that genuine sexual harassers seem to want us all to believe in).

Kuja // Posted 04 June 2008 at 18:07

Just realised, because my last post said something about getting remarks when I look "passable in the eyes of fashion" doesn't mean that I think women are harassed when they dress a certain way or that they in some way 'deserve it' for choosing those clothes. I get as many comments either way, I'm just really surprised how on a good day I can get the usual sleazy invitations whereas on a bad day (or even a casual day) I'm more likely to get "put some make-up on, you look a state". And obviously I do believe that women are entitled to walk the streets without comment on their appearance - I wouldn't call myself a feminist if I believed otherwise.

Jack Leland // Posted 04 June 2008 at 18:25

Holly,

No, I don't think that viewing dating as a numbers game is sexist or dehumanizing, because dating coaches of both sexes encourage clients of both sexes to view things that way. You could characterize anyone who views dating as a numbers game as desperate if you like, but then you'd be calling a lot of independent single women desperate, and that doesn't sound very feminist to me.

And, no, I am not telling anyone what to think. I am expressing my own opinion, and if it were an antifeminist one, my posts wouldn't be allowed here!

You agree that it isn't wrong in every scenario for a man to approach a woman in the street, but think perhaps men should play it safe, because that would give women more freedom to be more assertive. No offense, but if that were true, dating coaches wouldn't be instructing both men and women to be more assertive and to chat up people randomly. There's no reason, in my view, to mischaracterize people seeking to be sociable in public as potential rapists, or to conflate them with catcallers or stalkers, behavior everyone on this thread rightly condemns, simply because they are male. That's just sexism.

Anne Onne // Posted 04 June 2008 at 18:28

Jack, I'll second what everyone else here has been saying. Women deserve to live in peace, not being approached by potentially hostile strangers, more than men, no matter how nice but lonely, deserve a date. Men's attitudes to dating are not just incidental to this conversation, they ar ea very real part of the problem, and something that should be challenged, not used as a justification or excuse for making women uncomfortable.

The 'numbers' approach reminds me of sleazy pick-up artists, and I find the focus on looking for women as if they are some kind of animal to hunt rather appalling. The issue isn't whether lonely people of any gender deserve a chance to meet people (they do!), it's about realising that everybody's rights to sex, or to companionship or social interaction do not trump the rights of other people to not be harassed. No men deserve the chance to chat women up everywhere, say and do whatever they want, and pursue women no matter how little interest they show, more than women deserve to be left alone, to refuse social contact and to have nothing to do with them. The problem is that society frames things from men's points of view, so we are taught that of course it's the men's rights to approach any woman. We are never taught to consider common courtesy: does the woman want to be approached? We do not assume that men have the right to approach other men for no reason, or to strike up a friendship or a relationship. We do not assume that women should go up to other women or men and strike up relationships wherever they meet them. It is heterosexual men, only who are expected, or allowed to do this.

This is a privilege, and it is unearned. It comes at the expense of the rights of women to be unharassed, and their right to say 'no' to talking to random strangers, or being leered at by them. We assume women are in a default setting of consent: consent to be flirted with, consent to sex, consent to any sort of attention, something we do not assume for men.

BareNakedLady, I'm nowhere near a linguistics expert, but women are taught that it's their fault, and I think the 'I got harassed/raped' phrasing is an extension of the blame other people put on women by insisting that women are the cause of it. Whilst it's not ideal to say 'she was harassed', because it's passive, we do fall into these familiar patterns all the time. I prefer to try and phrase it with the attacker in the focus i.e. that 'the man harassed the woman', which although it still puts the woman into a passive role as an object linguistically speaking, puts the focus on the attacker as being the cause of the harassment. It's certainly better than 'she got harassed by him', which seems to me to imply that she's responsible for it, almost as bad as 'she got herself raped'. It's something we need to remind ourselves of, and it's actually terrifying how patriarchical language can be in the way we use it to frame things.

That's why I'd be very careful in whether to support the correlation Cara points out. Yes, you might get harassed one day wearing less clothing, and not harassed wearing a baggy jumper, but things might also happen in reverse. The difference, to paraphrase Melissa McEwan's poignant posts about rape, is the presence of a harasser. Women are harassed when men want to harass them. Their clothing might make some fractional influence in whether the man decides to harass that particular woman on that occassion, but in the end, men harass because they see a woman. There is no way of hiding your femaleness, and you can be in a thick coat

I appreciate what you're trying to say, Cara, and I'm not disagreeing with what you want to say, because in some instances it might tip a man over into feeling a little more entitled, but I just instinctivley wish to avoid the 'she was asking for it because she wore a miniskirt' idea, and I know that's not what you're saying, but I just feel steering well clear of focusing on that would be better. The focus should be on the harasser. The harasser purposefully chooses to harass, and there is nothing a victim can do to stop it or change that fact.

Jack Leland // Posted 04 June 2008 at 19:05

Anne,

I don't disagree with your formulation; I disagree with your definition of harassment, which includes friendly behavior by persons of either sex (i.e., randomly striking up a conversation). It doesn't have anything to do with treating people like animals, and I certainly agree that males should be stripped of their unearned privileges and defer to women's criticism of their attitudes. But not every person who randomly strikes up a conversation has a bad attitude, and such prejudice itself is hostile, even if held in the mind of a woman.

Holly Combe // Posted 04 June 2008 at 19:16

Jack: To be honest, I do view the numbers game approach as potentially a bit desperate. Not in every case by any means but, overall, I think that particular advice encourages people to focus all their attention and energy into finding a partner when they could be out with their mates, enjoying the freedoms that single life offers (eg: being able to be selfish because there isn't anyone else to consider when making plans). I don't think such a suggestion is unfeminist just because, yes, some women do take that approach. I mean, are you saying that criticising any choice a woman could possibly make is somehow anti-feminist by definition?

Just for the record, I wasn't saying I think men should always play it safe. I was merely wondering what would happen if they did. I don't think you can really argue that my speculation can be thrown out on the basis that dating coaches must surely assume it isn't true because of what they instruct! And why should we take what they say as gospel anyway? Being an "expert" doesn't make a person's ideas somehow above critique.

And who was characterising people who are sociable in public as potential rapists? That's not the point being made here. Indeed, I was once approached by a man outside a busy shop, wanting to know if I like to "have fun" but I didn't take offence at all because he happily accepted my "yes but no thank you" and moved on. However, not taking offence (or framing him as some sort of stalker) did not mean that I thought his method of approach was a good one that I would recommend!

Generally I have always tended towards the "okay to ask and okay to say no" solution but I think this thread shows that this approach isn't always appropriate because it doesn't adequately acknowledge the experiences of women who have been harassed so much that they could really do with being left alone (however well-meaning their more egalitarian would-be approachers might be).

Jack Leland // Posted 04 June 2008 at 19:44

Holly,

I don't really disagree with anything in your last post, but I will say that I probably tend to defer to women's rationales for the choices they make because, as a male, I think suppressing whatever instinct I have to criticize women too hastily is important. I would not take that so far as to say "anything any woman chooses is feminist" but I would agree that women who are feminists ultimately get to decide what constitutes antifeminism.

Anne Onne // Posted 04 June 2008 at 19:51

No, my harassment definition does not include chatting genially, or casually making eye contact, and respectfully withdrawing if the woman in question does not show interest. This is not harassment. But this is also a rarity. Really, it is. And believe me, if it's really that respectful, we won't be complaining about it. We're not out to get you, and the focus should not be on the poor men, who try so hard, and are really genuinely nice, but are being ripped to shreds by mean feminists who think all sex is rape. Really, we can tell the difference. We just think it's better to play it safe, and that a decent man wouldn't put increasing his dating chances slightly over triggering a rape victim.

However, it IS trotted out as an excuse to justify harassment, with the idea being that you just can't deny men the chance to talk to women, they might be being normal blah blah blah...It's the same exuse used by men who DO harass. That catcalling is just men appreciating women, that some drunk who leans over you whispering 'I want to fuck you' was just trying his luck, and how would he know unless he asked. This all assumes that men MUST ask in order to exist, and that if they did not approach strangers who were ignoring them for sex, they would be losing out on something they deserve. This is untrue.

If you genuinely are against harassment, maybe you should agitate for more men to educate other men that many behaviours are not appropriate, and that this kind of harassment makes women rightly more disgusted by and suspicious of being approached by strangers out of the blue. Women and our definitions of 'harassment' are not your enemy, unless you are a harasser. Other men, who make women have a reason to fear being approached by men, because of years of experience, are.

Yes, it harms decent men because women are more suspicious with all the harassers and would-be rapists about. But imagine what it's like for the women. That's what this is about. Women. Women who get harassed every day, for being women. Women who grow up with very real reasons to fear rape and harassment.

What I did say is that nobody HAS to talk to anyone, or disturb them, because not approaching women on the street will not kill you.

This means that yes, somethimes you should err on the side of caution, and if there's a realistic chance your attention is unwanted, maybe you shouldn't approach strangers in situations that aren't about socialising. After all, it's not your God-given right. There will be women out there who have suffered abuse or rape, or severe street arassment, who will not want to be approached in any circumstances. There will be lesbians, or women who are in relationships already, or women who are asexual, or women who just don't want sex or a relationship right now.

Of course, this doesn't mean it's OK to harass women who are in settings designed for socialising. The key is that men should be aware that there is a very real chance women won't want to socialise, won't want to flirt, may not want to take things further, or get things started at all. They should be very wary to not create situations of pressure, or situations that make women uncomfortable, or fear for their safety. If a woman is not interested, move on. Don't guilt her, and don'thang on by lying to yourself that she's playing coy. Assume anything but a hearty 'yes' means 'no'.

Jack Leland // Posted 04 June 2008 at 20:24

Anne,

In another thread on this site, I noted that men simply don't respond well to other men telling them how to respect women. It just doesn't work. It hardens resistance. In fact, I said that, as you'd put it, "mean feminists ripping men to shreds" was more effective. But I still think that means ripping men to shreds when they've actually done something wrong!

Qubit // Posted 04 June 2008 at 21:20

I'd say my reaction to a woman randomly approaching me would be similar. However being in that situation without her asking for time or directions is such a surreal idea I can't say for certain. I just don't ever see it happening. Similarly a woman grabbing parts of my body, telling me to 'cheer up it may never happen' or randomly propositioning me for sex is so unlikely to happen I can't imagine it.

If only men do something then reacting negatively to it isn't anti-men because you don't do the same to women. If women behaved to women in the same way then they would get equally negative reactions but they don't. I once tried to talk to some girls at a bus stop after I saw them in a society and they were very cold. This reaction is understandable and I realised what I did wrong. Why do you find it so offensive that someone in the street might just dismiss you and ask you to go away because they doubt your motive? The fact they even bothered to talk to you is out of politeness. You are interrupting them what right do you have to their attention?

Jack Leland // Posted 04 June 2008 at 22:44

Qubit,

I cannot speak to your experiences, but I will say that people start up random conversations with me sometimes and sometimes I do the same. I also get cut in line more often than others seem to, so perhaps I just appear harmless.

But grabbing someone nonconsensually -- assault -- has nothing to do with chatting genially or casually making eye contact, and withdrawing respectfully if the other person isn't interested. If you take me to be justifying assault, you have misread my posts.

Anne Onne // Posted 04 June 2008 at 23:15

And I'm telling you as a woman and as a feminist who does try to approach men about 'women's issues', that they don't listen to women, and particularly don't listen to feminists. We're not omnipresent, and as you must be aware, we don't exactly have good press, or the media on our side.

You say that men talking to men doesn't work, but how much resistance do you think men have to women, particularly feminists? It isn't less. They respect other men more, for a start. Second of all, women and feminists aren't present where men socialise with other men, nor are we present in the higher echelons that are male-dominated. There are places and people we literally can't reach, and others who couldn't give a toss what 'some bird' thinks. After all, she's probably a fat ugly lesbian with hairly legs.

And since we've found from experience what danger and isolation being an outspoken woman can cause from other people, particularly men, the idea that it's our duty to put ourselves even more in the firing line is a bit absurd coming from someone with the privilege to not get rape threats or dismissed as a hysterical female.

Purely waiting for women to sort out all the problems is wrong. It is as limited as expecting only men to do it.

So, either that means both men and women should try and sort these things out, or else we should give up, because nobody listens to 'them crazy feminists', and according to you men don't listen to other men.

Bottom line is, women shouldn't have to educate men. I think your focus on telling women that it's solely their role to put misogynists right (especially since it's kinda by definition that they don't respect women, stern feminists least of all), puts too much pressure on feminists to be responsible for the opinions of 'unsaved' misogynists. If you want to be an ally, roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. Confront your friends when they are being misogynistic. Explain to men on blogs or wherever just why what they believe is wrong. You don't have to be a big shot blogger, or a real life hardcore activist to make a difference, if you're not comfortable with that. But do something. You've no right to come here and insist that men like you can't do anything, because nobody will listen waah waah, and that it's all up to women (the kind men usually ignore) to change men through our strident angry feminist ways. If you're an ally, pitch in, listen up and learn. Don't assume that you know the difficulties feminist women face in trying to change things.

Ideally, men should educate themselves. We get cast in the nurturing spoonfeeding role so often, many of us are sick of it. I respect the feminists willing to spend hours pointing out the obvious to privileged but teacheable men, but it's not a mandatory job, nor are feminist women yours to demand anything of. Every time I read your comments on how it's up to strong women to do everything, it reads like a demand, not encouragement to me. Especially coupled with your insistence that men just can't do anything to help.

Besides, why do you assume right out misogynist men will listen to what feminist women say about their experiences, or why misogyny is wrong, if plenty of supposedly feminist men are also unwilling to examine their privilege when it's inconvenient. If we (even the milder, more patient) feminists have our hands full patiently explaining for the 100th time to someone who insists they're a feminist, but x just isn't a feminist issue, or they emapthise with poor men, what makes you think we can do better with the even-less-likely-to-listen ones out there? I mean, we don't work miracles.

To be honest, replies are posted not because we believe we will make a particular doubter understand something, but with the understanding that there are many lurkers silently reading who may listen.

Men empathise with other men, to the point that it is very hard for them to empathise with women victims of male oppression. Maybe what they need is men telling them why the patriarchy is bad for them.

Sylvertongue // Posted 05 June 2008 at 00:08

Jack, please stop holding up the "but my dating coach said!" card as if that excuses all behaviour ever. Your dating coach is coaching you on how to get a date, not how to avoid behaving like an asshole. The two are not automatically compatible, but they can be. If you listen to all of the women above talking about what behaviour makes them feel threatened, *and then you don't engage in that behaviour*, then that makes you not an asshole.

I also note you saying that it's all too hard for a man to call out another man when he's behaving badly toward women, and that us women should solve it ourselves. Wow. You know, I often feel like it's all too hard to go to a concert I want to see if I no one is interested in going with me. Not because I don't enjoy activities alone - I do - but because a single woman at a concert is hit on *all damn night*. It is exhausting, it is unwelcome, and it pisses me the hell off.

The thread above is full of women feeling like it's very hard just to walk down the street. Your "it's too hard" doesn't ring too true to me: you get to walk away from harassment as an issue any time you like. We don't.

If you are interested enough in this topic that you're still commenting here, then please, *stop* behaviours that you are now aware feel threatening to women, and if you see another man behaving that way, *tell them so*.

Jack Leland // Posted 05 June 2008 at 01:37

Anne,

I simply disagree with you as to what is effective on men, and I have posted on this site as to why. (I can't find the thread for some reason.) I do not find your reasoning persuasive, because I have seen it fail repeatedly and consistently in reality. Nor am I making most of the arguments with most of the attitudes that you are attributing to me. Yes, men do listen to strong women more than they listen to men, because men can be mocked as men and women can't. All you have to do is keep it up and stay confrontational, rather than back down due to bad press and hostile reactions that are designed to make you back down because your criticism is hitting home. Persistence pays off, but having men as sleeper agents ticks men off and leads to sham compliance rather than internalization. There is nothing less effective or more counterproductive than a man trying to persuade other men about feminism. It just exacerbates the problem.

Jemima Aslana // Posted 05 June 2008 at 08:10

I was 11 and walking with the rest of my gym class from the sports court back to the showers. Some random man said "Heeeeey, sexy ladyyy" to me. I was ELEVEN! And he was standing right outside the kindergarten we passed on the way. That was so creepy.

I was the first to develop shapes in my class. So naturally that got noticed, and the boys (and some of the girls) proceeded to call me Pamela Anderson.

The whole "Smile, it can't be that bad" has happened so many times I've lost count.

I was 14 when standing in a very crowded bus and I felt a hand gently stroke my buttocks. It was so crowded I couldn't even turn around, much less move away. At the next stop a lot of people got off the bus (I'm sure someone was getting off right behind me, too, and I just had to stand there and clench my teeth), so I moved to a different spot. And moments later the hand was there again. This time there was room for me to turn around, look up at the man at least a head taller than me and ask him to cut it out.

I was 16 when a middle-aged man followed me a long way trying to get me to tell him who I was and whether I was a good girl. He must have concluded that I was, since I did my best to ignore him because eventually he proposed that I marry his son.

Incidents with "Nice tits!" are innumerable...

One time walking home from work, it must have been in the autumn, I wore a scarf over my hair as I often do. Seeing me from the front could lead people to believe I was a muslim who covered her hair. Seeing me from behind there'd be hair visible. I was on the left sidewalk, and a bloke on a moped going in the opposite direction, made an impressively successful effort going through a puddle, spraying me with mud and water. I was so shocked I never even noticed the colour of the moped. I don't know if this was sexism because of my obvious gender, or racism because of the headscarf that could've made me appear muslim. Or both maybe.

At work I made a mistake that could have been prevented if 'd spread the forks of the forklift a little more. The rest of the day I had to listen to one man's inane comments about "That's how it goes if you don't spread 'em enough." Oh yeah, very funny.

I could go on, but those were the highlights, I think.

Sylvertongue // Posted 05 June 2008 at 08:19

Jack, I don't mean to be commenting every five minutes, but your last comment seems to suggest that you think only women can be feminists. That's just plain wrong. Feminist men aren't "sleeper agents" - they're people who think the world would be a better place if fifty one percent of the population had the same freedoms and felt as safe as the other forty nine. You too can join these ranks any time you want to start examining your own privilege.

I'm a little gobsmacked that in this thread of all places, you can tell us "All you have to do..." as if it were all so terribly easy. Clearly it is not that simple, or the 200+ plus comments above wouldn't be there. And that’s leaving your sanctimonious tone right out of it.

But. I'll take your advice, and stay confrontational, shall I? Jack, confront your male privilege. It is all over your comments.

BareNakedLady // Posted 05 June 2008 at 09:05

Cara, point taken - we can probably all agree that wearing certain clothes does mean that men are more likely to catcall. What I was trying to express was that men will still catcall whatever a woman is wearing. It's a power thing implied here - if it's clothes-dependent, the implication is that women have the control to stop men catcalling by dressing differently. In fact that's not true, because men will still do it not matter what the clothes. It's a way to blame women but it's also a way for men to absolve themselves of responsibility for their actions by portraying them as *re*actions. That was at the heart of what I meant, but it wasn't really what I said - sorry.

Jack, to address some of the points in your post:
Yes, men do listen to strong women more than they listen to men,
-Overwhelming anecdotal evidence from thousands of woman would point to the contrary here. In the work/home/social/pretty much any environment, this is patently not true.

because men can be mocked as men and women can't.
-Surely this whole thread is about women suffering this kind of mockery from men??

All you have to do is keep it up and stay confrontational,
-That comes across as patriarchal thinking at its finest. You want me to confront catcallers on the street? No one is likely to be able to do that without serious concerns for their own safety.

rather than back down due to bad press and hostile reactions that are designed to make you back down because your criticism is hitting home.
-Your attitude here puts the blame on the feminist for backing down, rather than the perpetrator of the 'hostile reactions' for being antifeminist in the first place.

having men as sleeper agents ticks men off
-I'm confused. You want us to discourage men from being feminists because it will annoy other men? How on earth do you intend for society to move forwards if you are prohibiting male feminism?

Anne Onne // Posted 05 June 2008 at 11:19

Jack, since you seem to think women need to be confrontational to get a point accross, let me be blunt. Who is backing down? Are we beating our breasts here? Have we shut up and gone back to our kitchens moping? We ARE fighting back, in whatever ways WE see as safe, or effective, or we can. Who are YOU to tell us how to do it?

And you know what, you're not doing a good job of listening to confrontational women, so I don't get where your idea is coming from. You wanna prove men do listen to confrontational women? Then listen. You can't even listent to the experiences of hundreds of women here who are threatened and harassed by men on a regular basis, without insisting that men should have their right to approach strangers enshrined as sacrosanct, and ignore that we do NOT expecience friendly social contact nearly as often as harassment.

You make no effort to understand the problems 'strong feminist women' face in trying to make a difference. Our replies have detailed why when women fight back, they often get attacked. Sometimes physically, sometimes through threats, or through social pressure. This is something you never deal with, so telling us to put up with it for the greater good is meaningless and cheap.

You know what, we'll keep fighting. Because this affects our very lives every bloody day, because it affects our sisters, mothers, friends and daughters. Because we, unlike you, can't walk away, or shut our eyes, or simply stand by and hope someone else will deal with it.

But not because some privileged man tells us to. Be warned, your comments come accross as orders to feminists. And as a man with relatively little experience in feminism, you don't get to give orders. If you want to feel superior and give your male perspective special attention, there's the rest of the world and the internet. Here, you get to listen first. We don't need your 'advice' or 'encouragement', and it doesn't read as either. It reads as someone who doesn't know a single thing about what feminist women (and all women) face every day, has an unwillingness to learn, ignores any attempts to explain why your approach doesn't work and wants to avoid any work or effort on your behalf.

Fine, don't do anything if you don't want to, or think you can't. But don't waste the time of those who want to make a difference, no matter how small. Don't tell others how to run a movement or their personal fight.

If you are interested in contributing (rather than just wishy-washily insisting men can't do anything), you might at least read the blogs of male feminists/pro-feminists, and maybe you can tell them they don't exist or are futile.

http://hugoschwyzer.net/
http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/
http://www.amptoons.com/blog/

There are others, this was off the top of my head.

Jack Leland // Posted 05 June 2008 at 18:20

Anne,

If you think I was giving you orders, rather than my opinion of what is effective on men based on my experience in all male-environments, then you misread my posts both in tone in content. You are free to ignore my advice, but in fact I volunteer with a number of feminist groups, including a rape crisis center, and have done so for the past ten years. I am not your enemy, but you are free to view me that way and denounce me as stridently as you please. I fully accept that's a part of equality.

Arctic Firefox // Posted 06 June 2008 at 01:19

Jack,

I extracted posts from this thread and analysed your use of language to back up your (pretty feeble) arguments. Unsurprisingly, I found several examples of male privilege, among other things. I was struggling to find a way to organise all this into a concise format until I remembered the Anti-Feminist Bingo cards over at Hoyden About Town: and .

So, may I present to everyone the case of Jack Leland, who I believe qualifies for BINGO on the basis of meeting at least seven cases of anti-feminism commentary as determined by feminists! Remember, Jack, you said women who were feminists can determine what anti-feminism is. Well, they have. And here’s how you match up.

Note #1: Jack, you did not necessarily say these things verbatim, but comments you made were certainly in the spirit of these anti-feminist themes according to my interpretation.

Note #2: This is not an exhaustive list. Initially, I identified about ten cases of anti-feminism, but decided to focus on a smaller number to save space.

*{“You should …”}

In your first post on this thread, you said: “not enough women go up to men and say hello or offer flattering comments.” Can't you see how that comment reeked of male entitlement? Essentially, you were saying “men want women to do this, so women should do it for us”. Guess what? Women don't have to do anything of the sort for men! They certainly do not have to go out of their way to flatter men just because men want their egos stroked. The fact that “not enough” women “make the first move” does not justify men invading women’s personal space. You seem to be working from the assumption that because men want something, women must want it too. That's obviously false.

*{Patriarchy hurts men too.}

Co-opting the argument, in the case of “men have other fears and take precautions as well” is way of trivialising the situation, regardless of whether you meant to. By saying “men have the same problem”, you’re really saying “so your problems aren't really that important”. This thread is not about the problems of men! So don't try and turn it into one!

*{You're being silly and overemotional.}

You didn't say this, but the implication was clear in: “you simply don't think men have a right to approach women in public.” This is then followed up by the rather juvenile zero-sum argument: “It seems that if your rule were, say, the law, men would not be allowed to speak in public unless spoken to and would not be allowed to travel in large groups without female accompaniment.”

I could elaborate, but I think it's blatantly obvious that actually, YOU were being silly and overemotional here.

*{I’m a nice guy, why don’t I get any?}

Again, you didn't exactly say this, but some of your comments indicate you'd be sympathetic to those who would. Example: “maybe if you were 35 and single, you'd be more sympathetic!” Being 35 and single doesn't entitle you to anything, and as with many of your comments, I struggle to see your thinking here. I still feel very strongly that a woman's right to feel safe in public far outweighs a male's non-existent right to "meet women". Poor men, they have it so hard these days. *sarcasm*

You also seem to think you have some kind of claim over what is clearly an objective concept. I'm sure you'll agree that your concept of “friendliness” may not be the same as that of the next person. Right? Well, then stop pretending that you hold the ultimate truth to what the concept means.

*{I have a friend who is a woman and she thinks you are wrong.}

Rather similar to the “appeal to inappropriate authority” fallacy. I am, of course, referring to your comments which imply that dating coaches know all, and if they say it's okay, then it clearly is. The fact that “dating coaches of both sexes” say that something is okay still does not make it okay. They are not experts in the field of what constitutes harassment. They are there to earn money, and their advocation of aggressive techniques has obviously been a good way for them to sell their product. It still does not make them an authority on what is acceptable social behaviour.

*{It’s your job to teach me about feminism. Now do it.}

“In another thread on this site, I noted that men simply don't respond well to other men telling them how to respect women. It just doesn't work. It hardens resistance.”

Well, if that isn't a rather convenient way of throwing up your hands and saying: “Whoa! Too hard! You do it!” Just because you may have experienced some resistance when talking to other men about your behaviour, doesn't mean everyone else has. Maybe you're taking the wrong approach? I regularly confront men (including members of my own family) about their use of sexist language and male entitlement. They may not like it, but they can't argue back because deep down, they know their behaviour is unacceptable.

Also, not all women are feminists, and feminists have had, and still have, a tough time convincing some women on feminist matters. So if you're really dedicated to the feminist cause, I don't understand why you're washing your hands of this. Feminism is about equality between the sexes. Men have nothing to lose and much to gain from supporting it and talking to both women and men about it.

*{But I want to talk about this. Listen to me!}

I find the way in which you have hijacked this thread rather offensive. In case you've forgotten, this thread was set up so that women could share their (horrifying, wouldn't you say?) experiences of sexual harassment on the street, I assume with the intention of generating conversation of how to counter this. Instead, the discussion has turned into a debate with you on what defines harassment, among other things. Don't you think it's time you stopped claiming some sort of superiority in these matters and let this thread return to its original purpose?

And that makes it BINGO!

So, after all that (and really, I could have said so much more), let me finish by “revealing”, if you hadn't guessed already, that I am, in fact, a male. And I’ve just spent a good deal of time confronting another male about his behaviour. So are you going to be one of those men whose "resistance hardens"?

(And hey, I'm not perfect. If I've misinterpreted something, or engaged in a bit of male privilege of my own, call me out on it. I want to learn as much as I want wake up other men to their privilege. But ideally, I'd much rather take this discussion elsewhere.)

Helen G // Posted 06 June 2008 at 07:59

We've received an email from a reader who has asked if we would add the details of her alarming experience:

In brief, I made the mistake of wearing my Fawcett "This is what a
Feminist looks like" t-shirt through my town centre in the early evening. I
was consequently accosted by a (possibly drunk) man in his early-to-mid 20s
who, in a very intimidating manner, approached me and read this aloud. I
attempted to walk past him as he did so, but he grabbed my shoulder and
seemed to attempt to kiss me. When I tried pushing him away (note: I'm not
at all physically strong), he aggressively called me a "fucking dyke" and
shoved me into a wall, then pushed my head against it with some force
before leaving. Only one person on the (reasonably busy) street asked if I
was alright, a minute or so later as I left.

Other than a slight bump on my head I'm mainly unharmed, but the feeling
of intimidation and embarrassment was incredibly unpleasant. Even with the
vulnerability of walking on my own and being relatively young (18) with a
heavy bag of shopping, I didn't anticipate such a thing to happen in a
populated street in the early evening in a rather small town. But the
incident has only increased my belief in the need for feminism (and
self-defence classes...), and, if anything, I'll be sure to wear my Fawcett
t-shirt more in the future.

I don't think I can add anything to this horror story; it really does speak for itself.

And I believe that everyone here will agree when I say we all send you our love and best wishes, and hope that you feel better soon.

Helen

Arctic Firefox // Posted 06 June 2008 at 08:05

Looks like the Hoyden About Town links didn't come through for some reason. Hopefully this time:

Anti-Feminist Bingo Card #1:
http://viv.id.au/blog/?p=431

Anti-Feminist Bingo Card #2:
http://viv.id.au/blog/?p=1460

Sarah-Uplift // Posted 06 June 2008 at 12:21

Linked from Hoyden About Town is a Sexual Assault Bingo Card by Midnight Louise;

http://i75.photobucket.com/albums/i281/MidnightLouise/bingo3.jpg

Relevant to this thread but not a very nice game to play! The horrible phrases on the card got me thinking...

When a guy groped me in the street I was terrified that if I recounted my story to people they would view me as either a) an uptight feminist with no sense of humour or b) a poor little girl who is too sensitive. Thankfully the people I told understood my shock and sadness completely! It was only myself who was internalising these misogynist messages!

Has anyone else felt the same?

Anne Onne // Posted 06 June 2008 at 13:00

First, in reply to the email:

Please don't blame yourself, even slightly ('i made the mistake of...'), although we all do this to some extent. But I'm sure you know that we should be safe on the streets, no matter what we wear, and that men like this have no right to so much as walk up to you, even if you're wearing a T shirt with a slogan insulting their parents (or insert grave insult of choice). If it wasn't you, it would have been some other woman for looking at him crooked, or being too fat or something else.

This ties in with what Cara said, because it's both true and isn't. It's like intimate partner abuse in that yes, there may be factors more likely to set it off, but since the abuser/harasser decides 'what is acceptable', and everything is according to their whims. You can't win against their whims. You can't predict them, and there's no guarantee that if you avoid anything likely to cause it, you won't get trouble, because they want to do it. Hence, though we know some things may trigger it a bit, the focus should first and foremost be dealing with the behaviours that are very wrong.

To all the women who have commented: thank you for sharing your stories. This illustrates that whatever our ages, appearances, clothes and locations, we had one thing in common: we presented as women, and that was what led to us being harassed.

On to the derail:
Thank you, Arctic Firefox (lovely moniker!)
You do give orders. And your ‘you’re misreading my comments’ reply is about as insulting as an ‘I’m sorry if I offended you (but it’s you’re fault you were offended)...’ apology. Placing all the blame on someone for feeling insulted, rather than examining if you as someone who is privileged might have actually *shock* said something inappropriate, is antifeminist. It’s anti equality of any sort, because it absolves the speaker of any blame if they don’t admit they feel they were trying to be offensive. It’s not good enough. If several feminists have pointed out problems in your focus and arguments, they are not ALL imagining it. You are making statements that are offensive, and pretending that it doesn’t matter if you thought you were saying something is not going to solve it. If you want to be pro-feminist, part of dealing with your privilege is dealing with what happens when you have done something misogynist (or racist homophobic etc)

For a start, asserting on a post about harassment and violence that ‘not enough women go up to men…’ both justifies street harassment because men are so desperate they have to approach women anywhere if they aren’t approached (shifting blame on women to not be shy), and asserts that women should approach strangers in the street, which is an amazingly ignorant thing to say on a thread where women talk about being attacked for no reason.

‘All you have to do is keep it up and stay confrontational’, feels like an order, since you aren’t a feminist woman, you’re giving ‘advice’ to people who neither request your expert male opinion, nor need it. Along with the Strong Women comment, it’s patronising, coming from someone who doesn’t share the same risks. It makes out the struggle of our lives to be a trifling affair, that if we don’t do exactly as you say, it’d be to ‘back down due to bad press and hostile reactions’. Seriously, read the above comment, where a woman is abused for simply wearing a feminist T-shirt, and tell us we’re overreacting over a little bad press!

And the pity vote? Boo hoo I disagree with feminists, and they think I’m an enemy! Do you really think I see someone like you as an enemy? With people like the men mentioned in this very thread waking the streets? You’re nowhere near. You’re another random rather clueless male commenter, putting forth arguments that are hardly new.

Also, your ‘I volunteer’ spiel is rather like the ‘I have a woman feminist friend...’ argument. Why? Because it assumes that even though you are privileged, simply experiencing X makes you somehow incapable of any misogynist thought or action.

You know what? Most of my friends are POC. I volunteer, too. That doesn’t mean I am incapable of privilege or racism, especially if I cocoon myself and don’t listen when people are discussing privilege. Privilege and –isms are something ingrained, they are inside of me and you. They are not something we can undo by a few good deeds, and no credentials ever mean we are perfect, particularly if we believe ourselves infallible. I’m a woman and a feminist, but if you’d ask me if I was misogynist, I’d say yes. I am. I work every day to try and unravel a bit more of my programming, treat everyone a little bit more equally, and hope to get better at it. But I’ll never be free of it all. But the only way to improve is to really listen, to try and take away that assumption that you’re right that has been programmed into you.

And just for reference, your posts being allowed really don’t mean that they’re therefore feminist because they’ve been allowed. Posts may well be allowed if they’re not insult-laden screeds, full of threats or blatantly misogynist. They may still be full of privilege, or plain ignorance. So your defence ‘I can’t have said anything anti-feminist or I wouldn’t have been published!’ is wrong.

Also, Arctic Firefox, you forgot the ‘reverse sexism’ card. Apparently by saying that if we experience harassment the majority of times when men approach us in the street, we ‘mischaracterize people seeking to be sociable in public as potential rapists, or to conflate them with catcallers or stalkers, behavior everyone on this thread rightly condemns, simply because they are male. That's just sexism.’
Wake up, most of the time, if a man approaches a woman on the street, it results in harassment. Making this out to be about the minority instances where women are approached and it isn’t harassment, on this thread is apologism. Spending your time worrying about the poor men who might have a woman ignore him because she’s afraid of being raped or harassed, rather than the women who are being harassed IS antifeminist. It makes a thread about the everyday problems all women suffer about hypothetical problems for a minority of men.

And by the way, you can’t get sexism against men without an institutional change. Women don’t have the power to oppress men, because of the male-dominance set up we have.

I think feminism Feminism 101 would be really useful. Really.

Anna // Posted 06 June 2008 at 13:36

I can check all of these but two. That is very, very depressing.

Deborah Fletcher // Posted 06 June 2008 at 18:45

I was originally going to comment on my own experiences (my hands are definitely up), but I became rather annoyed that this excellent thread had turned into The Jack Leland Show. The original request of the thread was for women to 'put their hands up' if they had experienced street harrassment, and not anything else, which personally I find intrusive.

Deborah Fletcher // Posted 06 June 2008 at 19:14

There is low-level harrassment everyday, and I can certainly relate to other comments such as tensing up when passing stationary traffic, or even waiting at a bus stop or at a crossing waiting for the lights to change. There's the honking and yelling from vans, the 'hey baby' comments from passers-by, the 'give us a smile' line (I despair).

Then there's the more threatening stuff; the 'look at the arse on that' jeers from groups of men (who do it so aggressively that it couldn't possibly be misconstrued as a compliment, especially being referred to as 'that'). Whilst walking alone at night, cars slowing down when passing me and guys looking me up and down (not that it should matter, but I don't tend to expose much flesh in the street! This kind of behaviour is obviously meant to scare).

Then there's the physical stuff; only last week, I was sitting on a not-very-busy bus (not the street, but still a public place) in broad daylight in the window seat, and a guy sat down in the seat next to me, almost on top of my leg, then throughout the journey kept leaning on me and rubbing his thigh against mine and moving over towards me (I didn't say anything but seethed the whole time, and could see him staring at me out of the corner of my eye). I've had a few instances of guys rubbing themselves against me on the tube.

Like others, these experiences are not limited to adulthood. There were the times when I was of school-age, wearing school uniform (even so, I looked young for my age); when I was 12 being told by a guy in his 30s that I had 'nice tits', and when I was about 14 being followed home by a guy, also in his 30s, who said I reminded him of 'a very mature woman'. That really scared the hell out of me, but I was just polite to him and humoured his conversation until I got through my front door.

I think this is a really important area of sexual/gender-based harrassment, and it shouldn't be downplayed; it's the tip of the iceberg of even more serious incidents such as rape and femicide. However, it really shouldn't have to be down to women to tackle this; it's not our fault, we didn't ask for it, and it's not our responsibility to change it. But I guess if we don't tackle it, change is never going to happen. I'll definitely be checking out the books and links recommended by other posters, thanks.

Caro // Posted 07 June 2008 at 00:23

What, you mean just today? *hand up* Oh, you mean ever? *jumping and waving both hands* Living in a city, I would say I experience street harassment at least 2 or 3 times a week.
As a good example: last week when I was walking home, a group of three men walking on the other side of the street starting yelling obscene things at me, followed by angry shouts of "bitch!" when I ignored them and kept walking.

Kate // Posted 07 June 2008 at 02:08

I moved to the UK a few years ago from Australia, and I was shocked to notice an immediate increase in the level of public sexual harrassment I had to deal with. I've had my arse groped innumerable times on dance floors and crowded public transport - in Australia that had happened to me once in 10 years. I did move to London and I'm not sure if smaller cities would be better, but it's definitely something that shocked me about living here. It's been much worse than furtive groping too. For a while I was working night shifts in Shoreditch, which meant I would leave my house at around 10pm. Pretty much every Friday or Saturday night I would have to deal with a kerb crawler 'offering' to 'lick my pussy' or a bunch of pimply boys surrounding me as a group in a very threatening way, and even putting their hands on me if they felt like it. Of course, this never happened if I was walking with a male colleague, which goes to show that it's about respect (or lack of it) and power - not appreciation, for those who argue that. I have become so fed up with it that I have started responding, unless I'm in a very isolated place. On the most part the harrassers are shocked that I have a voice, let alone know how to use it to hurl out strings of vulgarities. Something primal takes over me and I use language I didn't know I had. I don't advocate this approach - it can make men angrier of course - but it sure makes me feel better and in my experience it has only made harrassers piss off a little bit faster, and certainly seem at least a little bit shame faced. I haven't encountered a group of men since I've become vocal though - that would be a different scenario.
Oh yeah, my worst experience however was not on the way to work but at 4 in the afternoon, at a bus stop in North London. An elderly - elderly! - Jewish man approached me and said "I fuck you?" I couldn't understand him at first - I thought he was asking me about the bus timetable, so I did the courteous thing and told him when the next bus was due! He asked me if I spoke French. I said no. English? Yes. "I fuck you." Not even a question now. While I stood there open-mouthed, looking around me to see if anyone had heard (there were only very young school boys, who hadn't) he tried to negotiate a price with me. I told him he needed to get away from me immediately and reached into my bag for my phone. I held it up to his face, which was about six inches from mine, and pretended to take a photo. (Of course I would have taken a real photo if my phone had a camera.) He scurried away pretty quick smart then. When I got home I told my housemates and it turns out one of them - the tiny, Asian one, funnily enough - had been accosted in the same way, by an elderly but different Jewish guy, twice before. I don't mean to offend anyone but I couldn't help but wonder whether the highly regulated relationships between Orthodox Jewish men and women had influenced these specific men in seeing non-Jewish women as... well, other, ripe for exploitation. I would be interested to hear other people's thoughts on this.
Anyway, it makes me furious that men think they can treat women in that way and I'm sick of bowing my head and walking on. It's gotten to the point where I would rather get into a fight than just let it slide. Of course I know that's foolish but I can't stand it anymore.

Holly // Posted 07 June 2008 at 08:36

I haven't. Should I feel a perverse sadness?

Jen // Posted 07 June 2008 at 15:27

I'm 20 and not exactly unfortunate in the looks department. However, I also possess a brain (surprisingly to most men I come into contact with). I get it ALL THE TIME - literally, every day. Sometimes it's mild and I just laugh and forget it, sometimes it's creepy, intimidating and makes me feel very self-conscious and sometimes it has been really REALLY scary.

I am a student and a barmaid at my local pub and I get little comments like when I'm serving a customer, the moron will ask for his drink to be "shaven not furred, luv" and this dude (who's like 50) would say this every time he ordered a drink. That's annoying (increasingly so) but it's relatively benign in the grand scheme of things.

However, one night, I was having a few drinks with my colleague after my shift and I got quite drunk. After several drinks I left to go home (alone) and my colleague told me later that two of the regular customers (both male) had mentioned that I was drunk, easy and that I probably hadn't got far so they hurried off after me. My colleague raced after me and found me just up the road. He didn't tell me why at the time, but he offered to walk me home, I was just drunk and happy for the company of a friend. Later, when he told me why he had chased after me and walked me home - because two of the regulars were intending to rape me, I was so disgusted I actually threw up and I haven't walked home alone since. As a woman, I should have the right to walk home after work without having to look over my shoulder, my heart pounding out of my chest, to check I'm not being followed.

If any guys are reading this, even at the most seemingly "harmless" degree, it's unacceptable, whether you were joking or not, that any woman should be terrified for her safety because you want to display your "masculinity" to the world.

It's not big, it's not clever and it can be very very harmful.

Cara // Posted 07 June 2008 at 18:06

*Fumes* at reader e-mail. What a total waste of space some sub-people are.
Reminds me, I must order mine (T-shirt) but yeah, sadly, I'm not sure I'd wear it out anywhere in public, just with friends.

Just to be clear, I wasn't saying that what women wear "asks for" harrassment or anything cretinous like that, just that certain things make it more likely. Of course in an ideal world we would be able to walk around in a bikini or a T-shirt with feminist slogans or whatever the hell we like, but sadly the world isn't - yet - like that.

In defence of Orthodox Jews, I lived in a part of North London where there were a lot of them for a year, and never had any harrassment from the men, in fact the opposite - one of my housemates was being hassled by some drunk guy when walking home at night, and an Orthodox Jewish man told him where to go and walked her home.
Obviously I know you weren't saying all Jewish guys are pervs, but just wanted to stick up for them. Like all religions of course, Judaism oppresses women... not sure any are really any better or worse, really.

Morag F // Posted 07 June 2008 at 18:40

I was standing outside Sainsburys in my local city shopping centre, eating a cheese sandwich and watching the world go by. This seems to be an invitation for unwanted attention, sadly. An old man came up to me and said 'want some company?' or something in a leery way, and I smiled and said, 'no, sorry' or something, and scurried further down the hall. He followed me and started shouting 'well, have a look in the mirror you ugly bitch' before walking away and laughing, leaving me with shoppers staring at me as though I had done something wrong. It was so horrible I went straight home. And no, I didn't tell anyone, because as someone pointed out in an earlier post, I thought I'd sound like a silly little girl, and also it's quite humiliating to repeat when someone has made derogatory personal comments to you in public.

mekhala // Posted 08 June 2008 at 19:43

Yes. it's a national pastime for many insensitive males in India.

Kat // Posted 08 June 2008 at 22:34

I have two stories: 1) I was walking to the subway from an italian dinner in the very lovely North End of Boston when a stretch Hummer limo pulled up next to me and my girlfriend and yelled "fuck you, you fucking dykes". 2) I was riding my bicyle in a neigborhood when a man in and SUV threw a full plastic water bottle at me...I suspect he and his buddies thought it would be funny to try and land it in my bicyle basket...they missed the basket but hit me :(

Jack Leland // Posted 09 June 2008 at 02:50

"Jack, you did not necessarily say these things verbatim, but comments you made were certainly in the spirit of these anti-feminist themes according to my interpretation."

Let me interpret:

1. I did not say what you are accusing me of having said.

2. Even so, you are going to twist what I actually did say so that it means -- to you -- something antifeminist that I did not say, and explicitly reject.

And this from someone who accuses me of being unable to listen! I do listen to feminists, and to women, but I stop listening when they say absolutely ridiculous, self-contradictory things, such as "you did not necessarily say these things verbatim, but comments you made were certainly in the spirit of these anti-feminist themes according to my interpretation."

Jack Leland // Posted 09 June 2008 at 03:07

Anne,

Actually, it looked to me as if the only people on this thread who took the position you did were you and, eventually, Artic Firefox. If you read the thread carefully, there is more agreement and convergence between me and the other people on this thread than between you and them. In fact, before Artic Firefox, you were the only one who had been impolite to me or willfully misinterpreted my words, and because I won't yield to your erroneous interpretation, you just keep at it.

For whatever reason, you dislike my comments -- or the fact that I am commenting, and that is fine. But to pretend that I offended everyone here is ridiculous. I am not an antifeminist pest who comes here to annoy, even if that's how you choose to treat me, and if you choose to continue to twist the words in my posts, I simply won't respond to you anymore. That way, I won't hijack any threads by responding to your spurious attacks on my character and slanderous accusations about my feminist bonsfides.

I would note to any male feminists out there that if you do volunteer in feminist groups and so forth, you will invariably encounter women like Anne Onne, but the vast majority of feminists are true egalitarians who respect men sincerely committed to the values and objectives of feminism. Not all feminists will attempt to rip you a new one for expressing opinions that they would nod their head to if uttered by another woman. Thankfully, the toxic reaction that Anne Onne has had toward me is rare. You should not let such reactions stop you from committing yourself to feminism. That is my advice, which you are free to disregard.

Susannah // Posted 09 June 2008 at 05:09

I try my hardest to just ignore comments, whistles, etc. Around the onset of puberty, I learned to ignore ALL men on the street. Isn't that sad?

Laura // Posted 09 June 2008 at 10:44

Jack (and others)

Time to end the discussion, I think - only comments sharing experiences of street harassment will now be posted.

fannie // Posted 09 June 2008 at 21:55

Just popping in to raise my hand to this one. Although it's probably my fault for daring to regularly jog while female.

Helen // Posted 09 June 2008 at 22:18

Several times a week.

Lissette // Posted 10 June 2008 at 18:30

I get harassed all the time. I can't drive/walk down the street without one guy hanging out his car window to oogle or catcall. It's pretty sad.

Carol // Posted 10 June 2008 at 22:58

This January, one week before I got married (I was actually on my way a dressmaker to try my wedding dress on for mum for the first time), I was walking along a crowded pavement on London's Tottenham Court Rd. It was a Saturday afternoon and there were hordes of people. This guy walking right behind me started talking in my ear saying "I'm gonna f*ck you so good, I'm gonna f**k you every which way, I'm gonna do this and that to you" etc etc etc. It was awful, I was trapped in the crowd and although I started to move away from him I couldn't really get away so I could still hear him. I was with my 60 year old mom and my 83 year old grandmother. I can think of lots of other occasions, this was the nastiest most recent one.

Lady Catherine // Posted 12 June 2008 at 01:19

Yes. Experienced to the point where it's now so dull that it doesn't bother me any more...although there are occassions where I still feel threatned. Even when I'm with my three year old son, I still get comments. (Or even queries as to whether I'm still with the father)

I think the one that stands out for me was walking back home from work, in jeans, long brown coat, boots, huge workbag...and a man stopping me to 'ask where the clubs with the girls were'. I replied that I wasn't sure what he meant, and tried to carry on - he asked if I was free instead...could I go back to his hotel room with him, he was happy to pay, he needed entertainment. Very polite, creepily so...but does he really think that women can literally be 'bought' off the street?

Neffy // Posted 17 June 2008 at 17:07

A few weeks ago I was followed off the bus by a man who groped me, pinned my arms down, kept trying to drag me off, kept trying to kiss me. But apparently, sexual harassment is a compliment now as the guy (drunk) was saying "you know, you're not really beautiful like a film star, but you're all right." He then proceeded to feel my breasts, my arse, my legs (all the while with one arm around me so that I couldn't run off). If my boyfriend hadn't happened to be coming home at almost exactly the same moment, I'm almost certain it would have escalated into something much worse.

A week later, I was waiting at the bus stop near my house and I took a sip from the drink I'd just bought. The sharp taste made me wince and a guy sitting on the wall opposite said "not very nice?" I shook my head and smiled.

Now, the fact that I politely responded to his question must in some twisted language of patriarchy translate as "please come and sit next to me, ask me out, ask me where I live, touch me." Because that's exactly what happened.

There are loads more, including a group of lads no older than 18 asking me to suck their dicks, a man asking if I want to see his twelve inch dick and a man at a bus stop who got offended by my non-plussed response to him chatting me up, so tried to physically stop me getting on the bus before shouting "Come 'ere! Get 'ere you fucking bitch!"

Elle // Posted 20 June 2008 at 16:37

I got some hassle from guys when I was younger, seems the school uniform acted as some sort of "pick on me" signal. Only the first one got away without comment. He was groping school girls on the bus and I was so surprised that by the time I told the driver the guy was gone. The driver was great, he stopped the bus at the next police station, told the other passengers they would just have to wait and came in to the station with me.

Another time a guy "bumped" in to me, on a wide, clear path through the park on my way home. It wasn't the last incident in the park but even at 14 there was no way in hell I was changing my route because of a couple of f*ckwits. I'm not sure how it came about but my instinctive reaction always is, and was, cold hard anger. When the guy "bumped" into me I pointed to the police station that was visible from the hill we were on then coldly and calmly told him that I was going to scream loud enough to shatter every window in it. He left, quickly. I get scared after the fact. Usually when I get to somewhere safe.

My reaction to harassment has resulted in me being called a bitch, rude, aggressive, frigid, and all manner of other things by the so called men concerned. I find it amusing that they assume I give a damn what they think. I do get pissed off when women seem to take exception to my reactions. I've known a few who seem to think that I should be in some way grateful for the attention, or that I am out of line for daring to object. Me and my double standards.

hkearl // Posted 27 June 2008 at 16:49

I'm a bit late as I just came across this blog entry but YES I've experienced street harassment probably since I was 11 or so. I'm don't have huge breasts but having breasts at that age was unusual and I used to wear baggy shirts to try to hide them because I vaguely felt they must be why i was now getting hollared at and hit on by boys and men 5-10 years older than me. I'm American but I studied abroad for a year in Lancaster, UK, in 2003 and I used to get street harassed about once a week while I was out for my daily runs. The most horrible street harassment experience I had was in a lancaster neighborhood. A group of guys were standing around in front of a house in a deserted neighborhood and as I ran by one of them said something like, "Look at how funny she's running" and another one said, "That's because I'm going into her from behind." They all started laughing and making jokes at my expense. I turned around and glared but didn't do anything more. My entire day was ruined, I sat at my flat horrified, humiliated, and felt I'd been verbally raped.
I wrote my master's thesis on street harassment last year and was recently cited in a CNN article on the topic that launched an online attack against the idea that street harassment is a problem and against me for being pathetic enough to research the topic. I've since started a website to address these issues and am considering writing a book to try to educate more people about the problem. Feel free to check it out and share street harassment stories! http://www.stopstreetharassment.com

Elena // Posted 01 July 2008 at 10:01

Yes. Even apparently innocuous and "friendly" addresses by complete strangers, which draw attention to the fact you are a woman, such as "love", "babe", "darling", and intimate some form of sexual or erotic relationship with the male in question, I find quite offensive.

Alicia // Posted 01 July 2008 at 12:00

"Elle said:
I got some hassle from guys when I was younger, seems the school uniform acted as some sort of "pick on me" signal."
Very much my experience too!

And a (fairly) promising story: Last week a colleague of mine was hassled in the street, in broad daylight, by a young boy. When she told him to go away he told her "I am not a child, I am 14". He had his hands in his trousers and followed her down the street, pressing against her. She phoned the police and their response has been exemplary. They have taken her statement and referred it to Operation Sapphire and offered her counselling (which she turned down because she is already in therapy as part of her job). I think it is great that it is being recognised that sex offenders start somewhere and that it often starts in adolescence.

Valerie Mainwood // Posted 01 July 2008 at 13:14

Street harrassment - as an older woman it seems to work in reverse - ie how dare you be like that? Especially when cycling in the countryside car-loads of youths try to frighten me off my bike, shouting obscenities. As I am old enough to be their mother, I am distressed that this is how they must think of her. Where does all this come from?

Jax // Posted 01 July 2008 at 15:16

doesn't everyone? I'm an older woman too and it never fails to amaze and also frighten me .. I think we are supposed to accept it along the lines of "any attention is better than none" or something like that .. I really don't think most men understand how scary it is when a woman is accosted on the street. The last time was weekend before last in Upper Street Islington .. at about 8pm. I'm now old enough to be their grandmother but have suffered harrassment since I was about 14. Its never changed. We are legit targets as far as thoughtless/stupid men/drunk/drugged men are concerned.

Clare // Posted 05 July 2008 at 12:42

I just discovered this thread, but hands up anyway. Frequently, ever since I was about 11.
Several people on the thread have said they came away from this type of encounter feeling ashamed. I have felt exactly the same. I also don't always trust my judgement on where to draw the line and do something instead of just trying to ignore it... I mean sometimes it's hard to know whether an incident is merely annoying and intrusive, or when it's a threat. Plus I don't like confrontations, I'd much rather just go quietly about my business. However, the two times I have shouted back, it felt fantastic!
The first was when a group of teenage boys standing outside a pizza shop threw a small pebble at me. (Maybe they would have done the same to a man? I'm not sure) I'd had a bad day at work, completely lost it and screamed at them for several minutes. They were speechless.
The second was when I was walking in Primrose Hill, and a man was walking too close behind me (I once had a bad experience being followed home and so am very aware of this). I tripped slightly on the curb, he made a comment, short exchange of views, I told him to f***. He was outraged - stormed to the other side of the road and started shouting at passers-by "She's a crazy woman - stay away from her!" If only they would!

Tash // Posted 08 July 2008 at 22:10

Yes. Most disturbingly the time at which i got most of my delightful beeps and comments was while wearing my school uniform (because i was aged 12-16).

Beth // Posted 09 July 2008 at 00:06

I frequently get beeped at on the road where I live. I don't think it has anything to do with physical attractiveness sometimes - as I have been properly scruffy in baggy clothes with my big book bag over my shoulder, hair scraped back etc when its happened to me - they just like to make you jump and get a kick out of initimidating you and reminding you that you are a woman and subject to male approval. Other particular incident I recall from when I was in my teens: being asked how much I charge as I got off a train late at night on my own, and again on my own on a train.a guy asking me to give him a smile, and continuing to do so for a full ten minutes while I ignored him. I know that seems fairly inocuous compared to some other posts but there's always that fear of not knowing what they might do...

Catherine Redfern // Posted 11 July 2008 at 10:49

An email I am about to send. If I don't get a satisfactory response I will let you know what company is is!

Dear Sir,

I would like to make a complaint about an incident that occured this morning with some men who were in one of your vans.

At approximately 8.45pm I was walking down the road minding my own business near ------------- station past some slow moving traffic. I heard someone shout something from a vehicle behind me. As the vehicle pulled in front of me I saw two men leaning out of the passenger side window staring right at me, leering and laughing at me. It was obvious that they had shouted some sort of derogatory or inappropriate remark and were laughing at me to see what my reaction was to their disgusting or belittling comment.

As the van pulled away I saw that it was a van owned by your company and so I presume that they were your staff inside it.

I hope you agree that this is completely inappropriate behaviour. I have no doubt that they singled me out as a target for their 'joke' purely because I am a woman walking down the road and that this is not acceptable from a professional company in this day and age. I believe that your staff should try to promote a professional and respectful image at all times whilst travelling in company vehicles.

I would also expect that these men have done this many times before and will continue to do so.

I would like to know what action you intend to take regarding this, and, I would like to know whether your company is a member of the consideration constructors scheme http://www.considerateconstructorsscheme.org.uk/ (or similar scheme).

Best regards,

Sarah // Posted 11 July 2008 at 11:48

Catherine, I once wrote a similar letter to a company after being repeatedly harassed walking past a construction site on my way to work. I got a very polite reply apologising for the distress caused, reassuring me that it was not the norm for their company, but saying that since none of the men at the site in question had admitted to such behaviour, no action could be taken. Disingenuous, of course, because surely they know as well as anyone that such behaviour happens. But I think it's worth doing, as it at least makes the point that harrassing women is a problem, that it does happen, and we are not just going to ignore or laugh it off. Companies are usually concerned about their public image, and so it's helpful to remind them that this is harming their reputation.

allan // Posted 11 July 2008 at 14:38

I have been reading these blogs with a particular interest; as a male I am sure some radical fems among you (wether you be a firestone or a dworkin or neither for that matter), may not think that one can empathise with your situation, but alas I think i can....
I'm a student in Nottingham originally from london with what you can imagine as an avant-garde look...quite strange, skinny jeans, long hair, really imaginative clothing (some ladies items) I experience daily abuse from men. This has ranged from the often cited 'oi mate why you wearing girls jeans', 'you a fucking poof or summat' etc.... It has been more serious and intimidating a number of times which I shouldnt go into, but I really feel we have something in common. Firstly I just wanted to state that point that men also encounter abuse from other men, my friends and I certainly do. Blunt instruments, let them be.
Now we have to consider where all this comes from? The sexualisation of women for me remains a burning issue. Things have got worse I am afraid. What concerns me more is that british feminism is in such a state of abeyance as Bagguley claims, that so many women have lost their voice. Sure Reclaim the Night and Ladyfest, Sheffield Fems and Cartwheels are still out there, but what about the future of british feminism? It is such an ambiguos topic but serious questions need to be asked. Street harrassment, is this a corollary of the contintued sexulalisation of women. I think we would agree it is, and if so, what is to be done? I have studied british feminism and have just graduated. If anyone wishes to contact me about anything do so.

Jen // Posted 12 July 2008 at 03:49

Oh, God, yes. I've had both the "compliments" and the insults in spades - the grossest stuff, sadly, happened when I was eleven. Two incidents really stick out in my mind: I was walking through the town centre with my mother on a Saturday afternoon (ie totally packed), and two guys walked past me. I didn't even notice them until one of them whalloped me really hard on the ass - not a pat or a slap, a real stinging blow. They then ran off, fast. I literally couldn't sit down for hours, and developed a huge bruise.

The other was when I moved to London for uni. I was making the three-minute trek from my flat to the campus, when a "Not In Service" bus came round the corner. The driver told me he was new to the job and lost, and could I help him? So, not thinking, I stepped on the bus to ask where he was trying to go. He asked me how old I was - I was eighteen at the time - then asked for my number. I said no, felt slightly duped, and went to get off the bus. Whereupon he shut the doors and tried to drive off with me. I managed to press the emergency button and jump out, as he wasn't going very fast. I did complain to the bus company, but heard nothing. My friend told me that the guy was "off-duty" and hence it "wasn't the company's problem." Yeesh.

Rachael // Posted 14 July 2008 at 16:44

Jack Leland: have you ever heard of the term "private citizen"? Digest it - because when it comes to women - most men desperately need to!!

Catherine Redfern // Posted 17 July 2008 at 09:55

I got a reply the next working day!

"Thank you very much for taking time out to make me aware of the incident that occurred this morning which obviously left you feeling very upset. Our company takes this unacceptable behaviour extremely seriously. I will have to look over time sheets and work placements so I can establish which members of staff was in the vicinity at the time this took place so i can deal with them accordingly. I as the managing director appologise on behalf of [company name]".

Yay. Hopefully those idiots in the van will think twice now about harassing women in the street - hopefully whether they are in a company van or otherwise.

Rachael // Posted 21 July 2008 at 10:43

A comment for Allan: Hi Allan! I live in Nottingham and I have been trying to find people who live here whom I can talk to about feminism and street harrasment.

Am wondering if you would like to chat? Will give my permission to the site moderators for you to take my e-mail address from them so please feel free to contact them and get it should you wish to chat with me. You said you don't mind being contacted so do hope this is ok. By the way - I think your comment made some great points about men and harrasment!

For Jess/site moderators: please forward my e-mail address to Allan should he ask for it! Thanks!

Danielle // Posted 21 July 2008 at 14:24

I think the sheer number of comments is appalling in itself, and a clear indication that this is, in fact, a widespread thing.

I've experienced lots of street harassment, but what really sticks in my memory was the time I was in my rather small local library, on my own, revising for exams when I was about 15, when a bunch of teenage boys jumped up to the open window and started verbally harrassing me. I ended up leaving.

I was hardly asking for that now was I?

Sarah // Posted 21 July 2008 at 15:30

Seems like I've been unluck enough to be at the wrong end of these kinds of comments since I was about 13 (early developer). I used to have guys in vans shout at me when I was waiting for the school bus.
Men seem to think that because I have quite large boobs that I'm ready to shag anything in trousers. I've had men ask me if they're real, telling me they're big (thanks, I hadn't noticed) try to touch them etc. A man in a club even once tried to put his face between them. And I'm supposed to be grateful for the attention. Just one more reason to keep them covered up.

Nicola // Posted 22 July 2008 at 22:13

A few weeks ago a guy followed me out of the train station muttering 'I'd like to fuck you' under his breath again and again. I just walked off - I find it hard to challenge this type of behaviour when the language used is sexual and sometimes violent. I have previously turned round and told someone to 'stop talking to me becuase that's harassment and it's unacceptable behaviour', which felt great and made them shut up, but it was easier because the comments weren't as threatening (hello lady, how are you, lovely lady etc etc). There are so many experiences that have been shared here now that mine are hardly new - but wanted to add my piece as the more comments there are the more power this thread seems to gain.

Julie // Posted 22 July 2008 at 23:19

Years ago I was a student in London. I was walking to college one day along this quiet street and this boy was walking towards me. I got this horrible feeling and suddenly knew what it was like to just freeze. He was looking at me with dead eyes and I knew he was going to do something. As he got nearer to me he started to run, and as he ran past he touched my breasts and between my legs, all the while just staring at me with his dead eyes. My heart was pounding and I was shaking with terror. There was no one around. He was wearing these heavy boots, I can still hear them. I managed to ask him what the fuck he thought he was doing and to fuck off. He said nothing, just kept looking at me. I walked away quicker, praying he wouldn't follow, and got to the main road. I didn't go into college for the next few days, I was too frightened to go anywhere near that road. I told a couple of other female students and they immediately understood and were like 'oh my God'. My male tutor tried to look serious and concerned, but I could tell he thought I was disproportionately upset. A few weeks later I left London, left my course, and never went back. I didn't even think about reporting it to the police. It didn't occur to me.
I know other people have had much worse experiences than mine. I just wanted to add this.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 31 July 2008 at 15:02

Nicola and Julie, what horrible stories.
:-(

Just went out on a 5 minute walk to the coffee shop and back and got shouted/screamed at at by men in vans THREE TIMES.

peggynature // Posted 20 August 2008 at 18:52

My hand is way, way, waaaay up. Many many many many many many times.

I "coincidentally" developed a serious mood disorder around the time the street harassment started. One man explicitly threatened to rape me and tried to get me into his car. When I ran to a stranger's house and called the police, they laughed and said, yes, he'd been quite rude but there was nothing they could do (years later, I read a newspaper story reporting that a man had been arrested for doing the exact same thing to someone else, so apparently it really is illegal.)

I guess they were just trying to tell me to get used to it, since I would undoubtedly be experiencing similar things throughout my entire adult life. And so far, they've been right.

bananapants // Posted 20 August 2008 at 20:40

Raised hand. What really creeps me out is reading that studies have found 1 out of 3 men would rape someone if they knew they could get away with it.

And they say women are at the mercy of their hormones.

Dani // Posted 20 August 2008 at 23:54

Yesterday: two guys in a car came to a screeching halt in the middle of a reasonably busy (at that hour) road to (a) ogle and then (b) whistle.

Today: two guys in a truck honked and shouted on an adjacent road.

And none of this is new. It's just the most recent. So today I'll raise both hands.

StarWatcher // Posted 21 August 2008 at 04:05

Of course. And I don't know a woman who
hasn't. In the street, in school, in personal
relationships... we're never completely
free of it.

Deanna // Posted 21 August 2008 at 07:49

Barked at, mooed at, crap thrown at me, followed home, random groping, and name calling.

Most memorable line: "Do you spit or swallow?"

Scarlett // Posted 22 August 2008 at 16:03

Yep! Me too.

The most effective repellent I've found when being called to or whistled at by men is to casually spit on the pavement. It's so revoltingly "unladylike" that it completely freaks them out and they bugger off. It works every time.

Erin // Posted 13 September 2008 at 08:04

Oh, I definitely have had harassment. I've been "called", things have been yelled at me, have had people stop to ask for directions and then follow me with their car. I've been flashed, and when 12 was followed up to a friend's door by a man in his 20's. I remember being afraid that they would think I lived there, and then they'd try to break in right then. A guy came up to me at a mall and put his arm around me. He was drunk, and aggravating.

I was one of the lucky ones as far as the things I just mentioned go, but I wouldn't call it harmless. I also wouldn't call any of that remarkable in any way, and it's crap.

Charlotte // Posted 21 September 2008 at 14:39

This thread has struck a cord with me, I've gone through the majority of it and heavily relate and sympathise with most.

I've been kicked and pushed sitting, minding my own business at a bus stop when i was 16, by a hobo no less. It was FRIGHTENING. I did nothing to warrent it. NOBODY stuck up for me, thank god my best friend did, she called the police while I was in tears and he was arrested.

Another bus story, and surprise! another drunkard! As there was absolutely no other seat left, or floor space mind you, I was forced to sit next a homeless looking man, whose first words were ' Fuck off'. Yes, lovely. I stood up for myself though with, 'Exscuse me, what did you just say?', when he mumbled something obscene i went NUTS. I swore at the top of lungs ' You scum FUCKING CUNT!', (not the most eloquent words but WTF, I was fuming!) and fought my way out of the bus. Oh myyy, everyone was stunned, because shock horror, a wee mere girl fought back.

And I'm now very partially deaf in one ear from being punched across the face last year on a night out by some middle-eastern looking man, because gasp, I wouldn't go home with him. The perks of having a vagina and a female head, eh? Oh and the worst thing was, MY drunkenness was of course, mainly to blame, not that pig's violent power over women. 2008? 1958?

And it's shit like that that pisses me off, I stand up for myself and others (male aswell) always now, at 21 I'm just coming into myself more confidently. We need to band together, damnit!

Gemma // Posted 22 September 2008 at 13:22

I just got linked to this by a friend (who has also commented here). So my hand is going up too.

I never had any trouble until I was about 18 (I'm now 20) when I sprouted boobs pretty much overnight and suddenly looked like a woman. I went to a party where a lot of my male friends were, and some kid I had only just met grabbed my arse because he had seen me hugging my friends and thought it was okay. Well, no, it's not, and if any of them had seen it he would have been in deep shit.

I have had a stranger putting his hand up my skirt in a club, drivers beeping and yelling, someone hassling me for my number, all sorts of things. I don't like walking down my road on my own because men I don't know make comments at me. And it all depends on what I wear- if I wear jeans and a coloured top I get horrible, creepy comments about my looks and horns beeping. If I wear my metaller/goth clothes, I get abuse from people calling me ugly or a 'dirty grebo'. But I would rather have the abuse about my clothes- I feel I have to dress 'metal' all the time, in big boots and lots of black, because people don't understand it and they leave me alone. Getting comments about my body or being touched is so much scarier- when some men started hassling me down by the river near my house I was terrified they were going to shove me into the bushes and start getting physical.

I just think myself lucky that my boyfriend and most of my friends are tall, bearded metallers- when I'm with them, nobody says a word. But lots of girls don't have anyone like that, and anyway, why should we need a man around to keep us safe?

George // Posted 22 September 2008 at 15:40

Charlotte - although I am not dismissing your experiences in any way, I have to worry about your use of language. It seems that "hobo", "homeless-looking" and "some middle eastern looking man" aren't words that I'd personally choose.

ZoBabe // Posted 28 September 2008 at 03:37

Too many times to count.

Davina // Posted 29 October 2008 at 23:53

Glad to see this comment thread is still going on - so much proof here for those people who say 'oh, well, it's never happened to me so it can't possibly exist'. Codswallop!

Just wanted to say, bananapants - "And they say women are at the mercy of their hormones" - sexual harassment, assault or rape, has nothing to do with hormones, or men being 'at the mercy' of their hormones. Nothing.


Whitney // Posted 30 October 2008 at 01:05

I'm so desensitized to it now, it's just part of a Friday or Saturday night! What irks me, but I also find funny, is that following some vulgar comment, they don't even give you a chance to answer before calling you a frigid bitch. If you don't strip down and run at them gleefully within two seconds of being insulted, you're a lesbian, frigid etc etc etc.

Rachael // Posted 30 October 2008 at 13:45

Scarlett - love the spitting! I used to have a habit of pretending to pick my nose in front of a guy I knew was about to harass me- it was hilarious to watch their reactions!!

But yes, to add to all of the comments of the brave women here. I get harassed, cat calls and insults on a regular basis too. I tend to come back with somnething witty - like once, a bloke called me "a man" because I shouted back when he was leering at my arse. So I said "yep, sweetie - more of a man than you'll ever be"!

I wouldn't always say that all women should do that if they are not comfortable but it has worked for me.

Just as an aside to this. I was just wondering how women feel about the physical side of the harrassment. I only ask because I get grabbed and groped two to three times in a night when I go to a club. So to combat this, I have learned martial arts (it's amazing how confident tat makes you feel!)

Now I will always give a warning to the guy to back off first. However, if he continues/becomes aggressive, I will absolutely fight back.

And yes, I know violence is not the answer but the police certainly have no interest in helping women who experience social violence and in this situation, I have to look at protecting myself in the moment. Again - it works for me.

Natalie // Posted 30 October 2008 at 19:56

I think the thing I hate most about street harassment is the feelings of impotent fury that linger on afterwards.

Like the time I was cycling along the Bristol-Bath cycle track (pretty, but isolated and with limited means of escape) and two men walking towards me chose to shout and leer at me and then slap my ass as I passed them. I shouted 'fuck you' and felt pathetic for doing so. I was incensed that they felt it was acceptable to do that. That they did not see or did not care how their behaviour would be received by me. I had such an adrenaline rush from the fact I could have fallen off my bike, and I was furious that I was so frightened. Totally spoiled my morning.

Or…. is it the frustration that follows when I try and talk about how harassment affects me and some people (men) Just Don’t Get It.

Like when I tried explaining to my then-boyfriend how bad my heart was pumping the time I walked home on my own at night and I was aware of a man walking behind me who was getting closer, and closer, and closer… and then as I was almost at my door and he was right behind me suddenly asked me if I knew what time it was. Yes, I know he wasn’t harassing me, but it still freaked me out and I didn’t appreciate my the-boyfriend’s argument that the chap in question did the right thing by speaking to me because that showed me that he didn’t represent a threat. No, it showed that his privilege means he probably didn’t have the slightest idea that I was perceiving him as a threat.

Or… is it the feeling of powerlessness that results from realising that even when some people (men and women) are really sympathetic about it, really they don’t think it’s that big a deal and think you should just get over yourself.

Like the morning I was walking to university along a busy street and was harassed by a man who walked with me for about 5 minutes, asking me questions, following me when I tried to cross the street to avoid him and finally, quietly, looked into my eyes, reached out and stroked my stomach (through my open coat, over my jumper). When I got to uni I was really freaked out and talked about it with a (male) fellow student… who tried to engage me in a discussion about relative experiences of oppression (as I am a white middle class woman and the man who harassed me was a black man in a socially disadvantaged neighbourhood). And when I tried to report it to the police (the man was quite distinctive looking and there is cctv along that street) the female officer I spoke to pointed out to me (in so many words) that as he hadn’t touched anything more intimate than my stomach and his hand hadn’t gone under my clothes, it didn’t count as sexual assault so they weren’t going to do anything about it and why had I bothered reporting it anyway?

Or is it the way that thinking about those incidents now, I realise they each still have the power to upset me?

Rose // Posted 30 October 2008 at 20:50

Where to start?

I've had alot of abuse in streets, including a 20 min stalking session, which included my politely declining his advances, telling him to fuck off, claiming to be engaged, and even a mid street scuffle. This didn't end until I approached and talked to a group of middle aged men. The 'gentleman' then seems to have realised that 'this object' was not for his amusement only.

I have been hospitalised twice by having drinks spiked, not in streets - but still public spaces. And I have heard guys condoning spiking, on the grounds that it can be really hard for shy guys to talk to girls, so if their gonna get some... well, they've got to do something! To my mind, spiking in itself comes somewhere between serious endangerment and attempted murder.

I've had some very offences comments in streets (and grabs, and strokes, and other attempts, some of which became quite serious physical attacks), from open-mouthed knuckle-dragging apes who think they've worked out what women are for.
As above, mainly when alone, sometimes with female friends, occasionally when with guys - but then it tends to be directed at insulting the guy or 'stealing his property', then actually having anything todo with me.

My friends say I can't take a compliment, even from them, and the sad thing is, its true. I really can't. In my experience, the assholes out there see that acceptance as acceptance of anything else they have in mind, it makes them feel vindicated.

But then again, its all in the tone and manner, I guess. A guy told me that I had beautiful eyes, sweetly, and then pinned me up against a wall as I tried to walk past.
Another shouted, 'come sit on my lap, and we'll talk about the first thing that pops up', and we both laughed, and kept going are own ways!

The difference for me comes in the guy 'knowing' the difference between right and wrong. With some guys, you just feel safe, no matter what they say. With others, you know theres danger- and its not about their build, or dresscode, its just them. Predators.

Laura // Posted 30 October 2008 at 22:56

Natalie - I've experienced all those feelings, and always the lingering impotent fury. I'm genuinely thinking about printing off this comment thread and forcing those who don't get it to read it over and over until they do...

Cara // Posted 31 October 2008 at 15:38

Laura - do it! Do it!
I may print off several excellent f-word articles and force my male friends and colleagues to read them, before mouthing off about feminism being 'man-hating' etc.

Natalie - well said. I mean, I normally shrug off street harrassment but some comments can leave a nasty aftertaste. Only a few have really upset me, I think I wrote up the thread about when 2 guys were staring at me on a bus, I mean really freakishly staring, and laughed at my discomfort when I moved seats.
Nice. That ruined my day.
Absolutely agree with Rose too - an innocent-sounding comment could be creepy, and a dodgy-sounding one actually innocent; it depends entirely on the man who says it. I'm not excusing sexist comments, but I'd laugh at your second example, too - if the guy seemed harmless. With an eye roll, but I'd laugh. As you say, it's in context - which is what annoys me when men try to dismiss harrassment by saying a comment was a compliment, and it wasn't, because of the *way* he said it. If you weren't there, you don't know the tone and manner in which it was said, so don't get to have an opinion.
One time that comes to mind (ah, the joys of being female, the countless times I've been harrassed) I was waiting at a bus stop and a couple of guys walking past called out 'nice boots'. It bothered me all day because I couldn't work out whether they were being sarcastic and didn't like them, genuinely thought it was a compliment, or were, most likely, just out to say something random to a woman to annoy her.
(I think they were cool boots, but being moderate in heel and grey, were neither butch nor overtly sexy, comfortable but stylish. Perhaps they didn't like the fact I didn't dress to please men, but myself).
The very fact that this thread is still going shows that street harrassment is something ALL women experience.

Anna // Posted 05 November 2008 at 23:46

was walking through bristol and some guy stopped me,
'do you have a boyfriend' 'what, yes, why' 'you're sexy'

I told him to piss off but a) that wasn't articulate enough and b) I only said it quietly, I know he heard but I should have shouted and c) I had a bit of a cry for the rest of the evening because it made me all scared and sad and generally shit and it's not fair..

then I thought 'wait did I invite that somehow' and I know I didn't because I'm wearing my god damn work clothes have lesbian hair and no makeup and even if I WAS dressed in a full latex outfit he's got no fucking right to behave like that BUT the feeling won't go away anyway. on the one hand I'm proud I said piss off. fiercely proud.. I've not quite managed to do that before. on the other hand I'm sad and spent the rest of the night shaking and looking over my shoulder and nearly crying. because you don't do that to men or they could turn nasty and that would be my fault too..

Sharon Curtis // Posted 02 February 2009 at 22:15

My hand is up.

I was just wondering whether there was any adult woman in the UK who has *not* experienced any street harassment?

Kez // Posted 03 February 2009 at 10:38

I’ve recently taken up running, which I love, but find some of the comments I get hard to cope with (I have large breasts, and even with the world’s most super-reinforced sports bra they do seem to draw attention, usually from young lads on bikes who feel quite justified in shouting out hilarious comments. Funnily enough they only ever do this when with their mates, though – so brave!).

I generally ignore it completely but it does put me off. Even with headphones on it’s quite obvious when someone is calling out. I’m put off running my favoured route, a scenic cycle path used by cyclists, dog walkers and other runners, because I feel vulnerable. But if I run alongside the main road it’s (a) not as nice a route and (b) I get guys in cars shouting out instead, so I can’t win. I don’t want to do all my running on the treadmill at the gym!

Rachael // Posted 03 February 2009 at 11:48

"I was just wondering whether there was any adult woman in the UK who has *not* experienced any street harassment?"

Thanks Sharon Curtis! i have not met one yet!! I get it at least once a week. All the usual - verbal harrasment and to a lesser extent (but still often) physical, too.

It ASTOUNDS me that many men believe it does not exist. And even when you tell them, they don't care. It's a travesty of epic proportions...but hey, it's a "compliment"!!!!!!

tylik // Posted 13 June 2009 at 19:29

I'm from the US, FWIW. I have trouble imagining that many women haven't been heckled on the street at some point or another - and Seattle, where I grew up, seems to be fairly tame as these things go. I'm not even sure when was the first time. Does the time I was five, waiting in the car while my mother did some quick shopping, and a man came up and exposed himself count? By the time I was ten (I looked older) it was not uncommon.

But it really changed when I moved to Cleveland a couple of years back. There's a much more aggressive street culture here. I get asked out by strangers frequently - and many of them are fairly polite, really, but it's not what I'm used to. I'm thirty six. I never wear make-up, I practice martial arts ever day and being a grad student and under no dress code I usually wear loose pants and t-shirts all the time.

After sixteen years of having hip length hair I finally buzzed off a few months back. And that does seem to help some, though one of my male colleagues felt compelled to tell me that it made me look like a bad ass lesbian biker chick. (I was torn between explaining to him that he was half right and my disgust that he seemed to think my sexuality had anything to do with him. Ew.)

K. K. // Posted 13 June 2009 at 20:40

Yup, happens all the time.

K // Posted 15 June 2009 at 13:46

I think people have to be able to draw the distinction between a mildly appreciative look and an outright lear. I'm tempted to think that men trying to engage with this issue here don't understand the difference between someone instinctively checking out someone they find attractive (hey both men and women do that) and someone staring in such a way that almost implies ownership, of both you and the public space.

I'm curious as to what people consider the appropriate response to on street harassment? I'd argue that for up-skirting, grobbing etc a bit of physical retaliation is OK, but maybe I'm wrong? I find it hard to know how to respond when people make comments which are seemingly neutral. There's a concern that if you ignore a simple "hello" you'll be meet with a volley of abuse along the stuck-up cow lines, but some people seem to take any kind of neutral response to be an invite to heap on filth.

I'd also add an observation that I've been harassed far less the older I've got. Perhaps I'm over the hill at 25, but it seems to a lot of men there's nothing as attractive as a vulnerable teenager.

leah // Posted 17 June 2009 at 02:46

Reading this, I flashed back to a few weeks ago when I randomly offered a very thin smile to an older unhappy looking guy who was walking toward me.

His expression didn't change as he muttered "You make my dick hard" in an exceedingly creepy voice. It made my stomach do a surprise flip of disgust.

And reading this thread I realized that that's just the instance that sticks out in my head. It seems like every homeless guy I pass has something gross to say to me, and the rest of the men I pass usually at least give me a sort of measuring, leering glance. I think I'm the most surprised when a man I pass *doesn't* creep me out.

LB // Posted 17 June 2009 at 18:27

Barely a day goes by when I am not harassed in the street. I probably first really noticed it when at 15, an older "gentleman" started masturbating beside me on the bus. I have no doubt it began before this and I simply didn't notice.

I am much, much more likely to be hassled when I have the audacity to walk the streets alone, but I get it when I am with others too. The time I was at a karaoke competition with my family and the DJ came over to the table to "congratulate" me on my "tits bouncing up and down" in front of my dad sticks out particularly clearly in my mind, despite it being about 10 years ago. My taste in boyfriends runs to the slightly intimidating looking, so I have always had some respite when out with them, but even so, often my beau will go to the bar or loo and by the time he comes back, somebody has either touched me up or is talking drivel to my clearly uninterested face.

I have been groped in broad daylight, I have been forced to get on buses that are going nowhere near my destination to get away from men forcing themselves on me at bus stops, I've been groped and grabbed at in clubs, I had to quit a bar job due to a regular thinking he was allowed to grab my arse. I've been flashed at outside my house. And I've had all the filthy comments, leers and jeers you could ever wish for. It never stops. And this is just the stuff I notice - I constantly have my earphones in and generally am striding around purposefully, minding my own business.

I try SO hard not to let it alter my behaviour, but sometimes it just gets too much. At tea-time on Saturday I was walking along a busy street to get a bus. I was set upon by a stag party, one of whom stuck his face in my cleavage. They then circled me and intimidated me to the point where I was sure they were going to touch me. I ended up falling over myself into the gutter to get away from them, bashing myself against a car and breaking the heel on my new shoe. Infuriating (not in the least part because they were all "nice looking" lads who no doubt pulled later on in the evening). Lucky me eh?

I am so resentful of a society where one half of the population is so...arrogant, they can force their way into the consciousness of the other half without endorsement or invitation. It's nothing but bullying!

I intend to start a sexual harassment blog, as an outlet for my anger about this if nothing else. It's so hard to know what to do in these situations, in terms of balancing safety with giving them a bollocking. It actually makes me feel so furious at times though, and so frustrated, that I end up just crying with rage. 80(

Mogwai // Posted 23 June 2009 at 17:24

I also experience harassment on an almost daily basis, whether that's creepy staring (no move to look away even when you make eye contact), beeping and leering in vehicles, 'friendly' conversations at the bus stop, comments and whistles in the street, or outright groping in town on fri / sat evenings. On my lunch break today a guy (inexplicably shirtless) started telling me I was sexy etc, while leering at me in a most aggressive manner. Usually I'd just get annoyed and ignore, but today I lost my temper and angrily told him to f- off. This provoked a torrent of abuse 'you fucking bitch etc' at the top of his voice as I half-ran down the (thankfully busy) street back to my office. It was pretty scary, but not a one-off. Has anyone found calmer responses to harassment effective? I find it hard to know how to deal with this kind of behaviour, the ignoring method leading to (as others have mentioned) unhealthy pent-up fury.

Ruth // Posted 23 June 2009 at 20:45

"I was just wondering whether there was any adult woman in the UK who has *not* experienced any street harassment?"

Present. I'm veering right now between relief and mild consternation that apparentIy I am even plainer/more boring-looking than I always thought...*shrug*, actually no, it's just relief. Nothing is worth all that sh*t.
Commiserations to all you folks above.

Melissa // Posted 23 June 2009 at 23:06

I have never been *seriously* harrassed on the street but I do have a few mild incidents that spring to mind.
One Friday night my friend and I went to a toga-foam party and when the foam ended around 1 in the morning we left the club to get food and for pleasant walk around the city centre. My friend was dressed under her toga so she just took hers off however I had no trousers or anything on my lower half so I just kept mines on and this drunk guy came up to me a shouted "that is fucking ugliest, unsexiest dress I have ever seen!!!". After we were done laughing at him my friend retorted with "Yeah cos we dressed like this JUST for you" The look of confusion on his face was priceless. We spent the next hour or so flipping off and shouting at guys who were beeping us or shouting at us. It was very stress relieving especially right after exams.
Another time was some 80 year old man started talking to me in the middle of the street (deserted but it was the middle of the day in a sleepy town). He didn't mention anything strange or intimidating, he was just asking me about my headphones (standard issue iPod) All very bizarre.

Being a bit of a hot head and cut my nose off to spite my face type, I probably don't react to harassment in a *safe* manner i.e. getting the fuck out of there or ignoring it. When people annoy me in the street I either shout at them or glare at them till they feel uncomfortable till they leave. On one occassion when I was in high school some boy a couple of years younger than me started running at me with a pipe, clearly trying to give the impression he was going to hit me with it, I just stopped and stared till he stopped and ran off.

And something that I just remembered which was more creepy than scary, when I was walking back home from the train station a group of 5-7 year old boys were playing on the street and started shouting "You fucking whore" at a girl walking a few metres in front of me and then came up to me and started groping my arse. Normally I would have punched the guy, but what do you do when its children?

PS- sorry for my potty mouth ^_^

Indrani // Posted 24 June 2009 at 11:00

Touched, prodded, stared at, grabbed, rubbed against on a near-daily basis, and on occasion, licked. And I don't know a single female friend or acquaintance who hasn't encountered the same.

I remember one day when I was 15 and coming home by the metro. There was this charming old man who actually grabbed my chest and used it as a handlebar of sorts so he could hoist himself onto the train. It was enormously painful, and humiliating more than anything else. I walked home crying.

I don't know how any man in the world could write something like that off as "ironic, harmless fun" or something that I "asked for anyway".

The point is that, no matter how street harassment (or any type of harassment) manifests itself, ranging from incidents annoying and insulting to painful and depraved, it's just not fair that any woman, or any human being/living thing, should be subject to it.

Jen // Posted 05 July 2009 at 01:53

*raises hands*

Leering, shouting, whilstling etc etc on the street & being groped in a club are all recent incidents that come to mind, infuriatingly. I can't believe that there are people who claim this isn't a problem - I agree they should be made to read this!

BOB // Posted 28 July 2009 at 10:53

IT SHOULD BE STOPPED!!!! THEY SHOULD NOT GET AWAY WITH IT.

Serenity // Posted 06 August 2009 at 21:03

Really old post, I know, but I was googling ways of dealing with street harassment. I get obscene comments yelled at me even when I'm out in a long skirt and headscarf. It's not about sex or attraction, it's about power-over, and I hate that. :/

Meg // Posted 27 August 2009 at 14:52

It's definitely worth complaining to the company in question if the harrassers are supposedly at work. I did this with the Council after the rubbish collection men beeped, leered and shouted at me out of the window of their lorry. The next day I had a very apologetic call from the Council saying all employees involved had been interviewed and one was dismissed from his job for the offence. The others were formally warned! I can't imagine they'll be behaving like this towards women while they're at work any more.

LadyLaxton // Posted 08 September 2009 at 16:45

*Raise Hand*

I get street harassment pretty much every day. It varies from being stared at to being insulted or spoken to. It is intimidating and I genuinely dont understand it. Do guys really think that it's ok? Do they not realise how it makes women feel?

And the worst thing about it is that usually because it happens when I'm alone, I never say anything back, whereas I should say that their misogynistic crap is totally unacceptable but somehow faced with a bunch of guys leering at me I can't bring myself to do it. Hate it!

thebeardedlady // Posted 08 September 2009 at 21:40

Just wanted to raise my hand too... so many occassions, from the age of 9 or 10, being followed home, flashed at, threatened, pushed, hit, verbally abused, and told to 'smile, it's not that bad'. The latter is almost a daily occurence. Even so, I've been shocked to read some of the comments here... It can be infuriating and humiliating, and events can stay with you for a long time.

I wish there was some foolproof way of responding which felt safe and had the desired effect. I have confronted harrassers on a number of occassions. On many occassions, I've confronted men who are harrassing other women, which for some reason I feel more brave about doing than standing up for myself... I wonder why that is. One time when I was in Morocco, I was followed around by two young men who were making increasingly sexual comments to me, calling and laughing. Finally I just had enough and I whirled around to face them, telling them how disrespectful their comments were, asking them how they would feel if their mother or sister or wife was harrassed and spoken to this way, shouted at them about their basic lack of manners towards me -- all this in a mixture of rubbish french and infuriated english -- and when I had finally finished, with dire warnings to leave me well alone in future, they ran after me and apologised profusely! A good result! But I am not always that confident, by any stretch of the imagination.

I know this is an old thread, just wanted to add my voice.

Esme // Posted 08 September 2009 at 22:02

I spent four and a half years attending college in a small town in north central Florida, which is where I first experienced street harassment. Until then, I had never had it aimed at me, mostly because I'm from the suburbs where people get in their cars to drive a block.

Most of the harassment was from white men, particularly trucks or SUVs which contained more than one man. In the evenings, walking back to my dorm from the commons, it wasn't unusual for pickup trucks of Hispanic day laborers on their ways home to catcall. These I found disturbing, but the catcalls from white men in cars were the ones I found threatening.

My sophomore year, I gave a friend a ride home to her apartment late one night, and returned around 2am on a week night. Because of the parking situation around all of the dorms (the school sold about twice as many parking passes as there were spaces anywhere close to the dorms) I had to park in a satellite lot and walk about 2 blocks back to my dorm in the dark. As I was about half way to my dorm, and man pulled along side me driving the opposite direction and called out to me. I slowed, but didn't stop walking. He began to slowly back up to continue driving beside me, and told me a sob story about his wallet getting stolen and needing money for gas. Familiar with this type of panhandling, I said I had no cash and continued walking. The man made a u-turn and started driving towards me. I walked faster and he sped up. I began to run and he chased me through the lot, me ducking between cars and eventually arriving out of breath at the door to my dormitory which I hurriedly opened and slammed behind me.

After that point, I refused to walk alone around campus after dark, particularly after a woman attending my school was raped outside of one of the academic buildings in an area that public safety was supposed to patrol. Every time I walked alone down the street, I experienced some form of harassment, ranging from honks or whistles from passing cars, catcalling, and being followed.

I had a class on the far side of campus my junior year, far away from my dorm, that ran until after 9pm twice a week. Unfortunately, no one else in the class lived in the same dorm as me, so I was often forced to walk alone in the dark along the major street that ran through campus. Catcalling and whistles were common, but by far the most disturbing thing was the men who tried to run me over. The night when two men in a large van tried to run me down, while screaming "WHORE" at me was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. As the van sped off, I noticed that on the back, painted in large, bright letters, were the words "TRUST CHRIST."

My senior year, one of my friends (an out gay man) was harassed by a pickup full of young men who, when he yelled back at them to f*** off, jumped out of the truck and beat him up. He left the school after the word "fag" was carved into the dorm room door of him and his gay roommate.

polly // Posted 09 September 2009 at 08:08

Carry a camera with you. Next time someone hassles you, photograph them. It really freaks them out.

Bea // Posted 09 September 2009 at 17:05

I regularly experience men leering at me in the street, quite frequently making comments about my appearrance, or making peculiar and unnverving sexual advances.

When out in a pub with a group of my girlfriends we all walked past a group of lads as we left the toilets and they began making some kind of incoherent noises at us which then decended into barking. This enraged me for a good two hours and I was very glad when our group left the pub as I suspected that it might otherwise have ruined my whole night. I could not believe the audacity and total lack of compassion and respect of these people. I was absolutely furious and felt, as I think seems to be common in these situations, totally powerless.

As someone mentioned above I have also experienced several times a man coming up to me or passing me and saying 'smile!' or 'give us a smile then'. This clearly isnt the most serious of cases but still I feel that it is inappropriate for a stranger to tell someone else how to behave, when they are just minding their own business. I also feel that this is a symptom of the dynamic of power between men and women in this society, and then some men seem to think that they own women's exterior appearance and therefore can pass judgements about it, and expect it to please them at all times.

Perhaps the most serious and upsetting of my experiences of sexual harassment perpetrated by strangers is the time I was sitting on a bus next to a man. He had his hands by his sides and the hand closest to me was touching my leg. It wasnt grabbing me or even placed on my leg as such, but there was just contact. This is why I found it so hard to deal with, because I could not quite determine whether he was doing it on purpose, or whether it was just contact that occurred that he was unaware of. But it seemed that he pressed his hand closer when the bus was going along, as if wanting me to think that the usual bumps and movements of the bus were knocking him into me. It all felt very deliberate and because of the way it made me feel, I am sure he was doing it on purpose. I just felt paralysed, I made myself as small as I could, moving myself as far away from him as I could but his hand was still in contact with my leg. It was a most agonizing and humiliating journey and again I felt entirely powerless. It seemed that it wasn't overt enough for me to take any action, to protest or to leave the bus or to do anything. So I was just stuck, screaming inside my head until I got to my stop. It was so insipid, so sneaky and creepy and horrible. I don't think I will ever forget it. Why did this man think he had the right to do this??

Greatly sympathise with the stories of others above. This problem needs to be tackled as it is evidently extremely widespread and nothing is being done to combat it!!

Bea // Posted 09 September 2009 at 17:34

As I'm reading everyone else's comments I'm remembering more and more things that have happened to me. I was on a ferry once and I must only have been about 14 or 15 and a man grabbed at my hip as I passed him, it was fleeting but extremely unpleasant.

When I was about 16 I had a shaved head (this may have been significant, I'm not sure) and I was at a carnival and rushing along to find my friends and I had to push past these two men and one said to the other 'id like to break down her backdoors'. I have never forgotten it.

How can men behave like this to women, never mind such young women??!!

I'm also constantly honked at as I walk down the busy road near my house. This often makes me jump which feels stupid and I think it's so unfair as people in cars have such an advantage over pedestrians and its horrible to use their power in that way to humiliate women.

Anna // Posted 09 September 2009 at 17:38

Bea - buses are awful. I had a man come and sit next to me recently 'do you mind if I sit there, darlin'' when he'd actually moved from his seat to do so and the bus was almost compeletely empty. I didn't say anything, really, so he sat next to me and kept putting his hand on my leg (in much the same way as yours) and trying to get me to talk to him about where he was going after he got off the bus. I was nearly crying by the time I got off, fueled entirely by rage and hatred towards that arrogant pisshead who thought he had some sort of cock-given right to do that (he was also much older than I, and quite drunk) and self-loathing and bitterness that I couldn't quite muster up the courage to tell him where to stick it.

sianmarie // Posted 10 September 2009 at 10:31

the two incidents i remember that happened to me are: on the number 38 bus at around 10am on a Saturday morning in 2005. I was hungover and on my way to Victoria to get a bus to Bristol. There was no one else on the top deck except me and the man who took the seat in front of me.
I was yawning and the man turned around and asked me if I was tired or hungry. I smiled stiffly, in the way Londoners do when spoken to on public transport, and said both. He laughed, and tried to talk to me for a bit, and because my need to be polite overcomes the need I have to stolidly ignore everyone on buses when I am hungover, I talked back to him. I don’t really remember what we talked about. Then, without warning, he lunged at me and tried to kiss me. I pushed him away, so he only managed to kiss my shoulder, and I said NO as firmly as I could. He just smiled, and shrugged, and got off at the next stop.
I remember feeling frightened, but more than that I felt absolutely furious. How dare he try to do that to me? What gave him the right to try to kiss me, when all I wanted to do was take the bus to Victoria without being bothered by anyone? I was so angry, and I was shaken. It was so annoying, it made me so mad that he had thought it was ok to do that. And I was frightened, because what if he hadn’t smiled and shrugged? What if he had got angry? We were alone on the top deck, and I was amazed at how feeble and weak I had felt when I said no and pushed him. I became so frightened that if things had got worse, I wouldn’t be able to defend myself, precisely because I was afraid.

I was so angry.

The second incident happened two months ago, when it was hot. I was wearing a short playsuit. I was leaving the job centre after signing on. The job centre is opposite a strip club. It was 11am, bright sunny day, and a group of men were sitting outside the strip club. 5 or 6 of them, in their 30s. As I walked past I put my glasses in my bag and went to get my sunglasses out, when one of them shouted “oy you dropped something”. I turned around thinking something had dropped out my bag and they said “you dropped your knickers”. I turned right round and kept walking, when they started chanting “bitch bitch bitch bitch” after me. I started crying.
Never have I heard someone put so much hate in the word bitch. I thought they wanted to kill me, their voices were so full of anger and malevolence and hate. Sheer hate. And this is important – even though technically I knew I was safe, I felt so frightened. I felt like they could hurt me.
When I stopped being frightened I got mad. I got so angry. I wanted to walk back over there and kick in their smug self satisfied faces. I wanted to pull their arms around their backs and make them apologise. I wished I knew martial arts so I could show them what should happen to them for treating women with such hatred, with such disrespect. I’m not a violent person but I wanted to make these men frightened like they had made me frightened.

What I want to know is why do these people think it is ok to chant bitch as I walk past? Why do people think it is ok to tell me I have nice tits and they’d like to fuck me? Why is it ok that once when a group of men started harassing me, they saw my boyfriend next to me and then apologised to him? Why is it ok to tell me that my outfit is nice and sexy – I don’t give a flying fuck if you think that or not! Why are women walking down the street public property, to be commented on, evaluated, commanded and told what to do? How is this still happening? How is this still considered ok?

Jessica Burton // Posted 10 September 2009 at 12:45

I, too have suffered from street harrassment, so count my vote.

Having read all these posts I became so angry! I was thinking how could we try to stop this (without resorting to violence though I would really love to: you get a slap for a whistle and a punch for each word, fucker! Anyway...)

Inspired by the film in a more recent post of a lady who stops these men, asks them to repeat what they said with a camera in their face, I agree with Polly, we need to carry around cameras (you probably have one on your phone) and take a picture of them. This will unnerve them but you are within your rights if you are in any public space. The photos could go to a wall/website of shame (called sexualharrassers.com?)

I also thought of handing them a printed business card saying something like:

You just expressed an unasked for, unwarranted opinion with sexual content.

You are a sexual harrasser. It is not appropriate to speak to women this way.

Do not do it again.

I would pay the printing fees to be able to pass them out!

Elmo // Posted 10 September 2009 at 14:25

I never really thought about it till i saw someone else's post, but actually one of the most uncomfortable moments for me was talking to a charity worker. They line princes street in edinburgh pretty much every saturday, so u cant walk down it without coming across one. I was on my way to my drama class, and this guy with a clipboard approaches. Im pretty shy generally, so i slowed down when asked. He was quite young and attractive (and i think he knew it) and im pretty sure attractive people get picked to do this job so they can charm the public, which seems a creepy way to run a charity, if you ask me. Anyway, I told him i was 17 (which i am) and therefore too young to join whichever charity he was advertising, but instead of letting me go, he kept trying to talk to me-where are you going, what are you up to. I really didnt feel like telling him, and instead of feeling flattered that he was persuing me, despite not needing to, i felt really unomfortable-i didnt want to tell him my life story, beleive it or not! He then asked -"can i get a smile then?"-which, as we all know, is only one step away from "cheer up, pal, it might never happen!" well, it just did! Im being asked personal and unneccisary questions by a stranger who feels im not allowed to look grumpy!Plus, if it WAS some kind of chat up, he already knew i was legally a child, and therefore too young for him- because i told him myself! so why persist? He just kept smiling in an unnerving way, and asking why i was in a hurry, etc. I finally shook him off by being very unresponsive, but i felt so uncomfortable, and sort of violated-for some reason i felt bad that i didnt want to give him personal details about hwat i was doing! Ive had all the usual-cat calls, whistles, blokes in vans, groping, but this one stands out because it just doesnt feel like the kind of situation where you should be made to feel bad and uncofortable-i mean, he was a bloody charity worker!

Kristin // Posted 10 September 2009 at 15:17

Sianmarie and Elmo, your stories really struck a chord with me.

Elmo, most of those charity workers in the street are aggressive creeps. I notice they target younger people, because they obviously think they'll be able to manipulate them more easily. The only thing is to ignore them and just keep walking. Last week one of them tried to stop my niece (she's 16!) and said "Hey, I want a word with you". Briefed by her mother and me (!) she replied, 'well, I don't want a word with you!' and kept walking. He thought he was witty and attractive too. They're not. They're tossers. Don't let them stop you. You don't have to explain anything to anyone, or answer any personal questions.

What really upsets me reading these comments (and the comments on the original post) is that so many girls and women are still conditioned to be so bloody polite and accommodating! We feel we have to smile at and be polite to men who are creeping us out, we stop and talk to them and let them waste our time. We (not surprisingly) can't get over this conditioning that we have to be polite and sweet and friendly put up with bullshit.
And then what happens when a girl or woman gets attacked or raped? She gets blamed if she doesn't fight back!

Let's stop being so polite. Try a little practice exercise. Next time a charity person or some other guy tries to talk, stop you, ask personal questions, waste your time - just ignore him and walk on. Tell him to fuck off if you like, but the point of the exercise is to just keep going and not engage.
The more you do it, the easier it'll get.

Elmo // Posted 10 September 2009 at 15:58

Kristin- you are so right, we should NOT feel the need to be polite and 'just put up with it' I meant to put on my other post, my main point is, there are so many men who think that, even though groping and catcalling is unacceptable-"chatting up" is ok-well, its not! sometimes, women DONT want to be "chatted up" by a random asking personal questions, sometimes they find it uncomfortable if a stranger comes up to them. this guy should have known better, because he could SEE i didnt want to know-he took advantage of my shyness. obviously flirting has to occur in life, otherwise no one would reproduce, but there is a time and a place, and it is NOT with underage girls who arnt interested and clearly look uncomfortable. eurgh. this instance wasnt flirting, and thats the mistake a lot of men make-they just dont know when to back off. Others are total wankers, like the ones sianmarie mentions. Men have got to understand that sometimes, even "compliments" are unwanted-sometimes women dont give a monkeys arse what a stranger thinks about the way they look! Of course, the thing about charity workers is that i feel a moral obligation to talk to them, even if they are creeps. tbh, i think there is a lot wrong with the way charities go about trying to get money through intimidation, but thats a whole other story. We have to stand up to this sort of thing, and not feel embaressed that we arnt being "ladylike", or feel "grateful for the attention"

Kristin // Posted 10 September 2009 at 17:18

Elmo. Totally!
I would recommend that you (and everyone here) read Harriet Jacobs blog Fugitivus (sorry, don't know the exact details, but if you google you'll find it). One of the F-Word bloggers posted something from it a while back. I started reading it and was hooked! Another fantastic blog is Twisty I Blame the Patriarchy.
Thank goodness for the F-Word most of all, without which I wouldn't have heard of any of them!

Sarah // Posted 10 September 2009 at 17:27

I hate being accosted by the charity people as well. I do donate to charity - a percentage of my income each month goes to a couple of charities I consider important - so it's not as though I have a problem with parting with my money for good causes. I just consider it my choice and my business who I donate to, and when and how and how much. And I would like to be able to walk down the street without someone demanding my attention/time/money, whether it's for a 'good cause' or not.

thebeardedlady // Posted 10 September 2009 at 19:48

I love the idea of a Wall of Shame - we could take photos of men who harrass us and post them up online, with details of what and when and where it happened... It might make some men think twice -- imagining his wife or daughter (or boss) seeing his face up there!

Brilliant idea!

polly // Posted 10 September 2009 at 19:57

US "hollaback" sites (for instance http://hollabacknyc.blogspot.com) have been publishing pictures/stories of men who commit street harassment for a while. When my friend was on a reclaim the night march she went and photographed some men who were yelling abuse, and they were really worried by it and asked what she was going to do with the pictures. Obviously you have to pick your moments, but it does work....

I'm not sure about the legal aspects of such a site in the UK, with data protection laws etc, but just the action of photographing someone can be enough to freak them out.

Kath // Posted 10 September 2009 at 21:24

If you've been harassed by a charity worker then you should absolutely call up their employers telling them where and when the incident happened with a description and badge number if possible. But lumping them all together, calling them "aggressive creeps", "tossers" etc is not on. They are just trying to do their job like everyone else. Some would consider it a very worthwhile job. Others might consider it an invasion of personal space or whatever but a polite "no thanks" is all that's generally needed to shake them off. If they're too persistent then that's a problem with the individual not because they're some kind of sub-species. They're not picked because they're good looking, at least not at the agencies I know. It would be illegal. A lot of them are students or out-of-work actors. Maybe these two groups are more attractive than the rest of us - I don't know!

Sabre // Posted 10 September 2009 at 23:11

Re. charity people
My advice (and what I always do) is
1. Keep walking and don't slow down
2. Make eye contact and say "No thanks" very firmly and loudly.

I too suffer from a dreadful affliction that makes me feel bad if I'm rude, even to a stranger. This way I'm not ignoring someone who might be perfectly nice, while also not wasting my time chit-chatting to chuggers. This way I (like to think) I come across as polite yet firm!

I also have a nice cold look that I like to wear on my face when strange men try to strike up conversation. It works a treat because I've been told I have a creepy stare on account of my big eyes. My lawyer-dad was also an expert with chilling glares so I've learned from a master!

Still I get caught unaware with the odd leer, hoot or yell on the street. So then I use my quizzical look that says "what a strange/slightly disgusting specimen you are!"

Last tip from Sabre's Weird World of Street Faces:
If I'm approaching a man or group of men who look like they might comment in an unwelcome way, I look them straight in the eye coldly and quickly appraise them as if doing a mental cross-check with last night's Crimewatch. This must be done while walking at the same confident pace. My method isn't scientifically proven but there's something about looking a creep straight in the eye before he makes a comments that stops him. The walking with confidence helps greatly too. Harassers can almost smell shy people.

And lastly, I recommend everyone go to at least one self-defence class. You don't have to know martial arts to be able to defend yourself, and once you have a go at fighting off a huge man wearing a helmet and padding (pretending to be an attacker) you can really envisage yourself doing it for real if you had to. Plus it's fun kicking someone repeatedly in the balls! (not pretend, although he was heavily padded lol)

sianmarie // Posted 11 September 2009 at 10:14

elmo and kristin - damn straight! it is not ok to invade my space on the street by thinking i welcome comments on my attractiveness/non attractiveness, asking me out, telling me what they want to do to me, and in the example i cited, actual physical contact.

i had a creepy experience with a charity guy. i always am polite to them because my friend used to do this job, but this guy kept hassling me at the cashpoint, telling me he would give me a massage (!) if i signed up, and when i refused called me a "naughty girl". i was so angry!
but as you say kristin, i didn't yell at him or tell him he was a creep for thinking it was ok to say those things, i just ducked my head and laughed nervously and left.
but as i said on another post, i refuse to do this now! last few times i was harrassed i yelled and gave them the finger. they have to know it is NOT ok and i am not afraid to tell them anymore. when those men chanted bitch at me on the street i felt so helpless and so powerless, i refuse to be made to feel like that again.
still, it is scary yelling back, precisely because not only am i the least confrontational person i know, but i have also been socialised to be this way. i find myself shaking and red when i yell back. but later on i feel triumphant.

Madeleine // Posted 11 September 2009 at 13:24

'...a polite "no thanks" is generally all that's needed to shake them off."
If only!
If I'm going to make phone complaints to whatever charidee about every chugger who harasses me, I wouldn't have time to do other things I'd much rather be doing.
They ARE picked for their perceived good looks, whether that's illegal or not.
They ARE trained to be persistent.
It is not a job like any other. And it is not a worthwhile job either, except to the charity executives who get paid huge salaries + perks and the third world dictatorships into whose bank accounts the aid money disappears.
Charidee is about taking money from poor people in rich countries and giving it to rich people in poor countries.

Denise // Posted 11 September 2009 at 13:42

Apart from all these horrible incidents,(Sianmarie's in particular, Sianmarie I send you a big hug), how the hell did it ever become a normal everyday thing for people (the female gender in particular) to get stopped in the street and asked for a bunch of personal details which they are then actually expected to provide?!
Good cause or not, doing job or not - THIS IS WRONG.

Kit // Posted 11 September 2009 at 14:57

I've had the "Are you a boy or a girl?" question in public spaces quite a bit, even when the only thing not "girly" about my appearance is lack of make-up. It's when they preface the question with "Excuse me," I find it most upsetting. It's a phrase at complete odds with the whole action of asking the question in the first place.

Only one real life incident I can really recall on the other tye of harassment. A drunk non-student in the uni bar was harassing all the girls at a club social for hugs and kisses, despite there being a load of guys there (who did nothing about it). I hope I wasn't alone if feeling like if I didn't just go along with it all I was being a prude or a bad sport & when I ended up (like the other girls) giving in and letting him hug me, when he didn't let go, and I paniced and bit him...

I think when out on my own I avoid most potential situations by crossing over to the other side of the road well in advance when I see anyone ahead or coming my way, but mostly try and keep to the side where cars are coming towards you (no really slow and awkward drive-bys that way).

Online it's not even about how you look (at least initially) - just being a girl/woman in a chatroom, forum or playing a game can get you all sorts of icky attention...

As for charity _muggers_, I used to feel bad for them when they'd try to get in my path as I'd obviously avoid them, but then one guy felt it necessary to wave his hand right in my face as I was walking past, headphones in, looking where I was going. I don't mind charity _workers_ who recognise I'm not interested or don't have the time, although it's hard to tell them from the _muggers_ who aren't harassing me because they realise I'm not a student and thus not as easy to guilt.

@Sabre - I love your last tip :)

Cara // Posted 11 September 2009 at 15:27

Oh yes, charity collectors! I don't actually think it's OK for *anyone* to harrass *anyone* on the street. I can see you're collecting OK?! if I want to donate I will, if I avoid eye contact and rush past, it's kind of a sign I am in a rush, or generally don't want to be bothered!

And I just remembered one particularly nasty guy who was handing out fliers for a hairdresser in Bloomsbury - once I was walking with a friend, on our way to get lunch, we said no thanks and rushed on and he sarcastically called after us that we'd have to run faster! The same guy harrassed me again when I was shopping on my own, and I ignored him, so he called after me 'what a colourful personality you have'.

I just thought it was interesting that it's another form of street harrassment, and I bet they hassle women more than men. (At most, they probably approach guys but take no for an answer). So it's still based in the perception of women as public property who must be accessible to everyone and give their time and energy.

Elmo // Posted 11 September 2009 at 17:18

Kath- i think i was being a bit unfair on charity workers, yes-it is afterall, one of the most worthwile jobs you can do. what i should have clarified is that, as a 17 yr old, i was too young to be registered to his charity (cant remember which one it was) and therefore he shouldnt have persisted-in some ways he abused his position. the problem was him and most definetly not the charity. but i do also feel that often male charity workers (not all of them, just some i have encountered) do target people they think will be too nervous to say no-i am one of those people, but i am getting better-as a kickboxer, i should be braver than this, but im not! and i just feel men should not be allowed to intimidate girls in this way-especially in cause of charity!

BexB // Posted 11 September 2009 at 22:03

Honestly, I don’t have enough hands to raise to this thread. Two of my more memorable experiences with street harassment both happened earlier this year.

I was volunteering with my local British Heart Foundation shop and staying ‘til closing time as they were desperately strapped for volunteers. It was the tail end of winter, so dark arrived pretty early. The first instance happened when it was night, as I’d stayed behind to chat to the store manager. I was walking to the taxi rank when I saw a group of teenage boys gathered outside an off licence. Riddle me this, why is there always one on a bike? Anyway. I did what I typically do when coming close to males in public spaces; I puffed up. It’s a habit. I could have crossed the street and doubled back to get to the taxis, but way I see it, why should I have to? I work, obey the law and pay taxes – the streets are every bit mine as they are anyone elses. More so, in some cases. Like so many other occasions, I could have made things easy for myself, were I not such a stubborn and proud person.

So I carried on walking, back straight, head high and looking forward, straight through the middle of the group. It was bikey who spoke first, jeering that ‘she’s a brave girl, this one’. I just tossed him a smile. Next thing I know, one of his acne-ridden beansprout friends to the other side of me has spat gum which hits me square between the eyes. I meet his eye, say ‘real mature’, and keep walking. When I’m further up the road(cowards), one of them howls at me, ‘oi, you wanna suck my dick, yeah’? I turn around and, backpeddling, shout ‘I don’t need any more dick – I’m looking at enough of them already.’

The very same week, I passed another group of boys along a path toward the back of a junior school. Another sexually explicit proposition shouted at me, I just keep my head up and keep walking. The trick is to stay unhurried in your walking. It’s far easier said than done. Then I hear one of them say ‘go on, mate’, and I’m balling my fists at my side. One of them stalks me for 100 meters along the path before giving up at taunting from his mates. On both occasions, none of the boys could have been over 16 years old. Oh, and then there was the time a twelve-ish year old boy spat ‘bitch’ at me for smiling at him, then rode away on his bike. I am a 21 year old woman, of average height and very modest in clothing.

I know my way of handling these situations is unusual. I know that I may be making a target of myself for appearing so confident – I’m really anything but when it’s happening. But the thing is, I don’t think I’m courageous for being so proud, or stubborn. Because when I get home and for months after, I’m furious. I mean, hell, I still remember when a so-called friend reached out and squeezed my breast for a cheap laugh from the rest of the all-male group. I was 12.

I forget about these scenes and the affront to my dignity, only for them to resurface in my memory at a quiet moment, and then I whip myself up into a frenzy thinking of how I could have handled it better, even sometimes fantasizing about retribution. About violence.

It’s fucked up.

Also, yay first feministing post. Shame it has to be on a topic that sucks so hard.

KellyArt // Posted 12 September 2009 at 04:30

I don't usually mind, it's just the honked horns etc, or the overt aggressiveness - it's more about frightening you, but of course, they're men just being men when it's brought to debate.

Hands up to the 'smile love!' I thought it was just me obviously being really miserable everywhere I go, but this really gets said to every woman to put her in her place, including my friends. Again, just something said to frighten rather than flatter.

Anna // Posted 12 September 2009 at 12:31

I can totally relate to a lot of the comments on here. It doesn't seem to be a problem unique to Britain either. I'm 15, went on holiday in SE Asia recently, and have had to deal with a lot of harassment here. One particular incident really shocked me.

Recently, I've been going shopping round the local Tesco's, and I'd noticed a lot of the young workers there smiling at me. So, being a generally "friendly" person, I smiled back. After all, they were just smiles, right? What could possibly go wrong? This continued till yesterday.

I was standing at my trolley waiting for my mother, minding my own business, and looking around, when suddenly I saw three of the workers standing watching me. When they saw me, they started laughing and one of them, who seemed to be holding a camera-phone of some sort that was pointed directly at me, suddenly lowered it.

I was SHOCKED. I've never had anything like that happen to me before. I sneaked up to where they were and ascertained that one of the workers had had a camera-phone on him. I told my mother.

She later went up to the supervisor at the store and mentioned it to him (in a different language, so I didn't understand) and he seemed unwilling to do anything. Apparently, they were taking promotional pictures of some of the items around the store. Perhaps I had been mistaken?

In the end, not knowing what to do, I let my mother decide, and we left it at that as I didn't see the worker again (but my mum will be mentioning it to him if we do spot him next time).

Was he taking pictures or filming me? I still don't know. The thing is, though, even if you consider confronting them, there's always the worry that they might do something back. Especially in a foreign country, and my mum and I generally go out alone. But, since I left it at that, if he WAS taking pictures, he could post them on the Internet or something.

You're damned if you do and damned if you don't. All for merely being friendly.

I will be wearing a full abaya and niqab next time I go out here! Not that I'm trying to endorse that sort of clothing in any way (and I was only wearing a T-shirt and jeans anyway when the aforementioned incident happened) but I don't want to have to be constantly looking around just in case. At least I won't be recognizable.

I still feel shocked. This may be a different culture, but that doesn't give people the right to treat me like their PUBLIC PROPERTY for smiling at them. This is the worst thing of that kind that has happened so far, but there are lots of other things - also yesterday, some guy old enough to be my father started following me around the store, eyeing me up, and saying stuff to me in a different language. Fucking pervert.

Interesting note: My mum later told me that the supervisor had said "she's pretty" when she mentioned what happened to him. Because, of course, that makes that kind of behaviour completely acceptable. I mean, I must've been asking for it, right?

Why should I have to deal with this kind of stuff just when I'm going shopping, minding my own business, and acting like a civil human being?

Karen // Posted 12 September 2009 at 22:15

Sorry, another hand is being raised irrespective of how old this blog is, it's still very relevant. I was once going to a gothic club years ago and was going through soho to get there (you probably know what's coming here) and I had an oldish guy walk past me, scruffy and nissed as a pewt, it was saturday night and he asked me, straight out "you working tonight luv?" Gobsmacked. Replied in my best butch voice "no mate, I'm a mechanical engineer during the week on a day off now actually". To which he just shuffled off quietly but I couldn't believe it then, I still don't now. It was about a month after that that I got sexually assaulted and as a result, stopped going clubbing. Haven't been since, that was 10yrs ago. Since then, normally it's the transit brigade yelling at me to "smile, it'll never happen". Too late lads, it already did, years ago. I normally yell back either for them to Foxtrot Oscar or "excuse me, do I know you". I cannot be bothered to tell each of these idiots about my clinical depression (hence I aint smiling, so get over it) or that a few members of their gender (and technically one of mine) have hurt me deeply. And I shouldn't have to either, it's my business.

Beth // Posted 12 September 2009 at 22:48

it's more the days when it DOESN'T happen that are strange. walking home from 6th form, i dread it when the traffic is slow, and you get all the white van men, and the guys in their convertibles. ergh. the thing is, men don't understand how infuriating it is. i was going out last night to meet a male friend, and a guy kept harassing me on the bus (it's always worse at night) asking me if i'd got a boyfriend, would i like to come back to his place, the general stuff(!)
when i told my friend about it, he just said 'so, take it as a compliment'. it really annoyed me, and i went on a whole rant about how just because i'm a woman, what gives you the right to comment about the way i look. i think i scared him abit haha, but it's sad how we just see it as something to be expected. and i still haven't perfected a decent comeback (:

Laura // Posted 13 September 2009 at 01:44

Not as badly here as in Italy. But badly here. Not to mention followed..

Danpark // Posted 13 September 2009 at 07:30

I'm from India. I've experienced street harassment starting at age 9 or 10. It's SO common there. I don't know a single woman from India who has not been harassed in similar ways many, many times.

Some memorable examples:

*

guy pinched my butt when I was walking down the street with my mom! She didn't notice and I was too stunned and embarrassed to say anything.
*

guy pinched my sides while I was climbing onto a bus. He was right behind me so I elbowed him in the squishy part of his stomach. I was twelve... so I'm pretty proud of this.
*

innumerable catcalls, countless disgusting comments and at least twenty propositions. Eww.
*

one time, a guy on the bus exposed himself to me -- I think. I was like eleven or something so I'm still not sure if it was rubber or the real thing.
*

when I was 18, I was walking down a busy street in broad daylight when a drunk guy crossed the street and bit my breast. I was once again too stunned to beat him up, shame on me and my brown belt in karate.

BTW, after age 14 I haven't even lived in India, just been back for visits. It's appalling how much I was harassed at such a young age; it ddin't seem like such a big deal then but it's the main reason I never want to go back now - I may have a daughter of my own someday, I refuse to let her go through that.

Laura // Posted 13 September 2009 at 19:18

Hi Madeleine,

I don't think all charities function in the way you describe, although there are of course issues with how our money is spent. I'd prefer this thread didn't descend into a discussion about charity ethics, however - interesting as that may be - so let's all stay on topic please :-)

Tash // Posted 13 September 2009 at 20:58

Yep, both here in the UK and abroad.

Here: countless catcalls, the usual carfuls of teenage boys (and older men) shouting or beeping as they go past, people invading my personal space because they think they have some sort of goddamn given right to do so.

On the tube I'm almost certain some men have used the close proximity caused by rush hour to feel me up - I can never be sure though (even though instinctively I KNOW that I know the difference between a briefcase against my leg and a non-accidental hand) and it always makes me freeze up so I can never check.

I visited my boyfriend in Mauritius recently and found it infuriating that the one and only time I felt unsafe was during the afternoon I went wandering round the capital alone. In a crowd of people, a guy handing out leaflets saw fit to come up behind me and grope my arse. I was so shocked at first I didn't know what to do - eventually I turned and shouted, "WHAT?" and he backed off, but I felt disgusting and so angry. Partly because I *knew* that it just would not have happened had my partner been with me.

I admire my sister's approach to this - she's the pretty one so gets harassed a lot more than I do. She now just tackles it head on - the other day when someone said, "Y'alright darling?" as she walked past, she whirled round and said, "I'm not your darling, got it?" The look of shock on his face was priceless. Having said that, I know she wouldn't do that if she was alone.

Kath // Posted 13 September 2009 at 23:25

@Elmo - hey there, I wasn't trying to invalidate your experience or anything - of course charity workers are as capable of harassment as anyone else on the street. I agree they shouldn't be targeting young women in the way you describe. I just don't agree with tarring all with the same brush. It was some of the responses to your comment that rankled with me, rather than your own :)

Sanna // Posted 14 September 2009 at 17:53

Just wanted to put my hand up as well as it's so important that this gets talked about and taken seriously. I haven't experienced anything nearly as horrifying as some of the posts here, but I've certainly had the usual cat-calling, honking etc. The latest incident was earlier this year when I was on my way to work and two drunken lads walked past me - one of the tried to grab me but I managed to wriggle free. I was seriously shaken though. Didn't even think about reporting it, just walked off, it was actually my boyfriend who pointed out I could have done. Not that it probably would have helped any but it goes to show how I'm used to thinking of it as just a part of everyday life. :-(

Haven't come up with any way of dealing with it really, other than ignoring it - the few times I've tried to talk back it's just made things worse. Luckily though I haven't experienced much of it recently but just reading this post has really made me angry - I can't believe what some people seem to think is acceptable behaviour!! And saying it's "just a compliment" is just total crap - I'm not complimented and neither is anyone else I know.

Great site by the way - have not commented before but have been a reader for a while.

Elmo // Posted 14 September 2009 at 21:23

thanks kath- just wanted to make my point clear :)

Hannah // Posted 14 September 2009 at 22:57

I can't say I have had as bad experiences as some of the women who have spoken out but I do get just as angry reading about it. Some of these comments I identifying with, mainly that sense of frustration at being seen as sexual object rather than a human. I can appreciate a compliment or showing interest but many men seem to cross the line now into plain, out right leering and crudeness.

The amount of times i've been in a club dancing with a group of mates and had some idiot belive I like him sneeking up behind me to grind. It sure did shock this one guy when I turned round and shouted at him to p**s-off! It was quite satisfying to seen him dash away.

There have been times I have been followed and times I have been shouted at. Of course these shouts have ranged from what I look like to whether I wanted to sit on this guys d**k.

A friend of mine worked in a betting shop and was constantly hassled, unsurprising (sad to have to say that but it is). But it all got a bit much when one guy started to follow her home, and he didn't even try to hide the fact he followed her. Fortunately she quit her job and hasn't seen him since.

I did have a phone call early one morning in a summer month last year, it was a witheld number. I answered cos some of mates withold. A scottish accented man called me by name and said he liked the look of me and wanted to meet me. I said I had a boyfriend and wasn't interested and told him I wanted to end the conversation. He got angry saying he didn't care what I wanted and just what he wanted and that was me. I hung up and turned off my phone. My aunt took me to the police station. Two days later I found out that a mates ex had (without her knowing) gone through her phone not long before they had split up and had done it to 4 other of her mates.

So to some it up, to some men women will always be numbers 'knotches on bedposts' if you will. However there are many good men like my boyfriend of 2 and a half years who respect women as people.

wooop woop to my first blog x

Kez // Posted 17 September 2009 at 10:08

I have never experienced anything too bad, just the usual comments etc which are easy enough to brush off. (I'm 41 now and I still get it, but just general low-level stuff, and mainly the kind of thing which *could* be construed as a compliment if you were so inclined, though frankly I could do without it.) But I'm shocked by some of the experiences described here, and the age at which harassment sometimes seems to begin. As the mother of a young daughter, it horrifies me to think that in a few years she could be on the receiving end of this sort of thing. How can we protect our girls, and ourselves? How do we advise them to deal with it? What do we say to them, if it happens?

Although nothing too bad has happened to me, the story which springs to mind concerns a young woman I used to work with (she was 21 at the time, I think) who caught a particular bus to work every day, usually driven by the same middle-aged man. (It was a rural area so the bus was generally quiet.) He would always indulge in some chat/banter with her and she would respond in kind, all very innocent stuff. Then one day as she was about to get off the bus he made a very obscene suggestion to her. I can’t remember exactly what it was he said, but it was pretty bad. She couldn’t believe what she had heard and was very upset, didn’t reply but got off the bus and came in to work in a bit of a state, not least because she knew she would have to get the same bus again tomorrow. She had never seen this guy in that light at all – he was 30 years older than her, not exactly attractive, and she had related to him more as a kind of friendly uncle figure. So of course she was questioning herself – what did I do to encourage this? And just felt generally soiled and disgusted by the whole thing.

I encouraged her to complain to the bus company and she was going to, but I don’t think she did in the end.

It just made me so angry that this man felt it was OK to do that to a vulnerable young woman (she was alone on the bus), who had never shown the slightest sexual interest in him, and given that he was a 50 year old married man with a massive beer belly, and she was a very attractive 21-year-old, was not exactly highly likely to do so.

Bron // Posted 25 September 2009 at 09:01

Only had fairly minor experiences with sexual harrassment. The first time, I think I was 12, in uniform walking home from school. Some older guys from a different high school pulled up while I was waiting to cross the street on the corner. They started making all these comments; "Has anyone popped your cherry yet?" and "Oh, I'd treat you well" and shit like that. I was really freaked out at the time, panicked and didn't say anything, just crossed the road and ignored them.

It really bothered me at the time, for awhile I was afraid of that same sort of thing happening whenever I went out. Thankfully, it's mostly been limited to the usual car honking and such since then and I'm much better equipped to deal with such things now I'm older. It's actually kinda creepy thinking back on it, that 17-18 year old guys would be making sexual comments to a 12 year old, but it's not anything new.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 25 September 2009 at 23:03

I'm on my iPhone and I've just been boobgrabbed on Lincoln high street whilst next to a male friend that didn't notice. Damn it. Annoyed. That's freshers week and Friday might i guess. Took me by surprise cox I usually feel so safe here

sweetviolet // Posted 26 September 2009 at 22:08

Oddly it doesn't happen to me much now that I'm in my 20s (mostly just catcalls from passing cars, which I can just shrug off) but when I was younger, 11-16, the boys a my secondary school used to do this all the time on the bus and in the park. It was always 'Will you have sex with my mate?' 'Look at her tits!' or stuff more specific to me like 'her ugly boyfriend got cum on the sheets!' (my house was visible from the park so they could all see the bedsheets airing out of the windows, they knew I didn't even have a boyfriend, they were just trying to fluster me). I didn't know how to react and it made me feel so embarrassed and upset. I always used to try and sit near the 6th-formers on the bus because then they'd leave me alone, but of course that brought its own set of problems like everyone teasing me about fancying the older guys. Ugh, I was 12! Why was it okay to harass me like that when I was just a little girl and humiliate me in front of every single school child from the 4 villages on the bus route?

The really weird thing was they only did it in groups, when I saw one of them on his own he would always try to be nice to me, then couldn't seem to understand why I hated him so much. Yeah, I'm obviously going to be nice to the guy who was telling me to suck his dick two days ago just because now his idiot friends aren't there... I notice this seems to tally with some other experiences people have posted. It's like they're worried they'll catch Teh Ghey if they don't assert their dominance over everything with a vagina in front of their friends.

Grife, I don't even dress well! I think quite often they pick on more conservatively dressed women and girls because they're more likely to be too shy to react with anything more than a pleasantly flustered retreat.

gadgetgal // Posted 12 October 2009 at 19:52

Hi - this post made me think and although I've been harassed numerous times (I think most women have) there is one time in particular that still to this day, over 15 years later, really REALLY bugs me!

I've never been one to rise to people shouting things or whistling at me - I've always preferred just ignoring them (the old principle of "if you ignore them they'll get bored and stop" - not always the case, but it's my tactic all the same). But once when I was quite young I was walking into town and someone shouted at me from a passing car. Not generally an issue, it had happened before and I'd always done my usual ignoring thing. The difference this time was the guy didn't wait until he was alongside me, he didn't shout "get your tits out" or any of the other oh-so-clever comments - he waited until he was right behind me and screamed "AHHHHHHHHH". And I mean he really screamed, not high pitched like he was scared, but a scream like he was about to attack on a battlefield! And of course I jumped out of my skin and he drove off laughing.

What still bothers me is the fact that by doing this to get himself some sort of perverse thrill or whatever it was he wanted, he not only showed his disrespect for me as a woman, but he also took away my right to deal with it how I chose - he forced me to deal with him when under normal circumstances I never would, and wouldn't want to. And I'm still pissed off about that!

Wow, sharing is brilliant - it feels much better now that that's out!

saranga // Posted 14 October 2009 at 21:20

today - 'knock you off your bike bitch'
Nice.

Bea // Posted 15 October 2009 at 01:00

I have just recently moved to Spain and note that street harassment is yet more common here than in the UK. A couple of days ago I was walking in the middle of the day with a couple of friends by a park right near the city centre when I percieved that a man on the other side of the road had pulled down his trousers to expose himself (to us?) Also not a day goes by here I dont think without some wise guy saying 'hola guapa..' etc as we walk past. Older men also do this disgusting kind of sucking, clucking sound with their mouth when women walk past, it's horrible. I think it doesn't help that my friends are I are very blonde and generally blatantly foriegners! Many people have said to me 'yeah, that's just what men are like in Spain' but I'm not about to put it down to cultural difference and accept it I'm afraid. I find it quite satisfying to shout Fuck off at them, but need to learn spanish equivalent..

Laura C // Posted 20 October 2009 at 17:26

We need to speak out about this and make our voices heard. I run Hollaback UK, a site where women can document street harrassment using photos and by posting their stories. Please take a look.

Thanks,

Laura

Cat // Posted 25 October 2009 at 15:57

Yes, it happens often. I'm always bewildered by the cycle of 'comment from strange man - polite response from me - request for phone number - polite decline to give this information - get called a bitch'.

Karl // Posted 30 October 2009 at 13:16

All too common I'm afraid :(
And it's not just women, I get 'baldy' comments about my bald patch all the time, including being physically slapped on it by people running by.
And I've been harassed by kids in the street and on the bus. It seems to happen more in large cities and towns where there's a greater likelihood of being able to slide into the background anonymously after the event, maybe even oblivious of the upset that's been caused.

And as a law-abiding cyclist I've been honked at for existing, spat on from car windows and shouted at for dismounting and pushing my bike past cars that have deliberately blocked a bike lane in standing traffic, before continuing on my way. (All these things are very common!).

It's easy to say you should just accept it as part of life but it's not that easy to do when it's so common, and we shouldn't have to. Several events in a short period of time could push someone over the edge, as we've seen in the newspapers too often.

jan // Posted 02 November 2009 at 19:18

Hi, I've been a reader of this site for some time now, although it's the first time I've posted. Yeah, I've been on the receiving end of some of that shit and I can safely say it's got fuck all to do with how you're dressed. I probably do stick out like a sore thumb where I live - I'm a white girl living in a mainly black/Asian area of Birmingham, for a start, and I probably make myself more obvious with my short spiky hair, pierced lip and punky clothes - but I wear sloppy jeans at all times, and usually long sleeves too, even in summer, so the whole "provocative clothing" theory is definitely a myth. I personally don't mind compliments or even "cheer up, luv!" - I probably do look a bit of a moody cow at times(!) - but in the 18 months I've lived here I've had two incidents that shook me up quite a bit and still make me fucking angry.

The first was in August last year. I was walking home from the city centre when this guy started following me and asking for my number. I ignored that but then he said, "Hey, no need to be like that, I'm just being friendly. I thought we could get together some time and I could show you some black cock." (Yeah, seriously). So I told him to fuck off and he got really angry, going on about how he was a hard man and I was disrespecting him. I actually laughed at that cuz it was so pathetic, and he punched me right in the face. Maybe I should have been scared, but I was just powered up on adrenaline - it was broad daylight and in a residential street, so I knew he'd have all of three minutes to do anything worse. I sneered at him, "You'll have to do better than that, mate!" He legged it then, still mumbling to himself about "women who won't do as they're told" and although I reported the attack, the coppers were fucking useless, asking completely irrelevant questions and even implied I might be racially prejudiced for rejecting this guy's advances.

The second incident was 3 months ago. Again, I was walking home from work when a bloke who claimed to have "seen me around" fell into step with me and started asking a load of personal questions. I didn't feel comfortable so I just grunted one-word answers and walked faster until I'd lost him. I took a short cut through the park, which takes me to the front door of my apartment block. When I got there, he was waiting for me which was a nasty shock as I hadn't realised he actually knew where I lived. I coldly asked what he was doing there and he said he thought I had nice boobs and he wanted to know if I'd had a job done on them! I told him it was none of his fucking business and this was actually my mate's house and I'd appreciate it if he'd stay away from his property. Then the little perv actually had the cheek to try and touch my tit, so I kicked him in the bollocks and he legged it. Fucking hilarious - thank God I was wearing my size seven Doc Martens! Again, I reported it to my local cop shop, mainly because I believe he's a dangerous lecher who women need protecting from, and also to cover my back just in case he's thick enough to report me for "assault".
Still, this is why I've always hated having big boobs - I'm quite a thin girl so they do look more obvious on me. Roxy - I lived in Nottingham for five years myself, and I think it's the same in most cities as opposed to small towns. I guess that's a price you gotta pay for the otherwise good parts of anonymity. But yeah, that's my experience, just wanted to share that and I make no apologies for length.

Elmo // Posted 02 November 2009 at 20:47

Karl, its awful that you've suffered this abuse, and i dont want to detract from your experiences, they sound horrible. But i just wanted to point out that
sexual harassment is the issue here-something women suffer from on a massive scale (as you can see from all these comments). When you say "its not just women", it kind of IS just women-men do suffer abuse, like yourself, but the amount of sexual harassment women get is something few men experience, and we do need to highlight the fact that women are getting abused violently (like yourself) but also sexually (and in very horrible ways). But please don't think i don't understand what horrible things you've experienced, i just wanted point out this fact!

Sarah J // Posted 02 November 2009 at 22:45

Yes, frequently. Squaddies are the worst offenders but I live in a squaddie town. Guys driving past in cars seem to be the most frequent. Who knows, maybe they can only show their love on the fly because I scare them.

Karl // Posted 03 November 2009 at 13:13

In response to Elmo's comment:

I apologise that my previous post was slightly off-topic; I must confess to having not thoroughly read the context and misinterpreted the phrase 'street harassment' in wanting to exorcise the anger resulting from my recent experiences.

My comments were mainly geared towards the anonymity of city life, which I feel is still valid here, but I'm sorry if it's felt I detracted from the feminist message of this board in so doing.

This kind of abuse is an aspect of society that all can suffer from to some extent, but there's an extreme (and very common) example that is sexual harassment.

It's perhaps not the right place to get into this (if there's another thread somewhere I'm happy to be pointed towards it), but I think it's very important to accept it really isn't _just_ women who are verbally and physically harassed on our streets; it is _mostly_ women who are the victims of this, But by saying, or implying, that it's _just_ women, we risk alienating the very men in society that are sympathetic to feminism.

I feel that victims are generally people who are traditionally seen as 'easy targets' by our patriarchal society (women, geeks, goths, 'unusual' people; the 'other') but if you're a man you have to be perceived as in some other way deficient to be the unfortunate victim and so we're less likely to experience it, and FAR less likely for it to be sexually orientated.
It absolutely shouldn't happen, and the sexual element is a horrific extreme (again, by extreme I don't mean uncommon!) of this phenomenon, but when some men see phrases that imply that all men are guilty of this or that men can't possibly suffer in even a similar way then we risk alienating those who would otherwise be our allies.

Elmo // Posted 03 November 2009 at 17:15

Hi Karl

point taken, I certainly dont want to alienate feminist allies, and I do understand that men suffer too. Glad you understood my point about sexual harassment :)


Martha // Posted 14 December 2009 at 21:34

All the damn time, although it's getting better now I'm over 30. Ah the beauty of getting older. I LOVE it.

Anyway worst two cases:

When walking home late having a man run up behind me and grab me by the crotch. I pushed him off and yelled at him. He ran away.

Having a group of youths press me up against a bus shelter and grope my breasts. Another night time experience. They walked off by themselves.

I notice here in London men will lean in and whisper things as you pass so that no one except you can hear. So yeah, they know they're doing something that other men would object to if they were caught.

Which is why the 'nice guys' rarely hear it happening and can't believe how frequent and unpleasant it is.

Gloria // Posted 15 December 2009 at 18:22

I've never been catcalled but on a few occasions young guys have shouted at me from their cars as they were driving by and I was walking down the street. Usually it's unintelligible, though one time somebody yelled "You pervert!" at me, which I actually thought was kind of ironic since there were plenty of other things they could have shouted that would have actually been RELEVANT... but nonetheless it did disturb me a bit. I hate it when people do things like that. I don't know whether any of the times it's happened to me were motivated by my gender (I don't dress feminine, period) and it has also happened while I was walking with my husband, but it's still very rude to shout insults or profanities at a pedestrian, regardless, and it can make a person feel insecure and uneasy even if you're not worried that they might attack you!

Jan // Posted 17 December 2009 at 19:58

Hello again, not sure if this counts and apologies if it's off topic but this happened to me the other night and had to get it off my chest. I was on my way home from work and had to drop into Tesco for some food shopping. For anyone familiar with Birmingham, there's this large pedestrian crossing outside the Ladywood branch. I crossed when the green man came up and all the cars had stopped for me except this one dickhead who barged through without even slowing down. I just managed to jump out the way without getting hit and then noticed he was chatting away on his mobile phone (which is illegal and dangerous in itself) and was blatantly not watching the road ahead. I got my own phone out and just managed to save his registration, intending to report him, and that's when he looked up and saw what I was doing! He stopped his car then all right and got out to talk to me. I was expecting an apology at the very least, or that he'd ask if I was OK (at least that's what I'd have done), instead of which he was shaking his fist and yelling "You got a fucking problem?"
Me: "Yeah, you using a mobile while driving! Why do you think they've got speakerphones?"
Him: "Oh shut up, you dirty goth, you Satan worshipping slag! You walked out in front of me and then tried to get me into trouble with the law!"
Me: "You cheeky fucker! YOU nearly ran ME over because YOU couldn't be arsed to look where you were going and now you're having a pop at me!"
Him: blah blah blah more abusive crap that i won't bore you with...
Needless to say I did report him and I'm still waiting for news of that but the reason I've shared this with you is because it's another example of arrogant twats who think the world belongs to them and don't like being challenged on this, especially women. I mean how does reporting him for a dangerous crime make me a slag? It's the gender specific insults like that that to me make it a street harassment/feminist issue.

Melissa // Posted 20 December 2009 at 04:59

Today I parked my car less than a block from my workplace to bring my coworkers, are you ready, little chocolate mice for Christmas. I do not have one foot out of my raggedy Honda Civic before someone has hollered "YOUNG LADY, COME OVER HERE AND TELL ME WHERE THE PARTY AT." It was a well dressed middle aged African American man with his older companion, in, I couldn't believe it, a completely white suit, fedora included. I live in the deep south, and this sort of interruption is a regular occurrence.

It was only 7pm, the street was busy, and I live in a coastal tourist town so I began giving directions like a friendly person. He interrupts me to say "now how bout you tell me where the BLACK people at -" and I begin to look visibly dismayed, as I am unmistakably white, and he continues, "cause you look like you hang out there too!" I pause while my mind is blown, and I don't even know what THATS supposed to mean, unless its another of a thousand ENDLESS remarks that I MUST BE PART BLACK IN ORDER TO POSSESS A SIGNIFICANT BOTTOM TO WAIST RATIO.

I replied that I did not know but that my roommate did, as HE is black. I had hoped this mention of another man would deter this man slyly but it did not. I realized also at this juncture that though it was only about seven, he was carrying a solo cup - my city permits drinking in the streets. He then chats me up, and I'm afraid to walk away alone as I'm in an open space, wearing heels, and I very much felt that he could come up behind me if I made him angry.

Then he says "so what do we do now, exchange numbers?" This I was thankful for, because after the exchange, the man usually goes away. When in a fix, I give my real number with the wrong area code. Male friends have asked me why I don't just say no, and its because when I do, the men follow me, harass me and holler at me. Maybe men think its cruel to get fake numbers - I think what they're doing is far worse.

Then it dawns on me, somehow for the first time although I have used this tactic with success before, that he may try to dial the number at that moment and ask to be saved in my phone. Why on earth does he think he can do that? But he does. For a second I panic - getting caught giving a fake number could easily mean a lot of unpleasant or even violent things. Praise the lord, I realized I had legitimately left my phone in my car and said so. And that I needed to go give candies to my friends at a party. Really.
So he says, "you shouldn't go out without your phone, you know... what if something HAPPENS." Suddenly I realize he is crazy.

He actually listens to the phone and says... "that's a strange message. You sure you gave me the right number? YOU wouldn't play me like THAT, would you now?" says this COMPLETE STRANGER as he inches in closer. This far into the pool, I assert that that is my number and I can't figure out how to change the message, its quite old. I deliver this with panache, for it is actually quite true, though I have NO idea what message he got on that number.

THEN he says, "you know what let me get you to say it AGAIN, let me make sure I typed it in right." At this point I know he's testing me to see if I can remember my fake number. Since its mostly my real number I give it with confidence, and he tells me as he walks away that he cannot WAIT to talk, we will have SO MUCH TO TALK ABOUT.

Why was I so nice? I started out being nice because I like to help out strangers. I finished up being nice because he was an utter creeper and making him angry was less desirable than enduring his presumptuous demands. I actually had to ask my boss as I left the workplace to let me take a boy with me back to my car. She actually MADE me take two. A block, in my own town, at 7pm, on my way to give Christmas presents. I was wearing dark jeans and a fully covering red sweater.

Claire // Posted 21 December 2009 at 08:48

Melissa
Report him. You did not behave towards him the way you did because you are "nice" (though I'm sure you are), but because you were intimidated and scared and he knew it. Even if he's innocuous he clearly has boundary issues and once people start living beyond boundaries, trouble follows.

Sara Fegan // Posted 06 April 2010 at 05:07

When reading all your comments, I have to agree with almost everything said. I got cat calls and whistles from before I was even interested in boys to the present time.

Some of my experiences include:

Wolf calls
Inappropriate random groping as I walk past.
Extremely rude remarks.
A boy asked me for my number, I replied with a calm and polite no, he sort of spit on me, I hacked a lougie on him, and on it went.
Getting stalked around town having naughty remarks thrown my way until I got fed up and ran into the woods and lost them there. The group of about ten followed me in with flashlights and looked for me for a while.
Random obscene comments shouted from out car windows.
Having broken glass thrown at me after the blow job remarks were shot down.
And lots of random little things that just get lost in the shuffle because there are so many.

Yeah, its a common thing, being harassed by pathetic sods with nothing better to do. But not all are like that, like my soul mate Rav Baby, whom I love unconditionally.

So just dish it right out, and eventually someone who doesn't need to say nasty things to ruin your day will come and brighten it up =]

Emilia // Posted 19 April 2010 at 11:38

I was walking my dog down the street in the evening, a drunk probably from the nearby bar grabbed my wrist and my boob.

Unluckily for him I had just finish my aikido course and I flung him into the grass. I was 17 at the time.
I told my mum about it and I was worried because I wasn't that good at aikido, I might have damaged his arm and he might sue me. Mum told that no man will admit to getting beaten my a little girl (I'm 5'2' or 158 cm)

Elmo // Posted 19 April 2010 at 13:52

well done Emilia-ive been doing thai boxing for 6 years, but i really worry that, if it came to it and i was attacked, all my training would just totally go out of my head. You were really brave, i hope i could do the same in such a situation. :)

Dani // Posted 20 April 2010 at 16:57

Im 18, and it really upsets me when men (especially men old enough to be my father/Grandfather) think they have the right to shout disgusting comments at me, just beacuse i am female....and to make it worse, when i don't respond i get called miserable or to cheer up,as if they think it should have made my day to be leered at by them...How would they feel if their daughter was in my shoes?

E // Posted 25 April 2010 at 03:37

I have been...
* followed for blocks by groups of men
* felt up innumerable times on the street, in lines, and on the bus
* unwittingly exposed to genitals
* propositioned in any number of lewd ways...sometimes simply when rollerblading to class

I even had a man DRIVE HIS CAR INTO A FIELD in order to talk to me and try to get me inside.

I am 22 year old college student. I don't go out at night. I am scared every day. And I am so, so sick of this.

C // Posted 11 May 2010 at 22:13

My friend and I were walking down the street one day, when some guys in a car drove past, threw water all over us, shouted "wet t-shirt competition" and drove off. I swear if that light had been on red... @:
One time I was out by myself when some guy drove past in a car and leered at me out of the window. He turned around in a street and drove past me again, leering. He then pulled into a street ahead of me, stopped the car in front of me and leered at me again. I scowled at him and walked off quickly, because I just didn't have a clue what to do and that seemed to put him off, but it was scary.

julia gray // Posted 19 May 2010 at 10:53

of course. all too often

annabel // Posted 23 May 2010 at 13:56

been reading through the comments here and i'm glad it's finally being spoken about. I've been subject to it pretty much constantly through my teen years (i'm 20 now)

i'm also familiar with Hollaback and bought the book.

mine personal experiences range from the common whistles, car horns and kissy noises, to being group and felt up on public transport. One incident that sticks in my mind was when i was 13 and on a train and some guy came up behind me and started rubbing his cock against my leg, i was young and too niaeve to do anything about it.

Last year, a real charmer decided to spank me as i walked over a train bridge. i turned and yelled : "i'm 15!" and he immediately apologised, but i doubt it will prevent him from repeating his behaviour in the future.

another fantastic method is to look your agressor up and down, y'know in that leery way, before grimacing with disgust and moving on.

I find swearing just encourages abuse, but hey, sometimes i'll take it, because i'm proud to be a 'dyke', 'bitch' or 'whore' if it means making you unhappy.

keep it up girls, we need to stick together, we need to defend each other, report those you can and contribute to sites like hollaback! i refuse to tolerate this because i have a right to be left in peace.

that's all.

Jo // Posted 13 June 2010 at 14:35

I often get comments every day from men walking down the street, mostly about my red hair. Sometimes its nice things like, I really love your hair, I wish I had it. But mostly its shouting abuse out of driving cars or out of windows, about my hair colour, boobs, what men would like me to do to them, then when i walk away name calling and swearing because i didn't stop and say, yeah you know what i wouldnt mind doing that for you, come on down.

Its disgusting and makes me feel sick, what makes people think it's okay and they have the right to say things like that to people.

Octavia // Posted 17 June 2010 at 16:20

Yup, all the time. Wolf whistles, cheering when I walk by groups of men in a car/van/outside a pub (the reason I hate the smoking ban), to comments such as "mmmm, nice" or "nice arse!", etc. I really wish men wouldn't do it, it's NOT flattering, it's horrible.

Worst one I can think of (simply because of my age at the time) was when I walked past three or four balding middle-aged men who did that head turn thing as I walked past them, and one of them called out "morning sexy bum!" I was a scrawny 14 year old wearing a school uniform.

Emerald // Posted 27 June 2010 at 09:49

I was at South Woodford tube station late last night (it was a Saturday). I was coming back from my friends' party and was sitting talking to another woman who'd been there. Suddenly a group of three early 20-something men came along the platform, talking loudly. Two of them took the free seats beside us and launched into a conversation, or rather decided to interrupt ours by booming, "Hello!", which they repeated again and again as my friend and I carried on talking. When they finally got our attention one of them remarked in mock-concern that we seemed "tense" - as if he knew me well enough to say such a thing - while the other one asked if we were having a private conversation. I looked them in the eye and politely said yes we had been having one, just as he and and his friends had been. They were offended by this and helpfully pointed out that they were only being friendly, so we got up and walked to the other end of the platform. As we did they told me that I'd never get a husband with my attitude, so I told them it was the very last thing on my shopping list!

And no, I am not anti strange men talking to women - how else would we meet each other? I love meeting charming men and we may well have had a nice conversation with them if they hadn't been so self-entitled.

Bizarrely, I am a 44 year-old woman! Guess I should be making the most of it, eh?

R // Posted 20 August 2010 at 16:05

Oh yes. Plenty of times. Mostly negative comments about my appearance although also homophobic jeers when I'm with my partner, and occasional calls of 'slag' and suchlike, which confuses the hell out of me considering it's much more often abuse about how non-attractive I am.

Melissa S // Posted 05 September 2010 at 01:57

Oh yes

Helen // Posted 05 September 2010 at 20:07

A selection of comments I've had whilst walking along the street minding my own business... "Big tits" "Nice jiggly ass" "Give us a blow job" as well as the usual horn honks, whistles and indecipherable things being yelled from speeding cars. The "big tits" comment was on the way to my first day at a new job and needless to say this made me feel so self conscious about the shirt I had worn, which was the only smart shirt I had, and I didn't really need that as I was already nervous enough as it was. I also once had a man rubbing himself on me (his arms and legs) while on the bus home. At first I thought he was just being rude and hogging all the space, but after I was clearly squished up against the side of the bus and he was STILL rubbing me I realised what he was doing. I was too startled, embarrassed and scared to actually say anything. I got off at my usual stop and he got off at the next stop which was round the corner. I was really freaked out and walked home as fast as I could.

I've just spent most of the day arguing with a male 'friend' (who has now been removed from my Facebook). I posted a link to this cartoon http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2010/08/30/cartoon-street-harassment/ and his comments were "Yeah, but "you look pretty" isn't really harassing someone, is it. Freedom of speech though eh?">:(

Hannah // Posted 06 September 2010 at 12:17

Hi Helen, that guy sounds like an idiot and I'm glad you at least deleted him from your friends list!

Freedom of speech is one of the most overused - and most frequently misused - justifications in the language, along with 'evolution says that...'. It really gets on my nerves when people say things like this, especially because they're usually part of the dominant group and using them to reinforce some existing social structure. What's more, invoking free speech in this context seems like a total abuse of the laws, the most important purpose of which is to secure the right of the minority to voice their opinions without suffering censure or violence from the majority.

Grace // Posted 07 September 2010 at 19:46

daily.

Ann // Posted 08 September 2010 at 16:00

Yup indeed.

I ignore honks and whistles because a lot of women I know 'give as good as they get' especially in summer whereby they are just as aggressive and hassling to guys who are walking while they drive. I hate it from either sex but they (the girls) view it as their right and payback. I'm pretty sure it does nothing to help the situation.

On other occassions, I was:

1. Grabbed and groped on holiday while my other friend was molested by Greek youths on the way back to our hotel. Drunk brits are apparently fair game and given our (brit) rep out there they see every woman as up for it. Very embarrassing and demeanign to be told that when your particular rep isn't to behave like a drunken yob and thug.

2) Groped, grasped, yaked, forcibly kissed in clubs. Though one friend who witnessed this and my falling on the floor did punch said guy in the mouth and get the bouncers to throw him out. Apparently they worked him over too, but can't say i feel too sorry given his hands and fingers giong where they did. I was only 16, so blamed myself because i was underage in the club, he was clearly much much older.

3) Was approached at age 13, wearing addidas bottoms and a jumper, surrrounded by shopping bags and with a friend. Said approacher was about and could barely speak any english, but he tried to drag my friend off and wanted to know a) the price and b) if we would both come.

Maleficent // Posted 09 September 2010 at 19:50

It's funny--the harassment and off-color comments from men took a nosedive when I cut my hair shorter. It's not guaranteed to work everywhere, but the harassers seem to miss me more often because I'm not identifiably female at a glance.

sapphirey // Posted 17 September 2010 at 02:02

It's an everyday thing, but once they don't touch me, I can bear it. The most ridiculous one recently was an older man who decided to walk alongside me after his yelling "Sweetness!" "Slim!" had no effect.
He told me things I didn't care about, such as his 2-bedroom house with a bath, and the fact that he could "take me home", "baby girl"...
I bolted.

Sari // Posted 05 October 2010 at 18:42

I agree with those who say a day when it doesn't happen is rarer. Last week, in the span of 4 hours, I was hollered at, tricked into bending over by a man who lied and said I dropped something, and watched walk down the street.

I felt like the next day was a success because all that happened was one guy whistled out the car window.

CG // Posted 09 December 2010 at 07:28

I don't get it often (being overweight and still cursed with the tail end of pubescent acne), but it has happened. I had some guy approach me in a mall and struck up a conversation. Fair enough, I'm willing to shoot the breeze with strangers. As I got up to leave he asked if I was dating someone. I very pointedly said "yes." Then he has the gall to ask me "Do you love him?" Guys: When a woman says she's dating someone, you should immediately stop trying to pick us up. It makes you look bad to assume that we'd cheat on our partners just for you.

As for catcalls and comments on the street, yup, I've gotten them. For the record, I don't wear revealing clothing, nor do I own a skirt. It has nothing to do with how a woman dresses. I'm just glad that my campus has a Safe Walk program, what with the fact that some men (and yes, it is usually men) on campus have gone beyond mere catcalls to trying to pull women into their cars.

Mica // Posted 10 December 2010 at 03:31

It would be very rare to find a woman who hasn't experienced harrassment at least once in her life. I have had a man try to pull me into his car and another attempt to drag me god knows where, which is terrifying, boys thinking that it is appropriate to grope girls in school, men making uncalled for comments etc

Rachel // Posted 30 January 2011 at 03:52

My turn. the most recent? I was listening to my iPod as I was walking down the street. As the song was switching, I heard an older man say to his friend "Let's mess with her." I prepared myself, and then I heard him catcall and say "Where have you been all my life?" I'm 17, still 1 year under the legal consent age. He looks around mid-fifties. I summon my most sweet voice and say "In my mother's womb. I'm too young for you pervert."

The one that sticks out in my mind the most happened a few weeks ago. I was again, walking home, but this time with my younger sister. All of a sudden I hear a guy's voice from behind. I realize a very sketchy looking guy is leering at us both as he's hanging out of his car. They slow down as they apporach. I start to get freaked out because it's just us and them. As he drives by he says something I'm not going to repeat, it was so disgusting and explicit, then reaches out and touches my hair. Get this, it was a work vehicle with a "How's my driving?" sticker on it. I took down the license plate number and description of the guy, and then called. It took about an hour to talk to a supervisor, but it was worth it to say that one of their employees made sxually explicit comments and threatening behaviors toward two minors to the point that they were afraid of their welfare. I was so angry.

aimee // Posted 30 January 2011 at 14:16

@Rachel:

Good for you!!!! Great job for sticking up for yourselves. It makes me so livid that creeps like that mostly get away with their horrible behaviour because we're taught all our lives to be so frightened and submissive.

Kyla // Posted 02 February 2011 at 03:29

Harrassed, sexually assaulted, intimidated...yup, have experienced all those on the street, almost all during the day, in crowded places.

Street harassment isn't quite so bad where I now live (Melbourne, Australia), compared to other places I've lived or visited. Still, not a day goes by without seeing a leer, hearing an 'assessment' ("Nice arse!") or witnessing drive-by harassment, whether directed to me or another woman. There is no consistency of time, place, outfit, appearance or reason ; the 'fault' seems to be simply that we're female, and present. It makes one always 'on edge', wary and anxious.

I find the worst harassment is on public transport. From highly visible bus stops during the day to underground train stations at night; from overcrowded tram carriages at peak hour to trains filled with families and prams on weekends; no situation or place seems to deter a harasser, which shows the fault is not with the woman being harassed, but the with the mentality of the harasser, and the 'acceptance' (or ignorance) of street harassment by society at large.

Chloe // Posted 02 February 2011 at 06:34

Yep.
At 17 I have been experiencing this since I was 15, and I am a late developer - this was happening before I even started developing boobs!
I get wolf whistled, been honked at and been shouted at from cars while walking.
I've had worse of course, but this isn't just a one time thing - it happens a lot to me - and doubtless to other women too.

Faye // Posted 13 February 2011 at 02:30

Late post is late, I guess.

This happens to me occasionally. I walk everywhere and thus am an easy target, probably why.
The first time I remember this happening was at a Renaissance Faire. I was 14 and modestly costumed. My best friend and I were looking at hats with very floaty, feathery plumes. The booth tender, a craggy middle-aged man wearing a variation of said hat came up behind the counter. We exchanged pleasantries. Then he took a hat off the rack, smirked, and trailed the feathers across my breasts, telling me to "feel how soft the feathers were." I froze and laughed uncomfortably, then left quickly with my friend. At the time I really didn't know what had just happened, but I still felt ashamed and sick inside. It was only later when I was thinking about it that I realized how much of a creep that man was. It was a sobering moment (if comparatively minor in scope) for me.

My mother and I have a close relationship. I didn't tell her this had happened to me until years later. It wasn't even a big incident, but it was the first so it had a larger impact on me than it might have in a different circumstance.

AnnaScheele // Posted 13 February 2011 at 16:17

*raises hand*
I left my first Saturday job because I got sick of a male co-worker referring to me as "the bitch" and asking me about my sex life.
My karate class is just across the road from us, so I usually don't mind walking there at night, but last time some guys yelled at me and my sister to "come over here, darlin'" etc etc. I am sick of flinching when I catch sight of groups of teenage boys in my path, sick of being spat at on the way home from school, and sick of being called "love" or "darling" if I display good manners by holding the door open for someone, and "slag" if i don't.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 13 February 2011 at 18:35

i was in sheffield this saturday, and at least 5 people called out their cars, and some guy pushed past us to open the door for us (manners?) so that we would have to get in close, however we refused, and we had a conversation outside whilst he got the picture that we werent going to sing him happy birthday

lindsey spilman // Posted 01 March 2011 at 14:27

I first started getting comments when i was about 22, or at least this was when it worsened, but it has got better as ive got older, im 29 now. I live in manchester, last year i went to london for 2 weeks and did not get any at all that i know of in london. I dont wear feminine clothes at all though, i wear womens clothes that look like men, infact everything i wear has a menswear inspired look, while at the same time im not butch, i have medium length hair and am androgynouse rather then masculine or feminine. Over the years i have learned how to be invisible to most men. Its easy to tell that im female bodied, but i reject the whole woman thing, its not been female that attracts all the attention, its being a woman that does that. Its possible to project a convincing male persona even as a ''woman'' and it does change the way people treat you. Its not like being a butch woman as butch women still get arrassed simply because the woman bit of there persona is still giving off a signal. Once when i was around 21 i was wearing fitted jeans and a t shirt with trainers, (these were the times when pink was on the go and i used to se proffessional women going to work in pink suits with pink bags, all girls tracksuits were pink, just about every woman or girl was wearing pink or baby blue) and it was obiouse i had breasts im about a c cup, i am about a size 12, also i had my medium length hair down. I was walking along a nature trail and there was three boys on there bikes. Two boys were younger then the other one, maybe about 12. They all moved out my way except for one of the younger ones. He just sat there on his bike and asked me '' are you a man?'' the other younger boy was wondering too i could see it. The older boy was telling them to move out the way, i told them i was a woman, but i know that this boy could see the male persona io was projecting and also could see my female body so had to ask. Even when the younger boy moved his bike i knew that he was still not convinced and could see that i had a male persona.

On days when i was not projecting my make persona i would get the bird treatment from the same type of boys.

There have been other occassions where similar things have happened. The male persona is about projecting a sense of being entitled to anter any public space you wish and not looking nervouse or caring about what other people may think or say, its about thinking about how you see the world rather then worrying about how the world sees you. Its also a sense of thinking without doubt that you have the right to be who you are rather then changing to suit others. Its also about walking around in clothes men normally wear without thinking that you have to have a male body to wear them, its possible to find similar things in the womens but wear them the way men do. Also projecting the semnse of owning your mind having a right to your own opinions, not wearing objectfying fashions and instead wearing trends that are enpowering like men do.

And also wear an ipod, the besty way to annoy these men is to choose how you will use your ears, these types of men want women to be receptive so they can overpower them, dont cover your eyes with shades as looking and is power, eyes are power, its amazing how these types of men often look away when met with prolonged none fluttery eye contact.

Dani // Posted 07 March 2011 at 20:05

Like many here....who hasn't? Main ones I remember from when I was a teen are:
passing a street comedian who, into his mic, started making extremely sexual noises and gestures towards me for the benefit of his audience; walking to the theatre with my mom and sister and having my crotch rubbed by a man passing in the opposite direction (on an empty street and he had to go out of their way to do it.... no way of excusing it, obviously); men in bars/at gigs folding their arms so that their hands are 'discreetly'/'accidentally' rubbing my breasts; men and boys in cars, in groups, on building sites.....

It's getting better now, as I think I walk in a more confident way, I'm now more sure of how to articulate why I am unhappy about it and, more importantly, I have a clearer idea of what I could do about serious cases. I described an experience to a police-officer (who I met in a totally different context, at a seminar about sexual violence) and she urged me to report cases, even verbal ones, so that it would contribute to police statistics about what areas to 'target' when they're on the beat etc. I think knowing that I can even do something that small, which would (sort of) help others has made me feel a bit more determined. I don't know if that's why I've attracted less attention, but it has helped for having a partial sense of control/closure.

Separately, if anyone's reading - a few weeks ago I was walking through town 'feeling pretty' (I was dressed up to meet my bf at the station as he'd been away). I passed a bus and a young man my age smiled and waved. I thought that was nice, and I did feel flattered, as I found it to be a sort of 'undemanding compliment' - he didn't seem to expect anything back and there was a clear barrier between us (he was on a bus). Is that sort of attention generally acceptable/pleasant, or was is that a one-off?

Sarah // Posted 08 March 2011 at 09:53

Dani: I think it is really important we say a bit about compliments we've received also, so that men know what is and isn't acceptable (although I totally understand having a space just to talk about harassment too as that is very important, so maybe we should have a different page for this...?). As we've seen in this comments page, some men seem to assume that when we're talking about street harassment, we mean ANYTHING said to us on the street. I've had men smiling and waving too, or comments like 'Nice hair', or the occasional person tell me they think I'm pretty. As long as there's no aggression involved, and I don't feel under any pressure to stay and talk to them for fear of their comments changing, I can just say 'Thank you' and move on. And usually it cheers me up a bit.

Kit // Posted 08 March 2011 at 11:46

@Dani - " Is that sort of attention generally acceptable/pleasant, or was is that a one-off?" - It sounds from your description of their action and your reaction like a nice gesture and seems acceptable tbh :) Although everyone is different, some people feel uncomfortable at any form of attention. Even though it's nice that there are people out there trying to give genuine compliments, they should be aware that not everyone wants their attention (positive or otherwise) :)

I totally get where @lindsey spilman is coming from with the "male persona" idea. I think I've been spared a lot of harassment because less "confident" potential harassers aren't sure how much trouble I'll be for them, given how I walk and look.

Definitely think there is something to walking like you have as much right to be there as anyone else (I mean, for one, we do! :)). It won't stop everyone (that requires some hefty societal changes), but it might at least put off the more cowardly harassers (the kind looking to get a quick power fix but without any "backtalk" or a fight).

That said, it's unfair that someone should have to walk around in a way that may be uncomfortable to them, in an attempt to limit how much harassment they'll get. Not everyone is confident or able to act as such :(

Sara // Posted 27 March 2011 at 21:39

The sad part is even guys who don't do these things don't see it as a big enough deal to warrant doing anything about it.

I used to work as a plumber at a jobsite that employed well over 200 men. Thankfully, all in all it was a positive work environment and I got along well with almost every on site. Me and the guys went out for beers, shot the sh*t during break times, and I became decent friends with most of the ones I worked near.

But there was one incident while I was working there that, though it disturbed me greatly, was brushed off as nothing by everyone else - including my older brother who happened to be my superintendent.

An employee of the GM whistled at me while I was bringing a load of waste material to the dumpster and when I did not respond he said to his coworker, loud enough for me to hear, "I'd rape her if I got the chance."

I was utterly horrified! It was said in a joking tone, which made all the guys shrug it off as an, if anything, distasteful, joke. For me it was not just a joke. It was a real eye opener to how entitled males feel to act like a bunch of pigs and not show respect for women.

Katerina // Posted 28 July 2011 at 03:26

Truly horrible stories, here. I thought I'd try to lighten it up some.

I live in a smallish city in Germany and it's not quite so bad. Catcalling does happen, but it's mostly 15-year-old boys and such, and often with someone they already know fairly well, so it's more like normal interaction, I guess. I do get the occasional stares and leering from strangers - mostly older men, creepily enough (I'm 19), but nothing that really stands out. A couple of times I've been propositioned - politely enough, being asked if I wanted to go get a drink sometime - by guys, often older guys, but when I said something like "No thanks", that was that.

...Although, to be honest, the way I usually phrase it is more like "Sorry, no thanks" with a charming and slightly apologetic smile, and that's a bit screwed-up when I think about it.

There was this larger incident when I was 15 or so. I was in a bus in broad daylight, with plenty of other people there, in the window seat. A guy sat down next to me. I hardly even noticed - I was staring out the window - until he started stroking and groping my knee and the underside of my leg. I had no idea how to react at first - I don't remember if I told him to stop or was too shocked - but soon I stood up and asked him to stand up and let me past him. He didn't, and just gestured me to walk past him. When I tried that, he tried to pull me down onto his lap. I shrank back to the window and, again, very loudly now and in a formal, strict, very cross tone, demanded that he stand up and let me past. By now, though I only noticed it then, the other passengers had raised up a fuss as well and finally convinced him to let me past, someone contacted the driver, who *called the police*. The bus was stopped, the guy was moved to another part of the bus and told to wait, everyone was outraged, some little boy started crying how something similar had happened to his mother. Most of the passengers were let off while we waited for the police to arrive, a couple stayed as witnesses and probably to keep the guy there. Police came, talked, got the information, I filled out the form they needed to press charges for sexual offense, took him away. A couple of months later I was called to give a testimony to a counselor to be used in the trial, and that was the last I heard of it. In retrospect, it's rather reassuring now to remember that neither the police nor the public took it lightly.

The guy had a glazed look in his eyes and was undoubtedly on drugs or something, as further evidenced by harassing someone in a semi-filled bus at 1 pm. It bears mentioning that I was not what you'd call remotely attractive that day - I was wearing baggish pants, a camouflage hoodie, with the hood pulled up, and sunglasses. My hands and the lower part of my face were literally the only patches of skin I was showing. Being 15, I was also pretty much on the stocky side and probably could've passed for a boy in dim lighting.

Fortunately I haven't been through anything worse than that, but to this day I still don't like talking about it and I never take a window seat I can't get out of in a hurry now. It was a real eye-opener on what being female and the risk of harassment meant in a society. Still, I'm glad I live in a society - or at least a city - that seems to take it seriously. If anything, the stereotype about Germans being sticklers for protocol is mostly true. I'm moving to another German city and will be going to college now, hopefully Germany won't disappoint there.

Lacuna // Posted 09 November 2011 at 00:51

As a guy, this is truly horrible reading. I don't recall witnessing any harassment, but I guess it's because as a man it isn't (luckily for me) something that effects me directly and as stated above, it's a much rarer occurrence when other men are present.

The scale of it is shocking. I suspect there's an element of a sort of ingrained attitude in some men, that women ought to be grateful for any attention or opinions that men wish to offer them.

I find it depressingly ironic that a lot of these guys are probably the same ones who complain about gay men "flaunting" their sexuality...

felicity // Posted 10 November 2011 at 00:56

I am an eighteen year old girl and have experienced street harassment almost everyday since I was about twelve. It used to be mostly when I was in my extremely conservative school uniform, and from boys my age or younger thinking they were being funny or showing off in front of friends, which is fairly harmless, but when you are that age, being crowded by a large group of boys is not fun. The last few years I have been whistled and shouted at in the street far too many times, by men from my age to those old enough to be my grandfather. I don't see why it is thought acceptable to target a girl walking alone or with other girls. Is it fun to make strangers think you are a disgusting person?? Currently I walk past a pub on my way home every evening and am nearly always commented on. However, what is much worse than street harassment is the way men act in clubs and bars!! I am groped everytime I go out, almost without fail, and when I turn around and shove or glare I am usually called something obscene. This sort of thing has put me off going out and having fun with my friends!! Sorry for the rant, but I've never known anything different than men acting like this, and it's so depressing.

eastlondongrl // Posted 11 November 2011 at 12:07

I was in a club with a male friend waiting around in the lobby for the cloakroom when a bouncer looks me up and down, and with an approving eye says "nice one you've got there" or something similar to my friend. I got really angry, but my friend didn't get it, saying "he's giving you a complement", but I was like, no he's giving YOU a complement. As if I was an object owned by my friend, and he was congratulating my friend on getting me. Like I wasn't even human. It almost made me more angry that my friend thought it was OK.

Another time in a crowded bar, a guy moved past me where there was loads of space, but took the opportunity to put both hands on my waist as he did it like loads of guys do. I tapped him on the shoulder as he walked away and confronted him, telling him he didn't have to touch me, and asking why he touched me. His response was angry and that I'm nothing special and that I should fuck off. It makes me so angry.

Kirsty // Posted 15 November 2011 at 19:52

At two different times, i've been groped by boys going past on bicycles. I don't know how old they were but i'd say 11 or 12. The second time I phoned the police, they did seem to take me seriously. Has anyone else been harassed by pre teen boys?

Ellen // Posted 28 May 2012 at 21:27

The other day I was walking back through halls when a couple of guys asked me if I could multitask. Not quite understanding I asked in what context, assuming that they were going to make some comment about me being a woman blah blah blah. They grinned and told me it was "too rude". Essentially they wanted me to jack both of them off at once. Charming. My little sister had a man in a van follow her taking pictures when she was fifteen, wearing jeans and a t-shirt at four o'clock in the afternoon. She came home really freaked, having no idea what he was planning on doing with the pictures! And men wonder why this freaks us out!

Ellen // Posted 28 May 2012 at 21:30

I have also been "rated" when out with my friend at uni. As in "I'd give you a seven girls!" from someone just walking past. My not so eloquent response was "Fuck off!" But given more time...

Maddie  // Posted 21 August 2012 at 02:08

Last year I went to Holland on a trip with my orchestra and while we were there there was an awful day with some German tourists, all male and at least older than 25. We'd gone tobogganing and I ended up on the track next to them, waiting for space to set off meant I got cat calls, jeers, and demonstrations with the joystick showing what they wanted me to do to them. As a 14 girl no where near confident enough to confront it it was terrible and uncomfortable. This then continued at tea, every time a girl on the trip walked past their table in order to reach the restaurant there were cheers and clapping, drawing more attention to it and humiliating them further. They even as far as waving money at the older girls. No-one was happy about this, the majority if the guys even got up,mckearly planning on telling the group that this behaviour was unacceptable. However, they were forced back down by the teachers. Because of my experience earlier in the day with them I was terrified and physically shaking, so clearly that a male friend on the trip actually took me the back way out of the restaurant so I didn't have to face them again. He even escorted me to my room, a floor above his own, to make sure I was fine. The teachers response to this was to not use the front entrance of the hotel and to 'try and avoid them'. Ridiculous really.

Laura // Posted 21 August 2012 at 09:07

Thanks for commenting, Maddie, and I'm sorry you had such an awful experience. Your teachers really let you down.

Lipstick Terrorist // Posted 21 August 2012 at 13:18

Yes, so many times I'm surprised when I go through a week without experiencing it.

Bathtubgin // Posted 21 August 2012 at 13:52

Since September of last year, I've kept a diary of street/sexual harassment. The idea was that I'd write it up at some point, but I honestly don't think anyone would believe me. From the relatively minor (alright darlin', giz a smile) to the positively terrifying (I live tweeted an incident where I was blocked into my seat on a train by a man) I've been bothered in public 44 times.

Kirsten Hey // Posted 21 August 2012 at 13:58

Are there really women who've never experienced harassment from men? From the bloke in a bar who decided to lick his finger and then use it to rub one of my tattoos to see if it was real, and told me "you wouldn't be showing it if you didn't want me to comment" when I complained, to the bloke who felt he had to comment on my breasts as I cycled past in a v-neck tshirt, the men who think that women's bodies exist for their own approval are everywhere.

Here's a nice story though. One day when I was about 16 I was walking down the road when my dad drove past, slowed down, wound his window down, and we had a conversation as I walked along and he drove next to me at walking pace then he pulled away and drove off. A man on the other side of the road came running over and told me "I've got his number love, if you want to report him for bothering you." He was quite embarrassed when I said "thanks but it's ok, it was just my dad" but it was nice of him to be concerned and be prepared to help me to take action.

Rose // Posted 21 August 2012 at 20:48

I was first sexually harassed in the street 3 years BEFORE my first period.

I happens so often I stay in to avoid it. There have been too many times it turned violent, or into stalking, or a mixture of the two. It stops me from considering england a civilised country. We're just not there yet as a society.

Christie Tucker // Posted 22 August 2012 at 13:27

Friday just gone, at my local train station, was just the most recent in a long series of similar events.

I am waiting by myself to get on a train to meet my fiancé from work. Guy sits next to me, asks me when the next train is due. Starts asking lots of personal questions, to which I give minimal/untrue/evasive answers, making sure most of them involve references to my fiancé - some of the men around here won't think twice about hurting a woman, so you have to avoid making them angry. Then he starts telling me how much he likes pornography, and how he likes making videos...

I feel sick and threatened, so I say nothing. There is no-one else on the platform. It is 15.45 on a Friday, bright sunlight. Were it not the school holidays, the station would be full of teenage schoolgirls.

He interprets my silence (correctly) as a lack of interest, and realises he's gone too far. He returns to more anodyne topics. My office phone, and he loses interest and walks away, getting on the train as it pulls in. I go as far as I can in the other direction, get on the front carriage, and text my fiancé asking what I should do - do I call the Police and have them meet us at the end of the line?

When I get to the station, I am first to the gate, and ask a member of station staff if I can wait with him until my fiancé arrives to meet me. I explain the situation, starting to panic only now I'm safe, and he calls station security and British Transport Police, all of whom were complete stars the entire time we're there. They take statements and will obtain CCTV footage, and are willing to charge this creeper with a Public Order offence ("causing alarm and distress")

Bottom line? ALWAYS report it - you have a right to be taken seriously. ALWAYS seek help from another person if you can - few strangers will refuse to help a frightened woman. And ALWAYS take the opportunity to educate yourself. My university arranged for us to receive safety advice from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, and their site carries some invaluable resources covering things I'd certainly never considered.

Tri // Posted 23 September 2013 at 23:47

When I was in high school I would walk down the street and sometimes get guys who thought I was a hooker because it was common on that street. I was often scared that they would get angry at me ignoring them and become violent... It was scary.

I once had a very creepy dude pull up in front of me after circling around after catcalling me and try to pick me up while I was waiting for the bus. "Wanna ride?" He asked... It was scary...

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