January 10th, 2008
|05:15 pm - Cheek pinching|
I saw the image of a man pinching Hillary Clinton’s cheeks. It was such a gesture of dominance. ‘You may be a Presidential candidate, but I am a middle aged white man so let me do with your body as I will’.
Then I thought that perhaps I am biased by my own experiences. I knoq some women who have never been sexually harassed. Perhaps men don’t speak of it.
So I wanted to ask you, dear flist, about your experiences. Here are some things that have happened to me over the years. (I do seem to be a magnet for the unwanted attentions of complete strangers).
· Men masturbating against me in the train. It’s the perfect place for them, because you are packed together and the swaying of the trains covers up their actions to some extent. (I find this much less confronting than an incident involving a friend at mass at St Peters. She spent some time wondering if he was having a moment of religious epiphany before deciding it was a more sordid event. In front of the Pope! Imagine!)
· Men grabbing my breasts as they walk past. Hasn’t happened for a while, of course, as I am presumably too frumpy now. (Hoorah! Another advantage of being in my 30s!)
· Ditto my behind. (A large target. As they say in *Some Like It Hot*, like jello on springs.)
· A guy once pinched my cheek (the one on my face) which I found even more confronting than the guys who go to the rear (as it were). I am an adult, not a child.
· Wolf whistling and shouting, of course.
· The one thing that happened to me that still freaks me out is the guy in Rome who thrust his unclad penis into my hand on the bus.**
Notice how nothing really bad happened to me. I was just inconvenienced. The message that I took away from these events were:
· Some men want me to feel that the streets do not belong to me. I am only tolerated in public spaces; I have no right to them.
· Some men feel they have a right to casual access to my body. Some men feel that I am inherently inferior to them.
· Some men like to intimidate women.
Obviously, I reject all these messages.
But, please, people, I would like to know how often you have had experiences like these, harassment from strangers on the streets. And, perhaps more importantly, I would like to know if you haven’t had these experiences. How typical are my experiences of casual street harassment?
** Edited: Oh, yeah, I forgot about the guys who tried to drag me down an alleyway in Berlin. That was scary too, but it turned out that my self defence class worked. You just have to do the ‘wax off’ thing and people let go of your arms! Then I scurried away. The most frightening part was that I had to go past the alleyway again in order to get back to the hostel – I couldn’t figure out a way around that wouldn’t get me lost. Damn my sense of direction.
hmm. L and I had to ask to be moved on a plane flight because the man sitting beside us was masturbating.
I had a man touch my breasts in a workplace setting. I shouted at him to stop touching my breasts, very very loudly. Hopefully he was so embarrassed he won't do it again. Had another workplace incident that was less well coped with, but I was much younger.
Oh yeah, I asked to be moved in a plane once because the guy behind me was masturbating and the hostess *refused*.
Oh, yeah, I'm remembering heaps more now that others are listing them. I've twice had a rock thrown at me while walking but I assume that was a stupid youth territorial display rather than something aimed at me qua woman.
|Date:||January 10th, 2008 08:58 am (UTC)|| |
I had a guy who refused to remove his hand from my crotch on a train, but I elbowed him in the eye. (It squelched, so gross).
What's the wax off method?
Mostly I don't get harrassed, but I think it's because I have always looked big and mean and a bit insane.
What's the wax off method?
Like in Karate Kid - you move your arm sideways and twist.
Mostly I don't get harrassed, but I think it's because I have always looked big and mean and a bit insane.
I think I got it a lot because I was small and polite. I always hate confronting people about things like this.
Would you like me to post this on my lj as a poll? You'd have to provide the questions though, I suck at that :)
Hmmm..off the top of my head:
-guy on bus being vaguely, drunkedly sleazy towards me and then kissing me on the cheek when I was 14. I pushed the button and said "This is your stop!" early so he'd go away, it was very unpleasant. The busdriver got my details so the police could ask me about it later, I felt quite bad at how little I could remember.
-various creepiness's from two unisfans who shall remain nameless, but that wasn't randomised or on the street (though they did it to pretty much all the girls, afaict)
-Guy in library "accidentally" brushing against my bum as I bent over to look at the shelves. I eventually realised he was doing it on purpose and left, feeling really...blah. Took all the fun out of the library for me for a while.
But nothing really since then (unless I'm blocking it out, which is somewhat plausible). And no penis's (penii?), lucky me!
*feels the need to wash my brain out*
That was very assertive at 14. I wouldn't have done that - I would have just got off myself and walked. Well done, you.
Yes, a poll would be interesting.
Are you male/female?
Have you ever been sexually harassed on the streets (by people unknown to you)? Y/N
which of the following has happened to you?
some other part of you groped
held against your will
someone masturbated against you
someone put their genitals into your hand
Was the person/people who did this a man/woman?
And, I guess, the bit I am most interested in, what do you think motivated them? Why would they behave like this?
How did you respond?
I'm still a no. I think a relevant question for your poll would be "Do you have large breasts?"
Hmmmm, should I add it? I think large breasted women are seen as more sexual which is why you don't see senior politicians with big breasts.
I think it is so cool you live your life without it.
|Date:||January 10th, 2008 09:38 am (UTC)|| |
Somewhere around the ages of 17-18 or so I used to score a bit of wolf whistling from building sites and once in the Hay St Mall. Far from being annoyed I remember deliberately walking past a particular building site an extra time just to get the attention. I thought it was *great*. Does that make me a bad person?
Hmmm. A comedy promoter infamous for requiring "services" from female comics in the back office once lecherously and very seriously offered to "smother me with passionfruit" but I thought it was hilarious (and impractical and messy). He seemed miffed. I would have been about 20 or 21 at the time. I think he ran Club Bay View in Claremont at the time.
A male co-worker at UWA used to refer to a short skirt of mine as "the dictation skirt" and ask me to sit on his knee. Mostly jocular, but with mild overtones of creepiness. I was probably 22. That was the workplace where the same guy used to download and look at porn every day, and it was expected that the whole (mixed) team should watch and comment together. Failure to do so was seen as a failure to bond with the team.
Other than that, a significant lack of strangers grabbing my anatomy or attempting to pick me up. I've always assumed I looked too fierce.
I haven't travelled much which might have a bit to do with it. A few male locals in Bali got a bit close for comfort when I was 18 (wolf-whistle age). Apparently pale skin and dark hair were more attractive to them than my friend's blue-eyed-blond-tannedness. Nothing serious, more of a personal space issue.
|Date:||January 10th, 2008 11:17 am (UTC)|| |
Hmmm, I completely forgot to add in a world of inappropriateness from my 40+ (long-since former) brother-in-law when I was 13.
I doubt it was intended as sexual per se, just wildly inappropriate hugs and one-way conversations about sex. Erg :-(
It's looking much worse in hindsight.
I can vouch for Emma's Rome incident as I was there. I was being groped in the chest too at the time, but I think this was more to get to my money belt than for amorous intent. I elbowed him in the chest, hard, and apologized in Italian in a snide not-sorry voice. This was because we were so packed in that I could not tell who it was that was doing it.
The week before on the same bus a _nun_ had her wallet cut from her belt under her habit!
Once at Disneyland (CA) when I was 16 I was groped in the chest by one of the 7-dwarfs while having my picture taken. I was too young to handle it well. Now days I would have put up a stink with the management!
Yes, and poor S who was travelling with us was in tears and just kept saying 'Even my boyfriend has never done that to me'. Then we got off the bus and were wolfwhistled as we staggered about on the side of the road, trying to recover.
It put me off Rome to such an extent that I didn't go back until I could go with a man (my ex in 1999).
Oh golly - I couldn't even begin to list the bits and pieces that have happened to me. Pretty much from the ages of 13-25 I was a creep magnet.
But the thing that stands out after all this time is a random stranger (who I didn't even know was there) reaching through my legs from behind while I was picking up a ball and lifting me off the ground with his hand firmly wedged into my crotch.
Actually, the ages of 14-16 were horrific for me when I think back. There was so much sexual harrassment, the vast majority of it at school from similar aged boys. Older men were ogling, wolf-whistling and making wildly improper suggestions, but they mostly kept their hands off. Boys my age - I kneed three in the nuts, punched two in the face and took a swing at one with a science stool. And those are just the ones who upset me enough to wear the consequences of resorting to violence.
Perhaps' Kris suggestion about how big ones' breasts are is worth following up.
Edited at 2008-01-10 11:29 am (UTC)
|Date:||January 10th, 2008 12:11 pm (UTC)|| |
Would you say you went to a particularly bad school?
--photographed by strangers/vague acquaintances, with an obvious intent of pretending they knew me intimately (eg. sailors in port)
--wolf-whistles and sexual insults while walking down the street
--boys hanging out of car windows making suggestive/insulting comments
--touched on the thigh at parties by people I wasn't dating or interested in
--kissed unexpectedly at a work function by a fellow worker
--love letters more than once, from several different people I barely knew, including one full of references to Jesus from a freaky patron when I was working at Burswood
--given flowers by strangers/vague acquaintances
--hugged in a sexual way by a drunk patron at Burswood, and then insulted when I politely asked him not to
--lured into an alley kissed (I was only 15 or so and thought someone was in trouble), with an obvious intent to sexually assault me
--deep-breathing phone calls at work, by someone who obviously knew it was me on alone during that shift
--nuisance innuendo calls at home by people I didn't recognise, but probably weren't total strangers
I'm pretty sure there are a lot more, I just can't remember them at the moment. These are the ones off the top of my head.
Most of them didn't involve touching me; I ignored them and walked away. I ridiculed the phone-callers' technique, asked the touchers to stop, and talked my way out of the rape.
Until recently, I never considered any of these but the alley incident sexual harassment, because no-one ever acted as though any of it was unusual or wrong. I didn't bother telling anyone about most of them at the time they happened, and on the rare occasions I did (the Jesus letter, for instance), I was pressured not to make a fuss.
Yes, I think touching Clinton's cheek was a sexist dominance act.
Yes, I think touching Clinton's cheek was a sexist dominance act.
Can you imagine it being done to any of the male contenders? Honestly?
Until recently, I never considered any of these but the alley incident sexual harassment, because no-one ever acted as though any of it was unusual or wrong.
Well, probably not that unusual, but I think wrong. I mean, I feel like I am a shrieking harridan sometimes, banging on about a culture that is unfriendly to women but look at the massive list of experiences listed here in just a few hours. It is systemic. Which is not to say systematic but spread throughout the system we live in.
I find it very cheering that some people have had no experiences of this sort. If only I could extrapolate out - how to make this everyone's life????
|Date:||January 10th, 2008 11:52 am (UTC)|| |
I can recall absolutely nothing of this nature!
At work I had a teenager wave a stick of dowel in my face in a potentially threatening manner—except that he wasn't in the least... but that wasn't about being female, more about being an authority figure (and he was fairly much out of it on glue).
I'm not in the least assertive (classroom discipline is _not_ a strength of mine:-( ), so I'm not sure how I escaped, given the seeming prevalence...
off the top of my head:
- when I was 15, a neighbour invited me into his house, made sexual advances and tried to prevent me from leaving
- workplace that prominently displayed girly calendars
- approached by a stranger on the street and offered money for a 'massage'
- boss who told me my job was to stand around and look pretty
- 'lesbian' shouted at me as I walked down the street (has happened multiple times)
- love letters from men I've never met
- men masturbating at me on the telephone counselling line (has happened far too many times to count)
- work meeting with a man who said he liked the idea of 2 women together and put his hand on my colleague's knee
Well, clearly being a lesbian means you are there to titilate men. Or not.
After I stopped being young and attractive enough to have people shout 'Want a fuck' at me there was a phase when people shouted 'Lesbian'. I think what that meant was 'You are not sexually alluring to me, make more effort, you shoudl seek my approval.'
I note I just wrote people, but what I mean is men.
Looks like there's a standard level of experience with sexual harassment. Quite depressing. I've never had somebody actually put their penis into my hand uninvited or anybody try to abduct me but I've had most of what's been listed. Most recently a guy on the street with a balaclava type thing began a conversation and then grabbed my behind while telling me he had the flu.
I'm generally more disturbed by verbal than physical because it's like that shit is so ingrained that they can't even be bothered to grope you. At my husband's work function I walked into a room wearing a rather modest, non-booby, husband's work function appropriate dress and one guy said to another, "There's some cans." and pointed. Like I would say, "There's a stop sign." if I was walking down the street.
The penis thing really freaked me out. I washed my hands and washed my hands and then went to eat and couldn't bring my hands to my mouth - I had to get a fork.
Oh yeah, when I was 19 I went through a very brief phase of pinching men's bottoms as revenge sexual harassment but it quickly became obvious that none of them felt threatened by it.
Someone confessed to me that they had fondled the groins of men when she was about 19. She said she was too ashamed to mention it but ha! I out her!
All of the above from about age 11 through to present day.
Groped, punched, rubbed against, shouted at from cars/pubs/train stations, masturbated at, flashed, manhandled, inappropriately approached by train conductors/doctors/librarians, downright molested, plenty of 'casual' uninvited touching, utter refusal to hear the word 'no I don't find you attractive/datable', pervy telephone calls, unsolicited pornographic conversations oh the list goes on.
I was systematically harassed by a guy in year 10 woodwork. He'd wander up to my workbench and rattle off this stream of: "Would you go out with X? Would you fuck Y?" (maybe he said 'sleep with', whatever), working his way down the list of guys in the class (I was on the only girl). He'd also sneer at me if I spoke up in class. It screwed my woodworking confidence up something chronic.
There was a guy who leaned out the window of his 4WD when I was on my way home from late highschool/early uni (can't quite remember), and called: "So, you mum lets you walk home, does she?" followed by an inaudible question. Months later, the folks and I realised that he was a workmate of mum's, and we'd met once or twice. At the time? It freaked me the Fuck. Out.
Oh, and on the train, once had a very drunk (so drunk I doubted he could get up) guy as if I wanted to go out with him that night.
*ETA*: for the record, tiny, tiny breasts. Also, I was a social hermit from ages 13 to at least 21.
Oh! And I had my arse squeezed in a very crowded Court on Pride night. I was in a nun's costume, which probably had a lot to do with it.
*Daughter of edit*: (early high school?) Sitting in the backseat, with my parents driving up front. Pulling up to the lights and having two guys in the car next to me just stare. Repeated at the next set of lights. Really creepy, then and now remembering it. Plus maybe two times of being yelled at from cars, and one time a guy was pissing into a front garden: "Hey, you want to come hold this?".
Also, year 7: shoved into a fence, and pulled to the ground by my backpack, which ripped. Sexual harassment? Going by the: "would they have done it to a guy/someone their own size (because I'm nobody's size)?" Harassment.
Edited at 2008-01-10 12:48 pm (UTC)
My sister had a rotten time in woodwork class as well (as the only girl).
And, God, a friend of your mothers? Did you tell her?
|Date:||January 10th, 2008 12:54 pm (UTC)|| |
I am feeling so incredibly fortunate right now.
fwiw, I have large breasts, but short hair and am not pretty or particularly 'feminine'.
You are very pretty! *pets you in a totally non-pervy fashion*
|Date:||January 10th, 2008 01:30 pm (UTC)|| |
Have not knowingly suffered sexual harassment from strangers.
Have had food thrown at me as a cyclist.
Have been verbally abused for having long hair or a beard.
Have had my hair set on fire in a nightclub in the UK.
Have been unwilling to catch a taxi in Perth wearing heels and a dress.
Have been uncomfortable walking half a block in heels from a club to a car park late at night unaccompanied. Was happy to find friends in the car park.
Worry that friends mightn't tell me if I have been overly familiar, particularly given the wide variation in social mores in the circles I move between.
Someone set fire you your *hair*? That's unbelievable! (In the sense where I believe it but think it is horrific.)
|Date:||January 10th, 2008 01:54 pm (UTC)|| |
First off, my sympathy for all that you and your friends have endured. (I couldn't get through all the comments, because I was about to get triggered by some of the details.)
As a child, I was touched inappropriately, ranging from unwanted back massage at 14, to milder forms of molestation (if that's not a contradiction in terms) from ages 5 to 11, but none of this was by strangers, who were generally polite to me. As an adult, I've had men yell rude things at me, although this happens less now that I'm a pedestrian less often. I am sort of petite (5'4", thin to average weight as an adult).
Reading through this is pretty grim, and I hope I am not triggering anything for anyone. It seems like everyone has gone through stuff. But hugs for anything when you were a child.
Strangely (or maybe not reading some of these comments) my only memorably negative experiences happened in Europe. When I was about 10 I was with my family at the top of a church tower. A young man probably in his 20s decided to pick me up and hold me over the edge so I could see better. Not a sexual thing but terrifying nonetheless and an invasion of privacy. While working in the UK I had a lot to do with the police (work parties, after raid drinks etc) and they were a dodgy lot. Many very sexual and sexist comments from them but no point saying anything because "it's the culture"...While working in Cologne I encoutered a man under the bridge I had to walk over who decided to flash his penis and masturbate at me. I was taken aback but managed to blurt out in German that he really did have a small sausage. Reading/hearing afterwards that such behaviour is often motivated by insecurities I then hoped I hadn't caused him any damage!
Reading/hearing afterwards that such behaviour is often motivated by insecurities I then hoped I hadn't caused him any damage!
Speaking personally, I always feel guilty afterwards.
Did you travel alone?
|Date:||January 10th, 2008 02:47 pm (UTC)|| |
There's some scary stuff here. I'm glad I haven't copped too much of it. What abuse I've had was usually verbal and more of the "aren't you ugly?" type than "do you want to ****?" Glasses, skinny, braces in early teens. (shrug). Some of the comments were also due to mistaken identity - I've been mistaken for a boy in bad light, though not recently - and once, when cycling, had the immortal comment screamed from a passing car, "Get off the road, ya poofter!"
I had a date try to grope me in the cinema. Was more startled than anything but pushed him off and didn't see that guy again. The odd thing was he'd been friend before then but seemed to think the "date" status meant right here, right now was okay!
Childhood experiences: yeah, one when I was about eight, riding on this old guy's shoulders. Friend of my grandma. I'm really not going to go into that one but ye-ech! Fortunately for me I wasn't too much of a shrinking violet as a child. I kicked :-)
I am so sorry that something/anything happened to you as a child. Bad as an adult too, of course, but perhaps I am overly sensitive because I'm pregnant.
Oh, yes. It's not happening any more now that I'm in my thirties - too dowdy, perhaps? Too old? Not helpless or timid looking anymore? (I'm still occasionally getting hit on, which I find hilarious and disturbing, especially since I only recently learned to recognize when someone was hitting on me. But it isn't sexual harassment, just excruciatingly embarrassing crossed signals.)
Let's see. Probably the biggest incident in my life (aside from being raped, which I think is beyond the scope of the question) was when I was walking across my college campus one morning. A homeless guy came up to me, grabbed me, grabbed one of my boobs, and started shoving off my skirt. He was much, much bigger than I was (or am), and I had serious difficulty getting away. About ten feet from where this was happening, some frat-type guys were sitting drinking coffee, and they thought it was so funny: look at the girl getting molested by the homeless dude! They pointed and called out helpful tips (for the homeless guy). I minded their behavior much more than the homeless guy's.
But I've also had my share of the usual things. You know, guys driving by slowly while I walked down the street, shouting at me or whistling or waving money. (When I was a teenager, I had a few legitimate prostitution offers as well, but I don't count those as sexual harassment, just mistaken identity.) Or grabbing my boobs or my ass. Or stopping to ask me something and showing me porn photos. (BAD porn photos.) The standard stuff.
And I've been online since the dark ages, so I've been virtually sexually harassed a lot, in some very creative (and some very standard) ways; the internet isn't the greatest place to be openly female now, but it was a terrible place to be openly female 15 years ago.
Oh, honey, I didn't know about the rape and I hope I haven't brought up bad memories. I am sorry.
Oh, yes. It's not happening any more now that I'm in my thirties - too dowdy, perhaps? Too old? Not helpless or timid looking anymore?
These are teh factors I attribute the drop off for me. Also, fewer opportunities to travel. Alas.
Thanks for responding.
|Date:||January 10th, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)|| |
I've had nothing that especially springs to mind in Australia other than sleezy UniSFAns/people at cons who won't take no for an answer, a few random people compliment me in the street (you look pretty/I love that dress) and a few work related issues (I had a customer meet me after work once when I was walking to my car- I managed to fob him off and called my housemate who I talked to all the way home).
In Fiji- my goodness. I had a guy grab me in the street push me against a wall and kiss me, plus I seem to be fair game for almost every taxi driver in Suva to proposition for everything from lunch to casual sex to marriage!
I see a big difference in my experiences in Australia and overseas too.
|Date:||January 11th, 2008 12:29 am (UTC)|| |
My level of harassment is about the same as yours, and follows the same lifetime pattern. Stuff like strangers masturbating against me in crowds, hairdressers pressing erections into the back of my head, male bosses putting their arm around me, or standing behind me with their hands on my shoulders. Several pedophiles in my childhood:-at a sleepover, friends dad spying on us in the bath through a hole he had made in the wall, being 'bounced' on someones knee and kissed briefly on the lips, another friends dad holding my hand when I was 17 'in case I got lost'. I can see now that these friends probably had horrible childhoods.
It looks as though breast size does not affect harassment level although probably the type of harrasment. I have never been grabbed by the breast - plenty of close body contact or bum or crotch groping instead. It also looks as though the way you dress has no effect, either. In retrospect, I think there is an irony - I was and still am less harassed if I dress more sexually/more femininely.
|Date:||January 11th, 2008 12:29 am (UTC)|| |
sorry, this was me.
|Date:||January 11th, 2008 05:40 am (UTC)|| |
A story of un-harrassment if you will. Somewhere around the age of 20-21 I used to spend a lot of time alone in Northbridge, in cafes and clubs and pubs with my notebook, people-watching and taking notes. I'd often dress in the fashion of the day (and had the bod to carry it off) of Madonna-lace-slutesque (yes, well, we live and learn). I'd park in some relatively dark and isolated spots.
And yet, somehow, got away with it. No trouble, no harrassment. For a long time I believed that I was safe from rape or serious assault because I was simply not attractive enough. At some point I started to get more wary, but I can't recall what caused the change. I didn't get much in the way of positive attention either, so the I'm-unattractive theory seemed pretty sound to me.
And yet, somehow, got married :-)
Interesting. I adapted my behaviour to avoid strangers - always sitting me couples or women on the train, to the point of moving carriages mid-travel if necessary, etc. But I don't feel it affected the way I interact/interacted with people I know.