Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sexual Harassment Comes Home

I've been sexually harassed.  A lot.  Just like most women (and when I say women, I am including trans women), really, and especially as a chubby woman with T&A, and as a woman with tattoos (those two factors seems to make people feel even more entitled to lasciviously comment on my appearance).  But I can remember being scared just two times.

When I lived in San Francisco several years ago, I frequently took cabs home from the bar or the grocery store.  The driver this time kept looking at me in his rearview mirror - like, staring a LOT, and started asking me personal questions (what's my name, do I have a boyfriend, etc.).  And I realized - fuck, I'm in HIS car, he has the power.  This is creepy and scary and I do NOT want him to know where I live.  So I told him to let me out about 4 blocks earlier than I'd planned, didn't tip him, and stood there and watched as he drove away.

And now, just last week, I was leaving a friend's holiday party.  I had to leave at 10pm so I could catch the last bus home on a Saturday night (oh, small towns and their public transportation!).  I was walking along State Street, about a block from the bus station, when a shiny black car with two young white guys drives slowly by and shouts at me "show us your titties?!"

(Let me add here a note about clothing.  Because of the whole stupid, misogynistic idea that wearing slutty things means its your own fault if you get harassed, and that that's why you get harassed.  It's winter in the Pacific Northwest, which means it was rainy, and I was wearing about 5 million layers - leggings, dress that goes to just above my knees, cardigan sweater, thick zip-up sweater, 2 scarves, armwarmers and a puffy vest.  Sexxxxxy.  I was totally asking for it dressed like that.)

This is the kind of thing I'm used to, and that has happened to me several many dozens of times and generally I respond by either not responding at all, or by flipping them off as I continue walking.  This time, I flipped them off.

And that's when it got scary.  Because they pulled into the parking lot I was crossing.  And there was no one else around.  It gets a little fuzzy at this point, because that's what happens to me when I'm scared or highly emotional - I kinda dissociate, apparently.  But I do remember wondering where my knife was and if I couldn't find that, maybe I could stab them with my knitting needles, and that I started yelling at them at the top of my lungs, something to the effect of "FUCK YOU!  YOU DO NOT FUCKING HARASS WOMEN LIKE THAT ON THE STREET AT NIGHT!  YOU NEED TO FUCKING LEAVE RIGHT NOW OR I AM CALLING THE COPS, YOU GODDAMN MOTHERFUCKING ASSHOLES!"  And I kept walking, and they slowly pulled away after a few minutes.  I do not remember if or how they responded to what I said.

When I got to the (well-lit, populated) bus station, the adrenaline wore off and I was shaky with the realization of what easily could have happened.  I managed to hold it together until I got home and then I cried for a few minutes.  And part of it was yeah, I was scared because it came close to getting physical.  But the other part was the horrible reminder that this is what women (and others) live with every goddamned day.  The fear of violence, sexual violence is always there.  I don't care how fucking tough you are - pretty much every woman and has this in the back of their minds, even when we're not aware of it.

And really, I'm kinda curious what drives guys to do that sort of thing, and to think that it's okay to do.  I mean, do they think that downtown Oly at 10pm is Girls Gone Wild?  Do they think I'm going to be overcome with lust for them and blow them all in their cars?  Really, I want to know what's going on in those heads.

I was just lucky.  I was lucky that nothing happened.  Sure, I have a loud mouth and some righteous rage (by-products of a privileged white girl upbringing) and maybe that helped.  And maybe those particular guys would never actually physically assault someone.  But when at least 1 in 6 women is sexually assaulted in the US (and an estimated 60% of assaults go unreported), well, I'm no special snowflake just because it's never happened to me.  I would say that most of my friends have been sexually assaulted in some way, and I sometimes feel oddly guilty that I haven't been - like a perverse form of survivor guilt.

We need men to do more work on this.  We need men who will be active allies against sexual violence, who will speak up when they hear women being denigrated.  We need more men like Tony Porter, to challenge our society's idea that being a man must mean being violent and dominating.

And I know I'm not saying anything new here.  I think I mostly needed to post this for myself, to vent and to share, because that's what we humans do.

p.s. I like to fantasize about what it would have been like if my crazy, fear-aggressive dog had been with me. HAHAHAHAHA!  If I were Allie Brosh, I would draw you an awesome picture of it.


  1. Damn it. You have my sympathy.

    We are harassed and prepare ourselves for harassment to cross over to endangerment by carrying weapons or whistles or mace. And then we aren't attacked. And then we forcefully blow off an asshole with the weapon of words. But we know, each time, that the knife we couldn't reach was useless in that inner pocket and wonder if it's time to get serious about self defense.

    But I'm glad that you had that wonderful, loud fucking voice of yours and that you used it to good effect. That voice is a form of self defense and it'll never be left at home or tucked too deep in your clothing to be a surprise for an attacker.

    Way to wield your weapon.

  2. I love this fucking post. I just wrote a comment but it got lost :( so, suffice to say, just love love love this.