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Does Street Harassment Ever Lead To True Love? (My Guess: No)

I’m taking an informal survey. This is mostly for the women out there, but people of any sex or gender are welcome to join in the conversation. This particular issue happens to women more often, but is not exclusive to us.

Most women have had the experience of being approached or spoken to by men who bestow the compliment of their attention on us. Sometimes they simply comment on how we look, sometimes those comments are lewd and sexual. Sometimes they insist that we acknowledge them, either by following or getting in front of us. When we ignore them, blow them off, or express our displeasure at their actions and words, they often turn even uglier.

There are few women over the age of 13 who have never experienced this. And any number of feminist sites or blogs will educate folks on why this behavior is wrong.

What I want to know is: has it ever worked? Have you ever, when walking down the street, had some random stranger say to you, “You’re so hot,” and actually feel an urge to get his phone number and call him up for a date? After telling a guy “Sorry, I have a girlfriend/wife/boyfriend/husband/significant other,” have you ever felt compelled to cheat on said significant other when the guy persists despite these claims? When they’re aggressively attempting to intimidate you with verbal abuse or physicality, have you ever thought, “Hmm, this guy is certainly serious and also full of testosterone, I should rethink my position and go out with him!”?

I ask because there are days when I wonder if men actually think that some relationship or even one night stand might come from these actions. Of course I know that often it’s just patriarchal bullshit and power dynamics and that they are operating under the assuption that all women are or should be available to them as is their right. But honestly, after years and years of the same pattern:

Guy: Hey baby, you look fine.

Woman: You and your tiny dick can go to hell.

Guy: Yeah, you want me…

You would think that the message would sink in: this is not the way to get a date.

Perhaps I am giving such men too much credit. Maybe they don’t ever expect a date or even sex from these encounters They just do it for fun. But, on the off chance that these men do think this is a viable way to meet women, let’s make it clear.

55 thoughts on “Does Street Harassment Ever Lead To True Love? (My Guess: No)”

  1. lkeke35 says:

    I have two beautiful younger sisters and I have tried since before they hit puberty to prepare them for just such behaviour from men. I tell them that some men will think that whatever time they see you is also their time, and I also made sure to point out to them they they are absolutely under no obligations to be polite or to acknowledge that anyone is present. I have told them, agan and again, that when you are out on the street your time and your thoughts are still private and you don’t have to share either with anyone against your will.

  2. unusualmusic says:

    What I want to know is: has it ever worked?HELL FUCKING NO TO all these questions. All that shit does is fill me with rage that I can’t walk in fucking peace without some puffed up asshole intruding on my peace and quiet.

  3. Momsomniac says:

    I have never had street harassment work – and I have had it TERRIFY me since it often involved following, sometimes in a car, by men who, I assume, couldn’t grasp that some women walking down the street in a known “prostitution district” might simply LIVE in the area.

    I have had a very attractive man in a enighboring car ask, at ared light, if he could get my # (years ago). I waved my (fake) ring at him, and he shook his head and said something benign like “Ain’t it always that way.” He didn’t persist.

    I suspect that some men are confused about the difference between that interaction, and following a woman down the street making comments…

  4. Momsomniac says:

    sorry for the typos – a neighboring car at red light

  5. Momsomniac says:

    I should add that being told to “smile” by random strangers on the street always pissed me off as much as the street stalking…it would be nice if men could get that the 2 things are the same intrusion. Apparently, now that I am middle-aged, I am allowed to walk down the street not smiling…

    1. Legible Susan says:

      I’m middle-aged too and I still get the “smile” thing occasionally.

      1. Momsomniac says:

        Ah, that’s too bad! For me, that was one of the benefits of aging!

    2. ChloeMireille says:

      OMG, I hate that whole “SMILE!” thing so. fucking. much. Wouldn’t the fact that I’m not smiling be an indication to leave me alone?

  6. delux says:

    I think a lot of the men that do this have already convinced themselves that they are doing women a favor by showing them this interest, whether true love follows or not, and any commentary to the contrary is uppity bitchiness. In fact, just last week I saw some fool holler at some woman on the street, who apparently told him to fuck off. His response was to announce ‘Dont be mad, be grateful that I’m talking to you.’


    1. The Angry Black Woman says:

      Maybe my next post should be: dear men, be grateful that it’s illegal for me to whip out a knife and cut off your balls, because every time you say that shit to me I have to fight an urge. Be grateful I don’t want to go to jail more than I want to shut you the fuck up.

    2. Lori S. says:

      Ditto this with a vengeance.

  7. Legible Susan says:

    Hell, no. I guess some of them are that deluded – unless the hanging out on feminist websites making specious arguments about how else do guys get to talk to women? is entirely trolling – but a lot of them are just doing it to intimidate and to show off to their mates. It’s over a year since the F Word post went up, and it still gets comments (4 in the past week), some relating incidents from before the age of 13.

  8. Lauren says:

    Urgh. Hate that.

    I remember being 16,on vacation in Spain with my mom, wearing a skirt. A group of guys whistled and called after me. When I didn’t react, one guy drove up to me on his vespa and grabbed my ass, then drove off before I realized what had happened.
    A few minutes later, still following the same path, we saw him standing off the road at some distance, jacking off.

    More recently, a guy around 20 decided to harrass my 14 year old baby-sister on her way home from the supermarket. He started by complementing her shirt, but when she told him to stop following her on his bike, he got angry and told her she was ugly. She was freaked out when she came home.And the worst thing is that she later asked me if she really was ugly.

    I wanted to find that guy and cut his balls of for making her feel like that and doubt herself.

  9. bindicated says:

    Never has worked that I’ve observed. Always wondered about that. I get told to smile all the time too. When I was a teenager, it made me feel like something was wrong with me that I looked unhappy/angry to people all the time (my dad has this problem big time, but in his case people react with fear instead of telling him to smile… anyway, I wanted to be *nothing* like my dad, so I would get upset but smile). Now if someone tells me to smile, I think fondly of how this is one of my bonds with my dad and say “no” in a mild tone and keep walking. But inside I really am grinning like a mad fool because I love my dad and it’s nice to be mature enough now that I can accept that and be happy that I am like him in some ways. I’ll never let the asshole who tells me to smile in on the secret though.

  10. Alarrm says:

    I usually don’t mind a few words with a stranger in the line to the cashier, or at the bus stop, or wherever. If I’m in the mood. But it’s often hard to tell whether the intent is to socialize (albeit at slightly odd occasions, but hey, they’re new in town) or something more sinister, and they all start out (kind of) the same way. Now, I’ve never had an off-hand conversation turn into anything more, whether friendship or sex, though I have to admit I sometimes say “I’m in a hurry but I’ll take your phone number,” because I can’t be assed to make up a non-existent boyfriend (that I’m a lesbian who doesn’t like to lie about my sexuality even when it’s to get away from persistent suitors might play into this). Maybe I’m doing the wrong thing; I’d hate to make them think that intimidating women and making demands on our time is alright. On the other hand I don’t want to live a life where I never dare talk to strangers, and where strangers are scared to talk to me.

    But yeah. Respect and politeness goes a long way when approaching a lone woman in public, if you’re just looking to make friends.

    I never get the vibe that the annoying people (men) who do this to intimidate and limit women think they are going to get laid, though. I think it’s about power, like so much else. They believe they deserve my time and attention. And if I disagree, they have to reassert their power by telling me I should be grateful they’re spending their time on me, or telling me that I’m not that pretty in the first place.

    I might add that this has been happening to me since I visibly entered puberty around 10. And it happens frequently to feminine gay men I know, to the point of other men seriously expecting sexual favours from them in public spaces and getting upset when they’re denied. Looking the slightest bit girly seems to be the equivalent of bopping people on the head with a big sign that says “hey, I’m available for sex, and if I deny you it’s probably because I think you’re unworthy which gives you every right to yell at me.”

    That’s a big-ass sign. And this is a long-ass comment.

  11. softestbullet says:

    Never ever ever.

  12. Sammie says:

    I’ve never heard of it working, but the guys who’ve done it to me have managed to prove pretty quickly that I wouldn’t be able to stand going out with them. The last guy who did this to me thought it was a great idea to make some really nasty jokes about my hearing after I told him I had hearing problems (which I told him about so he would stop asking for my home phone number – why so specific random creepy guy?), and STILL thought he was in with a chance.

    (Also, I’m hugely thankful for this post, because I was starting to think that I was overreacting to these things.)

  13. Saladin says:

    I’d love to be able to chime in on the ‘hell noes’ here, and 99.9% of the time I don’t think that outright harassment or verbal abuse ‘works’ (well, it ‘works’ in the sense that macho dickhead intimidation is achieved).

    But fairly aggressive street or subway flirting with strangers often *does* work, esp. in NYC. I’ve just seen too much evidence to believe that it doesn’t. I’d also guess that the responses of ABW readers (folks more likely to have self-consciously feminist or womanist politics) are probably not representative of the general pop. on this issue… The too in-your-face dudes are (mostly) striking out, but the guys who do the same shit with a thin veneer of ‘politeness’ and ‘respect’ aren’t doing this all day every day based on a 100% failure rate. And as a slightly sleazy (ok, very sleazy) ex-buddy of mine once said, “All it takes is one.”

    And yeah, every time I hear some dude tell a woman on the street whom he doesn’t know that she’d look prettier if she smiled, I give him my best ‘stop being a fuckwad’ look. I mean, that’s got to be one of the most invasive, obnoxious non-obscene things one can possibly say…

    1. Sammie says:

      Nope, not a feminist/womanist – just someone who’s scared shitless of men.

      1. Sammie says:

        (I should point out that the above only applies to me.)

    2. Leah M says:

      You don’t need to have any kind of politics or analysis in order to feel intimidated, harassed, or put upon by cat calls and invasive comments.

      I would say that the general populace feels the same way about it that we do, especially if they are getting it at age 14 or younger.

      All it takes is one, true. But what kind of person would that one woman be who would actually give a guy the time of day who engaged in street harassment? I suppose they deserve each other.

      1. Saladin says:

        Folks, I understand that one needn’t call oneself a feminist to get skeeved out by men. And as I said, the most nakedly hostile/hyperagressive street ‘game’ rarely gets a man laid and, as commentators have said, is more intended to intimidate than to score.

        That said, anyone who believes that the SUPPOSEDLY nicer, SUPPOSEDLY gentlemanly version of this stuff (the sort that Ireneybean alludes to) never works — that is, never gets a man laid — is living in fantasyland. I mean, getting laid and asserting one’s superiority via sleazy intimidation are hardly mutually exclusive goals. In a better world they would be, but the fact is many a street ‘complimentor’ has both aims in mind.

  14. Tlönista says:

    Never works. And that’s not why they do it—that’s just why they say they do it.

    1. nojojojo says:

      Weird, can’t log in for some reason.

      Anyway, this. I’ve never believed the goal of this crap is to get a woman’s number. I think the goal is for dudes who don’t feel all that good about themselves to get a momentary ego-boost by ruining the day of some sista who they know probably wouldn’t give them the time of day even if they approached her like she was human.

      The only time I’ve ever seen it work — echoing Saladin here — is when they do it to some woman who doesn’t have any self-respect/esteem, for whatever reason. I hesitate to cite characteristics here, because I know some dumbass will latch onto this and use it to reinforce a stereotype… but better to talk about it than pretend it doesn’t happen. The women I’ve seen who respond positively to this crap are usually dressed like they’re poor, or very young (like, too young to know better), or with children in tow, or with physical characteristics our society calls “ugly” — dark skin, short hair, very overweight, whatever. Often these are women who aren’t ugly, note — but they think they are, and that makes a difference. Some of these women are so self-hating that they do act grateful when one of these fools hollers at them. It pisses me off, because somebody in these women’s lives did them a disservice, at the very least.

      1. Leah M says:

        Hmm. I can see that that could be a factor.

        In my comment above I was more thinking about women who don’t have a problem with their own appearance per se, but have serious issues of another stripe. I’ve seen *that* happen.

  15. Sammie says:

    I wish I’d been taught that when I was younger – instead there was a great incident where my parents decided that I was going to play nice with the 26 year old guy who did this to me while we were on holiday once. Two weeks of being told about his sexual history (in detail) and that it was a shame that I was still a virgin (when he knew that I’d just turned 16 and hadn’t even been kissed at the time), and I was still being told that I had to be nice to him :(

    1. Sammie says:

      That was meant to be a reply to Ikeke35’s comment. I’m really no good at this :(

    2. Momsomniac says:

      Sammie – I am so sorry that this happened to you! I was also taught to “be nice” to people who didn’t deserve it, without my folks really understanding how that might be damaging to me. It’s hard to get past…but I can usually be “not nice” now when it’s warrented – it took a LONG time and a lot of work…

      1. Sammie says:

        Problem is, being taught that did some major damage about two and a half years afterwards. What happened at that point taught me that I couldn’t afford to trust any guy at all.

        1. Momsomniac says:

          My sympathies and e-hugs to you. I don’t have anything useful to offer, just that -and the promise that I am doing my damndest to raise my 3 *currently very young* sons to respect boundaries and stand up for what’s right.

          1. Sammie says:

            I guess that’s pretty much the reason I try to talk about these things – while nothing I can do can change what’s happened to me, maybe letting people know about it will change attitudes and behaviour in others :)

  16. Maggie says:

    Most of what I’ve gotten is the “Smile” thing. I heard it constantly back when I was in my teens and early 20s (apparently, it’s OK to not smile at 28), and mostly from middle/upper middle class Midwestern men who were in their 50s or 60s. So much so, that I’ve always assumed that was “their” move, their way of doing street harassment in a “nice” WASPY way that didn’t make them feel like street harassers.

    It did not work, I should add. ;)

    I’ve developed a somewhat complex view of why guys do this crap. I think for some of them, it’s a power thing, more about making women feel uncomfortable (or showing your friends that you’ve got the power to make women feel uncomfortable) than about getting a date. I think the ass-grabbers of the world fall into this category. And some of the “Smile” guys, too, actually.

    I think, for some guys, it’s really just an honest compliment (plus a little machismo) that nobody has told them isn’t appreciated the way they mean it to be. I don’t think they’re expecting a date, either. Usually, these guys aren’t even really scary. Into this category, I’d place the group of guys from a block I lived on during a summer internship who were ALWAYS barbeque-ing. (I mean, always. It was shocking when they were not in the drive, around the grill.) They’d holler across the street and be like, “Hey, you’re pretty, you want some steak!?” But the one time I was being followed by a total jackass creephead who was yelling at me, those same guys also jumped up to yell at him and scare him off and then went right back to being nice and non-threatening to me.

    And I think there are definitely trying to get dates. Some are polite. Some aren’t. Either way, it’s never worked on me. But I’m sure it’s worked on other women. And I’m willing to admit that, back when I was single, if a guy I was attracted to (particularly if we’d seen each other on the same commuter bus several times or whatever) happened to walk up and say, “Excuse me, but I think you’re really beautiful and I wanted to introduce myself and see if you’d like to get coffee sometime,” I’d probably take him up on it.

    And, I think, more importantly, I’m willing to admit that if that same guy wasn’t attractive to me, that exact same scenario would make me rather uncomfortable.

  17. Haddayr says:

    Of course street harassment works.

    Because the goal is not actually to get a phone number or a date or to flirt. The goal is to humiliate, to frighten, to disempower, and to puff yourself up at someone else’s expense.

    1. Cheryl Trooskin-Zoller says:

      Yes, exactly this. They do it to demonstrate they’re in control of the interaction.

      Today I had a streetside flirtation that worked wonderfully, because the guy flirting with me carefully demonstrated that how much he’d give me was up to *me*. It was wonderful. He didn’t smile until I made eye contact, didn’t say anything until I smiled back, and when I broke eye contact and went back to what I’d been doing, he stopped.

      If my dance card wasn’t totally full, I might have asked him for his phone number. Because unlike all the street harassment I’ve received — much on that very same downtown street — he wasn’t interested in demonstrating his power-over at me.

    2. Kaethe says:

      Exactly. It works to tell all women that they are vulnerable all the time. It’s a very casual form of terrorism.

  18. Mel says:

    For some reason, I have never (to my memory) been harassed on the street. I have had people I sort of knew casually harass me, occasionally (most notably a persistent asshole in my freshman chem class, who I’m 98% sure did not actually want to sleep with me but just liked making me incredibly uncomfortable). I have been told by several people that I project an air of hostility, which apparently is so effective it scares off most reasonable people from expressing interest politely as well. (I do get “smile” a lot, and sometimes it works, but it always makes me furious.)

    That said, my current partner and I got together when I didn’t run away screaming from a truly terrible pickup line. I think his saving grace was that he KNEW it was terrible and said it in a clearly joking manner.

    But seriously, no, I don’t think sexual harassment gets men laid, and I don’t think they expect it to–they expect it to piss us off and make us uncomfortable or scared. And that it’s pretty successful at. Aggressive flirting that’s not followed by “you bitch” if the woman’s not interested may have a higher success rate.

  19. JAMRenaissance says:

    /I/ would never do that (if I thought about it too hard nojojojo would fly down from New York just to slap me), but I have had one friend actually get a relationship out of a random woman he met on the street (she was carrying a bunch of stuff from the store and he offered to give her a ride home). It’s apparently worked at least once.

    More disturbing, though, is testimony I’ve heard from other men that got frustrated with being a “nice guy”. More specifically, the guy basically shared that he got a lot more traction by saying “Girl, you are a bad b****… I’m just playin’!” than saying “Excuse me, would you like to dance?”. We’ve actually had conversations about the communicative power of “I’m just playin’!”.

    I would like to echo earlier sentiments, though, that it probably does not work on the sort of women that would frequent

    1. The Angry Black Woman says:

      The example you gave is a bit different. In that instance, he actually helped the woman, and by making a non-sketchy connection he was able to turn it into something lasting. That happens all the time. I just met a guy the other day in the park who I gave my info to because he actually started a conversation with me about drumming and dancing while he was drumming and I was dancing. That’s a far cry from some jerk demanding that I smile while passing me by on the street. However, I wonder if many men are able to make that distinction and that’s part of the problem…

  20. Nuala says:

    Thank you for writing this.. I just made a short film that speaks to this issue.

    I say it’s for the walkers, talkers and those who say nothing!

    In Solidarity,

  21. Snarky says:

    I wear a “keep away” (fake wedding/engagement ring) and sadly, that has not diminished the volume of “Yo, you gotta a man???” type greetings I receive.

  22. ej says:

    I get supremely irritated at the men who tell you to “smile!”, like it’s their right to tell you what face to give to the world. I feel especially vitriolic towards these men because they always seem to tell me to “SMILE!” on the Very Worst Days to cross my path: the day I learned my beloved grandmother was dying, the day I broke up with my boyfriend of 3 years, the day I found out my father had a heart attack, etc.

    1. Nuala says:

      i hear you girl– they feel entitled! i would never tell some perfect stranger to SMILE… i dont know many or any women who do! yet men tell us to all the time.. as if we have nothing else on our minds to think about other than looking pleasant for them. its unbelievable.

  23. davka says:

    i think all inentions are focused on the moment and that intention is to make a woman feel uncomfortable, to touch her with words, to make her see them, etc. I don’t think there is any expectation to get a date from it- only to hurt and damage. Make no mistake of the power struggle going on in that moment.

  24. DigitalCoyote says:

    *sighs* I wish my parents would’ve prepared me for that when it started. I was about 10 at the time and it got progressively worse as I got older. Most men gave up when my father was in sight because they assumed he was my husband (!?!?!?!), but a few were bold enough to continue until they got the daddy death stare.

    There are two incidents that stand out to me. One man (27), who appeared to have some sort of cognitive disability, had no qualms about trying to pick up my 14 year old self on a BART train. I tried to ignore him at first, thinking it was just because he was “slow,” but he closed distance on me and blocked me from moving away. I announced rather loudly that I was underage–which was no problem for him because it was “just a number”–and all the other passengers simply looked away like nothing was happening. I told him my very large hockey playing boyfriend was waiting for me at my stop (a lie: my elderly female cousin was waiting to take me to an eye appointment) and I was going with him to practice: “what’s your man got to do with me?” No. damn. joke. He followed me off the train. He was trying to grab me when I told him I had a rusty (read: accidentally colored with polish the night before) nail file in my pocket and had no qualms about taking out his eye with it. Only after that (and some sideways glances from station security) did he bug off.

    The last bad one was from a few months ago. I was traveling from the downtown area of Reno to my campus up the hill when I stopped for the free shuttle service. This man, old enough to be my dad, started talking at me. He was polite at first, but turned kind of confrontational when I didn’t want to talk about school with him and moved to the other side of the stop. Everyone boarded the bus without incident. I was creeped out when he wouldn’t stop staring at me and hoped that was the end of it. Except I’m not that lucky. Half a mile later, I’m getting off the bus from the front and he hops off via the back exit. He’s talking at me again and this time he’s yelling at me because “college girl thinks she too good for me. You lucky anyone’s looking at you.” The man followed me for another quarter of a mile with his Jekyll and Hyde act. “Educated bitch don’t want a real brotha.” “You think that backpack makes you better than me.” “You ought to let me take you ought to dinner and show you something.” I walked past where I live because I didn’t want him to camp out for me or anyone else. He finally gave up when I started shouting out at one of the campus cops I know, but he lingered around a corner for a bit out of sight.

    PS: Eff those “SMILE!” comments. I don’t recall seeing anything on my life contract requiring me to show my pearly whites for the enjoyment of strangers on command. Since when do the problems or thoughts I’m working out in my head take a backseat to someone’s few seconds of presence in my life?

  25. Helen says:

    I experience street harassment often; it is only ever hate speech.
    I wrote a little about on my blog here.

  26. Anna says:

    I thankfully haven’t received the “smile” line in quite some time. Plus, I could never quite pinpoint why I found those comments so tacky. But an experience I made some months ago, changed that.

    I waiting for my train and as I was in a good mood I smiled at a guy of a group of friends standing on the platform because I thought that he was a guy that I had met the term. As it turned out, smiling at that guy was interpreted at some kind of proposal because when the train arrived they wanted me to sit with them which I declined since I had neither the desire nor the time to do so (I’m always preparing my reading material on the train ride). I thought that was the end of the story. However, whereas they had first chosen another compartment, they came into mine only two minutes later and took seats quiet near to me so that they could see what I was doing.

    This episode taught me that those complete strangers that asked me to smile because I’m such a “cute girl” were basically saying: “Smile so that you are approachable for me (and other men)”.

  27. Ireneybean says:

    Harassment? Absolutely not … the only time I’ve ever been approached by a stranger that I came away with a positive feeling went like this:

    I was putting my groceries away in the car and a guy driving by in a car rolled down his window and asked me if I was married. I responded in the affirmative and he said, very politely, “Oh. Well, I’d just like to let you know that you are a very beautiful woman. Have a nice day”.

    There were lots of things about this situation that could have been wrong. The whole drive-by nature of it, being approached by a stranger, him leading off by asking if I was married … all these things had my red flags up, but something about how polite and respectful he was about it left me with a positive feeling.

    I realize that not everybody would react that way and wouldn’t advise my son or male friends to approach women in that way, but as it did leave me feeling differently than other incidents I thought I might mention it here.

    1. Franki says:

      I wish there were more incidents like this. There is a very big difference between a polite compliment and a “holla,” and more men need to be taught that the former is less likely to make us want to cut them.

  28. Chuck B. says:

    While my comments were never crude, I have found that complimenting a woman’s attire, or making adetailed compliment of a woman’s hair (i.e. That style really opens up your face, that short style really compliments your eyes.) has worked for me in terms of getting gal pals.

    I usually get a HUGE smile when I say things to women I do not know like “Wow! that is a cool suit…is that Jones of New York?” or “Pardon me, but I’ve gotta tell you those are some kickin’ shoes.”

    Now if I am in a small or enclosed space I do follow up with some phrase to let them know I am not a threat or interested in more than the compliment: I might mention my wife, or talk about being a straight guy influenced by two older sisters so I like fashion more than football, but I have never had a woman react angrily.

    In the end, however, maybe it’s that since I am not looking to “hook up” that comes through. Also, I only do it when I am moved to do so, so maybe my sincereity they sense.

    Of course I never compliment just one woman around her friends, that’s just asking for trouble. (particularly if their friends need some fasion help).

  29. Godheval says:

    While it may seem obvious that the street harassment strategy doesn’t work, for the guys who do it, it’s more like a “nothing to lose” gamble. If it works, great, if it doesn’t, then they lose nothing.

    The sad thing – and I have seen this in person – is that it works a reasonably high percentage of the time. Most of the women here are probably well-educated, well-versed in feminist sensibilities, and are generally self-respecting. But there are plenty of women out there who are the opposite – have low self-esteem, and who simply do not know to expect better.

    So, if you’re a “street harasser”, and you’ve got nothing better to do, why not “holla” and see if you can get lucky? Morally reprehensible but a logically sound gamble.

  30. GallingGalla says:

    I’ve experienced street harassment ranging from “pretty woman” come-ons to some very ugly shit. Being trans, i can never tell how much transmisogyny is involved with this harassment – but why bother even to separate it out? It’s misogyny all the same.

    When the dude who says to me “my what beautiful long legs you have this morning”, it makes me feel tiny, under a microscope, exposed, vulnerable. it is a frightening thing, to wonder what the comment will be followed up with.

    When the dude at the train station tells me my *walking sandals* are too big for my feet and starts bragging about his crocs – yeah he sat down next to me for this – no, you are not going to get a conversation from me. What you will get from me is lip and my walking away.

    I also hate the “smile” shit and consider it harassment. Those dudes I want to show them with my fist, just how lousy I feel that day – like ABW says, they should be grateful that assault is illegal.

  31. Magnetic Crow says:

    I used to get told to smile all the time, and (being an Aspie) wondered if there was something wrong with the way I was presenting myself. I was pretty shocked to find out it was such a common thing to happen to women. Not cool at all.
    Like Anna, I’ve also had smiling at people backfire at me. Sometimes, when I’m walking down the street in a really good mood, I will just smile. For a while, I took that “Smile at a random stranger, it will improve their day!” adage seriously, too, and would occasionally make eye contact and smile at passersby. This resulted in something like a 75% spike in the amount of street harassment I received. Always ruined my day.
    I hate that my reaction to a (male) stranger making eye contact has to be a glower, lest he take it the wrong way and try approaching me. I’ve been put into too many uncomfortable situations to want to risk my overall happiness and wellbeing for the sake of politeness.

  32. gardnerhill says:

    I may have cured one 50something fart of that “Smile, honey!” crap. (With its evil addendum, “, things can’t be THAT bad!”) I looked him in the eye coldly and said, “You know, you’re right. I’m not the one who’s got leukemia.” (I’d just found out the day before that my not-yet-2-year-old niece had to start chemo.)

  33. julie brilliant says:

    i feel this is “just” another site of power contestations by dicks. They make us feel like we were public property like our bodies are only waiting for men to comment on it, like out worth was determined by how fuckable they consider us. So the trick with the compliment is game, it is sweet and bitter and the same time. I am supposed to feel flattered if some random asshole comments on me, no matter what he looks like. Men don´t put inti question themselves, they do not reflect on masculinity and how they perform it. Then if my body is reluctant to take the “compliment” or rather being taken by the man that complimented, I resist. I question him, his authority to call me out somewhere on the streets, when i was anything but busy with him, not asking for no comment, not in need for his words. What happens next is the guy that just wanted to be nice (lol) turns aggressive, a minute ago I was hot now I am a bitch, arrogant and ugly. I should be glad any guys wants to fuck me at all.
    It is all about power, and men struggling to keep power over us.

  34. Maggie says:

    I thought about this very issue recently. At a party, I met someone who said he’d met me before.
    “Where?”, said I.
    “Starbucks,” he replied.
    And then he reminded me of the situation – he saw me through the window and walked in. I was reading. He asked to share my table. I agreed. He tried to initiate a conversation by asking, “What are you reading?”, to which I responded with, “A book.”
    He got the message and did not persist. Took out some papers of his own and started reading.
    At the party, he told me that he felt a bit hurt that evening, because I did not want to talk. I told him that his way of initiating a confersation was simply awkward, and that if he wants to get to know a woman, he must find a mutual friend or do some such thing.
    He said, “But what if we don’t have mutual friends, or I don’t know who they are?”
    “Well”, I said. It must happen to women, occasionally, to see a man that picks their interest. And a man with whom they have no friends in common. But women, generaly, don’t just walk up to men and ask for a phone number.

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