Horrors of Street Harassment: A Letter (Part 2)

Even going out with my boyfriend is uncomfortable. We don’t go out much, but sometimes we have obligatory things to do, like friends parties, art shows, film openings and the like. I hate them all. If we go to a party or have to go to a lounge, leers come from all sorts of men-The most bewildering are men who have their own girlfriends in their arms while they leer at others! Any bar/lounge/restaurant is uncomfortable.

On my birthday last year we went to a fancy restaurant/lounge in Malibu, and a scary, older man was leering at me for some time. I felt like a piece of braised brisket. As soon as my boyfriend left our corner to refill our drinks, the man came over and rubbed up against me even though he had plenty of room. I asked him to step away from me, and he didn’t heed my request until my boyfriend returned and told him to buzz off.

Another quasi recent time was when we went to Medieval Times-The place with the horses where you eat w/ your hands. We were waiting in the court area and a man with girlfriend in tow kept leering in my eyes, very aggressively like he was going to beat me up! These leers are not sexy. They are frightening, and are intended to be demeaning.
Later when we went in to wait for seat, the same man found me again, and continued the terror. Understand, this isn’t an innocent glance. I kept walking around my boyfriend trying to find places where my BF would block the harasser’s view, but the harasser kept moving about to keep me in his eye site.

That’s what it is. Its harassment, intended to dehumanize.

It happened at Disneyland. Once, my boyfriend and I were just being seated into the CA Screaming roller coaster, and apparently there was a group of college aged emo kids behind us in line. One of them noticed me, and bent his whole body over the railing to leer in my eyes. I turned the other way so not to make eye contact, but when I looked back the kid was still aggressively leering at me.

Flipping the bird, staring back or being verbally crass yourself doesn’t fend off the terrorists. It only provokes them.

Waiting in the ride lines at Disney is no pick nick. Last time we went, a family was behind us while we waited for space mountain; a couple teens, parents and a grampa. Throughout the whole hour wait, the grampa stood so close to me his chest and belly rubbed against my back. Every time I would change spots, or step forward he would follow, and rub against me again. He even tried to maneuver around my boyfriend to stand near me. It makes me even not want to go to Disney anymore. The leerers are so numerous, its impossible to account for each one-Each stare that makes me sink lower and lower into my shell.

Even trips, vacations-anywhere-It’s never ending. We went to visit some distant relatives in Louisiana for Christmas, and eating at places there, walking down streets of the boonies was hardly different, however less populated. Beeps at red lights, ‘hollers’, and the ever dreaded ‘leer’ remained a constant. We went to eat tiny lobsters at some Cajun seafood joint, and one man at a table beside ours kept staring at me in the eye. To what purpose, I wonder? It made me feel mortally uncomfortable the whole dinner, and he sat with 6 kids and a woman. I wanted to crawl under a rock, and never come out.

A few years ago I was at Logan Airport flying back to LA, and a scary man was glaring intensely at me for about 20 minutes, with that crude ‘I’m undressing you in my mind’ look; The type of leer you can feel like a heat ray, even if you don’t look back. ( It was the same situation as the Medieval Times episode, where I kept trying to move around and use my boyfriend’s body to block the man’s view-He kept maneuvering to keep me in his sight.)  I flipped him the bird, said ‘what are you staring at?’  It made a small scene and United nearly barred my entry onto the plane- They made me stand to the side while I cried and while the flight attended yelled at me, so every passenger who boarded could give me a dirty look.  They then had me come on the plane last after the pilot ‘OK’d’ me, but only because my boyfriend would not board-They were trying to insist he board the plane without me because I wasn’t allowed.  It was absolutely humiliating, and all because I didn’t want to be stared at like a piece of meat- Note that I didn’t start crying until I was told I wasn’t allowed on the plane for flipping the bird at another passenger. (Yes, it was wholly inappropriate for me to raise voice in a busy airport, but I stressed, hadn’t slept in 3 days and was tired of the BS and being stared at, while attempting to avoid the harasser).  This is a major reason I’ve given up-I used to ‘fight back’, but after the airport incident, I stopped.

These are only instances about street harassment, and only the ones I remember in detail without much contemplation. This doesn’t account for all the times my mother’s husband undresses me with his eyes, the number of times he’s pinched my butt or reached down my pants for a ‘thong wedgie’, or the time he grabbed my genitals.

Nor does this account for the several times I received unsolicited ‘back rubs’ and ‘butt slaps’ from managers and bosses at different jobs, then was fired for complaining. This doesn’t account for harassment and discomfort by customers and clients at different jobs, either.
This is only the fear and dehumanization I’ve experienced from complete strangers in public places.

Men:
Please stop this, so I can come out of my house, and be able to walk to the bank or the video store or the art store without fear. So maybe I can go to the garden store again, or enjoy a ride a Disney or a meal at a restaurant without wishing I had worn a burka instead of a pants suit, or shants and a t-shirt.
Thank You.

2 Responses to Horrors of Street Harassment: A Letter (Part 2)

  1. Golden Silence says:

    This letter really breaks my heart. These damn street harassers get to live their lives while sucking the life out of the harassment recipients. This poor girl can’t do any of the things she loves because of these creeps. Makes me sick!

    At the end of the letter, it hurts me that she begs these men to stop. We shouldn’t beg them to stop, we need to demand they do! These harassers make me sick to my stomach.

  2. Laura says:

    Makes me sick too.😦

    The airline was clearly at fault here. I understand the difficulties of fighting back, but we must! In that situation, I would demand the name of the supervisor, ask about the airlline’s sexual harassment policy and obligation to protect passengers, and ask why they as a company did not protect you as a customer. Then threaten to sue. Don’t let men in restaurants stare at you! Go up and ask them loudly why they are staring. If anyone touches you, ring the police on the spot, and demand the attending officer takes it seriously. Strike back!

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