“Can I have a pair of your panties?”

I get street harassed A LOT. I have had a man touch my ass on the bus twice, had a guy touch himself while sitting next to me on the bus while looking at me, have had disgusting things said and shouted and whispered to me on the street.

Once I was on a fairly full bus- a guy came up to me and asked me quietly if he could ask me a question. I presumed he wanted to ask directions or something, so I said ok and he said, “Can I have a pair of your panties?” I said “excuse me?” and he repeated it in a disgusting voice. I raised my voice and replied so the whole bus could hear me, “EXCUSE ME, DID YOU JUST ASK ME FOR A PAIR OF MY PANTIES? HOW DARE YOU!” and everyone stared at him and he leaped out the door of the bus and ran away. That felt more good than embarrassing.

All of this has happened in Italy. I’m not a hugely attractive girl, I’m just… pretty to those who know me, I suppose, but I don’t stand out too much… I often wear skirts but with black tights and I never wear low cut tops or even high heels. And I don’t even hang around bad areas of the city. It always happens in nice neighbourhoods or in the city centre where I work.

Whenever I am harassed, I’m not usually the best looking or even most provocatively dressed woman nearby. I feel like there is something about my expression or attitude that attracts these guys. I have spoken to my friends about it and no one I know has had anything near the amount of disturbing experiences, even my drop dead gorgeous friends.

Whenever it happens, even though I am almost used to it, I feel frozen with fear and can’t be 100% sure it’s actually happening and not me being paranoid. Like when a guy touches my ass on the bus, I’m not sure.. and then as soon as I get off the bus, I know it was for real and I should have done something to shame the guy. It makes me sick to the stomach and is no way flattering. I know it’s not meant to be flattering, it’s meant to make you feel sick or angry or intimidated. The thing is, if you complain about it you end up looking vain or something. I really hate it but people just shrug and say “you’re a pretty young girl, it happens.” Well I don’t see the model-type girls in bare legs and hotpants getting harassed.

– JT

Location: Turin, Italy

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.

2 Responses to “Can I have a pair of your panties?”

  1. Jen says:

    I hear ya. I feel the same – like I am constantly on my guard because rarely a day or two passes without some unpleasant incident. Like you, I don’t dress in a way that you would think would attract excessive sexual attention. My personal theory lately is that I look much younger than I am – probably closer to 21 than 27 – and have, for want of a better word, an ‘innocent’ kind of face. Both of which make the harassment even worse if that is the reason – if these creeps work through any logic in their heads when they’re doing this, that is! I worry that I look like I’m trying to avoid people’s eyes due to the level of harassment, and I don’t know if that has anything to do with it. Yet, on the occasions when I stomp around with a don’t-mess-with-me scowl on my face, it seems to happen too…. The bottom line is that you and me, even if we are targeted for harassment more than is ‘average’, in no way are responsible for the behaviour of these idiots.

  2. nic says:

    Well done! Congratulations that finally you have taken an action- a great one! 1st Italy has a strickt law on street harrasment, so you are already on the safer side, so dont be scared ever again, especially after what youve done!
    2nd, excuse me? if someone touches your but shouldnt you have an automatic reflexus to slap them?!
    ( and i mean reasonably public places of course not some dark silent corner)

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