Valentine’s Day advice for how not to be a street harasser!

The Snoopy Store

With people like James Norton making a living from teaching men how to approach women, I think it’s very important to supplement that with advice on how to approach women without being a harasser!

Here’s an excerpt from a Guardian article I penned to do just that:

While perhaps obvious, the most important factor is treating the person with respect. Do not use insults or sexually objectifying language. A hello, smile or gender-neutral small talk that does not include comments about their appearance (at least, not right away) are rarely going to offend anyone and can open up the door to further conversation. Avoid familiar terms like “baby”, “honey” or “love”. While some people may not find that offensive, many do.

Make sure there is consent in your interaction. Does their body language, including eye contact (not lack thereof), and tone of voice indicate they want to interact with you, too? If you are unsure, you can always ask, is it OK if I talk to you?

Consider if the context might make them feel uncomfortable if you approach them. For example, is it dark out or a deserted area? Are you larger or older than them? Are you with friends while they are alone? If any of these factors apply, be aware that they may feel a little unsafe or unsure if you approach. So make it clear that you mean no harm and then leave them alone if they look uncomfortable.

Do not curse, insult or hurt a person who turns you down. Most of the time, people in public do not want to meet or even talk to someone. They want to get from point A to B or enjoy fresh air. They may be in a hurry or be preoccupied. Therefore, chances are that a person you approach is not going to want to talk to you or interact with you. That has nothing to do with you personally.

Talking with young men about appropriate stranger interactions in public is especially important. Society often suggests that in heterosexual relationships, it is men who should approach women. Men’s peers, family members and the media may tell them that it is OK, and even flattering, to be aggressive or to sexually objectify women whom they encounter (no matter the men’s or women’s sexual orientation). I doubt most men want to be harassers, but if they take these messages to heart, they may become harassers.

What advice would you give? Have you met someone on the street, at a bus stop, on public transportation, or the park? What did they do or say that made it nice instead of harassment?

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