I rarely say anything in retaliation because you never know what someone is going to do, and I have better things to do than fight with some guy who thinks it’s his right to objectify me.
When it comes to street harassment, I think the reason I can deal with it so well is because I am not being physically violated. Yeah, it totally sucks to hear what some stranger wants to do to you, but only my ears and my brain feel violated. It’s not that it doesn’t bother me, but it’s easier to deal with.
Now, I have experienced a few physical interactions on the subway since moving to New York. There was the guy who stroked and sniffed my hair because he thought it was appropriate to touch the hair of a woman he did not know. There was the man who fell asleep on my shoulder because I apparently looked like a comfortable place to nap. There was the dude who thought that holding my hand was a good way to start a conversation. There was the bro who grabbed my necklace because he thought that making me think he was trying to steal my jewelry was a classic ice-breaker.
All of those interactions were creepy. And I’ve had the occasional guy-standing-too-close interactions as well. But for the most part, I feel safe and have a solid amount of personal space around me.
Well, last night on my subway ride home, that changed. I hopped on the crowded subway car and wedged myself to where I could hold on. A guy got on at the next stop and stood a little too close to me, but it was really packed in there so I thought nothing of it. It was rush hour, and I only had one stop to go so I could deal with it.
Then I felt a hand on my butt. At first, I thought it was an accidental brush. But it wasn’t. It was a full-on grab. This man groped my butt.
If I had enough room to maneuver myself I would have slapped him, but I barely had enough room to hold on. I did, however, have enough room to turn my head and yell very loudly at this guy. Normally, I’m not one to cause a scene like that. But I yelled and there were several other guys around. They looked at me, surprised, and then looked at the guy like they wanted to beat the crap out of him (they didn’t). Fortunately, it was my stop and I stormed off the train.
This guy has probably touched other women before and will probably keep touching other women, which makes me really mad. The fact that a stranger thought he had the right to lay a hand on me in any way makes me really mad. I don’t blame other people in the subway car for just standing there because unless you were me with your butt being grabbed, it was too crowded to notice. He didn’t say anything. He wasn’t verbally assaulting me. I’m glad I said what I did because he had to remain on that subway car with everyone else shamefully staring at him. But he’ll get over it and be on his merry butt-grabbing way.
Until last night, I felt pretty safe in my own skin. Now, I’m not so sure. Every time I see someone on the street, I’m wondering if they’re going to touch me. This morning on the subway, I was irritated at anyone who even came near me. I don’t want to walk around with my guard up so high, but after last night I feel like I have to.
Have you ever experienced physical sexual harassment? Do you deal with street harassment? How do you deal with it? Tell us in the comments.