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Okay, I lied.

...another post.

I have to read Feministing in small doses, as some of the stories from the commenters curl my hair (and make me cry), but the one about men who engage in pervy behaviour in public (touching, staring, saying obscene things, exposing themselves, and masturbating) at women made me think about a conversation I had with someone once about why being followed/perved on by men is so disturbing to women. What I simply couldn't get him to understand was that a) women do not like it when pervs expose themselves or force women to feel their erections, and b) women are generally smaller and weaker than men, so any sexual perv always comes with an added threat of "what can I do if he decides to force himself on me?".

I'm 5'3". I may be tough as nails, and not likely to lie down and give up in a fight, but the average man is 5-7 inches taller than me and outweighs me by 100#. If a man decided to forcibly shove himself on me, I'd have a hard time changing his mind. 

(I'd mutilate him badly, but a big man can overpower me if he's determined enough, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.)

When a creepy guy starts following a woman, therefore, it's never harmless. Men who perv on women in public are not only getting a sexual thrill from their discomfort, they're demonstrating their power over them. Comment after comment in the thread I was reading showed so clearly how women find it so hard to do anything other than pretend they don't see what's going on (the perv is counting on this, btw); screaming "Pervert!" and reacting in a hostile manner could result in the offender running away, but women all know that it could as easily end up with the woman in serious physical trouble. 

And if she does inform the police, she's likely to be told it's no big deal, and they can't do anything anyway. In the worst cases, the woman can be questioned about her actions, with the implication that she was doing something to provoke the attack.

Don't say it doesn't happen; I've seen it.   And it is a big deal; it's a fucking big deal, and no-one should ever dismiss it as nothing. 

Too often, women are regarded as objects to be stared at and used at a man's pleasure. Some women collude in their own objectification, preferring to sweep any unpleasantness under the rug rather than admit that perverts prey on any woman who seems vulnerable. Blame is often heaped on the woman for going somewhere alone, or wearing a skirt, acting in a provocative manner, or for simply being too cute. Surely, if she had been a "good girl", the reasoning goes, such a thing would not have happened.   Worse, it's often implied that women like it - that it gives them a thrill to be admired so much that men can't help themselves sexually.   It is not flattering, it is not cool, it's creepy and gross and very threatening.  It's not a thrill, it's terrifying.

But good girls have such things happen all the time - I've had guys on public transportation shove their crotches into my face "by accident" (as one commenter says, "no matter how crowded the bus gets, they never shove their crotches into other men's faces"), I've been followed by men while I was walking (one in a car, who kept telling me he'd "take me for a ride"), yelled at, propositioned, and groped. "You have to expect that sort of thing in the city", someone once told me.

But why? Why should any woman have to expect to feel threatened? Why are my body parts free game to any man who wants a feel?  Why is it acceptable that women and girls have to put up with this treatment? Shouldn't everyone be up in arms that anyone is being allowed to do this in public?

Unless we work as a society to take this kind of sexual abuse seriously, the behaviour will continue. Worse, it escalates - the sexual thrill of rubbing against a stranger palls, so the man moves on to exposing himself. Then public masturbation. And all the time, women have this knowledge in the back of their minds that a big strong man who chooses to follow them and then decides to grab them might win despite their best efforts.

The Hollaback sites  have the right idea - in addition to shaming, the sites perform the valuable service of proving how much abuse goes on all over the country aimed at women who go about their daily lives (read  "Creepy Guy does NOT get the message"). Girls going out alone does not mean any perv has permission to do what they want to them - no matter what a woman is wearing, no matter how drunk she is, no matter how she behaves.  A Real Man keeps his hands to himself, and his parts in his pants at all times in public.  I don't care if she's wearing no underwear, a miniskirt that doesn't cover her hips, and a see-through tank top - call the police and have her arrested for indecent exposure, but don't lay a finger on her unless she gives you explicit, sober, permission.

 (I have to add an edit:  Of the stories I've read, a full 90% of them say "there were lots of people there, but they did nothing".  How's that for tacit public approval?)

Yes, sometimes women get drunk and overtly sexual and it's uncomfortable - but it is overwhelmingly men who prey on strangers for a sexual thrill.  And even if women did it too, it would still be unacceptable from either sex, so no excuses.  Bad behaviour from one set of people does not translate into permission for anyone else to act badly.

We don't like to think about these things - we're all civilized, well-behaved people - we respect women, this sort of thing doesn't happen to us, right?  We're uncomfortable with the idea that women still aren't equal to men, and cannot be when the simple act of going to work often results in unwelcome sexual behaviour from strange men who feel like they have a right to force their sexual desire on any woman they choose.  So, to combat that discomfort, we blame the victim for wearing the wrong outfit, behaving the wrong way, saying the wrong thing - and in that way, we reassure ourselves that it can't happen to us, because we're smart, and good, and don't get ourselves into those situations.

But when "those situations" include riding the train to work, walking down the street, or shopping at the mall, what are women supposed to do?  Should we stay inside, so that we cannot tempt any man, ever, or should we call out the abusers for what they are - unacceptable?  Most men have the ability to control themselves just fine - but there are enough of them who choose not to to make this a real and ongoing problem.

And the next man who "accidentally" shoves his nasty crotch in my face is going to get an "accidental" elbow in said crotch.

Comments

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isabelladangelo
Apr. 7th, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC)
I've been stalked (not fun) and I've had more than my fair share of creepy OLD guys (how come they are almost always OLD?) decide they want to ask me out or shout interesting things at me from across the parking lot as they run toward me.
I have ZERO problem with talking to random people or random people talking to me. However, there is a BIG difference between "Hi! How are you doin' today?" and the "Hi there baby..." The second one, depending on the tone, will probably make me turn and leave.
I know a lot more than I did just 7 or 8 years ago and I'm more liable to start yelling, cursing (I do curse, just not nearly as much as other people), or inflict bodily harm (I'm not petite). However, the creepy guys aren't afraid of a "mere woman" starting to scream or carry on...because then you become the B* and it's all your fault that you went psycho and thought they were trying something when they were just trying to be helpful or ask you out...
I could go on a long while on this topic but umm yeah, creepy guys bad.
(Deleted comment)
femkederoas
Apr. 7th, 2008 05:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Amen to that one
I've seen one that says "If you didn't put the baby in there, you don't get to rub the belly." I'm sort of tempted. Even well-meaning people aggravate me when they do this. It's one thing to ask - another to "reach out and touch someone." I am not freakin' Ma Bell!!
Re: Amen to that one - maricelt - Apr. 7th, 2008 05:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Amen to that one - taamar - Apr. 7th, 2008 06:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Amen to that one - yaminagdh - Apr. 8th, 2008 12:31 am (UTC) - Expand
femkederoas
Apr. 7th, 2008 05:43 pm (UTC)
Whenever I hear about these stories, I keep coming back now to Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear. He spends a lot of time talking about what lies behind this kind of behavior, and how to handle/avoid/discourage it.

The one bit that sticks in my mind, is when he tries to explain to men how women view the world. He finally boils it down to: "Deep down, men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Deep down, women are afraid that men will kill them." Not all men, all the time. But that the thought is always there whenever a strange man presses unwanted attention on a woman.

Says a lot, rather.
zihuatanejo
Apr. 7th, 2008 06:06 pm (UTC)
Incredible book, that is.

BTW, hi! I'm Sunneva, the person you sorta share heraldry with :-)
(no subject) - nadezhda13 - Apr. 7th, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
maricelt
Apr. 7th, 2008 05:54 pm (UTC)
wow... the quote from Gavin de Becker pretty much sums it up in many, many ways. I have not had many problems, I don't know why, I'm 5'6" and red headed, maybe I'm just not cute enough, possible. Or maybe it is the way I carry myself, possible. In the rare one or two instances, I've told the Perv to keep his distance. A sharp "Back OFF" and bringing my hands up and across my chest. But WHEN have I done this, when I've had my 6' 250 lb. weightlifting husband standing nearby. If not for his hulking back up, I don't know how that would have turned out.
gianetta
Apr. 7th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
Let me say first that it is *never* the victim's fault, but there are things that women can do to *try* to avoid this kind of BS, and it sounds like you're doing them. Creepy guys go after women they don't expect to stand up for themselves. I joke about 'not projecting enough hostility' when it happens - I walk as if I know where I'm going and I don't smile when men give me creepy looks. It's unfortunate that women can't be friendlier in public without being targeted by creeps.
(no subject) - thornbury - Apr. 7th, 2008 06:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
lindseyerin37
Apr. 7th, 2008 05:57 pm (UTC)
I work at a big chain bookstore as a cashier, and I can't even you tell you how often I am glad there is a counter between me and some of our customers. It has yet to ever go beyond mildly creepy for me - unlike for my boss who is getting explicit letters from a inmate the store has sent books to.

It really bothers me that we have to put up with being hit on at our work place just because they are customers.
zihuatanejo
Apr. 7th, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
stitchwhich
Apr. 7th, 2008 06:40 pm (UTC)
I have to admit, it's why I got fat. (Now that I'm old and out of the target range, I'm finding it's Danged Hard to lose that fat, though. But still, no regrets.) Sexual harrassment before I was even in Junior High made that decision fairly easy.

And one thing not mentioned (probably because it's not being pervy, just mean) is that women can do their share of shouting at and 'bumping with intent' another woman they are jealous of and sometimes that is done just to encourage men to join in.
firehauke
Apr. 7th, 2008 09:31 pm (UTC)
damn, echoes of my life - except I also have a medical thing where losing the weight is hard, no matter what.

(polycystic ovarian syndrome)
pirategirleee
Apr. 7th, 2008 06:42 pm (UTC)
I think I must be fortunate. For a girl, I'm built like a line backer. I've had my guy friends tell me that they would be afraid to pull something on me because I'd tear them apart. (I have no idea where they get this impression really).

Although it does still occasionally happen. Around 5 or 6 years ago I was shopping in a walmart during daylight hours. I slowly became aware that I was being stalked by a random creepy guy. I tested it by going into random areas no guy in his right mind would go...Baby section, Lingerie, jewelry...etc. He just kept following me and would hover uncomfortably close whenever I stopped to look at something and leer and me in a pervy way.

I finally looked at him and told him point blank "I know you are following me, stop it." He said something to the effect of "what are you going to do about it." I informed him that I had a can of mace of which I had no qualms over spraying the entire can in his face should he try to follow me out of the store. I then turned and pointed at the overhead cameras (all stores have them...look for the black plastic bubble). I told him that the security in the store plainly has him on video and the next stop I was making was to the Supervisor's podium to ask to speak to security.

He left in a hurry. I'm not typically assertive but I will rip someone a new one if I feel I am being threatened in a very real way. A year ago I nearly ran over a guy in the mall parking lot. There was two of them in a van and they both passed by me slowly leering out the window as I walked to my car. They pulled up in front of me and the one guy in the passenger seat jumped out and ran toward me. I literally threw myself in the car and took off without even completely closing the door. I do not play. They followed me down the road until they got up next to me and noticed I was on my cellphone. They suddenly pulled off after that.

Yeah maybe I was overreacting a bit but I don't think in either case I cared to find out if I was wrong.
ladypyrate
Apr. 7th, 2008 07:32 pm (UTC)
If two guys are following you and intimidating you, you *never* overreact! Eamonn thinks I am a little weird for reading the true crime stuff I do, but let me tell you, it is a primer for what *NOT* to do! Listening to that inner voice is among the best ways to keep yourself alive and whole!
van - gianetta - Apr. 7th, 2008 08:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
cathgrace
Apr. 7th, 2008 06:46 pm (UTC)
2 years ago I was in the museum of natural history, with both of my kids. Emmie was in an umbrella stroller and wanted to go look as all the pretty jewelry in the gem room, so we went and stood in line with a school group and other tourists, as they were all sort of lining the walls filing through looking at the pretties. I was standing with Emmie in front and Isaac to one side of me holding my hand over the stroller handle. I suddenly got pushed on the right side of my butt by something hard. I turned right to look and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary and assumed it was a student’s backpack in the crowd. It happened again this time on the left side of my butt, and I looked saw just students, so I sort of crammed myself between the handles of the stroller thinking. “jeeze people, we will all get to see the stuff, there’s no need to crowd.” The third time I got hit right between the butt cheeks, HARD, and I turned really fast looking down and saw faded navy pleated front Docker pants and an erection, there was also polo shirt and a brown belt. I cannot tell you what this person looked like, I was unable to tear my eyes off of the spot he had occupied as he made a quick getaway, and I silently left the jewel room, much to Emmie’s dismay as she had not seen the crown……..We went into the fossil room and called Paul to leave work, come two metro stops and get me. There were at least 4 guards in the area, and 70 people, and I did nothing, I lost my words and shut down. I tried to tell myself that I wasn’t making a scene because of the kids, or that I was in shock or something, but to tell the truth I felt ashamed and violated and didn’t want the pain of a scene. I understand that is probably what this guy was counting on, and I let him get away with it, I just wasn’t able to make myself scream and shout about it like I should have. I was wearing blue pants with a matching tank top with a grey blouse over the top; I was with 2 children and not dressed sexy at all. Anyone who thinks that stuff like that is not a big deal has never suffered the sort of degradation and remorse that is caused but such an incident, (Paul was ready to deck any guy in the museum that happened to wander past in navy Dockers) I hate that I think twice before I will go to the museum now, and I won’t go in the summer without Paul, but as someone who’s sexual experience begins and ends with my husband, I felt really violated. Not that I am glad that it has happened to other people, but I’m at least glad I am not the only one who wasn’t able to scream and shout about it……..
florentinescot
Apr. 7th, 2008 06:52 pm (UTC)
Long ago when I was a mere undergraduate ...

I was working at a table at a common area in an engineering building. This fellow, let's call him George, shall we? Came up. George had been bugging me for several days, so I was already annoyed [and I'd just read the joke about the woman and the dentist -- you know, she grabs him by the testicles as he starts to work on her and says "we're not going to hurt one another, now are we?"]

Anyway, so George comes up and grabs me around the throat (I'm sitting, he's standing). Without thinking, I just turn out the hand and squeeze air. He let go and fled. For the rest of the semester, nobody remembered his name was "George;" he became "Squeaky" -- and he never bothered me again.


And the next man who "accidentally" shoves his nasty crotch in my face is going to get an "accidental" elbow in said crotch.

And then tell him to stick it in his ear -- you're quite sure it will fit .....
herveus
Apr. 7th, 2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
The first thing that came to mind about "accidental crotch in face" was "accidental elbow in crotch".

...well before I got to the bottom...
mkwoka
Apr. 7th, 2008 07:42 pm (UTC)
more icky boy stories - sry for the length
I've had a nice ride to a nearby town one time to go to walmart, as the closest one was about 20 min away. I was riding back having a good day windows down listening to music, about 19. A guy pulls up beside me i look over as most people do, he has his man bits out and is pumping it right next to me at a red light, looking straight at me. I had no clue what to do, no way out unless i ran a light and i was scared. What if he followed me home what would i do? I was still new enough to where i lived that i didn't know where anything but the campus police were and they weren't open on the weekend. I sped off doing around 100 when my car would let me and justified to my self that if a cop pulled me over then at least i could tell him yes i was in a hurry. Every one i told this story to just laughed. I felt so scared and dirty and i didn't do anything.

Another time i was driving my little sister home from high school, i was a sophomore, she was in 8th grade. We looked over and there was a man in a wheel chair that licked his lips provocatively at her.

Another time in middle school i was wiping down the tables like we were assigned to do each day and one of the boys came up to me and slapped my butt. I wanted so badly to see him again that day, i would have punched him so hard his face would have hit the ground first. One of my guy friends told me that happened a lot in High School so i better just get used to it. I was petrified to go to school 9th grad year.

This is not to mention the massive number of boys that rub up against you dancing - not asking you to dance even. The one that rubbed his boner against me one of the maybe 5 times i rode the subway or any of the other rather casual encounters i've had. I think at least that one i told to back up.

The thing that probably bothers me more than any of this though is the double standard. The one where "well i told her that i didn't ever want to have kids" and "no I'm not interested in you" meet. Both are statements of finality, yet for some reason men in general, not all, not always, take their statement as truly what they mean while taking female statements for always truly meaning what they want it to mean. "I know what a woman really wants," kind of mentality that happens in both places. I had to tell one boy in middle school 6 times that i wouldn't date him including the last time telling him i was going to find him and kick him in his balls if he didn't leave me alone and quit asking. At the end of that i felt like he didn't respect my answer.
Its like any time you smile you mean the opposite of what you say. You couldn't possibly just be really nervous and uncomfortable. It doesn't matter if you have a deer in the headlights look in your eye and are backing away from him or a oh god I'm scared look, no you mean you love him.
mjcan
Apr. 7th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
Re: more icky boy stories - sry for the length
if a man takes it out laugh, hard, asking for tweezers if he makes a comment works too.
damedini
Apr. 7th, 2008 08:25 pm (UTC)
And many women almost foster this perception:
Some years ago I was going into a mall in a questionable neighborhood. In the parking lot two women were walking in, followed by two men who were calling to them, obscenities and sexual come-ons. The women were yelling at the men to go away and leave them alone.
I waited in the vestibule and confronted the men. They responded that the one was the one woman's boyfriend. I checked with the woman and sure enough, she said he was. Apparently they thought that playing abuser and victim was fun.
I explained in small words about the boy who cried wolf and threw my hands up.
cleopurrtra
Apr. 7th, 2008 08:42 pm (UTC)
Background - I work in an office at a University, during school breaks I am quite often the only person in my office and sometimes the only person on the entire floor of the building.

A few years ago during holiday (Christmas) break, I was at work when a stranger came in the office. At first he asked me a few questions regarding the program (I'm in Teacher Education), but the "conversation" quickly went pervy. Pretty soon he was asking me things like "Are you taken?" I told him I was married (I was) and he then asked if I had any children. I told him no, not yet and his response was, "You better get busy - make sure everything works properly." It took 15-20 minutes before he left the office.

I have to add that there is only one door in the office and he was standing in it, so other than telling him to get the hell out of my office and calling for help, there wasn't much I could do. And I know for a fact that if I would have said anything negative to him, I would have been fired for saying negative things to a patron or potential student.

After he was gone I ran upstairs to the Dean's office and reported it to the Dean's Assistant. She said she would call it in to campus police. I kept bugging her about the call to see if there was anything that could be done about my situation and finally the head of campus security agreed to come to my office to go over everything that had happened and "come up with a plan" to keep future incidents from occurring.

His solution - there wasn't anything that could be done.

My solution - bought a taser that I keep in my desk drawer. Next perv that won't leave the office and I'm alone is going to be sorry if he even thinks about touching me...
mjcan
Apr. 7th, 2008 09:21 pm (UTC)
i went to school in manhattan, had a guy "rub up" on me in grand central while waiting for a train. i was not dressed sexy or provocative. had a blanket coat on! i got so pissed i chased him when i finally got ovr the shock. then i sat and cried. he violated my space, used me for personal pleasure with no reguard for how i felt. he made me react in such a nasty way i was embarrised over letting it happen and how i reacted. i let myself be victumised as i stood in line waiting to go home. i had my purse and i did everything i was suppose to , he came up behind me and did what he pleased in public!
he had no right and he got away with it. there was nothing i could do! i get pissed when i see men who violate personal boundries with their staring, and especially when they invade personal space physically. so many women just sit there dumb founded or embarised, becoming victums.


personal space is something that needs to be taught and respected. here is to elbows and learning respect.

if you want to oogle women go to a titty bar.
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