Every girl gets her taste of catcalling and sexual harassment. The first time my friends and I began getting aggressively hissed at as when were as young as ten. Men in their forties, old enough to be our fathers, would make us feel self-conscious about our bodies which had just started to develop. The worst part about being called is the shame that I felt from it happening. Like it was my fault for merely existing and so it would be my fault if the result of me rejecting admissions would be physical danger.
As girls we’re conditioned to fear sexual assault. To carry a key between our knuckles at night. To not go out at night. To not ride the subway at night. To not wear the pair of shorts when it’s hot. To take the long way home because the short cut feels dangerous.
My fear increased in high school when two of my friends, on separate occasions were physically held down by men in the subway and in an elevator. They got a way. Many don’t. I know girls who have been followed home by masturbating men, who have been raped and who have been molested.
When I was in high school, I was riding an empty cart in the subway. Every single seat in the cart was empty but the man who got on the train sat right next to me. I was young and terrified and should have gotten up right away. I sat there and I remember his creepy face, licking his lips and then he put his hand on my thigh and rubbed it. Flight or fight kicked in and I protested, “Don’t ever fucking touch me!” Then I quickly walked to the other side of the cart.
I’ve been followed a few times too. It’s disturbing. But after a certain age I decided I would not put up with it. Some men feel like they have ownership over our bodies. We have to correct them on this.
I cannot encourage you to do what I’ve begun to do because, although it hasn’t for me, the results could be dangerous. What I learned from all the shame I had felt was that men feel shame too. So I decided I would start to shame them for hollering at me.
The first time I used this technique it was late and a man who was whispering creepy shit to me like, “I wanna fuck you,” followed me into the subway. As he was following, I thought about advice from my good friend, “When someone is following you, you look back. You always look back because they’ll get spooked and walk away.” So I looked back and said, “Are you going to rape me?” He stopped in his tracks and quickly ran away.
“Are you going to rape me or what?!” Is my go to phrase for men who get a little too aggressive about their cat calling. Oh so you’re going to hover around me? You’re going to tell me about how you want to fuck me despite me clearly rejecting you. Then I will call your bluff: ARE YOU GOING TO RAPE ME? HUH?
Most of these catcallers are not. They’re just happy to harass women because they think they can. By calling them out on their inappropriate sexual harassment, you’re equating what they do, objectify women, to the same behavior of someone who would commit one of the most horrendous acts possible. Catcalling is not the same as rape, I know that and wouldn’t dare suggest that my brushes with bad men are anything like rape. I don’t want to trivialize that level of violation. But the aggressive behavior of some cat callers feels like it can escalate into that. So I snuff it. I put that fire out before the flames get fanned.
If they are going to hurt me then they will anyway but I am not going to go down without a fight.
I know we all have to deal with this. So let’s vent. Share your most obnoxious or scary catcalling experiences in the comments!