The worst part of this story is that this isn’t the first time someone has been “inspired” to publicly masturbate in front of me. On Saturday night, my friend and I were walking around the city. My friend is a guy, by the way.We turned the corner and a regular looking, preppy-dressed guy asked us, “Do you know how to get to XYZ bar, it’s on Elderidge street.”
I pointed behind me to the sign and said, “That’s Elderidge street right there.”
It was the street we were actually on. I noticed the guy’s friend was standing in front of a building.
The guy said, “What?” I told him again, “Elderidge street is right there.” Then he said OK.
We walk away.
My male friend said, “Um, Emmy. I think that guy was masturbating.”
I laughed thinking he was joking, he was not.
“At first I thought he was stroking his belt, but why would he be stroking his belt?” He said. The guy who was standing in front of the building was totally masturbating to us.
“Why didn’t you tell me?! That’s when you pull someone away. QUICKLY.” I said.
“I don’t know . . .” He uttered.
Then I realized obviously he didn’t know what to do. He’s a guy, he doesn’t regularly deal with sexual harassment so he isn’t conditioned to know how to respond to it with either defensive aggression or abrupt avoidance. His response totally makes sense. When I first started getting subjected to catcalling around sixth grade, I didn’t know how to respond either. The men were old enough to be my father. Instead of running away or telling the dudes to fuck off, I just accepted it and felt ashamed, embarrassed and humiliated.
I told my friend: well now you know what it’s like to be a girl. He said, “I guess.” He guessed.
I think it’s difficult for people, namely men, who don’t experience this kind of thing all the time to imagine that it really does happen all the time. It happens so often, that when my friend told me a guy was jerking off to us, I found it funny, while he felt violated and disgusted. It happens so often that many times I don’t even see it as sexual harassment just as a part of life. I am sure this won’t be the last time this happens but it may be the last time I find it funny.