I Became A Male Street Harassment Victim
Derwayne M. Wills
- 19 Posts
- Age 25
I never thought it could happen to me. As a feminist, I make it my obligation to speak out on how pervasive and invisible street harassment is. I know the facts. I know that it forms part of the spectrum of violence against women that must not be encouraged in the streets or workplaces. But I never thought I would be sharing my own experience, because up until February 3, 2016, I never thought it could happen to me.
A friend and I were in Brooklyn, New York, walking to get the train. It was raining. Neither of us had umbrellas, but we really didn't mind. Heck, now that the winter was almost done, we welcomed the rain. As we're moving towards the train station, I noticed a guy harassing this woman that walked pass us very speedily. He was dressed in a gray hoodie, black hat, and he clutched a plastic bag in his hands. I knew what he was up to and I was sickened by it.
They both walked pass us, and I made a ruckus. He then stopped and turned and looked at me and my friend. He had a menacing grin on his face almost as though he was looking for me and my friend to validate or approve of what he was doing to that woman. Why did he think he had to validate his pervy-rapey actions? Because, we are men, and it's what we do, right? Ummm... wrong! I gave him the nastiest facial expression I could contort my face into. But his reaction is what still has me petrified even as I write these words. I never thought this would happen to me.
He starts following us. We didn't mind because the street is a public space. He started talking to us. I didn't want to seem rude so I mustered a response. He then got into a deeply personal line of questioning as my friend and I grew more and more uncomfortable. He questioned where we were coming from, and where we were going. That was none of his business. We ignored him. He then makes his way in between me and my friend even as we are walking to get to the train station. I asked him to back off because he was now in my personal space and it made me uncomfortable. I really never thought this would happen to me.
He followed us for 5 minutes as we walked. The longest 5 minutes of my life. Talking to us. Throwing sexist slurs at us because we weren't engaging him. We never responded but he continued anyway. I couldn't understand why. I could barely comprehend what was happening at the time because I was in shock. He followed us into the subway! I took out my money. He stood there talking to me! We went on to the train. He went on behind us! We ended up getting off the train and waiting for another one. And even then, I had this gripping fear that he would have gotten off behind us. I was so angry. I was angry because I never thought it could happen to me. I reflected on the experience even as it was happening and I thought to myself how many women in the world are subject to that level of torture in their life, and how frequently.
There are women who live in fear that something will happen to them when they walk out the door. There are women who are denied justice in the workplace, and heck, even on the streets because sexual harassment, in the street or workplace, is the most invisible element on the spectrum of violence against women. Women should never have to navigate their lives and their movements around unwanted sexual advances by men. It is not a compliment. It is unwanted. It is unwarranted. Women should not have to be polite because they feel they have to negotiate around men who act as though they own public spaces. That is absolute BS. Street harassment is oppressive and fueled by a sickening belief that men have rights to not only be sexually expressive in public spaces, but even that they have rights to advance their sexual pleasures against women's bodies. It is dehumanising to women. Women are not objects to be had and used at whim.
Honestly, I never thought this would happen to me. But it did.