PSA: Street Harassers Take Note

Warning: Rated R for adult themes

I am walking in downtown Brooklyn. I pass a man reading a newspaper as he waits for the bus. He gives me the once-over. “Ooh, baby, I could tear that ass up!”

Um … what? I mean … WHAT?! This is your idea of a come-on? Is that really supposed to attract me?

I am wearing headphones, so I decide to pretend I haven’t heard him.

◊ ◊ ◊

I am walking up the stairs after leaving the N-train and I pass a young man as I hit street level. He licks his lips and gestures toward me with his chin. “Mamí, I would rip that pussy apart.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Thursday at the year-end open mic at my night job the second place winner in the poetry contest read her poem to loud shouts of approval from the audience. Most of it’s unprintable enough to make me blush. Then she got to this couplet:

“You say, ‘Girl, I can make that pussy bleed,’/As if a broken pussy is something I need.”

Exactly. How is it that this is the new thing? That men think there might be something thrilling for women in the offer of violent, damaging sex?

This isn’t the time when I’m going to talk about street harassment. This isn’t where I detail all the ways this is frightening and offensive. This isn’t the time for me to point out that these men can’t even handle the pretense that they are talking to another person: “that ass,” “that pussy,” with eyes never raised high enough to acknowledge that an actual whole woman is involved. This isn’t that time. No. This is my Public Service Announcement. Here is where I talk directly to the harassers.

What are you thinking? I can’t imagine the result you are aiming for when you offer to rip apart or tear up any part of a woman’s body. Trust me: no woman is turned on by this. No woman gets that weak, swirly, heavy-pulse feeling at the thought of being raped by you.

It seems unlikely that you are actually thinking you’ll come away from these two-second encounters with a phone number or a date. Women, after all, mostly know better than that. No, it’s much more likely that your sole interest is in letting us know how little you see us as people, how we exist only as sex toys for your violent pleasure.

All the same, be careful. I’m sure there is someone somewhere in town who cares about you, who worries about you, who would be sad and distraught to have you come home bloodied and maimed because you offered violence to a stranger on the street and she met you with violence. Think of your friends and family. Think of your nose, your teeth, your beautifully prominent cheek bones. Think of your woefully small and neglected penis and testicles.

Just. Think.

Keep your mouth shut.

Keep walking.

We’ll do the same.

◊ ◊ ◊

We now return to our regularly scheduled blogging.

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6 thoughts on “PSA: Street Harassers Take Note

  1. I wish they would hear you and listen. Living in a small town, I’m finding it hard to imagine what I would feel == much less do if someone said something like that to me. Amazing.

  2. aka Mopsy

    It occurs to me that you could have that statement printed on a card and hand it to any jerk that makes sucking noises or whatever other disgusting thing they’re doing these days. Confrontational in a literary kind of way. ~ Mopsy

  3. In all honesty, I don’t think is has anything to do with sex or asking/hoping for it. It’s anti-social behavior and that’s about it. It’s about frightening someone and making them selves feel bigger by being scary.
    I’ve met these idiots and had the other side of the violence thrown at me. As another male, the stuff they say tends to be more straight up violent with out the sexual bit. I’ll grant you that it happens far less often to me than it would to a woman. Men tend to be quicker to anger and may get physical at the prodding, so they don’t risk it as often. Still, it happens and male or female, it’s not right and it sucks.

    I find pepper spray quite effective in a pinch.

    Turkish Prawn

  4. Dozie

    I definitely agree with the last. Like rape, this is about anger, not eroticism. And how sex and rage got linked up is a good question. But it sure did; last night I actually heard some sort of altercation going on out on the street; most of what was “said” was “fawkin’ this” and fawkin’ that” and “fawk you!” Seems that the f-word synonym for making love ranks as the most hateful epithet out there.

  5. You are both right, of course, street harassment isn’t about sex. If you ask the men who do the harassing, however, they are much less in touch with their violence and mostly tend to think their comments are about eroticism. There’s a powerful indie documentary called War Zone by Maggie Hadley West that looks at street harassment. She takes a hand-held camera and confronts men who harass women on the street. She is followed by a steadycam, so she is being filmed as she films the men. It’s an amazing, really disturbing film, and it becomes very clear very quickly that anger and violence are behind the men’s behavior.

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