The 14th Street Guntlet

Last evening, I was walking to meet friends for dinner on 14th Street. As I rounded the corner from U St, headed south, I saw a group of men hanging out on the right. One of them seemed to be chasing after another, about to throw something, while a third man was yelling at second, telling him to “stop the violence.” I happened to walk in between the second and third man just as the third man was shouting. As I passed, he said, “Hey, baby, I’m just trying to stop the violence.” I gave him my tight-lipped “whatever, man” grin without breaking my stride, but in my move to get past him, I turned my body slightly, trailing my arm behind me for a second.

On my right wrist, I have a tattoo of a sun in green ink. I got it many, many years ago and have noticed and been told many times since that it can look, at a glance, like a marijuana leaf.

I am guessing that’s what the man saw that prompted his next comment:

“Hey baby, you look like you got a tattoo of a marijuana plant on your behind. Can I smoke it?”

I kept walking south on 14th, somewhat pissed and somewhat stunned. I know street harassment happens a lot in DC, but it doesn’t happen to me very often at all, for which I am grateful every day.

I crossed T Street to encounter another group of men on the corner, a couple on each side of the sidewalk. As I passed, I heard a small, muttering chorus of “hey baby,” “that shit is fat,” and “damn, you know you look good.”

As I crossed S Street, a man stopped at the light began to wave as if he knew me, and when I looked at his face, he licked his lips and made kissing noises.

I was dressed for a nice dinner in slacks and a sweater – same thing I wore to work–and I was wearing sunglasses that I like to think of as some sort of armor. I didn’t have my headphones in, which I almost always do when I am walking around DC, so I am not sure if last night was just really out of the ordinary, or if I usually don’t notice.

Location: 14th NW

Submitted by Mazzi

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One Response

  1. Golden Silence

    One of the street harassment groups that used to be active a few years back referred to 14th Street as a gauntlet and that is so true. A few years back when I was looking for apartments (not really knowing the area like I do now), I had to steel myself to kissing noises, personal space invasion, leers and other nonsense while walking up that street. The men were acting like fools, and the women who were with them (yes, the men had no shame doing this in front of what I assume were girlfriends) were giving me dirty looks. Disgusting!

    That’s the reason why I avoid 14th Street if I can, and have to mentally prepare myself if I ever have to go there. Whatever you call it “The Gauntlet,” “Harassment Hill,” 14th Street is a mess.