Harassed at the Gym

I like to go to the gym at lunch time because it’s deserted and I can usually get on whatever machines I like. Yesterday was a little weird because almost all the elliptical machines were taken, and mostly by men. So I got on the only free one between two guys, and we all did the normal polite nods to each other then went about our sweaty business.

Right away I noticed the guy to my right turning and looking at me, but I just shrugged it off. Then he started making little grunting and gasping noises, which I also shrugged off because, hey, we’re at the gym, sometimes you do what you need to get through a workout. His weirdness kept escalating, with him talking to himself and whistling loudly, and I could tell he was leaning forward on the machine and looking at me, trying to catch my eye.

It was so frustrating because he wasn’t doing anything too awful at any given point, but this weirdness went on for 20 minutes while I went round and round in my head “should I look over at him and glare, or ask if he has a problem? Maybe he’s not really looking at me and it just seems like it in my peripheral?” And on and on.

By the time he got off I was all tense and aggravated by trying to figure out what was going on, that I didn’t notice him reaching over to tap my shoulder until he was already touching me. I over-reacted a bit and leaned away from him and smacked his hand away, loudly saying “What is your problem!?”. I think I made a little bit of a scene, but it was just a knee jerk reaction from being so uncomfortable for so long.

He looked startled and immediately left, rubbing his hand, and it made me wonder if the only way to get men to stop harassing women on the street is to start hitting them. Or maybe that’s just an angry reaction.

Submitted by CS

Location: Bally’s 2970 Belcrest Center Dr #202 Hyattsville MD, 20782

Time of harassment: Day Time (9:30A-3:30P)

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7 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    i’m so sorry. i go to this gym too and i constantly get harassed: kissy noises coming from the weights area while i walk to the locker room, stares that last too long when i’m on the treadmill…it’s gross. and it often happens when i’m too into my workout and out of breath to hollaback. maybe we should complain to management? it annoys me that when i’m just trying to do something good for myself i still have to deal with this bs.

  2. ninyabruja

    Yes! I’ve complained to management at my gym when I’m leeringly “offered a towel” (i. e. shoved in my face while I’m reading and have my earbuds in) when it is quite clear that I already have one with me.

  3. Marcella Rousseau

    I say bully for you that you smacked his hand! Look what they’ve reduced us to: violence! He deserved it and don’t you question yourself for a minute. How would you like to be 65 years old and still harassed? Look online and you’ll see how common this problem is. One blog I saw showed that 86.15% of women said they were harassed at a gym.

    The plain truth is that they don’t want us in their domain and this is how they go about getting rid of us. They want us to go to women-only gyms. I would gladly do that, but the woman-only gym that I had been going to for 15 years was purchased by a creep who harassed the women so I left! It seems you can’t win unless you want to use exercise dvd’s in you home all the time. Their biggest muscle is between their ears. What dorks.

    • Grace

      I disagree with the principle of women’s only gym. Yes, it is a short term practical solution to the problem on a small scale, so I do see why you would be tempted by the idea. But in principle we should not have to segregate ourselves from them to stop them behaving like animals. We have a right to be there. Segregation would be a huge step back for women’s rights and would actually amplify the problem – I am sorry to say but the vast majority of cat calls I get here in london are from middle eastern men, or look at the problems in Pakistan with young boys being raped due to the unnatural segregated society. We need to stand our ground and not allow them to intimidate us.

  4. […] obnoxious men from across the room felt it was a good idea to cross the gym floor to come and harass us while we were on the bikes. It took us nearly our entire work out to get rid of them, and while my […]

  5. Bridget

    I would love to tell my tale and get some kind of support, maybe legal. But I’m not in the DC area, so I can’t fill out the form. I used to be an avid gym goer, and there’s really only one decent facility my my town here in suburban LI. The trouble there is that there’s one MALE cleaning attendant, who is responsible for the whole facility. He’s Hispanic, and never announces himself when he walks, during business hours, into the women’s locker room. He’s come in while I was in the shower, while I was changing at my locker, many times. He seems to stroll in only when I’m in there alone. Never ever does he call out to see if anyone’s inside or at least decent. I’ve complained verbally to management, and several times in writing, over the course of 2 years. I got brushed off many times, sometimes with lame excuses like, “he doesn’t speak English. We’ll have someone explain in Spanish that he has to announce himself.” Anyway, the violations continued. As a concession, most of the front desk staff would allow me to use the handicapped locker room, which was essentially a single-person bath-shower room with accessibility accouterments.” The trouble was many of them acted like I was asking for some kind of special treatment. Frankly, I did not want to occupy the handicapped locker room anyway, tho only one other gymgoer there was ever even using it, and of course I would give him priority if we were in the building at the same time. One day, the front desk guy was a complete jerk and refused to give me the handicapped locker room key. He said the cleaning man wasn’t even on the premises that day. So I went downstairs into the women’ locker room. Changed out of my work clothes into my spin gear, and went to spin class. An hour later, all sweaty, i went back to the women’s locker room to wash up and change back into street clothes. As I’ pulling up my underwear, I happened to glance up, and see a sideways pair of eyes and baseball capped top of a head peering at me from the doorway, which, upon eye contact, quickly darted away. I pulled on the rest of my clothes and came storming upstairs. The guy who refused me the key to other room turned out to be the son of the owner. I asked him why he’d told me the cleaning man wasn’t on the premises, and he shrugged with a careless grin. Finally, he said he’d go talk to the peeper. A short while later he came back with the guy, and they walked over to me, and the owner’s son told me “he says he didn’t do it.” So I called the cops. Enough was enough. I had been violated too many times, complained too many times, and ignored too many times. Only when the cops came, it was two men. And they were asking me questions like, does anyone else ever complain? Why are you the only one who is complaining? The following week, the gym terminated my membership. I need that gym to keep me healthy. I can’t believe this is how it played out. I can’t believe the correct thing to do was live with being ogled while changing and keep my mouth shut. What country is this? What year is this? I have no recourse? It’s been 3 years since they kicked me out for calling the cops because I didn’t like being watched while changing. I just tried to rejoin. They refused to let me. I need to work out. It’s winter, and options are limited. I feel this is a horrible case of discrimination, but no one cares. I don’t know what to do. :*(

  6. Grace

    Good for you. I can’t remember the last time I visited a gym without being harassed to some extent by a man. Yesterday I literally had a man follow me from machine to machine asking every time if he can use it in between my sets, and not taking no for an answer when I said I would rather not. I ended up hiding in the women’s changing room for a bit to get rid of him. How dare they think these men think they have the right to invade our personal space and time. I have had enough of it and the next man to come close to me will also get a smack, so good for you. I am not leaving the gym or joining a woman’s only gym as why should we have to. That is exactly what they want. They think they can intimate us like this and we will happily sign up to a middle Eastern style segregated society. We need to fight it.