“I Was Sexually Harassed 3x at DC’s Awesome Con Comic Convention.”

Location: 1525 Wilson Blvd #2, Virginia
Time: Morning Rush Hour (5am-9:30am)

I spent the weekend in DC for Awesome Con, and was sexually harassed on three separate occasions:

1)  Along 7th st NW, while walking back to the convention center after buying a jacket to keep warm, a group of men in a van started shouting “hey baby” at me and wanted me to get in the car with them. This astounds me as I had had four hours of sleep and looked like death warmed over; and the jacket I’d bought was very baggy and hid basically everything. I just kept walking.

2)  My friends and I were staying at a hotel in Arlington, VA. One of my friends is trans, but he and his girlfriend are sometimes perceived as a lesbian couple. He was having breakfast with her at the Starbucks on Wilson Blvd near the Rosslyn stop, when a man came up to them and was extremely invasive and creepy towards them. My friends left the Starbucks and the woman who remained at the hotel with me received a call from him, asking to be escorted because the man had followed my friends outside.The call was very hard to understand, and as it was still hours before we had to wake up, the woman I was staying with ended the call. Our friend arrived back at the hotel after dropping his gf off, shaken but otherwise safe. However, when it was time for us to depart, we went to have breakfast at the same Starbucks. My male friend informed me that the creepy guy had come back, and sure enough as soon as we sat down he came over to us and tried, in very hard-to-understand language, to engage us in conversation.

Spreading the anti-harassment message at the April 2013 AwesomeCon comic book convention in DC! Photo via Mark Webster/Stop Street Harassment.

He was not friendly, he kept trying to get personal information from us, and when we told him to go away he would bend down and stick his face inches from ours, staring us down. He would slowly move his face from person to person, and it was EXTREMELY hostile. He did it several times until one of us told him we would call the police if he did not leave us alone. He then walked over to another woman who was there with her young daughter and began intimidating her. We immediately explained what was going on to the management, but we left before seeing them do anything about it. He must have been hanging out inside that Starbucks for hours.

3)  Later that day, I was sitting at my convention table, selling prints and comics. I had had very little sleep and was not feeling very well. A man came up and was looking at my work; when he looked up I smiled at him politely. He exclaimed “now see, you look so much prettier when you smile! Before now I thought you were as cold and depressing as your art. You should smile more!”

The smile died on my face as he spoke, and I hardly remember what I said in response except that I felt incredibly awkward and tired of feeling judged for my decorative capacity.The man selling children’s books across from my table looked dour and hostile all day, but I didn’t see anyone being a condescending ass to him for it.

It continues to amaze me how little harrasment is about sexual desire, and how it’s all about power. I looked so exhausted and unkempt that weekend that I was scared for my own reflection, but I was in DC to have a good time at a convention for people who shared my interests. I tried my best to do that, but it’s difficult when my very presence in the public sphere seems to invite the attention of men who at best wish to put me in my place as an object to decorate their world, and at worst enjoy intimidating women and people they perceive as women. It all amounts to a kind of sexism fatigue that makes it hard to simply enjoy my life.

Emphases by CASS.
Submitted 4/22/13 by “Anonymous”

Note From The Editor: Today, Emily S. Whitten of ComicMix.com posted a column on sexual harassment she experienced at last week’s Awesome Con. We also recommend this great piece that made the rounds this fall, in which Mandy Caruso blogged on the sexual harassment she faced at the New York Comic Con. Great to see folks speaking up!

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault?
Submit your story to help raise awareness about the pervasiveness and harmful effects of street harassment. All submissions are posted anonymously unless otherwise specified.

If you experience or have experienced sexual harassment on the DC Metro system:
Whether the event is happening at the moment or occurred months ago, we strongly encourage you to report to Metro Transit Police (MTP): www.wmata.com/harassment or 202-962-2121. Reporting helps identify suspects as well as commons trends in harassment. Recommended tip: Program MTP’s number into your phone so you can easily reach them when needed.

4 Responses

  1. Lauren McGrath

    There was a lot of sexism at one of the panels as well, and long story short, a podcast has been born from it. If anyone wants to talk to the Geek Progress podcast about sexual harassment at cons, this is a really serious issue that should be talked about!

  2. Doris I. Anthony

    Sexual harassment may be so commonplace for women that they’ve built up psychological resistance to it. Michigan State University researchers examined how different kinds of sexual harassment affect mental well-being in both women and men, using data from a military survey. For women, harassment viewed as “bothersome” (annoying and offensive) isn’t associated with distress; only “frightening” (scary and threatening) harassment impairs psychological well-being. For men, both bothersome and frightening harassment lead to distress.

  3. Faith Z. Blanchard

    People, pls just chill out! You all just sound like defenseless little girls who cannot handle even a slight sexual compliment. Enough hypocrisy americans! Just travel a bit and try to see the world abroad… there’s nothing wrong in guys hitting on girls whenever they seem good looking or attract some attention.One cant drink, dance, and now even stare is not allowed! What else will be prohibited in this country? Enough of this harassment crap! Grow up and just admit you love all the atention!

  4. Selma Dunlap

    You may also file an internal complaint through the appropriate avenues offered by the organization’s policy on sexual harassment if it has one.