A Male Ally Shares: “How I became aware of street harassment”

Location: Langley Park, Silver Spring (MD)
Time: Daytime (9:30am-3:30pm)

As a guy, street harassment is something I haven’t always noticed a great deal. I grew up in Boston, and it just wasn’t something that I saw very often. I can remember maybe one or two instances, and I’m sure that it was very annoying and possibly frightening for the female victim. However, if my sister or mother or girlfriend isn’t being targeted, most likely I wouldn’t have felt much responsibility to act. That all changed after I moved to DC to attend grad school.

I got a cheap apartment in the Langley Park area, and pretty much the moment I got there I noticed a lot of strange behavior. It was common to see a car roll up to a girl walking on the street and then follow her for a while. On a number of occasions I’ve seen guys walking behind women for a few blocks, staring at these women’s backsides.

Eventually I got pretty sick of it and began to yell at these guys, but either they didn’t understand what I was saying or pretended not to understand. It was infuriating. What was frustrating to me was the feeling that in the area I lived, this was more than simply acceptable. It felt as if staring at women’s bodies and making suggestive comments was encouraged. Many of the harassed women did nothing to suggest any displeasure, which I interpreted as the complete domination of their spirit. It certainly looked that way to me.

Anyhow, I’ve moved away and find that I’m very conscious of sexual harassment. I wish I wasn’t so conscious of it, as it would allow me to enjoy my day more at times, but I guess it isn’t such a bad thing to be aware of something so many women have to deal with daily.

Emphases by CASS.
Submitted 5/21/13 by “Erik K.”

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.

If you need assistance in coping with public sexual harassment or assault, please contact the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) 24/7 crisis hotline at 202-333-RAPE (202-333-7279).

4 Responses

  1. Brandi Q. Hurst

    Yesterday, I was at Fulton Park in Bed-Stuy having a conversation with a man about street harassment , and I found myself at a conversational impasse. He said something both logically and socially acceptable that I knew in my gut was wasn’t right. Street harassment is such a normalized function of our male-dominated society that we often can’t discern why it’s just plain wrong.

  2. Cornell N. Adkins

    Unless someone says something disrespectful, quit whining about being the subject of attention from the opposite sex. You preach equality between men and women yet a man would be laughed at if he complained about a woman saying “hey cutie” or some other light hearted compliment. Perhaps you only get attention from retarded guys that dont get why trying to pick someone up in the street isnt the way to go, but still, no need to be a bitch by replying to a civilized catcall with “fuck off” or “get lost”.

  3. Alisha Valentine

    There’s a pesky voice that pops up, without fail, any time a woman complains about street harassment or sexual harassment in the workplace or rape culture in general: “Well,” it says, “did you scream for help/tell him to fuck off/punch him in the nads? Why not? Sounds like you didn’t hate it that much.” Or from men, specifically: “How’s he supposed to know you don’t like it if you don’t tell him? I guess I’ll just never talk to women in public ever again [sad turtle-face].” And more insidiously, from women: “Well, if some man said that to ME, I wouldn’t take it. I’d fight back. He’d regret it.” Oh, please. Do you criticize car accident victims for being too corporeal?

  4. Reva G. Sharpe

    This also nicely illustrates male privilege in the last panel, and how the worst problems with street harassment often don’t come from the men on the street harassing you – but rather from the prevailing attitudes among society/other men that it’s something you should welcome.