Do they think you
want to have sex
when you are running?

During today’s run it was there again. The cat sound. Since it was a warm day I was wearing a tank top and regular running shorts (those are typically rather short because it is functional). When I pass by a perfect stranger standing outside the entrance to an apartment building, he makes that lisping, wheezing sound that most women probably have gotten thrown after them.

Yes, it is men who do this, I am sorry to say. I could see it already from a distance what was about to happen. Something about how he was just standing there, seemingly waiting for nothing, gazing after something to react on. Something that would be a woman in tight clothes/an outfit that didn’t cover her from top to toe. This time I had decided on the approach to just stare straight forward, ignore that sound which was to come. I have come to the conclusion that that is the fastest method to avoid the worst disgust. And then just run off and try to focus on not being an object. Because I am out running, because I like it and I wear whatever I want. Regardless of if it is warm or not.

So now to my questions. What do those men expect; what do they want? I have really tried to figure it out. Do they want us to stop, to look back, to yell at them, or do they want to be ignored? And if we would give a positive response to their sexual, objectifying outbursts, what would they do?

Once I tried to get the answers from a bunch of construction workers. I happened to walk in front of them in a dress that ended just above my knees. I expected what was going to happen but said to myself that I’m not going to adjust to them and cross the street just because I want to avoid being objectified and disgusted.

And then it came. The wheezing cat sounds, the primal sighs, the mumbling laughters and something that sounded like animals having sex (I’m no expert in that field but that’s what came to mind).

It is just an open question if this was fuelled by male hormons and a lack of understanding of that they should behave like civilised people?

And all this in the very heart of political correctness, gender equality norms and regulations agains bad behaviour. Right between the EU Commission and the European Council headquarters in Brussels, the EU capital. So I stopped, turned around and stared at them. Walked up to them and asked if they spoke English, a question none of them could answer. Probably not because they didn’t understand me, but because they probably didn’t expect me to react like that. And since I was not seen as someone you would talk to, just talk about or throw uncivilised and sounds at.

Fair enough that everyone in Brussels don’t speak English, French is the first language for most people and the second official language is Dutch. My French is almost inexistent, but I tried my very best to ask “Sorry, it seemed like you tried to talk to me. What was it you wanted to say?” They just blushed, looked down, or looked up in the sky and said something in French like “We don’t speak English”. So I tried Dutch. Still pretending they didn’t understand anything. I went back to English since I doubted they wouldn’t understand they question “Sorry, you want to say something to me?”. Still no reaction but total ignorance. Quite a shift from me being the center of their attention just a few seconds earlier.

It ended up with me telling them that their behaviour is offensive, that you don’t make primal sounds and sexual evocations towards someone just because they are wearing a dress. This was all in English but I’m sure they understood the essence of it. After asking if they felt like apologising without them giving any answer, I told them they behaved like assholes and that they should spare all women their insulting behaviour, I turned to the left and took the subway down town.

Was this confrontation necessary, pointless, stupid or maybe preferable?

To my surprise, I felt great afterwards and it was the best thing I could have done in order to keep my dignity. A wild guess is that this wasn’t the first time they treated a random woman like a piece of meat, totally shamelessly and in the middle of civilisation, in the middle of the day.

Based on my own quantitative yet unscientific interviews with female friends, I know that women mostly don’t react at all when they get sexual outbursts thrown after them. We let it happen, try to ignore them and get totally disgusted by it. We let them continue with their objectifying, sexualising and primal behaviour. Why? Because we try to spare ourselves from getting disgusted, we think know that we can’t change them and we know that there are thousands of them out there. Must be, since almost a hundred of them have done this only to me.

On other occasions I haven’t been able to stop myself from turning around and stare, just out of pure surprise and anger. Trying with the evil eye. They always just stare back with that sleezy look, and my instant reaction is always that this was the worst thing I could have done and that I just want to get out of there. I have given them my attention, they have managed to make me feel like an object and I just accept it.

After those different approaches, I still don’t know what they want. When I lived in Italy the men were a bit more clear about their intentions. When one crossed the street in the middle of the day, random guys would shamelessly and with sleezy voices ask “Vuoi fare l’amore con me?” — “Do you want to have sex with me?”. Just like a side note, like something they said on a regular basis especially to women with long blonde hair.

I admit that I never answered that question so they never got a fair chance to expand on their intentions. Regardless of what I would have said, what would they have done with the answer? If you would say yes, would you then run into the nearest public bathroom and have sex? Would have been interesting to know. In the same time, my own experience from living in Italy is that women who have sex with many and/or random guys are seen as sluts who deserve no respect.

One wonders what makes those men behave like horny, uncivilised animals in the middle of civilisation, even in the middle of the day, as soon as a woman shows a little more skin than she would do in church. It could be a single man waiting for I don’t know what in a street corner, or a group of guys ending up behind you. I am not saying all men of a certain age are all the same, only based on my own experience they are typically 20–35 years old, and they never have a woman by their side when it happens.

It would be great if you gals who read this could start asking those dudes what they want.

They are probably not very used to getting that question, maybe they would appreciate it. To be treated like humans, a species fully capable of using words and communicate with each other rather than throwing horny sounds in one direction. I’d be eager to learn about your findings.

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