16 Times Men Thought They Were Entitled to My Body

  1. My older brother’s best friend. He came into my room and locked the door behind him. He groped me, undressed me, then took out his penis and made me touch it. I was 7, he was 13. On a separate occasion, he flashed his penis to me and my friends in our family’s pool. He has three daughters now.
  2. That same year, many girls in my second grade class were being harassed by a boy in our grade. He was relentless — he’d chase us around at recess, trying to give us unwanted hugs and kisses. He thought it was cute. He thought it was funny. One day he approached me in our classroom’s coat closet, grabbed me, and tried to kiss me. I slapped him. Due to the visible hand print on his face, I was the one that got in trouble. He hadn’t left any prints behind to prove his own guilt.
  3. My mother had to go to a meeting to try to get support for my sister who has special needs. They had a waiting room where small children could be supervised, with toys and books and games to occupy us. There were maybe five of us in the waiting room, and I knew none of them, so I kept to myself in a corner, reading a book. A boy, maybe a year or two older, kneeled next to me and asked me what I was reading. After I told him, he stuck his hand in my crotch. I asked my mom not to take me to those meetings anymore, but I never said why. She just thought I was bored.
  4. In sixth grade, I was one of only a couple girls whose breasts seemed to spring forth overnight, fully developed. This caused me a lot of unwanted attention, but one day in particular, during lunch, a boy from my class came up to me and asked me if my “boobs were fake, like Pamela Anderson’s.” I responded that they were not, as politely as I could, since by that age I was already acutely aware that being anything less than polite to a boy in this situation meant I could get in trouble. He asked me to prove it, before reaching out and grabbing my shirt so he could look down into it.
  5. My first job was at a fast food restaurant. I worked the drive-thru window. On slow days I also had to go in the back and wash dishes. Our sink was large and deep — with my small frame, I often had to bend down far at the waist to reach smaller dishes that had made their way to the bottom of the sink. On one such occasion, one of my male coworkers came up behind me and started thrusting his hips at me. I was 16, he was in his 30s.
  6. At the same job, one of my male coworkers (with whom I was on friendly terms) followed me home after a late-night shift. I didn’t have a cell phone at the time and I was too afraid to get out of my car to see what he wanted, why he followed me. Luckily my mom was still awake, and when she came to the front door to see who was there, he got scared and drove away.
  7. I went to Edinburgh on a school trip when I was 18. After a long day of sightseeing, my friends and I went out to a pub together. We ended up striking up a conversation with three young men from England. Two of my friends went to the bathroom together, at which point the men surrounded me and told me all kinds of disgusting things that they’d like to do to me in their hotel room. One of them grabbed my breast. I went to leave with my friends as soon as they got out of the bathroom — one of the men grabbed me by the wrist to get me to stay.
  8. On the last night of the same trip, many of my classmates met up at a different pub. A man in his 50s or 60s was going around shamelessly hitting on any American young woman he could spot. A rumor had gotten around the bar that he was trying to drug women’s drinks but we were lacking in proof. My friends and I were actively avoiding him but keeping an eye on his actions. Later in the night he came up behind my friend and I at the bar, acting as if he were waiting to order a drink. Instead, he groped us from behind. We immediately called over the bouncer and had him kicked out, though he didn’t leave without a fight.
  9. I’d endured so many instances of sexual harassment and aggression during five years at my former office job that thinking about it gets my head spinning, but one incident in particular that I remember very clearly was when a coworker told me that one day I ought to come to work without wearing a bra. He said he wanted to “see ’em hang.”
  10. At the same job, two different male coworkers attempted to give me back rubs without my permission. I never went to HR because I worked in a male-dominated field and feared losing my job. I was afraid that either no one would believe me, or that nothing would come of it and I’d just be the bitch at the office who tried to get two hard-working blue collar men fired.
  11. I was on a cruise with my family in the Caribbean, and had made friends with a group of people around my age during the trip. I was sitting with them on the deck near the pool at around 4am, just talking and sharing stories. A guy I hadn’t met before came to join us. I excused myself to go to the bathroom. As I’d left the stall to wash my hands, I discovered that this man had followed me in. He pushed me back into the stall and kissed me, put his hands all over me, and started to unzip his pants. I had to use all of my strength to push him off of me, and I ran back to my cabin. He was on that cruise with his girlfriend and their small child.
  12. In London that same year, a man rubbed himself against me on the tube.
  13. In college I normally walked to and from class since my house wasn’t very far off campus. For obvious reasons (see #12) I tried to avoid taking public transportation unless it was absolutely necessary. One day during a particularly rough rain storm, I decided to take the bus. I was listening to music on my headphones, and apparently the man sitting behind me had been trying to get my attention. When I didn’t respond (because, hello, I couldn’t hear him. And also don’t bother me) he started to pull my hair to get me to turn around.
  14. I had gone out on a couple dates with a guy in college, and one night I went over to his place for dinner and a movie. He started to rub his hand up my leg and kiss my neck, and when I expressed to him that I wasn’t comfortable, he said “You didn’t mind last time.” As if “yes” is recyclable. He blocked his front door when I tried to leave. The kicker is that he had a position with new student orientation at the school, and part of his job was training students in how to talk about sexual assault and consent.
  15. At a bachelorette party for one of my best friends in Washington, D.C. There was a group of about eight of us, all dancing together at a bar. Out of nowhere, a man came up behind me, put his arms around my waist, and started grinding into me. I pushed him off and turned around, naively hoping that maybe he just had me mistaken for someone else, someone he was actually supposed to be dancing with. But when I turned around, he didn’t back off — he did the opposite actually. Instead he leaned in and shoved his tongue in my mouth. The rest of the bachelorette party swarmed, pushing him away, and we left the bar together.
  16. Christmas Eve of 2015. I went to see a screening of The Hateful Eight in Hollywood, by myself. The theater did reserved seating, and I’d chosen a seat on the aisle. Next to me were two men in their twenties, who had been a bit loud and disruptive during the film’s overture. They seemed to be drunk, or high, or most likely both. Right before the intermission, the man sitting right next to me leaned over, put his hand on my thigh, and tried to kiss me. I pushed him away. He apologized — then seconds later, did it again. At this point I was grateful for my foresight in reserving an aisle seat, as I made a quick exit out of the theater to get an usher’s attention. I told them what happened, then told the manager, who offered to refund my money. I didn’t want a refund, I said. I just want those men gone. Right as the intermission ended and everyone took their seats, I pointed the two men out to the usher and had them escorted out. I was too uneasy to enjoy the rest of the movie, but too worried that they might be waiting for me outside if I left right away. I had to ask the group of people sitting behind me if they would walk with me to my car just in case.

This is hardly an exhaustive list. If I included every instance where a man made an unwanted advance at me, touched me inappropriately, said something to make me feel unsafe or dirty, this list would never end. Even as I type this, I’m still thinking of other incidents that I’ve left out. Despite what some men would like you to believe, this isn’t a trait that comes with having money and fame. Men are capable of this, everywhere, every day, regardless of status. So when you make your next “pussy-grabbing” joke or dismiss sexually violent conversations as “locker room talk,” remember — every woman has a list like this, and she carries it with her every day.