Catcalling, Ass-Grabbing…and Me
For years, I have been the outspoken child. The kid that always spoke when she wasn’t spoken to. The girl that always put her opinion places people didn’t want it because she knew it was valid. The girl who opened her mouth when she was being treated poorly.
Thankfully, my outspoken trait has saved me from a lot of uncomfortable situations.
But, this doesn’t mean that I’m stronger or braver or more courageous than those who have stayed quiet about sexual assault and sexual harassment. It is simply a character trait. And while that character trait may have given me the ability to forcefully say no to situations or advances, it did not help me prepare myself for the situations or advances that were forced upon me before I had time to react.
First and foremost, before I dive into my experiences, let me say that sexual assault is real. It affects both men and women, it doesn’t discriminate by gender.
But, I’m going to talk from a woman’s perspective.
Living in NYC, women can walk outside and be harassed 260 times before they reach their destination. I don’t want to say we’re used to it because that makes it seem as though it’s okay, but we’re definitely not taken by surprise anymore. Construction workers, bus drivers, homeless people, subway dwellers, cops, firefighters. It doesn’t matter what their occupation is, catcalling and harassment work in all different fields. It doesn’t matter if you’re out during the day, at night, in a snowstorm, in the summer, on the street, in a bar.
But the best part? IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT YOU ARE WEARING. When I worked at my first job out of college, there was a construction zone on the corner. Every morning at 8:55 with my coffee in hand, I would walk past a group of 10 construction workers having their breakfast. Some days, I’d be in a dress. Some days, I’d be in jeans and a big coat. Some days, I’d be in gym clothes. “Damn ma, why don’t you shake that thing over here?” “Ooh girl, why don’t you bend over and let me see what’s under that dress?”
Most days, I’d ignore them and just smile as I passed by. With headphones in, it was easy to act like you didn’t hear anything. On those days that I ignored them, their “compliments” would turn into angry and aggressive statements. “Can’t say thank you? You ain’t got no manners. Fuck you, bitch.” Or, a personal favorite of mine, “If you ain’t gonna show me what’s under that dress, I’ll come and take a look for myself.”
Those were the statements that scared me. Those were the statements that pushed me over the edge. That second angry statement, in particular, is what made me decide to say something back the next time someone harassed me like that.
But, as I said, you don’t have to be dressed a certain way to attract attention.
When I lounge at home, I like to wear a pair of men’s cargo sweatpants from Nike with a t-shirt. And usually, against all of the fashion rules, a pair of furry Ugg slippers. One night, I decided I wanted ice cream from 7-Eleven. So, I drove to 7–Eleven in that same outfit. After I spent 10 minutes deciding between cake batter or some brownie flavor, I headed to the register. Things were going seamlessly. Until a guy who was in the parking lot came into the store and got on the line before me. “What’s a beautiful girl like you doing out alone so late? I bet you’ve got a great little body under those sweats. You shouldn’t wear such baggy clothes. Show off your tight little frame.”
I was uncomfortable and didn’t want to make a big deal (typical reaction) so I smiled while saying “Just out to get my boyfriend some ice cream for when he’s off his tour.” I don’t have a boyfriend who is a cop…hell, I don’t have a boyfriend at all. After I said that, the guy left. Or so I thought. I pay for my things and head out to my car. As I’m walking, I notice the guy is leaning on the car next to mine, conveniently blocking the driver’s side door. I’m not a small girl and I can usually hold my own in situations like these so I continued to the driver’s side, but I decided to go around the rear of my car so he couldn’t block my door completely.
“You sure you don’t want to show me that great little body?” he said to me as I approached. With a dirty look spreading across my face, I replied: “dude, you’re fucking with the wrong person. You’re going to want to back the fuck up.” As my mom has always said, I have a bigger set of balls on me than most men she knows, so I use that to my advantage. I don’t think he was expecting that reaction, so he backed away with his mouth open. What would have happened if I hadn’t been outspoken (reckless) enough to say something along those lines? Would that situation have escalated? It’s definitely possible.
What about when you wear something that shows off a little bit more skin?
I’ve been a tomboy all of my life, but as I matured and grew up, I traded the football jerseys for a contouring kit, but I still hate wearing dresses. With that said, when I go to out to bars or clubs, I’m usually in a tank top, jeans and a heeled boot. Nothing too revealing, right? According to the guys who think it’s cool to grab my ass without permission, it’s just revealing enough.
*Random guy full hand grabs my ass in a bar*
Me: Dude, what the hell?
Rando: Your ass is so huge, I just couldn’t help myself. I mean, god damn.
Me: You’ve got to be kidding me. Go away.
Rando: Come on, I’m just messing around. It’s not that big of a deal…it’s a nice ass. You should want to be complimented on it.
Do we see the problem?
Also, it doesn’t matter what you post on social media!
I go to Florida a lot to see my best friend and my dad. And I recently went to Cabo for a bachelorette party. While I’m in warm places, I wear things like shorts and tank tops and even bikinis…GASP. So naturally, I share some pictures at the beach, pool, etc. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but I’m going to anyway…what a woman or man chooses to put on social media does not give you the right to feel entitled to their body. If I post a picture of my ass with the caption “Cheeks out for Cabo”, you do not have the right to solicit photos from me or grab me when you see me because, again, you just couldn’t help yourself.
This is not the first or fifth or tenth or fiftieth time this has happened to me.
This is a usual occurrence for really any male or female in any situation, in any outfit, in any place. Sexual assault and harassment have affected #metoo. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but if you grab me or harass me, I will break yours.