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For women, it is not uncommon to be on the receiving end of a typical catcall, wolf whistle, or “damn, girl!” from a male stranger. All too often, we get these unwarranted “compliments” simply because we are females walking down the street.
I found myself in this all-too-familiar situation walking to my car last Friday. It was about 8 o’clock in the evening, and thanks to the sudden onset of fall, it was relatively dark. Having just gotten my hair done (blondes have more fun, amiright?), I was wearing comfortable clothing and a bare face. Who wants to get their makeup hosed off by the hairdresser when they wash your hair? Not this gal!
I stepped into my car, made sure my doors were locked, and turned the key into the ignition.
Out of NOWHERE emerged a group of several boys, probably all around 11 years old (some were wearing T-shirts with the local middle school logo emblazoned on the front). Immediately, they descended upon my car, pounding on the windows, jiggling the door handles, and making obscene thrusting gestures with their hips. One of them stuck his tongue out and proceeded to lick my window.
My first reaction was not one of anger, or even irritation.
It was fear. Yes, that’s right, I was afraid of a group of boys significantly younger than I.
What if they get into the car? What will they do to me? Can I overtake them? Should I call someone? WHAT SHOULD I DO?!
Not wanting to peel away in my Honda for fear of running them over and being convicted of murder, I laid down on my horn. The noise, surprising the little shits, sent them scurrying away -- laughing all the while, mind you. Heart pounding, I pulled out and drove home as quickly as possible.
I didn’t tell anyone about the incident, because I was (and still am, to an extent) embarrassed. Embarrassed that a group of schoolboys could incite fear within my heart, leaving me breathless and filled with dread. The idea that these boys posed as a serious threat to my safety, in my mind, is humiliating.
“Boys will be boys.” A phrase most commonly used to justify the behavior of male youth. Is this what I can pin their actions down too? Boys simply “being boys”?
Or does this run deeper? Is the rape culture that is so prevalent in our society making its way to younger generations? Are young boys becoming so influenced by the misogyny found in today’s media that they feel in a position of power to harass females? If they deem it acceptable to sexually harass older females, what could they possibly be doing to girls their own age?
I shouldn’t have to see a group of grade school boys walking around my suburban neighborhood and feel afraid. But now I do, and in all honesty, that shames me.
And I hate it.
Have any of you readers ever been involved in a situation like this before? How did you react?