The other day, while reading a book, I came upon this sentence: "Sexual innuendo and harassment are a fact of life for young women."
It stopped me in my tracks with how sad and true it is.
Not a day goes by that I don't get sexually harassed by someone. At one point, I had the idea to write a post comprised of everything yelled at me on the street in one week, but I gave up when a) it happened 6 times in 3 blocks one day and b) I realized that the subtext of phrases like "Nice tattoo" is somewhat lost without the leering delivery. (I never know which "tattoo" they're referring to, but I think it might be my tits.)
This seems to happen more frequently to me than some other women. I think it has something to do with the way I dress (skirts and heels), my height (I stand out in a crowd at 5'11), and being heavily tattooed, which give guys the perfect opening line. I think also that those of us who have been assaulted and abused get a look about us, something we give off subtly that invites more victimization. I have heard the male sex addicts I know describe women like this (like me) as "wounded wildebeests." We are vulnerable, and easy to drag away from the pack. They can sniff us out, they tell me.
My boyfriend, 6'3" with an ex rugby player's build and more recently a red belt in Tae Kwon Do, has never been a wounded wildebeest, never had to feel unsafe in public. Walking down the street with him is a revelation, like stepping inside the forcefield safety of his maleness. The same guys who yelled at me coming down the street don't say shit when I come back up with him.
I bask in it, my temporary maleness.
In a way, this is a post about two separate things: sexual harrassment and sexual assault. But for women, any sexual situation that is uninvited is also dangerous. How are we to know the difference between attention that is threatening and that which is merely annoying?
Which brings me to these dudes creeping in my neighborhood and scaring the crap out of me. There is a guy who is groping women as they get off the train, and another guy or maybe 2 other guys who is attempting to rape women in similar conditions in the same area. I don't know what's going on around here -- men are losing their minds or maybe just their inhibitions.
I have been thinking lately, mostly on the walk from the train to my home at night, about what I would do if one of these guys came at me. My brain says I'll fucking kill any guy who touches me, but I'm pretty sure my body would have no idea what to do in this situation, just as it has never known what to do when under attack. I have always said no, I have always pleaded; I have never kicked a motherfucker in the nuts.
I have this fantasy where not only do I stop the guy from harming me, but I apprehend him and end up on the cover of the NY Post as the HERO who stopped the mad groper. I'm not sure how I would do this -- I picture myself planting the heel of my hand on his forehead like we used to do in elementary school when boys tried to kiss us.
Yesterday, I came home and my boyfriend told me he had something for me. It was this:
My very own pepper spray! Thanks honey, this is sure to aid greatly in my plan to catch the groper. He unwrapped it and showed me how to place my finger under the plastic flap. We practiced mock-pressing the button that will release hot chemical spray into my attacker's eyes. It was romantic as hell.
When he bought it, the guy behind the counter asked him, "What happened to you?" which we both found funny. "Nothing, man, there's a groper on the loose," he said.
They arrested someone yesterday, but it's unclear whether he's the culprit for all 14 recent attacks. And even if he is, "sexual innuendo and harassment are a fact of life for young women." There are always more guys like these. Now, I'll be ready for them.