Even the thought of simply writing this five letter hashtag to join all of the brave and beautiful people speaking out about their experiences of sexual assault and harassment made me shudder. Why would I want anyone to know I have experienced something like this? What if whoever treated me this way were to ever somehow know or find out about me speaking out? I don’t think I will ever be in a place where I will want to share my experience online, and I think that simply saying I have experienced something like this will be enough.
In October the most amazing yet upsetting thing happened – #MeToo trended. It was so uplifting to see the impact it has had on social media, the amount of people coming forward with their experiences was both an absolute wakeup call and realisation to the men of the world (I am aware that this is not all men) and an absolutely heartbreaking thing to see. It was a tearful moment to see so many men also come forward about their experiences of being assaulted, whilst also being ridiculed for it by other men for being ‘pussies’ for letting it happen to them. I can only hope that this movement has brought light to how common this issue actually is and how much needs to be done for our society to change on the way men are brought up to view women.
Aside from my experience, like most women I have experienced different forms of sexual harassment and sometimes assault reguarly. Back in September I went on a work night out to bongos bongo. I had an amazing night, but the end of the night and the journey home was absolutely awful. As I am the only person that lives in my area at work, I had to get a taxi back to my house on my own. No biggie, I have traveled alone in a taxi many times, but this time was different, this time I felt unsafe. Aside from the fact he HIT A BOY and DROVE OFF, as soon a I sat in the taxi, the taxi man started to question me on whether or not I had a boyfriend, and started to ask questions about him, like where he lived etc. This man then proceeded to tell me that I was ‘absolutely gorgeous’ and that my boyfriend was ‘extremely lucky.’ I got extremely bad vibes from this man, he made it quite clear to me that he was being inappropriate and creepy. Some men may see this as a compliment. I have read many a comment on Facebook and I’ve come across many men that have told me this kind of thing is okay. And I have to ask, why? Why is it okay to be so inappropriate? During a taxi ride home, I should not expect to be preyed on by a man double my age who knew I was in a vulnerable position. If it makes someone feel uncomfortable it is not a compliment. I did the right thing and complained to the taxi firm I used the very next day and they were incredibly lovely about it.
I have been told the similar things numerous times by a man that works in the shell garage across the road from where I work. I would always go in there to buy a few bits for lunch when I first started my job, but now I avoid going in there as much as I can, because I know he is bound to say something inappropriate, and I shouldn’t have to do that. I will not take it as a compliment and I never will. I never knew what to say, it is hard to know how to react to somebody that says things like that to you.
A few years back, when I was around 18 years old and first started going out into town, my group of friends always used to get picked up by our favourite taxi man, Sully. We used to call his private mobile number every time we went on a night out because we knew he would pick us up right away and take us to a takeaway, cut the queues and let us eat in his car. He seemed to take a liking to me which I never thought anything of, and then things started to get strange. He rang me one day and I presumed I’d left something in the back of his car, but I hadn’t… he was just ringing for a casual chat. I thought it was very strange and so I decided not to call him again. I was then told by several friends that still got picked up by him that he would always ask about me, even two years down the line. Sully could have been totally innocently just trying to be friends with me, but the way that the world is, and the way that men in our society are as a whole lead me to be very wary of him.
Many, if not all women will be able to say that, like me, they too have been whistled at by builders, men in white vans have beeped at them and men have shouted abuse at them from their cars, from the other side of the street or even in public places like pubs and clubs. This started happening to me when I was walking to secondary school, I’m going to guess around the age of 12. Looking back on it, I realise just how absolutely vile it is. I often wonder why men do this. Is it for their self esteem? Is it for a laugh with their mate? It sure as hell isn’t because they want to get with me. Can you picture me turning around and chasing a car down the street to follow a man that has just shouted “you’re fit mate, I wanna f*#k you” screaming, “wait for me!! You are the man of my dreams, let’s go on a date.” No, I didn’t think so either.
Men think they own women. It’s not an over exaggeration. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way shape or form tarring all men with the same brush. There ARE gentlemen out there, like my boyfriend who I am lucky to have found (what a gem he is). But it seems to me that the majority of men seem to think they can say what they want and do what they want to women. The same night as the disaster taxi journey home from bongos bingo, a random boy who we got chatting to, who was actually on his own stag do tried to kiss me. I had to duck out of the way and he ended up kissing my head instead. I hadn’t given him any idea that I would ever want to kiss him, yet he decided it would be a good idea to try. WTF. I got a picture of him and kinda thinking I wanna share it on social media to warn his future wife.
I can garuntee that at least 99% of my gal pals or any ladies I meet will tell you that they have told a man they have a boyfriend/girlfriend to get them to leave them alone, even though this may not be the case. In every instance I have told someone that’s hit on me a big fat no, they have asked why. Every. Single. Damn. Time. Why do we have to provide men with an answer? Why can’t they just accept it? Because these kinds of men think that they own women and they respect the ‘boyfriend’ more than they respect the girl and her boundaries. The times that I have told men that I had a girlfriend to warn them off it has either gone one of two ways… Reaction 1) man getting excited about prospect of threesome, resulting in him becoming more of a pest; Reaction 2) man totally put off because they think I’m a lesbian. Why should women have to come up with excuses to say no to a man, and why do men have to view women as objects and not real people?
I’m sure that a lot of women will also be able to say that they have been touched where they wouldn’t like to be touched in either a club or bar, or even in a public place in the day time by a man they either did or didn’t know. One time a boy actually tried to grab my lady parts as I walked past him in a club. It is shocking and it shouldn’t be happening. I understand that this kind of harassment and abuse can also happen to men, but I also understand that the vast majority of these incidents happen to women too. And that is because a) we are typically more vulnerable than men, and b) society. It is also important to remember that behind every incident of either a woman or man being harassed, there is a man that harassed them. When we address these issues we need to stop putting so much focus on the victims by teaching young girls how to avoid rape and dangerous situations, and place more importance on teaching the next generation of men to NOT get sucked into the dangerous hole of rape culture and know the right way to speak about, treat and view women from an early age. Maybe then we will create a society where men as a whole respect women, and maybe sexual harassment and abuse won’t be as common and normalised like they are now.
I’ve got to the point now where I just expect at least two cars to beep at me with the occasional shout out of the window every time I walk to my boyfriends house from work. It has become the norm. And it has become the norm for men to have this kind of behaviour towards women which is exactly the kind of attitude that is so wrong with our society. We are not objects, we are people too and we deserve to be treated with respect. I came across a video a few years ago which I will try to find and link below, where a man is seen walking the streets as normal and women are screaming abuse at him and it is so shocking, like literally shocking. I remember being seriously appalled by it. If that had been a girl receiving abuse from males it wouldn’t have been half as shocking because we are used to it as a society. It’s time that this changed, and I know we are a long way off… which is the saddest thing. I just hope that the next generation of men are taught by their parents to treat women with the respect they deserve, and I know that if I ever have a son I will do exactly that. If that is even only a small contribution to the next generation of women then I will be happy. If this post also reaches just one person that treats women this way and makes them realize how bad it feels to receive this kind of abuse I will also be very happy.
I decided to write about these incidents where I have been sexually harassed within this blog post to show that it is not out of the ordinary for this kind of thing to happen women, and to show just how much it can happen to one person alone. Sexual harassment and abuse are extremely common within our society and I don’t think people realise just how common it is. I hope that any men reading this will be able to recognise how much of an issue this is, as most men that don’t have this kind of behaviour and attitude towards women don’t even realise this is happening on this kind of scale. I also hope that any women that have read this understand that they are not alone. The sexual abuse I have experienced that I do not wish to talk about is something I am still trying to get over and is I still have battles in my mind about it. There are many women and men out there that have gone through a lot worse and have shared their stories to make people like me know that they are not alone. I want to say a big thank you and send lots of love to the people that shared their stories with the Me Too hashtag, and also send love to the people out there that either didn’t have the courage or didn’t want to speak up. I love you very much and you are strong xxx
Thank you for reading this very different and negative post. I will be posting something a lot more positive next, I promise.
Update – I couldn’t find the video I was talking about, but instead I found an equally shocking video of a woman being cat called 108 times in 10 hours of walking around New York. If you are reading this as a man that either finds it okay or maybe you even do it, please watch this and have a re-think. This is sexual harassment and the attitude that leads to more serious cases.
Part time designer and illustrator and full time traveller. Thanks so much for stopping by. If you want to find out more about me visit my about me page :) Laura x