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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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21 Responses

  1. zuzu
    zuzu June 27, 2006 at 9:41 am | *

    I had a few incidents like that when I was younger (one nice benefit of getting older is that stuff like this drops considerably. I’m not sure if it’s just that younger women are seen as less confident, or what). Once, a guy on a not-very-crowded subway pushed up against me while I was standing reading a book. It took me a little while, since I was studiously trying to ignore him, to realize that he was rubbing his crotch against me. Once it clicked, I looked at him like he had three heads and moved away. Mmm, frottage.

    I had a guy on a platform come up to me and ask me if I wanted to touch his penis, but fortunately my train arrived. But the scariest was the guy who FOLLOWED ME HOME after trying very hard to pick me up on a late-night subway. I even told him in no uncertain terms to fuck off, but he was persistent. This was when the entrance closer to my apartment closed at night, so I had to walk the long and slightly desolate way through the dark with this guy right at my side. I had to SHOVE him out my front door so I could get the locked door between us. And the worst part was, I had to take my dog (not Junebug) out, but I knew he’d be out there. So I just put down some newspaper and hoped for the best.

  2. Freeman
    Freeman June 27, 2006 at 9:44 am |

    Time and time again, I’ve tried to figure this one out. And time and time again I fail. Seriously, ask these guys what their mothers would think? I’m by no means old-fashioned, but there you go.

  3. PHLAF
    PHLAF June 27, 2006 at 9:52 am |

    This has always been a problem. I was attending high school in Manhattan in the early-to-mid 70s, commuting from Queens to the city via subway, and when I first began commuting, my greatgrandmother, in her 100s at the time, gave me a large hatpin to defend myself with.

    A very useful little tool, I might add, and offers a particularly satisfying form of revenge. Although those were the pre-AIDS days, so I guess drawing blood is no longer much of an option.

    I did like the story of the girls who used a camera phone to document their encounter with your typical subway sleaze and got even that way. That’s thinking fast and thinking smart. The reason these little piggies get their pervy ya-yas on crowded subways is because it’s fairly anonymous.

  4. Marian
    Marian June 27, 2006 at 10:00 am |

    What subways does this happen on? I haven’t seen or heard of it on the 4/5/6 or F/V between 34th St. and 53rd St., but that’s my limited current use of the MTA so I really am unaware.

    Is this happening in Manhattan or the outer boroughs?

    Either way that’s scary. I’ve generally been left alone on trains, but I did get groped once in Washington Square Park, by a desperate guy who figured my sitting in a tank top and shorts with a book on the fountain steps (along with about 100 other summer students) meant I was looking for sex…with him.

    There was also a flasher on 5th Avenue and Wash Square a few years ago. He stood there laughing and letting it all hang out until a cop car showed up.

    I could imagine that the same creeps are active on public transportation.

    I think it’s a big case of ego, just like the “Smile Sweetie” guys on the street. Guys who figure that if a woman leaves her house, for any reason, or wants to sit anywhere but her couch, that she’s looking for a date, or sex….with him!! how can anyone be that self-congratulatory?

  5. zuzu
    zuzu June 27, 2006 at 11:06 am | *

    Someone followed you home?! Oh my god, I would have peed my pants and run to the nearest police station.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t know at the time where the nearest police station was (turns out it’s very close, although it’s not a precinct). I guess I could have gone to the firehouse nearby. I tell you though, I was just too fucking annoyed at this guy to be really scared. It wasn’t until I got a locked door between us that I really thought about what had happened.

  6. Lesley
    Lesley June 27, 2006 at 12:48 pm |

    Marian, it’s happened to me on the Lexington Ave IRT. It was somewhere between 86th Street and Fulton Street. It happens in Manhattan on all subway lines. The first time I got “jostled” was when I was 17, although at that time I was riding the Paris Metro. I couldn’t move, the train was so crowded. I didn’t know what to do, so I just dealt with the humiliation until the train reached my stop.

    The last time I was 35. At first, I simply exited the train at the next station and got on another car. The creep followed me. This time it wasn’t crowded enough for him to “jostle” me without it being immediately obvious to everyone what he was doing, so he started groping me instead. I finally hauled off and rammed my elbow into his abdomen. Hard. He stopped. Believe me, if it ever happens again, I’ll just elbow the creep right off.

    BTW, for those who don’t know, “jostling” is when a man is standing behind you with his crotch up to your butt rubbing his erection into it.

  7. Marian
    Marian June 27, 2006 at 1:02 pm |

    Unfortunately, I didn’t know at the time where the nearest police station was (turns out it’s very close, although it’s not a precinct). I guess I could have gone to the firehouse nearby. I tell you though, I was just too fucking annoyed at this guy to be really scared. It wasn’t until I got a locked door between us that I really thought about what had happened

    .

    The guy who groped me in Washington Square tried to follow me too. To avoid him, I’d said, “I have a lot to do at home, so I’m going to leave.” So he got up and trailed me, saying, “Please can I come? Pleeeeease?” I ended up ducking into an NYU building, since he couldn’t follow me there (no school ID; can’t get past the guards). I stayed there until I lost him.

  8. JenM
    JenM June 27, 2006 at 1:54 pm |

    Since we don’t really have public transportation here in Texas you think there’d be less of this kind of crap – but instead you have these men hanging out in parking lots or wandering through apartment/condos doing this weird stuff. I was at the car wass when a guy did the “can I have a dollar for the bus routine” and then insists on helping me wash the car, asking where I lived, maybe we could hang out, etc.

    Recently I’d taken my dog out to pee in the common area behind my condo patio when suddenly a man appears saying “you make an old man wish he were younger and a young man wish he were older, where do you live baby?” I was hoping he wouldn’t notice my open patio door just a few feet away.

    In both cases I answered all their questions w/lies until they went away. I hate standing there smiling, pretending that they aren’t bothering me b/c I don’t want them to get mad, angry and then physically violent. But that’s how I usually handle those situations when I’m alone.

  9. Ack Ack Ack Ack
    Ack Ack Ack Ack June 27, 2006 at 2:25 pm |

    Time and time again, I’ve tried to figure this one out. And time and time again I fail. Seriously, ask these guys what their mothers would think? I’m by no means old-fashioned, but there you go.

    They probably hate their mothers.

    And these guys should just go practice yoga in one of those suburban bourgeois studios. You know, the type of studio opened not to actually practice yoga, but to capitalize off unhappily-married women.

  10. Esme
    Esme June 27, 2006 at 4:17 pm |

    I’m in a rednecky area of Florida for college, and as a girl, if you walk down the street (a necessity because of the campus and town layout) you WILL get honked at, whistled at, yelled at, propositioned, followed, etc. Most of my classes are in one of the buildings far from the dorms, and the walk back to my dorm requires a long walk along the town’s major road in a poorly lit area. I have to book it out of class as fast as I can so I’ll have someone walking with me. I’ve been propositioned by guys on bicycles as they ride on the sidewalk, had frat boys drive up alongside me to blow a foghorn in my ear, and had a van slow down, pull up almost onto the sidewalk next to me, have a man yell “WHORE” at me, and speed off. That last made quite an impression on me, since stenciled in giant letters on the back were the words “TRUST CHRIST.”

  11. piny
    piny June 27, 2006 at 4:20 pm |

    and had a van slow down, pull up almost onto the sidewalk next to me, have a man yell “WHORE” at me, and speed off. That last made quite an impression on me, since stenciled in giant letters on the back were the words “TRUST CHRIST.”

    Well, obviously, he was offering to escort you safely home by making a reference to the Bible story in which Jesus saves the woman taken in adultery from stoning.

  12. Ack Ack Ack Ack
    Ack Ack Ack Ack June 27, 2006 at 4:26 pm |

    God is his pilot.

  13. zuzu
    zuzu June 27, 2006 at 4:48 pm | *

    Are you sure it didn’t say “THRUST CHRIST”?

  14. Lesley
    Lesley June 27, 2006 at 5:34 pm |

    and had a van slow down, pull up almost onto the sidewalk next to me, have a man yell “WHORE” at me

    Which reminds me. How many men are deafened by the cognitive dissonance of yelling something lewd at you on the street, which you proceed to completely ignore, only to have them get pissed off because you dared to ignore them and then shout “WHORE!” at you? I mean, WTF?

  15. KnifeGhost
    KnifeGhost June 27, 2006 at 11:09 pm |

    I love it. It’s like they’re hoping that by yelling “whore” she’ll get confused and change her mind and have sex with him.

    Or, in the “Trust Christ” guy’s case, he thought it was a reasonable chastisement of immodesty, or something.

  16. Erika
    Erika June 28, 2006 at 1:20 am |

    I don’t know if these asshats are more likely to view young women as more vulnerable, but I do know my own experience. I never spoke up for myself when I was harassed or groped in New York. Now that I’m older, wiser, and have more experience, I absolutely stick up for myself. Public sexual harassment and groping is much more unusual in Seattle, but, the last time it happened to me, I let the bastard have it.

  17. Erika
    Erika June 28, 2006 at 1:21 am |

    Of course, he didn’t respond, but catching the brief look of shock and fear in his eyes made it more than worth it.

  18. PHLAF
    PHLAF June 28, 2006 at 7:54 am |

    The other standard piece of advice we were given back in the day was to immediately grab the hand and pull it up and shout, “Who belongs to this hand?”

    It is about anonymity and banking on the young to be vulnerable and insecure.

    There’s something so vile about shattering young girls this way. I recall being at a horse fair up in Vermont (where we had a summer house), and a man exposed himself to me. I was 8. That horrible, creepy, skincrawling, fear-filled feeling stayed with me for a long, long time, and even thinking about it now makes my stomach flip-flop. And the shame, of course, since I had such conservative Catholic parents. I knew I could never mention it to them. And then, years later, when a girlfriend and I were near-molested (someone showed up unexpectedly on the scene and intervened) in the mailbox vestibule in our apartment building, she and I both knew we could never tell our parents – that it would be construed as the two of us having done something wrong.

    You put it behind you, though, and you get tougher. Downside is you’re always a little wary when it comes to men.

    But, as low on the ladder of sexual offenses as subway groping or flashing may seem to an uninvolved person (compared to serial child rape, for example), it’s just as bad. It’s all about destroying innocence and trust and confidence.

    All those catcalls and lewd comments and little “accidental” brush-ups and so forth take their toll after a while.

  19. zuzu
    zuzu June 28, 2006 at 9:11 am | *

    A woman wrote a LTTE to the Times yesterday in which she told the story of having been flashed while reading Tolstoy. Since the offending bit was right above her book, she slammed all 1000 or so pages on it.

  20. PHLAF
    PHLAF June 28, 2006 at 10:28 am |

    Ouch! I like fast, painful retribution! Besides, the guy had to yelp, and then everyone knew who he was and what he’d been up to – again, break the anonymity factor and take charge and get in their faces, and guys like this probably think long and hard about doing it again.

    Two people have now mentioned the Lexington Ave. line – that’s what I had to take from Grand Central up to 68th St. (I went to Dominican Academy). Wonder if it’s jinxed. Or maybe it’s because so many young girls, and particularly young Catholic girls were taking that line (Dominican Academy, St. Vincent Ferrar, and then further up, Loyola, Marymount and Sacred Heart, plus Hunter College and MMC). I wonder if the powers that be will ever realize that sending a young girl out in the typical Catholic uniform is about as bad as sending her out in a G-string and pasties…

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