An Open Letter To My Street Harassers From Our Readers

A report released this week, sponsored by the organization Stop Street Harassment, stopped us in our tracks. The survey of 2,000 people found that 65 percent of women have experienced some kind of street harassment in their lifetimes. Of that 65 percent, 41 percent had been victims of some kind of public physical aggression and 23 percent had reported being groped. With those staggering statistics in mind, we wanted to share a response to street harassers from one of our readers. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that my booty don’t need explaining. However, I would still like to say a few words. First of all, it is MY booty. Not yours. Mine. Do you understand? Please do not comment on it or grab it or pinch it or smack it or cup it as you walk by. I SAID PLEASE, BUT I’M NOT ASKING AND IT’S NOT A SUGGESTION.

The other day a man told me I got “a nice phat ass” in the middle of a Starbucks. First of all, please do not sexually harass me in my place of worship! Second of all, this is not a compliment. Compliments are meant to make the compliment receiver feel good and confident and happy. Your comments make me feel nervous and vulnerable and angry. They make me want to throw up and cry. Instead of feeling proud of my “phat ass,” I want to wear baggy pants and a long shirt. This is something people who are ashamed of their bodies want to do, not people who feel complimented and confident.

I tweeted about this after it happened, and the responses from men were “When has that approach ever worked?” Sexual harassment is not about sex. That wasn’t a flirty line to try and get me into bed. Sexual harassment is about power and control. He wanted to remind me that he can say whatever he wants about my body, and no one will do anything about it (and no one did). He wants to remind me that I am a sexual object, not a human being with thoughts and feelings. My brain and heart and life don’t matter, just my body.

Last week at a bar, a man cupped me between my legs every time he walked behind me, and tried to stick his hand down the back of my pants once. This is NOT OKAY, and I really shouldn’t have to tell people that this is NOT OKAY. I can feel my blood pressure rise as I type this, I am so full of rage. Last month a man slapped me on the ass, and when I turned around to confront him, he said “sorry” as he pinched my boob. These aren’t isolated incidents, committed by a few “bad eggs.” Something happens to either me or my friends (usually both) every weekend. I see it happening to girls I don’t know. I read about it happening to girls in tweets and blog posts. And as we can see from the Starbucks incident, it is not isolated to drunk dudes at a bar.

The world is not a safe place for women. We leave the house expecting to be harassed on our way to work, on our way to class, on our way to the store, and we are rarely disappointed. We can’t be outside by ourselves once the sun sets. We have to be constantly vigilant of everyone around us, and even of our own shoes — “will I be able to sprint away in these?” And if we aren’t vigilant enough, we are blamed for our assault.

What I’m trying to say is this: Stop. Stop treating us like sexual objects. Stop touching us without our consent. Stop feeling entitled to our bodies. We aren’t here for you. We don’t belong to you. We are not our bodies. We are human beings. Did you forget?

Sarah Jezior is a college student. She dreams of one day winning a Teen Choice Award, and strongly believes that fruit is not a dessert. You can find her on twitter @sarahjez01

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  1. And this is why I wear a knife and a pepper spray with me at all time. Had to use the latter once already >_>

  2. My new goal is to shorten my fuse.
    IT is NOT okay, I do not deserve it in ANY way, I did not ask for it, and it is NOT RIGHT for anyone to make me feel poorly.
    You touch me, I will touch you, and it will NOT be friendly, or sexual, or desired.
    You say something to me that is rude, or disgusting, and i will CALL YOU OUT, LOUDLY. I will let everyone around me know, what a disgusting thing you have just done.
    If someone feels a need to do these things to women, it is not because they didn’t get what they were owed, its because they were creeps to begin with, and only went further by trying to CLAIM, what they thought was owed to them. NO ONE IS ENTITLED TO ME.

  3. Hear hear!!

    I will strive to say something from now on. Stand up for what is right. Not because you are a female and weak and need a man to stand up for you. I will do it because the reeducation of men needed to start yesterday!!! I will play my part in that any way I can. As a man I don’t live with the fear of sexual harassment so why should you!

    This saddens me so much.

  4. OMG! It’s so incredible that this is something that it’s happening to so many women. Now I can see that it’s a problem not only in countries like mine, because it’s happening in developed countries too, maybe I thought that like a way to canalize my anger. I can feel all your angry and impotence, trust me, because I had to go through that, and guess what! NO ONE helps me. and the worst is that it’s something that will still happening, always… everyday and everywhere. I can perfectly remember last saturday when I was leaving home to go to my friend’s birthday and I just didn’t reach to leave home when I was at my bedroom changing my shoes because I had to walk at night and I wasn’t sure if I could run away with them if I needed! I really, really hope this terrible thing stop someday… I can’t even imagine my daughter or sister or niece living it.

  5. Countless times have I been told to “Smile girl” or ” Look at that bounce” By men clearly past the middle age mark and other people just walking around minding my own bushiness. We should never feel harassed but it does happen more often than not. It took a while of redirecting my responses to “smile and be pretty”, I walk on with straight shoulders, eyes straight ahead and do not acknowledge their lack of decorum . Some men however, are sweet and kind and would never behave in such a manner. I have two sons whom hold open doors, are kind, and speak up when someone is being bullied. My hope is that even though we can not change those types of negative encounters directly, by paving the way for the future with smart sweet and honest men gives me hope for what is to come. ♪♥♪

  6. Interesting, I thought this didn’t happen so often in US. In Chile we have the same problems but is not unsual to hear bullshit like “is part of our culture”, “you women should be proud that someone says nice things of your body”. I think we need to stand up against this kind of gender violence. I still don’t know exactly how but the first step is to talk about it, to take away this idea from people’s mind that is OK. Best, regards, Valeria.

    • claro! es típico que uno piensa que eso solo pasa aquí porque somos mas incivilizados, pero me doy cuenta de que pasa en todos lados! claro que si a estas mujeres les dijeran las ordinarieces que nos toca escuchar a nosotras, creo que les daría un ataque!! :/

  7. When I read this, my heart went out to the author. My blood boils when I hear or read stories like this, because this is the reality of life as a woman. You can’t leave your house after a certain hour by yourself for fear something could happen to you; you can’t walk down the street without some guy shouting sexual innuendo at you or grabbing you like you’re a piece of fabric. the worst part is those you trust enough to tell resort to asking the worst questions, with the assumption you’ve done something to deserve such treatment. There’s no respect for women, and this harassment needs to end.

  8. This letter made me so angry. I found myself recalling every time I would get on a public bus, walked down the street in my neighborhood, tried to get groceries, or looked through a store window briefly. Why would this letter remind me of those moments? Because it was in those instances of absolute normalcy that I encountered the most absurd sorts of sexual harassment from men who thought they could get away with it. I say thought because I didn’t let them get away with it. As someone who as a little girl had no voice to say ANYTHING, I would not allow anyone to put me in that place again. I am not a wall that someone can spray ugly graffiti on. This made me angry because there are still so many women being treated like walls that can only stand there and be exposed to the elements of what men feel like throwing at them. Mind you, there are also women out there who sexualize men, and that isn’t right either. Most importantly, though, is the fact that no human being is subject to another persons abuse. Sexual harassment is not flattery, affection, or complementary. It’s not a source of pride for any woman. Even the women who buy into it are women who are self-conscious and insecure, and that ugly behaviour from a man only feeds that painful insecurity. It also shows the serious insecurity and damage in a man when he behaves that way, too. So in turn it helps no one and only makes the environment it has occurred in become tainted and ugly, just like the action itself. It leaves a clinging feeling of slime and awkwardness. Business establishments like the Starbucks where that occurred, should not be allowing it to happen. Patrons should not be allowed to sexually harass each other or abuse each other in any way. Honestly, there should be more training on how to handle these matters in a professional atmosphere so that the people who frequent these businesses feel safe and secure in coming back. It just makes for proper business logic to want customers to want to come back. They only do if they feel secure that they won’t be abused somewhere.

    So much was and still is wrong about these happenings that can actually be solved rather easily if only more people put their heads together and said “Enough already.”

  9. This is perfect. Thank you for putting into words the way I feel. I’m glad I’m not alone, that I’m not the only one experiencing these everyday harassments from men who think they’re entitled to say and do whatever they please. You’ve hit the nail on the head with this piece.
    I’ve come to accept that this is a part of everyday life. But why should it be? It annoys, angers, scares and revolts me in equal measure, but as one woman, I am powerless. We all need to stand together and fight for true equality. I am not a piece of meat for a man to stare at, make lewd comments at or grab when he feels like it.
    Women are told that in the twenty-first-century we are equal to men. Then why are we still being treated like second-class citizens?

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