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