Sexually Harassed

Every day I go to work in downtown San Francisco. I get dropped off outside the BART station near my house, ride a train for ten minutes, and walk approximately 100 feet outside another BART station to get to my office. It's a very short trip, especially in terms of the number of steps I take that are actually outside.

Every day, I am catcalled, propositioned, lewdly complimented, or generically hit on by a man at least once on my way to work and at least once on the way home. Often, it's more than that. I literally can't walk outside my house or out of my office without having some guy try to foist himself on me.

Of course, when I'm canvassing on the street for five and a half hours a day, this effect is multiplied tenfold. It's true that pretty much all canvassers are attractive by society's silly standards. It's part of how we make money, and I of course use that to keep my average high.

Even when I'm not trying to attract a donor, though, I garner a lot of unwanted attention. The other day, a fellow female canvasser and I were waiting for a bus and a man driving a Mercedes pulled over, asked if we were dating each other, and then told us "I'd put that on my tongue." It's gross, and it happens all the time.

I'm damn sick of this. It's driving me crazy. I have to fend off sketchy men almost constantly, and it's to a point where it's a big burden. I'd love to be able to just walk down the street without having to think of some witty rejoinder or feeling awkward and rude as I ignore a come-on. Even just having to respond to this shit takes up a decent amount of time and energy that I'd much rather spend on better things.

The thing is, I don't do anything to bring on this attention. I just happen to be at an age and in a physical condition that makes me fit the arbitrary beauty ideals that our society holds over everyone's head. I didn't choose this, it's just the fact of my person. It's a fucked up consequence of being "attractive" that I then have asshole men assuming it's okay to oggle me. I become an unwilling participant in their show of masculinity: hey, look at me! I'm attracted to a pretty woman! This proves I'm a man!

I actually really look forward to getting older and being less "ideally" attractive. I know for a fact that anyone at all can be really sexy. It's all about confidence and feeling sexy and projecting that attitude onto other people. Anyone can do that, no matter how they look, and it's something you get to choose.

When I'm older, I won't have to be perceived as sexy all the time just because of how I look. I'll get to be sexy when I feel like it and towards the people that I pick. It'll have so much more to do with who I really am and what's actually sexual about me than this annoyingly arbitrary body I've got and the gender role that goes with it. I'll get to actually have some choice about it, some control over the mode in which I'm interacting with people.

I suppose I don't know for certain that this is true, and it's certainly true that one can never control anyone else's actions or reactions. Gender roles will still suck and I'm sure it'll be annoying when I'm feeling sexy and other people don't pick up on it. I know there are two sides to this beauty ideal coin and that they both rather suck. I'm just really fed up with being sexually harassed on the street every day, and I'll be glad when it stops or even just happens less often.

4 comments:

Aviva said...

I'm completely with you. The catcalling, lewd comments, and eye-undressing is all imminently frustrating and awful. I hate it, too. For some reason though, and this may be something to consider even though I don't know why it is, this sort of behavior is very different depending on where you live. No disrespect to San Francisco, a city I love, but I do find the time I've spent there I was more vulnerable to that kind of unwanted attention than, say, in cities like New York or Chicago. Not that sexual harassment doesn't happen in those cities--far from it!--but I've found it's not as obvious or more easily ignorable, which I think probably has more to do with regional attitudes about public behavior (say, on the street) than anything else. Of course, that doesn't stop men from making inappropriate comments in spaces like grocery stories and the like.

The worst part is that some men actual think they're flattering you with their attention when, at best, I just find them weird and, at worst, they completely creep me out.

Paradox said...

It would certainly be nice if it happened less often once I move to NYC. I know there's no place where it's completely absent (no city, rather) but it'd be nice to have a break from the constant barrage.

I've been considering responding by just seriously and calmly saying "Look, dude, when you do that it makes me uncomfortable. It makes most women uncomfortable, and I know this because we all talk. Please stop it."

Lord knows it probably wouldn't change anything, but it might make me feel better about the whole situation.

Anonymous said...

"When I'm older, I won't have to be perceived as sexy all the time just because of how I look."
But for men pretty much sexy = looks, so no looks = not sexy for men, mostly (and by "mostly" I don't mean that there are some men for whom this isn't true; I just mean that for some men it matters less some of the time, when they're with some women).

"I'll get to be sexy when I feel like it and towards the people that I pick."
Except that you won't have that much to choose from; see above.

"It'll have so much more to do with who I really am and what's actually sexual about me than this annoyingly arbitrary body I've got and the gender role that goes with it."
You'll always be part of some "gender role" or another, and your body is part of what's "actually sexual" about you, one way or another, not just because of health issues, but because no one is just their body or just their personality: the two influence each other, and you can't have one without the other. You're relationship with your body, including how other people respond to it, is and always will be part of your personality.

"I'll get to actually have some choice about it, some control over the mode in which I'm interacting with people."
Except that when you're older you're going to find yourself in the position that most men are most of the time: attracted to more people than you can attract.

Paradox said...

"Gender roles will still suck and I'm sure it'll be annoying when I'm feeling sexy and other people don't pick up on it."

You're obviously right that gender roles will still mean problems. I know I'm exaggerating in my head when I imagine how much better it'll be when I'm older. I'm sure feeling invisible is just as bad as feeling imposed upon. I mostly say that because I know some damn sexy older people who may not fit beauty standards. Honestly, I kind of hope now to only end up with the sort of people who can see that despite whatever physical shit, and I'm sure it'll apply when I'm older, too. I appreciate, though, that it's complicated. Like I said, there are two sides to the objectification coin.

On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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