In high school, college, and beyond, I’ve had many conversations with female friends about street harassment, and the conversations have almost always been disheartening. It usually goes something like this:
- Woman is minding her own business on the street, on the bus, in a coffee shop, in a store.
- Random man makes a lewd sexual remark or gesture or begins talking to her when she clearly does not want to talk with him, and then he begins staring at her cleavage or otherwise making her physically uncomfortable.
- Woman’s only instinct is to be polite even though she really does not want to deal with this man. She wants to say something clever to get him to piss off but she freezes up in the moment.
- Woman is pissed the rest of the day that that guy intruded on her space and she had no foolproof way of dealing with it.
I don’t really know what exactly can be done about this. Of course, sometimes it happens that you think up a witty retort that evening or the next day, but by then it’s too late, and you can’t really know if it would have worked to drive the guy away or if it would have just provoked him more (perhaps someone like him, who is not able to pick up on basic social cues, may take your ingenious way of shooing him away as some kind of twisted flirtation?).
What’s the solution? If you try to ignore the guy, you appear rude and/or you still feel violated. If you try to tell the guy to go away, he may feel egged on anyway.
I’m not a woman, so it’s easy for me to say this, but I think in this situation it’s best to avoid wit or politeness and just say something firm and, well, “bitchy”:
“I don’t want to talk to you. Quit staring at my breasts or face the consequences.” If that doesn’t shut up him, yell loudly, “I said ‘Leave me alone,’ asshole!” so that others nearby can hear you. If he still doesn’t, kick him in the nuts—hard.
I guess you could argue the guy was just in a pathetic way looking for attention, so that would just feed into his game. Can a woman in this situation win? Any strategies to share?