It’s always been there, you just didn’t want to see.
***TW: Sexual Harassment Content***
Over the past month at least 20 high profile men have been accused of sexual abuse towards younger individuals. As more and more men are being accused society seems to be acting so shocked at this news. People are shocked at the number of men being accused, who is being accused, and the number of people accusing those men of abusing them. We are shocked that these men that we have come to respect have done such terrible acts. The reality is live in a society that a man can be respected regardless of his abusive past, or even elected President. Nothing about these stories should be shocking while we have a sexual abuser running our country.
I am only shocked by one thing, how shocked everyone around me is. My shock stems from the fact that these kinds of stories happen everyday and are all around us, and we just don’t want to notice. A typical day for women is filled with many instances of sexual harassment from small to big. For example, here is what a day in the life of a woman looks like.
I woke up on my day off and wanted to have a relaxing day at a coffee shop. After a long week at work I wanted to do some self care and do my makeup and put on a pretty dress. I wanted to take myself out on a date. I got all ready to go and began my short walk from my apartment to the coffee shop on the beach. This walk takes around 5 minutes. As many woman do I put my headphones in and sunglasses on so I can avoid unwanted sounds and divert my eyes from strangers easily. As I wanted along the beach I passed by a pizza place where 7 men began to cat call me as I passed by loud enough that I could hear it over my music. I turned around to see their faces looking me up and down, while one even pointed at me. I turned around walked faster and tried to ignore them. All of these men were 50+ years of age.
I got to the coffee shop and tried to brush off what had just happened to me because it wasn’t like it was anything new. I got my coffee and food and stood there strategically looking at the porches layout to pick the right table. I purposefully picked a spot in the back corner of the porch to avoid people’s eyes. This was a fruitless effort. Within 20 minutes a group of old married couples came to get ice cream at the shop next door and sat down a couple tables away from me. When I looked up from my laptop I locked eyes with three of the men staring at me. I quickly diverted my eyes and tried to act busy on my laptop. When I looked back up only one was looking now. Even as I looked away I could feel his gaze looking me over. When I turned back to look for a third time his wife had noticed what he was doing. Instead of telling her creepy husband to stop staring at this girl, who was young enough to be his granddaughter, she turned to me to give me a nasty look. She continued to do so until the group was done with their ice cream and left.
Not five minutes after this incident another man in his 40s approached me. He was wearing a button up shirt with all but the lowest button open, thick chest hair trying to be shown off, seven thick silver chains, and white hat turned to the side. I saw him walking towards me along the glass divider that separated us. I viciously kept my eyes locked on my computer screen and earphones in as women have been taught to do when ignoring men. He came up to me and stared at me through the glass divider for at least a minute trying to move around to grab my attention. He then moved forward as to be in my eyeline even when I was looking at my computer. He waved and began trying to talk to me. I continued my efforts to ignore him hoping he would get the hint and leave. He clinked on the glass and began talking louder. I turned to him and told him “no sorry,” waving my hand in his face. He kept talking and I kept repeating that, so he continued to talk louder. I told him I was working and need to focus and he told me “let me buy you a drink.” I responded “I don’t want a drink, please go away.” He got mad and kept berating me to let him buy me a drink. Every time I repeated “I don’t want a drink, please go away.” He then began telling me how beautiful I was and asking if I had a boyfriend. “Please leave me alone,” I responded. He pleaded with me that I was too pretty to be alone. I looked him directly in the eye and said “Please go away.” He got mad and left. I turned away and fought back tears that I could feel pooling in my eyes. I tried to shake it off but I couldn’t and I feared he would come back so I got up and left.
I walked to the beach and sat down thinking that watching the sun hit the waves would calm me down. As I sat down one man approached me on my right side and perched 5 feet away from me. He would occasionally look over and stare at me. Every time I took out my headphones he would move closer to me, until he was right beside me. This time I didn’t take out my headphones but he still tried to talk to me. He got the hint and then gave up and left. A second man came over and was talking on the phone. He lounged next to me and stared me up and down while on the phone. He stared at me for close to 20 minutes until he hung up the phone then sat down next to me and kept scooting closer. He began talking, just like the other man had, and I ignored him. He then touched my arm to get my attention. I took out my headphones and he began speaking to me. I gave him one word answer and then put my headphones back in. He stared at me for a second and then shook his head angrily and moved. I couldn’t see him in my peripheral vision and I froze. I became terrified that he was behind me and would try to grab me. I didn’t see him walk away for two minutes and then eventually I saw him walk away and not come back. I broke down and started crying. I grabbed all my stuff and quickly started walking home.
As I was walking trying to hide my tears a car pulled over to honk at me while the men inside whistled and and ogled at me. I walked faster and they slowly followed me down the street. I would turn around to see if they were following me and they would just wink and keep whistling. I walked even faster just trying to make it home. I was shaking with fear on the verge of a breakdown. I finally made it home, looking over my shoulder every second to make sure the men in the car hadn’t followed me. I sprinted upstairs and when I got inside I collapsed. I sobbed while telling my roommates what had happened to me. That day my body wasn’t my own.
I had felt so harassed and dehumanized like I was a piece of meat these men could enjoy. To these men I was nothing other than a pretty face to prey on. I couldn’t look myself in the mirror because I hated myself. I hated the fact that I had gone outside all dressed up, and blamed myself for these responses. I believed because I went outside in makeup and a dress, I asked for this. Although everything in my body told me that was wrong, my victim blaming instincts took over. I felt like a slut and so dirty. I could still feel these men’s gazes. I sat in the burning shower crying and scrubbing myself raw just trying to feel clean.
I then thought about all the people who I had seen recently posting about being surprised about these accusations, and I got angry. I became angry because I knew that they were the people all around me today. They were the bystanders that watched these men harass me and either did nothing or blamed me for these males actions. These people were shocked because they weren’t paying attention to the horrors around them. They had been socialized to turn a blind eye, and that is exactly what they had done. They were shocked because these were older respectable men, yet every single one of the men who harassed me that day was over the age of 40. Age does not dictate respect, and does not make them immune to preying on young girls. In fact older men are my worst harassers. This is what it is like to live a day as a woman. Some days are worse and some days are better. So when you read about stories about sexual assault and harassment the reality is you don’t get to be shocked. It was there are along you just didn’t want to see it.