There’s nothing funny about street harassment

Street harassment is not a casual joke, it’s a serious issue that needs to be dealt with

feminism street harasment

Catcalling, street harassment, wolf-whistling. Call it what you want, it’s not acceptable. 

It’s an issue that pretty much every woman has experienced, and despite the humorous tone that it is normally associated with, it’s a bigger problem than many people realise.

It’s not the sound of the horn or the whistling that’s the heart of the issue, and neither is finding a girl attractive causing any serious harm.

But while many may see it as a harmless compliment, the reality is there’s a fine line between what you may consider a compliment and what I consider harassment.

Less of this, yeah?

The fact is that the offenders seem to have a blurred understanding of where the boundaries lie – the distinction between compliment and creeping is all too often blurred.

In my short time as a student in Birmingham, I’ve already had some ridiculous run-ins with street harassment, courtesy of the pervert’s paradise known as Bristol Road.

Birmingham's perve central

Birmingham’s perve central

There’s the beeping and shouting, which is all pretty standard stuff I guess, but it’s not long before those ‘compliments’ quickly turn into aggressive and rather sinister abuse.

I personally don’t see the allure of beeping at girls in their sweaty post-run state, but nevertheless it appears to be a regular occurrence for us girls.

What’s worse is that being beeped at is not only discomforting, but can also come from people you wouldn’t expect.

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This I know from personal experience. Believe it or not I was subject to pervy beeping from none other than a police officer driving past.

These are the people you want to go to when you want to report issues of harassment, so for a policeman to treat me in this vein is something that personally concerns me.

In my opinion, this behaviour only exemplifies the many issues of sexual objectification and prejudice which women continue to be subjected to.

Whilst many of you see it as a bit of light humour, you’re failing to understand that for many women it’s very discomforting to have your appearance constantly scrutinised and mocked.

Am I missing something sexy about these?

Am I missing something sexy about these?

Alongside the issue of what’s socially acceptable, perhaps more importantly, street harassment is often anything but complimentary.

Unfortunately I’ve also experienced the darker side of street harassment first hand.

Most memorably, I was followed by a car whilst walking to a friend’s pre drinks.

I was already quite scared that the car was following me, but when the driver pulled up next to me I was subjected to a series of sexual remarks which really got the alarm bells ringing.

And when I refused his advances things became worse, as his response was to roll down his window and produce a large, purple dildo and tell me what he wanted to do to me with it.

Although nothing came from it and I walked away unimpeded, I was definitely unnerved by the incident.

Although this may not be the norm, what some men are failing to realise is that there is a menacing, and apparently dildo-shaped aspect to this behaviour that can often make women feel threatened.

How are we supposed to know that when you wind down your window to yell something obscene, you’re not going to follow up by waving a neon monster cock in a threatening manner?

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No I do not want the D(ildo) thank you

If beeping leads to shouting, and shouting leads to uninvited sexual advances, how long before that leads to inappropriate touching or worse?

The answer is not very long. Countless friends of mine have been groped by complete strangers on the street, and if someone is completely fine with touching your breasts or grabbing your bum without permission, what else do they think they don’t need permission for?

The potential domino effect is obvious.

By failing to see street harassment as a serious issue, you also neglect the fact that small issues can grow and develop into serious consequences.

You may do it due to the current need to live up to the so-called ‘lad culture’, or you may just be releasing your insatiable desires.

But either way, screaming “Nice tits!” at 30mph isn’t going to make any girl chase you down the road for your number, so why bother?

Sorry miss, I didn't catch your name as I raced past into oblivion...

Sorry miss, I didn’t catch your name as I was preoccupied

In reality your beep was not harmless, your comments were not innocent, and your touch was not appreciated.

And of course not every man that beeps is a potential assailant, but this aspect of lad culture sends out a seriously harmful message that a woman’s reciprocation, her wants, and even her consent, are subordinate to men’s.

The rules gents, are simple: compliment a woman when she enthusiastically engages with you, touch a woman when you both want to be intimate with each other, and definitely only bring out a dildo in the safety and privacy of your own bedroom.