‘It made me really uncomfortable’: Female Soton students’ experiences of harassment
‘He was with his friend, which made it more intimidating’
TW: Sexual harassment
The tragic news of Sarah Everard’s disappearance and murder has angered and shocked the country resulting in a national conversation about women’s safety.
Many women have taken to social media over recent weeks to share their sexual harassment and assault accounts. The statistic that 97 per cent of young women have been sexually harassed in their life becoming a trending figure.
Despite the awareness on social media reducing, the issue of women being sexually harassed is still ever-present. Since the vigils for Sarah Everard, women are continuing to come forward with stories of sexual harassment they have faced.
The definition of sexual harassment “is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which: violates your dignity, makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated.”
Here are just some of the sexual harassment stories from female Soton students:
Sexual harassment on Snapchat
A boy I used to class as a friend decided to send a photo of his genitals on a group chat with both girls and boys. I felt really disappointed in him but was pleased to see some of the other boys held him accountable for his actions. However, I feel really upset the guys I counted as my friends still support him and are friends with him and I have now lost some of my closest mates because of something he did.
Sexual harassment in public
A man on an electric scooter rode past me, calling out “hey babe” and catcalling me. When I laughed, he gave me a bad look as though me not enjoying what he had said was wrong. He was with his friend, which made it more intimidating as it was two guys.
I was walking back from uni and a guy on a bike pulled in front of a girl on the pavement in front of me. He persistently asked her questions and you could tell she was uncomfortable as she kept her headphones in a tried waking away. He then continued trying to talk to her and told her to take her headphones out – you could tell that she was getting nervous.
As soon as I saw it I went over and asked the girl if she was ok and if she needed me to walk with her. The man then shouted that he was only asking for her name and started swearing at me. He then cycled off and the girl and I went separate ways.
As I carried on walking I saw him cycling in front of me and he kept on turning back and staring at me. I felt scared but also knew I had done the right thing. I went into Sainsbury’s to wait for him to cycle off but when I came out he was cycling down Bedford Place toward me. He stared at me and pretended to swerve his bike into me then carried on cycling. It wasn’t sexual harassment toward me but he was trying to intimidate me after I stopped him from harassing another woman. I feel that it really highlights why we are so scared of men and why women feel trapped when we are being sexually harassed, because men get aggressive and violent when they get turned down or stopped.
I had to go up to London, and outside a tube station a guy around 18-20 years old walked past me, smirking and was saying “you want me, don’t you?” and was staring at my legs and walked away. Later on that day, I was about to get on the tube and a man in his 40s/50s approached me and screamed at my face about the train. I told him multiple times that this train was the one he needed and he continued to shout at me, then I got on the train and he sat opposite me. He was staring at me and watching me the entire time. As soon as I got off I rushed away to the main station, which was Waterloo, and could see that he was following me. I panicked and rushed up the escalators and went into a shop where there was a security guard and waited until I could no longer see him around. It really scared me and I was actually terrified.
Sexual harassment on Instagram
I posted a photo on my Instagram story to which a boy who followed me replied I wanted to get my boobs out for attention. I don’t understand why boys don’t realise girls can’t help the size of their boobs and can’t help if they are large and therefore more likely to be seen? It felt really strange that he felt the need to comment on my boobs and made me feel really uncomfortable and self-conscious.
Harassment in bars
From experience, as a barmaid you cannot do a shift especially in a university town without being stared at, getting leered at, comments about your appearance, people touching you. I wear black jeans and a black top to work, and I still get comments about my bum or my bum slapped or comments about my outfit. If I wear a crop top or V-neck top I get comments about wanting to get my skin out and trying to impress people when I just want to get my shift done. Working as a barmaid is one of the professions where a woman is frequently sexually harassed. Even during Covid sexual harassment was still happening, and as things begin to open up again people need to become aware barmaids are just trying to get their shift done, but also that it’s inappropriate and people can’t just say what they want and do what they want because they’re drunk. They do not have dominance over a woman just because they are serving them. Working as a barmaid really exposed this and made me realise how much things really needed to change.
Women are still being harassed, not even a fortnight after our newsfeeds were flooded with posts surrounding sexual harassment. These cases demonstrate that despite the increase in the conversation surrounding sexual harassment, there is still the problem of women facing sexual harassment in Southampton.
*Names have been changed.