What Guys Don’t Get About Street Harassment

Just because you want to give attention doesn't mean she wants to get it.

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Let’s say it’s about to rain.

A drop falls. You don’t notice it. A couple of more come down. You feel a slight splash on your forearm. You keep walking. You’ve got to get somewhere. You never run inside out of the rain, because you’ve got places to go, people to see.

After 15 minutes of this, your clothes have some wet splotches on them. After a half-hour, your hair is wet. And if you stay outside all day, never hiding from the rain, well, then, you can get pretty darned damp.

It’s a crazy turn of events. No individual drop soacked you. There was never a moment when you were overwhelmed by a deluge. But the constant drip-drip-drip of water eventually made you look half-drowned.

You are soaked. And it is not a pleasant feeling.

All of which leads to this video, which you’ve probably heard about by now:

The striking thing about the video? Many men don’t see much of a problem with it. Take Rush Limbaugh, for example:

“I was expecting some really boorish, sexist, dangerous, I was expecting some real real rotten conduct by guys and and I didn’t see that,” Limbaugh stated, adding that while the video did capture some instances of poor behavior, “most of it, it was men being polite.”

You know what? I’m going to do something I’ve never done before: I’m going to give Rush the benefit of the doubt. And I’m going to give most of the men in that video the benefit of the doubt. With the exception of the two young men who decided to walk closely with the young woman for an extended period of time — behavior any reasonable person would find threatening from a complete stranger in 99 percent of cases — I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that none of them particularly intended to be a jerk.

Not that loudly and publicly appraising a stranger’s ass in public is actually polite, mind you. But still.

Here’s the thing: Tom’s comment can be meant innocuously. So can Dick’s. And so can Harry’s. But after a while, they all begin to build up and have an effect, like the rain. So while any one particular comment may not seem all that threatening or harassing — particularly to the person issuing it — the cumulative effect is nonetheless quite harassing. One comment is just a comment; unwelcome, perhaps, but maybe not a big deal. The hundredth in a day is a lead weight.

My dudely friends can’t quite see that, though, because they’re not really thinking about what the world looks like through a woman’s eyes. And they’re certainly not thinking about how very un-special they are in their approach, so banal that dozens of other men will repeat it in the same day. All they can apparently see is the moment itself, and even then not very far beyond the horizons of their own penis.

It’s selfish, it’s boring, and — guys, take notice here — it’s a turnoff. You’re telling a woman you can’t take the time to treat her with any more respect than any other man has. You’re telling a woman you can’t restrain your impulses. You’re telling a woman, most of the time, that you don’t even care who she is, that she’s just the sum of so many body parts.

Uh, good luck with that approach.

There’s a time and a place to meet and make the acquaintance of attractive women, guys, and that time and place is almost always where a woman most naturally feels safe. A woman on the street, by herself, may not feel as safe as she’d like, or as safe as you’d feel in the same situation. Empathy helps.

So leave the women alone on the street,  and save it for those appropriate times and places. And if tempted otherwise, just remember: You’re just one small drop of rain.

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