Yesterday, I was studying at the public library when a man (think 50 year old man) spoke to me and asked how my day was going. I responded politely to his questions and then turned back to my books to study. A few minutes later, he touched my shoulder and said, “I’m just trying to continue our conversation. Tell me more about you.” While touching a shoulder is normally innocuous and innocent, I feel that any physical interaction with someone you do not know is inappropriate.
When I said, “Uhm. I’m studying.” He continued to ask me more about myself, and it was clear he was hitting on me. He kept saying, “I’m just trying to get a conversation started here….” So finally, I said that I was married, in hopes of hinting that he should leave me alone. To no avail. So finally, I said, “I’m going to advise you to walk away from me now. You are making me uncomfortable.”
He left me alone at that point, but I couldn’t leave because I wasn’t sure if he would lurk outside the library, be sitting near by staring at me, or be otherwise inappropriate towards me. I had to sit glued to my seat until I was 100% certain that he had left, and even when I was sure he had left, I told the librarian that there was a man making me uncomfortable before leaving. Because, in the off chance that he would hold some sort of weird grudge and be outside to follow me home or do something weird, I needed to have told someone.
I had a friend tell me that my concerns were overkill, but I know different. It’s better to be safe. When I spoke to this man, I felt that he was not normal and I had reason to be concerned. Not only did he make uninvited overtures at me, but he also put his hand on my shoulder. I was seating facing the desk, and he stood directly behind me. Put his hand on my shoulder and started talking to me. Since I was seated, his position behind me was uncomfortable to speak with someone and I wouldn’t have been able to leave without touching him more. The positioning and the actions this man made were overly aggressive and made me extremely uncomfortable. I felt unable to leave and trapped. I doubt that any woman would feel comfortable in this situation. Not to mention that he was a good 30 years older than me and extremely creepy in personality.
I understand that it is difficult for all men to approach women, and it takes a lot of guts. However, just because it takes courage to approach women, does not mean they have the right to be aggressive and rude. Obviously, this does not apply to the majority of men that I have met, but there is a shocking number of men that lack this sense of boundaries and continually make me uncomfortable.
I worked in an office where a partner reached out and touched my hip as I passed by. He said, as he touched me, “That skirt looks really nice on you.” It was horrifying, and I didn’t know how to respond. He controlled my paycheck and I had been hoping for a recommendation from him when I finished working for him. It took me two days to return to the office, tell him that I would not be returning because he made me feel so uncomfortable by touching me and commenting on my physical appearance.
I shouldn’t have to tell people NOT to touch me uninvited. I should not even have to write this, but I feel like I should because I know this has happened to many women and it’s simply not okay. Being touched, no matter how lightly, when unwelcomed is extremely upsetting.
One of my male friends told me that I should be flattered by the attention. In his words, “Getting hit on is a huge compliment. Don’t be sensitive. They just want to let you know they think you’re hot.”
But you know what? It’s not okay. It’s not a compliment and I hate it. It’s not innocent. I know first hand how crazy and threatening people can be when they are trying to get attention.
- I’ve had someone stop their car in the middle of traffic to ask me for my number… and that car continued to follow me on the street until I ducked into a store and asked for help. The car circled the block 3 more times before giving up and driving away. He didn’t even touch me, and he managed to be so creepy that 3 years later, I still hate walking down the street alone. I walk in the opposite direction of traffic now so it’s harder for people who stop and follow me.
- At a bar, a man grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let go when I refused to give him my name. He twisted my arm so hard I had bruises for days afterwards. He followed me out of the bar, and ran down the street after me shouting. I had to jump into a nearby cab to escape him. He rattled me so badly, I refused to frequent any of the bars or shops in that part of town for several months.
- My friend and I were walking to dinner, when someone ran between us and linked arms with us. He was drunk, and insisted that we tell him our names and “hang out.” When we tried to extricate ourselves from his grasp, he shouted profanity at us and told us, “I hope you get raped and murdered.” Seriously? What?!
It’s pathetic that the desperation of a few people ruins any semblance of safety and feeling secure enough to walk somewhere alone. I know that my experiences are not even the worst ones, and I know that many other women have felt the same type of intimidation by overly aggressive men.
The moral of this whole long post? Don’t touch. It shouldn’t have to be spoken. We should know that we don’t like being touched by strangers, and therefore we shouldn’t touch other people either!!!
Have you had experiences where you felt that someone touched you in an aggressive way? Do you think that touching a stranger’s shoulder is an acceptable form of getting their attention?