Thursday night, I’m walking past a shop when a member of staff calls out, demanding that I “come here” amongst other things. Then I experience one, two, three separate incidents of catcalling, all in an 8 minute walk to my house.
“Are men are scrambling to make up for the four months we were inside and thus unavailable as subjects for their torture/entertainment?”
Friday night, I’m standing on a platform, nervous about being on the tube for the first time in months. I feel a touch on my bum and turn around to see a man wearing a half smirk/half apologetic look on his face. Then I’m walking with two girl friends when a man grabs my arm, locks it in his, and pulls me close to “talk to me.”
Saturday afternoon, a man comes up close to me and whispers “sexy” in my ear.
This is probably more catcalling (weird word for sexual harassment by the way, I am not a cat and I for one do not tell my cat to “come here sexy”, or touch her inappropriately, or touch her when she doesn’t want me to) than I experienced the whole of January-March before we went into lockdown, and it all happened in under 48 hours. I exchange furious voice notes with my girls – all of us reporting similar post-lockdown experiences. Are men are scrambling to make up for the four months we were inside and thus unavailable as subjects for their torture/entertainment?
Of course, I do recognise that these efforts by men are not always unreciprocated – flirting with a stranger, when done in a way that both parties enjoy and feel safe in, can of course be nice, and after months of being locked in the house I can imagine that a lot of us have missed romantic company and would be excited for this. I also recognise that the London dating scene is a bit erm, dry, to say the least. But how can we make it so that we don’t have to experience these unpleasant, paralysing experiences when we don’t want them?
“You ruin my day, my mood, you make me feel like a piece of meat, raw and exposed and yours to be mauled.”
Personally, in this current moment, pulling/groping/shouting at me is not going to make me want to engage with you in any way. Especially when I DO NOT know you and HAVE NOT consented and we are in a GLOBAL FRIKKIN PANDEMIC which means I’m going to need you to keep that 2 metres, sir. The only reason why I would engage you is to:
1. Preserve my safety – womxn being further harassed, badly harmed or even murdered for turning down advances is unfortunately not uncommon at all.
2. Knock your fucking block off.
You ruin my day, my mood, you make me feel like a piece of meat, raw and exposed and yours to be mauled. You trigger memories of more serious and traumatic experiences of sexual assault that I have experienced – one of which happened when I did take a chance and entertain a stranger’s advances.
To all my fellow womxn out there that have experienced similar things, I see you and I feel you – I don’t exactly have the answers, for now all I feel able to do is continue to share these experiences and encourage others to as well, no matter how “small” they seem, and protect myself and others as best as possible, judging each situation as it arises. I recommend you do the same, vent to your friends, discuss tips and tactics, and play safely!