This is a Man's World
A Collective of Women
I don’t know a single girl lucky enough to not have experienced some form of sexual harassment, no matter what age they are, what they look like, how they choose to dress, or how they interact with men.
According to a survey conducted by The Guardian, unsurprisingly, 97% of women have been sexually harassed. Ninety-seven percent. You could waste your time asking these women what they were wearing at the time. You could waste your time asking these women where they were at the time. You could waste your time asking these women how they were acting at the time. I can guarantee you that the answers wouldn’t matter. The female population spans a vast collection of personalities, preferences, and perspectives. Promiscuity, prejudice and provocativeness have no connotation to the crisis of sexual harassment. We shouldn’t be pointing the finger at women, we shouldn’t be teaching girls how to limit these situations. The responsibility lies with men to be decent human beings. I have been fully covered, minding my business, simply trying to make my way to work, and have been subjected to wolf whistles, cat calls and invasive eyes. Though, these things are nothing in comparison to the targeted harassment I’ve had to endure.
From having my bum slapped and groped with no warning or warrant, the unwanted ‘jokes’ and ‘compliments’, the expectation to ‘pay’ for favours or to be given my own stuff back, to the endless forced conversations about the ‘need to taste the whole rainbow’ after telling a man I only like Turkish Cypriot boys, the unacceptance of the word no, and the vast array of unappealing dick pics I have received without warning or wanting.
Throughout sixth form, I had a gutless boy use a Snapchat account under the name demelispeng continually send me unwarranted dick pics, pretending to be someone I knew. Every time I blocked him, he would come back under variations of that account name, spinning this story that he was just insecure and I wouldn’t like him if I knew who he was. Apparently, I liked an anonymous penis appearing on my Snapchat every so often. Firstly, can I just clear up the fact that most women aren’t aroused by pictures of your penis. We are not visual, we are mental. Dick pics do not have the same effect on women that nudes or lingerie pics have on men. Secondly, if you weren’t asked, don’t send. Speaking of, even if she is your committed partner, sticking your dick in a girl without her knowing or consenting is not a ‘nice surprise’, it is rape, girlfriend or not. Pressuring, guilt tripping and having to convince a girl to perform sexual favours is also sexual harassment. There is a big difference between a girl playing hard to get and a girl simply not wanting you. When I tell you I’m emotionally unavailable, that doesn’t mean convince me to give you a chance. When I say I’m not interested, that doesn’t mean chase me. When I say no, that doesn’t mean pester me until I give in. ‘Boys like a challenge’, but I am not a challenge to be conquered. Women are not missions to be completed or prizes to be won.
These actions and behaviours make it hard to forget that this is a man’s world. Most men believe they have a sense of ownership over women, only enhanced by the accessibility to everyone that the internet and social media has created. Not to mention the abuse and moods we have to deal with for not accepting a boys advances. One minute we’re everything you’ve been looking for, a trophy that you falsely promise the world, the next minute we’re fat bitches who need to lose weight and get surgery because we aren’t that pretty anyway and you were only trying to bang. Heal those wounds first boys, the love will be sweeter when you are.
I’m lucky enough that I haven’t been seriously sexually assaulted, and I pray that I never do have to experience this. But I barely go out, I don’t wear revealing clothing, I don’t allow myself to get drunk, I don’t stay out past 1am, I take detours to make sure there are plenty of people around, or to make sure I am in a well-lit area, I lock my doors as soon as I get in my car, I keep in contact with my parents throughout the day/night, I don’t venture to places I don’t know alone, I pretend I’m on the phone if I feel unsafe, I hold my keys if I feel a potential threat, the list of precautions I take is endless.
Many women take the same precautions and still have the unthinkable done to them. We are not saying all men, but it is enough men to have given 97% of the female population at least one story to tell. We are not saying it is just men, but there are more men that are the culprits of these stories. Hell, I’ve even been harassed by a girl, but that is just one of my many experiences. While it is no secret that men are also subject to sexual harassment, insuring themselves with exit strategies, defence devices and preventative measure is not second nature to them. I’m not a man, no, but I can probably guarantee that the fear of being sexually invaded and violated whenever they step out of the house is not top of mens’ lists.
All names of the following girls have been changed to maintain anonymity
Growing up, when visiting my family in Cyprus, men of all ages would leer at me and wolf whistle at me even though I was still a child. I know that I always looked older than my age but I still looked too young to have grown men leering at me. Aged 9 I had a sick pervert flash at me and again another when I was 15, which took place within my school grounds.
As a teenager I was approached by young men wanting to date me, asking for my number. Having grown up in a strict Turkish household I always politely declined and, in some cases, gave the excuse of being in a relationship to get rid of them, but even that wasn’t enough. Apparently ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘no’ to some men. I would be hounded relentlessly on a number of occasions and in fact one time was followed around town by a man trying to persuade me to go out with him, even resorting to blocking my path. The only thing that got him to leave me alone was the lie that my family were Turkish gangsters.
During my working life a male colleague felt it was acceptable to slap my bum. I flipped and he quickly realised his behaviour was wrong. He mistook our friendly banter as a freedom pass. One time whilst my back was turned, a customer at my workplace decided it was ok to slap my bum, an older gentleman, old enough to be my dad. I felt disgusted and taken aback, thankfully another male colleague stood up for me and called him out. The man quickly apologised but he shouldn’t have needed to be called out on his behaviour especially considering his age.
One of my worst experiences was by a man old enough to be my father. He was a business acquaintance of my dad’s, who had stopped over to drop off some stock for my dad’s restaurant. Whilst my dad popped out of the room, he decided to proposition me; he started by saying how he’d heard that I was getting married and considering that I would be losing my virginity, I could start paying him visits. I stood there in pure and utter shock, I froze and didn’t know what to say. Was he for real? I decided not to say anything to my dad at this point as I knew he would more than likely deny it and make me look stupid. Instead I walked away from him and waited till he left to tell my dad. My dad went berserk and cut all ties. I never saw him again.
I’ve even had to contend with a male relative on my husband’s side who thought it was acceptable to pull my bra strap through my top, slap my bum, stroke and touch my legs and constantly make sexual innuendos with me.
One time I went out with friends from work. I didn’t have enough money to get an Uber all the way home from Regents Street, so I hopped on the tube to get as south as possible, being Brixton, at 2am. Despite having had alcohol that night, I made myself sober up on the train so that I could comprehend everything around me and be as alert as possible. When I exited the station, a man approached me asking for my number. I kept asking him to leave me alone, but he persisted and persisted, only retreating when I told him that my Uber was coming so please go away. As he left, he told me that I had ‘bare rolls anyway’ and that I ‘need to do some sit ups’.
When I was at university, there was a heavily intoxicated man who wouldn’t stop forcing himself on me, biting my neck. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get him off me, so he continued to be aggressive, as if my struggle and lack of ability to get him away was an invitation to stay in my space. Everyone around me, including my own friends, were watching me with disapproving stares, as if I was a whore, inviting this behaviour. They proceeded to tell me to be more careful and watch who I was associating myself with, instead of being there for me after I had just been violated.
During school days, there was one boy who would touch, squeeze or slap my bum every time he walked past. He would make sure to always walk with a big group, so I’d never know who it was. I cried one time because the relentlessness became too much, but I still didn’t feel that I would be listened to if I was to say anything. I had to ask one of his friends to have a word with him.
When I was around the age of 4 or 5, we had close family friends who I saw as my grandparents. They are couple who were in their late 60s at the time. Whenever we’d go round their house and his wife would go to the kitchen, the man would persuade me to go into a room with him. He would lay me on the bed, remaining fully clothed, and would rub himself up against me. I was a child, so I didn’t understand that this wasn’t normal. Whenever I would call his wife’s name, he’d tell me to shush and wait, continuing to rub himself up against me until he was satisfied. I’ve never told anyone, so they’ve remained family friends all this time.
I was out with some friends at a popular student club. As a girl at university, there are a few rules that get drilled into you: never leave your drink out of your sight, never wander off from your mates, and never drink more than you can handle. I did everything to keep myself safe. I was walking to the toilets with a few friends, slightly tipsy, if not sober, when a man groped me. I turned around, a little stunned, to see him standing there with his friends (all male) looking pleased with the idea he’d just pinched a girl’s bum without consent. I searched his face for any sign of regret or apology, but he wasn’t looking at me, he was looking down at my body, smirking. I felt like I was invisible, but at the same time, very much on display. He was looking at my body but failing to see a person.
Another experience took place in a very different setting. It was outside, on a public street, in broad daylight. I was about to catch the bus to the shopping centre to collect an order, but I missed the bus. The bus stop didn’t have a screen indicating wait times for the next bus, and everyone knows you can’t trust the written timetables. As the shopping centre was only 15 minutes away, I decided to walk instead. Ironically, I also chose to walk because I didn’t feel safe waiting at that bus stop. A few minutes after I started walking, a drunken man caught up to me, matching my pace. He stood over me and slurred the words: “You’re beautiful.” My heart was pounding, and my stomach dropped. I ignored him and walked faster. ‘If I don’t give him any attention, he’ll get the hint that I’m not interested,’ I thought as the nervous heat pulsated through my body and rippled up to my cheeks, now burning from anxiety. “Oh, I see,” he shouted aggressively. “She already knows she’s beautiful, she doesn’t even need to say thank you!” He was insinuating that the reason I didn’t thank him for his ‘compliment’ was because I felt I was too good for him, and not because he was actually invading my personal space, on a quiet street I wasn’t familiar with. Thankfully, he dropped back when I carried on walking at a speed his intoxicated shuffle couldn’t keep up with. It was terrifying to me that this man got aggressive because I wasn’t giving him something in return, for a ‘compliment’ I never even asked for. Although his words can be taken as harmless flattery, it was the context in which they were said that made me feel unsafe. The way he reacted when I didn’t smile at him or thank him, for fear of encouraging behaviour I didn’t want to continue, confirmed to me his ‘harmless flattery’ had sinister intentions.
A few years ago, I was on holiday in Malia with my girls. We stayed at a small hotel, where the other guests were mostly fellow Brits. I stayed with two of my friends in my room, and opposite us was a room of five men, who were on some sort of rugby tour with 15 other men. Us girls were around the age of 20 at the time and these men were in their 40s. One of my friends has rather large boobs and when we would go the pool, obviously in bikinis, these men would shout things like ‘oi big tits’ at her, again and again. We didn’t say anything because we were intimidated and uneasy; there were more of them than there were of us, not that it mattered. Towards the end of our time there, we’d had enough of these men. As I stood up one day to put sun cream on by the pool, one of the men shouted “let me grab that”, to which, after being subjected to this commentary the entire holiday, I turned around and shouted back, asking if he could shut the fuck up. At this point, the whole pool area went silent, as if I was the one that had said something out of place. All this time these men had been shouting comments at us and nobody reacted but when I shouted back everyone was quiet. That night, as my friends and I had finished getting ready for dinner and stepped into the hallway, two of these men stepped out completely naked, fully exposing themselves to us, proceeding to ask, “alright ladies?” with absolutely no shame or remorse. We screamed and ran back into our room, shaken up. We waited for a while until they had gone, ran down to reception where we told the hotel manager and all they could say was “sorry about that, we’ll have a word”.
I work in a male dominated industry. Men usually hold superior titles to women, giving them more authority, and hence it gives them the false idea that they can control us, that they are invincible and can do as they please without consequence. I’ve been groped at work by my male colleagues. I’ve been sexually harassed by my male colleagues even out of hours, who have proceeded to make my job very difficult the next day. I’m not the only one. All of my female colleagues are subject to sexual harassment at work just like I am. They have even saved me from certain things happening. I never realised how bad it was at the time, so I never reported it. Looking back though, while I recognise that this isn’t acceptable, I still don’t think I could report it; I’ve been threatened by my superiors before, no one with high status would ever believe me over him.
The men committing these acts are your friends, your brothers, your fathers, your uncles, and most people stand by, doing nothing. Uncomfortable or not, they watch these atrocities happen and allow women to be subjected to predatory behaviour. This ‘boys will be boys’ mentality is no longer acceptable. We cannot excuse the actions of grown men who should know better and do better off their own accord. Who made man king of the jungle, with the right to prey on and take whatever they want? Everybody has choices in this life, from what we choose to wear, to who we choose to have sex with, to where we choose to go, no one deserves to have that choice stripped away from them.