Last week I was walking down the street on my way back to the car after finding out that the ice cream place I'd been looking forward to visiting was closed for the day. I was wearing a pair of shorts, flip-flops, and a sweater over my tank top since I'd enjoyed a nice day by myself at the beach before the weather started to drop.
When I stepped onto the sidewalk, I could sense this rowdy group of guys behind me. Call it a sixth sense that all women have but I knew what was about to happen. When we started out they were about 20 feet behind me but as I reached the corner to push the button to cross the street, an arm reached out and pressed it as well.
A guy, maybe 5 years older than me and looking kind enough, said hi. Unwilling to engage in further conversation but having been given no reason to be rude, I said hi back. That's when it took a turn for the worse.
With his buddies standing a few feet off, this guy told me he had a present for me (a python to be exact). He put his arm around my shoulder, told me I'd make beautiful babies, and ignored me when I told him I wasn't interested.
When I told him I had a boyfriend (as all girls in this situation are instructed to do), he couldn't be less bothered, throwing back a careless "Well, I don't see him here, do you?" before continuing to harass me. When I was finally able to cross the street and turned away from him to go to my car he told me to watch out before some guy raped me.
The whole situation left me shaken and a bit on-edge, anxious to get home, angry, but not feeling particularly unsafe. Despite the threatening nature of this guy (I can't quite bring myself to call him a man)'s comments, I didn't feel that his words had any weight behind them that made me feel the need to be afraid.
But the emotion I wasn't expecting was disappointment, not only with him but with myself. I was disappointed at how I'd handled the situation and, like anytime one gets some perspective on a conversation hours later, I began to think of quippy remarks after the interaction was over. So here they are: here are the 19 ways I wish I'd responded differently to the guy who harassed me on the street.
1. Told him to fuck off
There would've been nothing more satisfying than telling this guy off and I'm sad I didn't
2. Told him I was gay even though I'm not
But then his next taunt would be telling me that we should have a threesome or that he could make me straight and then we'd just be right back where we started
3. Called out his friends
What sort of shitty people stand by while their friend harasses someone. I wish I'd turned to them and held them accountable to #CheckYourBoys
4. Pushed him
If I thought that I could push or shove him and still ensure my safety, to be positive he wouldn't hurt me back, I would have. Being as it is though, that's a risk too big to realistically take
5. Asked him if he'd ever had luck with this approach
I'd be willing to bet no woman has ever started the story of how she met her boyfriend by saying "He told me I had nice tits while I was walking down the sidewalk and it's been true love ever since"
6. Give him a fake number
7. Ask for his name
Maybe if he knows I know who he is there'll be some level of accountability here
8. Look to someone nearby for help
It was 4 pm on a Monday, people were definitely around and saw what was going on. I could have asked one of them to intervene so it wasn't me against 4 guys
9. Walked away until the light changed
I could have walked to the next block or turned around to walk away until they crossed the street. But what're the odds they follow me again?
10. Waited for someone else to walk with me
Like I said, there were people around. I could've lingered to wait for the next group of people and walked near them. Larger groups tend to be safer. Why do you think women all go to the bathroom together?
11. Taken his picture
Whether I'd do anything with it after or not, I don't know. But by taking his picture hopefully I'd be able to invoke some sort of fear in him that actions have consequences.
12. Pulled out a statistic
This whole conversation on the corner could've turned into me schooling this boy on feminism, rape culture, and violence against women. Then the only thing he would've been calling me would've been "feminazi" and maybe the whole thing could've been avoided.
13. Called a friend or my "boyfriend"
Maybe if I was talking on my phone he would've left me alone
14. Been sarcastic
"Oh yes baby give it to me I've been waiting my whole life for you I can't believe I've found you let's get married and have 4 kids" would have probably been sufficient in scaring him away
15. Asked him about his mother
"Does your mother know you talk to women this way?" "Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?"
Maybe there's one woman in this guy's life he has the slightest bit of respect for.
16. Filmed a video
But who am I kidding, sharing a video of this would be like airing a premiere to a film that every woman has already seen.
17. Threatened to use the emergency response on my phone
"I can have the cops here in minutes if you don't shut up and leave me alone"
18. Said nothing
Silence is golden? Maybe if I'd just stared straight ahead from the start he would've gotten bored.
19. Agreed with him
"You'd make beautiful babies" "I know I would" Nothing makes douchebag guys more insecure than women that're aware of their own self-worth
At the end of the day though, I'm safe and that's what matters. While these other responses would've been fun or would've been a better story to tell later, what's most important is that I didn't engage him more than I did and that I left safely. Sass and sarcasm will just have to wait for the next time this inevitably happens.