29 Things Women Avoid Doing to Circumvent Sexual Harassment

I would love it if my readers checked out this link: it is dead-on.  I have done all the things on this list as well as the following (Note: this is not necessarily a list of what women should do to avoid harassment, but what many women actually do on a regular basis.  Ideally, you wouldn’t/shouldn’t need to do these things.):

-No longer going to cafes/restaurants alone – even though reading/working at coffeeshops used to be a favorite pastime – because there is a high chance that random creepy strangers will approach me, and interrupt what I’m doing to hit on me/give me unwanted attention.

-No longer taking walks/jogging outdoors, even in daylight.

-Purposefully dressing frumpily to avoid looking pretty/the least bit glamorous.  I now avoid dresses and skirts like the plague.

I would also like to highlight the parts of the list that accurately apply to me:

-Actually becoming suspicious of any/all men on public transportation, just because I have had too many instances where one tried to hit on me, and didn’t relent after I said I wasn’t interested;

-Avoiding eye contact/smiling.  You know that awkward moment sometimes when you accidentally make eye contact with a stranger?  50% of the time this happened with a male, he took it as an opportunity to hit on me (not cool.)

-Avoiding small talk with strange men.  In my experience, if a strange guy approaches you with a seemingly innocent questions like “do you know how to get to….? or “what is the time?”, they are just looking for an excuse to converse with you.  This in itself isn’t a problem, but like I mentioned before, many people don’t leave you alone when you express disinterest in having a conversation.

-Being the target of staring (always creepy and rude.)

-Being afraid to meet by myself maintenance guys, electricians, and landlords because they have tried to hit on me in the past.

29 Things Women Avoid Doing Because We Fear For Our Safety

Aaand finally…Annoying typical reaction whenever I complain about the above situations:

-Being told that I shouldn’t complain and just get over myself by people who have not had the same experiences.  This is in spite of the fact that many of these people openly complain about how they hate small talk, don’t like it when random people solicit them (usually for charity donations and such), and being bothered by strangers in general.  However, if I complain about it, I’m being irrational and paranoid.

When is it okay to NOT be sexy?

I wanted to revisit this topic since I last wrote about my opinion on sexual objectification.  I feel that feminists are collectively conflicted as to whether being sexy is inherently degrading or if it is..just whatever.  I really, enjoyed this opinion article, Practically Feminist, which touched upon some ways sexuality may make some feminists uncomfortable.  I wanted to further explore what it means for women to be sexually objectified, and how prevalent it really is.

Personally, I consider it a bit extreme to say that every time a woman wears make-up, works out, or is attracted to a guy, she is sexually objectifying herself.  I have read these opinions on some mainstream feminist blogs.  I think it is unrealistic, and unhealthy, to completely decouple sexual desires and grooming from women’s liberation.  These are basic human instincts.  It is not abnormal to take care of your appearance and want to appeal to potential mates.  Of course, prioritizing one’s appearance over other vital aspects of life – such as your health, relationships, and activities – is when it gets problematic.

However, I have also noticed some odd attitudes from both men and women.  People look at me like I’m a freak when I show up to the beach wearing a one-piece bathing suit with water shorts.  “Why don’t you just wear a bikini??!  You’re skinny enough!”

Here is the thing, dear readers: I just do not feel comfortable wearing a bikini to a public beach or pool.  It would feel like showing up in my underwear.  I would feel naked and exposed.

However, I have trouble expressing this because people might automatically think I am criticizing their fashion choices.  I am open-minded enough to understand that while I may not like wearing bikinis, I won’t chastise other people for doing so.

Similarly, I had an experience where I had to turn down a belly dance performance because the dance studio we were collaborating with would NOT accept any other costume choice other than a coined bra.  While coined bras have become the normal belly dance costume choice, I stand by the fact that if you dance in a bra, people will be paying attention to things other than the dancing.  But again, while I respect other people’s decision to wear what they wanted, I stood by my right to wear what I was comfortable in.

I have also gotten questions about why I like to dance lyrical hip-hop – a type of dance that is very active and fast-paced, but not seductive or sexual.  I have gotten comments that the dance is very unfeminine and “tomboyish”, even though all of the other people I dance with are…women.  People don’t understand why I, a post-pubescent girl, don’t dance to look sexy, but just because I like dancing.

Now, I am not against being sexy.  I just choose to flaunt it on certain occasions, such as when I’m going on a date with a guy, rather than all the time.  What has been weirding me out since I turned 18 is that young adult women are expected to look and be sexy around the clock (or at least, that is how it seems based on people’s reactions to my choices.)

However, some questions I have are: What does it mean for a man to be sexy?  Do people react the same way to a woman in a bikini as they do to a guy in swimming trunks?  (Another version of this questions is, when career coaches warn you against posting Facebook pictures of you in a swimsuit, is this implicitly directed to both women AND men?  I have some reasons to doubt this!)  Are men expected to carry out all their activities with their sexual attractiveness in mind?  I actually know many guys who explicitly admitted that they learned how to play guitar, and went into sports, because they knew girls liked it.  Therefore, is sexuality as problematic for men as it is for women, and should it even be a problem?

I’m still figuring this out, and would love to know your opinion.

The Nice Guy Syndrome in Mainstream Media

Three days ago, a 22-year-old guy by the name of Elliot Rodger went on a shooting rampage after posting a video claiming he wanted to avenge women for rejecting him, and for being the reason he was a virgin.  (Ironically, the majority of his victims ended up being men, as he failed to break into a sorority house he targeted.)  Since the incident, many have been describing Rodger as an extreme manifestation of the “Nice Guy Syndrome” – a popular term used to describe a condition where males think women are obligated to reciprocate any romantic interest/advance, and that they automatically victimize men when they don’t.

I consider Rodger to have been on the extreme end of the spectrum of very disturbed, warped minds.  He is exceptionally disturbed even in the context of the demographic of men who identify as “incels” – involuntary celibates who have been wronged by women who deny them sex.  I discovered the online ‘incel’ community about a year ago, and was very chilled by the comments I read on the forums.  They are seething with red-hot hatred, resentment, and misogynistic attitudes.

These are definitely extreme manifestations.  But what I find bothersome is how the ‘nice guy syndrome’ is ingrained in everyday attitudes.  Even innocent, well-meaning guy friends who haven’t had much luck with women have described their predicaments in the framework of “another nice guy who can’t get a girl.”  It is also everywhere in pop culture.

It usually goes like this: a geeky, plain guy pines after a pretty girl.  He bends over backwards for her: buying her dinner, doing her homework, paying off her bills, etc.  The girl either continues to be oblivious, actively takes advantage of the favors, or just doesn’t reciprocate interest (in other words, is ungrateful for everything said nice guy has done for her.)  Whatever it is, the guy ends up as the victim of the whole situation.

Usually, in the context of the plots, sympathy for the male character is justified.  The female characters take advantage of the guys, openly accepting the guys’ favors without ever thanking them or returning the favor, and thickly go after obviously worse guys.  In many of the plots, the girl character eventually comes around and finally realizes ‘what a good guy he is’, and agrees to go out with the “nice” guy.

We see this in The Big Bang Theory.  The show is about 4 geeky men who typically have trouble getting dates (although Sheldon is not really interested in doing so.)  Leonard is the prototypical nice guy who pines after Penny, a beautiful blonde girl who lives across the hall.  Penny and Leonard have an on-again, off-again relationship throughout the series peppered with petty arguments.  Penny – a waitress who aspires to be an actress – is very financially insecure.  However, she doesn’t have to move out of her apartment because Leonard pays for everything – her rent, her takeout food, her Wi-Fi – even when they aren’t dating.  He fixes her printer/computer, and proofreads her essay when she re-enters community college (because she really can’t do anything.)  In spite of all of this, Penny regularly treats Leonard, and the other geeky guys, with contempt, making her rather unlikeable.  However, this blogger accurately describes the situation:

“We don’t root for Leonard and Penny to get together because we think they’re a good match. We feel sorry for Leonard, we think Penny’s out of his league and we root for the underdog.”

In fact, Leonard and Penny begin dating when he is comforting Penny over a failed relationship.  It turns out she actually has a history of repeatedly dating assholes, as she prefers “macho” men with money.  She ends up crying, “I want to just date a nice guy!”.  In the season finale, Penny and Leonard do finally get together, and it is a cause for celebration because Leonard has spent the entire series chasing after this beautiful girl.

Then we have our Joseph Gordon Levitt plots.  In the ’90s romcom “10 Things I Hate About You”, his character falls for the female character, Bianca, at first sight.  He pursues her despite rumors that she is selfish and shallow, because she is very pretty.  He signs up to be her fake French tutor and everything!  When he sees her with another guy at a party, he gets very pissed off:

In Friends, Chandler gripes about girls insisting he is a good friend, and then complaining about their boyfriends to him.

Friendzoning happens so much to our favorite characters that it must be a real phenomenon, right?  But what are the implications of this recurring form of wish fulfillment – that girls will eventually come around or get theirs – in so many movies and television shows?  When the same rewards don’t actually occur in real life, many guys lash out.

A lot of people internalize the fictional moral compass. In its most extreme form, both guys and girls believe women are inherently responsible for, and deserve, all of their romantic problems, because they make the wrong decisions.  Girls are considered picky for wanting to date attractive guys, while guys are seen as deserving to date beautiful women.  Some girls feel pressured to oblige guys they really have no interest in.  Guys want to believe that their rivals are all abusive jerks, and think that women should eventually reciprocate a guy who is persistent enough, even if she didn’t initially want him.

Misogynists swear by these messages, supported and propagated by popular media, when they justify violence against women.  The “Nice Guy” trope implies that women never really have rational control over their decisions, so it is okay for guys to fill that void.  When mainstream media accepts women’s right to choose, maybe more people will, too.

The Right to Privacy in Public

I have been wanting to write about this topic for some time, but wasn’t sure how to go about it.  The actual topic is sexual harassment, and the unwanted attention that women have to deal with in public.  My commentary will join the billions of blogposts already written about this topic.  However, it seems to me that people are taking a bit too long to just get it. 

Too many people (read: mainly people who themselves don’t get constantly harassed) are quick to counter complaints about harassment/unwanted attention with any of the following:

-we have to stop feeling annoyed, and start feeling flattered, by the attention and compliments,

-we should be polite and accommodating to strangers who are just being “friendly”,

-smiling at strangers makes the world a better place.

While all of these responses irk me VERY much, I can see where they come from:

Unfortunately, many people who propogate these messages do not understand what interacting with strangers means for a lot of women.  Where I’m from, most people expect to be able to go out in public and about their business without actually being bothered by random strangers, and being demanded by strangers to converse with them.  These messages assume strangers helping out a friendly neighbor, an elderly person, or a distressed soul on the verge of committing suicide, rather than a creepy man who demands that women smile at him for his own enjoyment.  Unfortunately, the reality is that the majority, if not only, of strangers who demand attention from me just happen to be old men who, for whatever reason, only seek out interactions from other women.  My swift rejections to these advances are immediately met by “Hey!  I’M JUST TRYING TO TALK TO YOU!” and “Why don’t you give me a chance?”

I cannot stand or sit alone for more than five minutes outside in my city without being bothered by one of these idiots.  Unfortunately, poetic rhetoric is not on my side.  Apparently, we are obligated to smile to light up some other person’s day and converse with random strangers to alleviate their loneliness.

Or are we?  It has long been known that the definitions of being nice and polite have been warped against females so that rejecting male attention actually compromises our morality.  However, no one is actually obligated to interact with another civilian against their will on public transportation, in a store/mall, in a park, etc.  The difference is that women are likely to get too much unwanted attention, and then criticized for rejecting it.

The fact that many women feel uncomfortable in the presence of strange men is so misunderstood that, during the Trayvon Martin trial, women repeatedly became the punching bag as the racist bitches who avoided black men in elevators and on the street.  Therefore, George Zimmerman happened.  Even the President of the United States didn’t get it!  Has it ever occurred to some people that these women may have just been avoiding strange black men because they were avoiding, well, strange men?  And that they may be avoiding strange men because they have had previous negative experiences with strange men?  (Which is why I appreciate this nice response to Questlove’s annoying rant.)  Now, you can argue that women avoiding black men is racist, and thus women avoiding men is sexist.  Sure, I’ll give you that.  But as long as they aren’t going out of their way to shoot you, harass you, or disenfranchise you, you haven’t got much to worry about.

This is a good article describing one girl’s experiences with harassment under the guise of stranger-friendliness in the D.C. area, which is very similar to my experiences in San Francisco.  People who insist that everyone regularly interact with strangers assume that all strangers are sane and should not make the person feel uncomfortable.  They also forget that circumstances differ in places like big cities.  Many women, feeling the need to be polite, end up disregarding their feelings of discomfort and vulnerability, and possibly put themselves in danger.  It is about time we stop this nonsense.

I’m Not a Prude or a Slut: The Creepy Dichotomy

Friends, today I want to talk about sexual experiences.  Particularly, female sexual experiences.  Which just brings me to the question:  What the eff is up with the virgin-whore spectrum constantly used to (very inaccurately) describe women and their sex lives?????

While the “virgin-whore dichotomy” sounds like obscure women’s studies jargon, I think it captures the essence of mainstream cultural attitudes based on what I have seen in pop culture AND heard from people in real life.  And there is so much wrong with the assumptions related to it that I just had to write a blogpost scraping at least the icing of this multilayered cake.

In mainstream dialogue, women seem to either fall into the category of prudes or sluts.  This obviously is a result of the fact that many people think that a girl’s sex life is their business to discuss and categorize.  The descriptions also imply that pretty much any sexual choice a woman makes is problematic.  She is either having too little or too much sex, according to whomever is doing the labeling.  Let’s also not forget the obvious fact that these terms are usually used to manipulate the woman’s sexual behavior.  Girls are shamed for being “prudish” in order to prompt them to be more sexually active than they would originally choose.  Other times, they are shamed for being “slutty” to inhibit the sexual choices they would make.  In the framework of this dichotomy, you could either be a slut who isn’t respected, or a prude who is respectable but boring.  A lot of media also likes to play around with this concept by celebrating the idea of the “good girl gone bad” at the hands of a guy who successfully seduces an ‘innocent’ girl’s hidden sex kitten.  (Like in the creepy chorus of the “Blurred Lines” song.)

And I say, this is Just. Ridiculous.

I am what a lot of people think of as a “good girl.”  I’m on the quiet, mellow side.  I am an introverted academic.  I definitely like socializing as much as the next person, but I’m not hitting raging parties every weekend.

For some reason, to some people, this means I’m super virginal.

What my hobbies have to do with my sex life, I do not know.  But whenever I reveal that I am actually not a clean slate in the realm of sexual experiences (something I don’t like to openly discuss, to begin with), my lesser intelligent acquaintances exclaim: “but you’re so innocent!”

“But”???

But what?  I am innocent!  I have never committed murder, stolen anything, betrayed anyone, and I am very loyal to my loved ones.  What does this have to do with my sex life again?

I’m 23, and have graduated college.  It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that  as a young adult, I have had 1-2 relationships, and some brief dating stints, and along with them some sexual experiences.  That just makes me a…human.

Then, when my more outgoing friend decides to have more brief, casual affairs, and a lot of hook-ups, the judgmental audience suddenly takes to pearl-clutching and slut-shaming.  Some guys even think she is “easy” and will give it up to anyone, so she is theirs for the taking.

And THEN, whenever my Orthodox Christian friend defends her decision to wait until marriage, because it is something she really wants to do, she is described as being too difficult for men.

This bullshit needs to stop, for obvious reasons.

Both of the terms “prude” and “slut” are dehumanizing and disrespectful towards a woman’s decision with what to do with her body.  In this day and age, people need to stop thinking they can dictate another woman’s sexual decisions.  I don’t withhold from sex to be some guy’s creepy virginal-to-sex-kitten sexual fantasy.  A woman who is more experienced is not obligated to sleep with anyone who wants it from her.  Our sex lives (or lack thereof) are our own private matters – in addition to the other, multiple parts of our lives that make us who we are, as people – and we deal with them on our own terms.