NOTE: This post is focused on harassment by cis men against cis women. It is not meant to erase other people’s experiences or suggest that this is the only type of harassment that occurs. It just happens to be the type which I can relate to the most as a cis female. In addition, I feel the relationship between power and gender roles makes gender relevant to this discussion.
I think most women at some point or another have experienced some form of sexual harassment. I once had a guy come up and grope my ass while I was making out with a girl in a gay bar. In this situation, I just gave him the finger then ignored him. In hindsight, I wish I’d reacted differently.
- Women are selected for harassment because they are perceived as good targets.
- A ‘good target’ is a person who will respond in a way that makes the harasser look and feel powerful.
- If the harasser gets the response he is looking for, either submission or over-reaction, the situation will probably continue and usually get worse.
- Men who sexually harass women are attempting to compensate for a feeling of weakness and inadequacy.
-Brent Sanders, How Dangerous Men Think
I think this really gets to the crux of the issue. Submitting, overreacting or ignoring will all make the harasser feel vindicated, and probably more confident. (Harriet J has an excellent post about why women typically react this way.) So what can we do when confronted? Maybe the best way to react to a creepy guy is to take away their control by doing something unexpected.
Strategy 1: Pointing and laughing
I have one female friend who has been in the situation where a man has taken his pants off completely uninvited. She said pointing and laughing made him shrink pretty quickly.
Brent Sanders has another variation on this:
Most guys in this type of situation have one, maximum two ‘good’ lines they can use. What they say is not important; what is important is how you respond... Whatever he says, say and do nothing; just keep staring at him but give him nothing.
I now want you to focus on something just above his head. It’s a big sign: DICKHEAD - and the longer he stands there the brighter it gets! Now I want you to think about your dog and say to yourself ‘This guy is just like my dog’.
Simply imagine or visualize the guy in front of you standing there in a big dog suit and now start to giggle, then let the giggle turn into a polite chuckle, the chuckle into a chortle and finally really let yourself go and have a bloody good laugh… One of your girlfriends… knows exactly what’s going on and races over to join you. She too is laughing aloud, pointing to the guy and saying, ‘It’s him; look, it’s the dog, I knew it was going to be him!’ A third friend now joins you in the hilarity and points knowingly at our somewhat bemused friend.
Of course some guys might try to regain a level of control by throwing a few insults at you, such as ‘What are you laughing at you stupid…’ My advice would be to recognize this response for what it is - a desperate attempt to engage you in a slanging match - so just stand your ground and keep laughing.
There is one thing the next guy who harasses you is totally unprepared for, one thing he is paranoid about, has no defense for: being laughed at.
Strategy 2: Do something weird and unexpected
Of course you could try Jenna Marbles approach:
These are just a few thoughts. What do you think is a good or bad response to this type of harassment?