Relationships

On Sexual Harassment

By Saul Leiter

The first time I was sexually harassed was in a pizza place…

It was my first job — other than babysitting and shoveling snowy driveways — and I was 14 years old. Wearing my uniform of a white tee, khakis and a giant baseball cap, I was standing at a back counter, filling plastic cups with salad dressing. The owner, Bill, had stopped by the restaurant. Although we’d never met before, he walked up behind me and put his hands on my hips. “Don’t spill anything,” he said, peering over my shoulder. Then he slowly kissed my neck.

That night, when I told my mom, she said, “If that ever happens again, kick him where it counts and run home!” But it was disorienting. He was my boss. I wanted that job. It happened and was over in five seconds. I was filling the dressings the whole time.

Earlier this week, reading the horrifying allegations against Harvey Weinstein, I found myself thinking, I’m so fortunate, nothing at all has ever happened to me. But as I read the accounts, I remembered the pizzeria owner’s hot breath. And then countless other times came flooding back, when I’ve felt uncomfortable or violated. Nothing big, nothing major, but countless times for decades: Men at parties forcing kisses. A guy who stuck my hand down his pants when I was asleep. A boss who poked me in the stomach every time I walked by. A stranger exposing himself as I jogged by him in a park. The list goes on and on.

Last night, I was wondering, how have all these experiences always added up in my mind to nothing? That I’ve chalked them up to just part of life, part of being female? That I’ve brushed things off again and again and just tried not to think about them? Have you done the same?

“One of the cruelest things about these acts is the way that they entangle, and attempt to contaminate, all of the best things about you,” wrote Jia Tolentino in the New Yorker. “If you’re sweet and friendly, you’ll think that it’s your fault for accommodating the situation. If you’re tough, well, you might as well decide that it’s no big deal. If you’re a gentle person, then he knew you were weak. If you’re talented, he thought of you as an equal. If you’re ambitious, you wanted it. If you’re savvy, you knew it was coming. If you’re affectionate, you seemed like you were asking for it all along. If you make dirty jokes or have a good time at parties, then why get moralistic? If you’re smart, there’s got to be some way to rationalize this.”

Plus, you might feel like you’re powerless or have no real solutions, especially at work. “What can I do about it? Who do I tell?” wrote screenwriter Liz Meriwether, who was sexually harassed in her twenties by a powerful man but stayed quiet. “Was it that big of a deal? Did I make it up?… It was just a weird thing that happened, and now it’s over, and I’m fine.”

When I’ve told tales to male friends or partners, they’ve often been outraged. “Men who hear these stories, I’ve found, tend to interrogate you to get to the truth of what happened, then, if they believe you, they want retaliation or revenge. Men want rules to be enforced and authorities called,” writes Meriwether in New York Magazine. But of course it’s not that simple. “Women want those things, too, but we understand the complicated mental calculations that are forced on us. If a man reaches under your skirt on an airplane, does that mean you should put your career, your ambitions, your livelihood in jeopardy just to watch him get some kind of slap on the wrist? Isn’t that ultimately giving this stranger more power over your life? Women don’t have to explain these things to other women, because we’ve all had to ask these questions ourselves.”

If you say something, you’re often called uptight. You’re overreacting. You have no sense of humor. You’re hard to work with. (Remember this parody article?) After the Weinstein scandal broke, a top talent agent’s response echoed what the world often thinks: “He asked for a few massages? Waaah! Welcome to Hollywood!” Basically: Get over it, ladies.

And it’s not just Hollywood, of course. “Abuse, threats and coercion have been the norm for so many women trying to do business or make art,” writes Lena Dunham in the New York Times. “[Harvey Weinstein’s] behavior, silently co-signed for decades by employees and collaborators, is a microcosm of what has been happening in Hollywood since always and of what workplace harassment looks like for women everywhere.”

What happens now? Honestly, I’m not sure what the best steps are. Is it to share loudly? “When we share, we unlock other women’s stories, and suddenly secrets don’t seem so necessary,” says Jenni Konner in “Our Voices Are Our Superpower.” Is it for men to speak up? Is it to raise good children? What else? There must be something else.

P.S. On feminism, and how to teach kids consent.

(Photo by Saul Leiter.)

  1. MK says...

    Like nearly everyone commenting here, I have SO MANY stories of being harassed, threatened, groped, grabbed, etc. over the years. I’ve spoken up a lot (once I yelled back at a guy following me in a truck and catcalling me — he stopped his truck in the middle of the street and straight chased me into a fast food bathroom where I hid for like a half hour).

    Anyway, one of my most frightening stories is of the time when I was 13 or 14 living in Santa Monica. I was running late for school and taking the city bus, which was also late. I was all stressed out about it and some seemingly nice 30 year old or so man stopped his car and asked if I wanted a ride. Before you are all like GIRL NO YOU DID NOT, yes I did, because I was stressed, young, naive and thought, what a nice guy and I’ll get to school on time. Literally 10 seconds after getting in the car and hearing him auto-lock the doors I was like OH NO.

    Of course he started immediately telling me I was sexy (I was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, if it matters) and why not blow off school and hang out with him. He was getting creepier and creepier and I was getting more and more afraid. It was becoming fairly clear that he was not going to let me out of his car and that I could either go along with his plan to do whatever he was thinking to me or he would force me to go along with his plan.

    Despite being highly panicked, I played it super cool and said I would LOVE to hang out with him but I had a REALLY important test I had to take and if he dropped me off at school, I would meet him at my house later. I made up a huge lie about my parents being at work all day and about how I regularly ditch school, it was just this ONE test I REALLY had to take and then I could hang out.

    I gave him a fake address and told him to meet me later that day. He kept saying, are you sure, and not sure if he believed this was going to happen, but I was very persuasive. This was obviously a huge risk to pretend like I was down for it just not right then because of this test. But I knew screaming and yelling and trying to get out of the car was not going to work. I just had a gut instinct about this. Anyway, after a few minutes he let me out of the car at school and I have always felt so relieved that I got out of that situation.

    I grew up to be a lawyer and am now persuasive for a living.

    • Rachel says...

      Wow that is a terrifying story, but so impressive that as a young teenager you were able to keep your cool and get yourself out of there! Here’s hoping this never happens to a girl ever again… but when it does, may she be as calm and smart as you were.

    • Linda says...

      Thank God you were ok. I bet your story will help someone else.

  2. Anna Vitale says...

    While reading these comments, so, so many memories are brought to mind.

    The time in kindergarten a boy kissed me and I punched him and I got sent home with a note about MY behavior. Luckily my parents backed me up, but still, the fact that an authority figure chose to punish me is creepy. The time a boyfriend in high school touched me as I whispered “no” at a group sleepover but I didn’t tell my parents because I felt like I shouldn’t have been at the sleepover in the first place. The time on a college backpacking trip in Florence I decided to take a walk alone and a man was flinging his penis all around on a hillside and yelling out “hey, hey” to passersby to get them to look… I can go on, as it sounds most if not all of us can.

    I hope with conversation, solutions will be found. I so admire the women who are posting that they always say something. I wish I would. I am always afraid to speak up in the moment for fear the man becomes threatening or violent. Does anyone else fear this?

    In the meantime, it is extremely comforting to know none of us are alone, and also comforting to know how common it is to feel shocked and caught off guard in the moment and then, poof! it’s over. But of course it’s not really over. Not for you as the woman.

    So grateful to Jo for writing this. Thank you. I sent the article to my husband because I am not able to articulate these experiences and feelings well.

    • Tari says...

      I’m sorry that you felt harassed ever, but sorry, a child of any gender in Kindergarten kissing either a same or opposite gender child is not sexual harassment. At all.

      As a mother this upsets me. Children that young are not sexual harassers.

    • Mallory says...

      Tari, agree that children that young don’t have sexual intentions behind their actions, but kindergarten is certainly old enough to learn about consent when touching other bodies. And the intent not being sexual doesn’t mean the other child feels any less violated or unsafe. Young children are also learning how authority figures react; if they are dismissive in a situation like this, a young girl is learning her body and sense of safety won’t be protected by authority figures. Heartbreaking lesson to learn so young :(

    • Sophie says...

      Tari, I’m a mother also and with all due respect I think you’re missing the point. Anna is saying she was punished for protecting herself from the unwanted kiss. What type of message does that send to both children? Perhaps the boy learned it’s okay to physically touch someone even if they don’t want to be touched. For Anna, she learned it’s not okay to speak out against unwanted physical contact.

    • Silja says...

      Tari, “children that young are not sexual harassers.” Agree. BUT: nevertheless it is totally wrong and a disturbing reaction to punish the young girl who did NOT want to be kissed. As we talk about how we can protect our daughters from having the same horrible experiences nearly every woman had/have the answer can be found in what Anna describes: let’s start in kindergarten! Tell your young child it is absolutely Ok if she does NOT want to be kissed! Yes, and she can even punch if he does not stop! What would you say to Anna, the little girl, Tari? “He is just a little boy, no big deal, you should let him kiss you!” ???
      As a mother this upsets me.

    • Morgan says...

      Tari,

      I understand that it’s hard to think about, because learning that children start behaving sexually at very young ages while I was studying psychology at university made me uncomfortable too, at the time.
      But if you don’t start teaching them appropriate behaviours at young ages, then when? Why not start the conversation in kindergarten that we shouldn’t force kisses onto people that don’t want to be kissed? I certainly believe that it’s a concept most 5 year olds can grasp. It’s better than allowing children to learn one thing, and then try to reverse it as young adults. It’s about cultivating respect and equality from the very start.

  3. em says...

    The bisexual guy who made lewd comments in front of me, when I was the only one in the office with him, at my first part-time job after college. I’m a pretty straight-laced traditional and quiet person. I still don’t understand why he did that. The message he sent me was, “Just try and say something, because YOU will be labeled as intolerant one, and are the one who will get in trouble.” So I said nothing. What was I supposed to do, ladies? Then there was the old man I thought of as a grandpa who offered me a massage and I was too naieve to realize I should say “heck no” and run the other direction. I blamed myself for what happened after that. And then, when I was finally working at my first “real” job at a newspaper, and the editor would lean over my chair to look at my work on the screen. It took me a while to realize he was looking down at my chest with his hand in his crotch each time.
    What man ever has to experience these humiliations, or wonder if he is going to lose his job if he says something? There are lots of wonderful men out there. They don’t deserve to be misrepresented by these creeps.
    I’m about to have a baby in four weeks, and we’re being surprised. If it’s a boy, I know my husband and I will teach him to respect his body and the bodies of others. But I am afraid for her if it’s a girl, because I didn’t make the right choices myself. How do I help her be empowered the way I wasn’t, Cup of Jo? My heart breaks over this.

    • Heather says...

      Em, I totally agree that women bear the brunt of this harassment, but I have also known many men who have been the victims of sexual harassment and/or assault, and it’s no less horrific for them.

      For instance, a friend of mine was cast as the lead in a play one summer in high school (his big break!) and was relentlessly harassed by the director (a man who was older than him and more powerful) during rehearsals. The director was constantly making sexual comments, touching him, pestering him for dates, cornering him in the dressing room, etc. My friend felt ashamed, humiliated, scared, and confused, and he never reported it because he was worried that he would lose the role, or that people would say he was overreacting. He said it was a very eye-opening experience.

      Another example: My husband and I had similar experiences as teenagers with being followed/pestered by creepy men in public spaces, and it made him feel just as frightened and helpless as it did me.

      I think we need to empower all of our children, whatever their genders, to protect themselves and their bodies. We can’t assume that boys/men are safe.

  4. A says...

    Slightly off topic but I’m reminded of some of the workplace sexism I’ve witnessed. For example an older male colleague often exclaims, “GOOD GIRL!” at female coworkers when they exhibit good (usually non-work related) behavior. For example, when my female coworker graduated to a walker from her wheelchair after she broke her ankle: “GOOD GIRL!”
    And my other coworker was taking a midday walk around the parking lot for exercise. “GOOD GIRL!”
    It’s hard for me to imagine him saying, “GOOD BOY!” to any male colleagues if they’d done something similar. Maybe “Good job!” or something. He’s a very nice person, probably considers himself progressive.
    Also there was my older, female boss who called me “cute” on the most stressful day of my career (thus far, hopefully ever). I was very, very behind on a deadline (entirely due to her managerial incompetence) and I was in her office pacing, freaking out. She giggled and said, “you’re so cute!” Granted I did look pretty cute that day in a black and white dress with red shoes. But that was not the point! Would she have told a male colleague that he was so cute in a stressful situation? I guess it’s possible but unlikely. It’s still disrespectful.

    • sue says...

      shit. i totally do this. i have called some of my subordinates “cute” as a passive aggressive way of saying grow up! stop stressing/whining/being an idiot/thinking this is tough and just get to work.

      but i don’t at all discriminate about genders when doing it. disrespectful, yes. sexist (in my instance), no.

    • A says...

      Sue don’t worry, I do think that’s different.

    • Zoey says...

      For Pete’s sake, “Good girl” is something you say to your dog (or cat, or parrot, or gerbil, or hamster, etc — you get the picture) after she’s learned a new trick, or fetched the papers, or successfully chased off burglars, or something. Not to actual human beings!

      If he’s really as nice as you say, then his behavior is easily remedied by simply teaching him some new, more appropriate phrases, like “You go, girl!” Or better yet “Good on ya, mate!” Without the need to use the term “girl” which can come off as patronizing, especially in a workplace setting. But if he’s fixated on just saying that to the women — as you say, he doesn’t exactly go around shouting “GOOD BOY!” at the menfolk — then it could just be that he’s simply a male chauvinist pig and derives pleasure from patronizing the fairer sex under the guise of being encouraging.

    • jill says...

      YOU must say “good boy” to him just once, so he knows how it feels to be belittled as an adult. Easy.

  5. Andrea says...

    I’m a professor. The last time I was groped was 5 years ago, at a friend’s party, where a guy came up behind me and ran his hands from my hips to my breasts. I’m embarrassed to say that this was the FIRST time I retaliated. I didn’t yell at my friend’s party — I was about to walk out the door and was kind of in shock. But I called my friend later, and he talked to the groper. I told other mutual friends about it. Then I called the groper, told him I was going to press assault charges if he ever bothered me again, and instructed him to never speak to me again. (We live in a small town.) He has followed directions since then, which is gratifying. I think this experience empowered me in other ways. Last year a student and I met in a coffeeshop, and while we were talking an older man started talking with her, petting her hair, touching her arms and shoulders. I said to him, “do you know her? did she invite you to touch her? Leave her alone, please: we are in the middle of a conversation. The fact that a pretty girl is out in public doesn’t mean you get to paw her. Go away.” My student was pleased but also flabbergasted — she’d never even thought of confronting a man who bothered her. I was glad to mentor her in that way. We need to help each other.

    • Grace says...

      Wow, what I wouldn’t have given to have an older sister or Boss or friend say exactly that to harassers to put them in their place in front of me! I really think that would’ve opened my eyes a lot earlier to the fact that we needn’t feel so alone in this battle for equality, that other women are in it together and we all have each other’s backs.

      Kudos to you, Andrea!

  6. Laura says...

    My first time with harassment was when I was 8 and a boy neighbor trapped my friend and I in my backyard shed and wouldn’t let us leave until we took off our panties. Next time was when I was 10 and a boy at school stalked me at recess and before school. It got so bad we involved the school because my dad would drop me off at the very last minute before school and he would be out there waiting for me to follow me to my locker. But the school could not do anything because he hadn’t actually touched me even though I was scared every day at school he would. Another time was when I was 12 and a boy broke two of my fingers by slamming them with a broom handle because I wouldn’t be his boyfriend. That time the boy got a juvenile record since police got involved. And in my freshman year of high school the upper class football players would grab girls butts as walked down a certain hallway. I learned to keep my butt against the wall to avoid that or take a different way back from the lunchroom.

    • jill says...

      Jeez, this just impresses upon me further that we really do need to listen to our children when they say “school sucks” or whatever. I feel like it’s not ok to let them stay in toxic environments like this one. I went to three high schools and NEVER experienced anything like the bullying that is described nowadays. It is appalling that parents don’t do whatever it takes to REMOVE their children to a healthier, more wholesome learning environment! There are always other options available and not taking them is like a form of neglegence, I feel. You child’s daily wellbeing is important!

      We should not normalize these types of abuse just because they are children. That makes it literally OUR failure to establish acceptable behavior and protection!

  7. H says...

    It’s awful that so many of these comments wrap up with “next time I’ll…..”. Just wow. Like, we all know/can expect there will be a next time. This devastates me. I have my fair share of stories….and I’m not proud of how I handled any of the situations either.
    On what to do:
    1. Women (and men) that are lawyers, judges, etc. find a way to make legislative changes in ALL states that require very stiff penalties for rapists and molesters. Like 50 years to life with NO chance of parole (especially if there’s DNA evidence). Make legislative changes to require states to process all rape kits within a very short time frame….how is it that so many get shelved????
    2. Raise children to be proud and in control of their bodies. Teach them that they should never touch another person without consent and no one should touch them without their consent. Enforce it always – even with well-meaning friends, relatives, and other children. So many rapes and cases of molestation involve someone close/related to the victim. I hope this is the generation that ends the “boys will be boys” utter nonsense. I’m sorry, but how is this not setting the mental groundwork for rape? I hope all parents are teaching their children to respect others in both vocal and physical communication.
    3. As a parent, if you are aware of any “weirdness” happening at your child’s school, place of work, place of worship I hope to God you get that person fired. I don’t care if they have a family. I don’t care if it was their first offence. They need to have it on their records forever and never be allowed to be in a position where they can abuse another person again. Also make sure those communication lines are open so your child knows they can come to you for help. Be your child’s advocate.
    4. As a friend, if you have anyone confide in you about sexual harassment or rape that has happened to them, first I hope you listen and be their comfort. Second, I hope you are their strength. Encourage them and help them navigate the proper channels to get justice. Go with them to get a rape kit done. Help them fill out HR papers. Help them find a good therapist. Anything you can do to help. I think that sometimes it’s all a victim can do to keep their head above water. They may not have the strength and energy to get justice for themselves.
    5. Speak out. These stories are so powerful. Tell your significant other, parents, friends every time something like this happens to you. Write about it on Facebook. Report people when you can. This is a huge problem. Honestly, it’s ridiculous that most of us have male significant others in our lives who “have no idea this is such a huge problem” and don’t recognize the role toxic masculinity plays in all of this. We need them to speak out as well.
    I’m sure there is so much more that can be done. Thanks to all who have shared their stories. You are so brave.

    • Ni says...

      thank you H

    • Sophie says...

      Bravo. Wonderful suggestions.

      Joanna, I hope you’ll consider a follow up article involving the developmentally appropriate resources and guidelines we may use to guide us in teaching our children (boys and especially girls) on how to protect themselves from or report harassment.

  8. Catherine says...

    ??????

  9. Heidi says...

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this. I’m convinced there isn’t a woman alive without stories like this, myself very much included. But when you finally gather the courage to tell anyone nine times out of ten you’re told you’re lying, over-reacting, etc. I’ve had many people in my own family who vow I’m one of the smartest, most honest, most capable people they know; in the next breath they tell me I’m making up stories of sexual harassment and predatory behavior. And let’s be clear. In my experience it’s not just men shutting down the conversation. My strategy is to try and raise my sons to be like their father – who is a man who knows clearly how to treat and respect all people. And that means actually showing them how and where they may not touch people, visibly drawing lines showing personal space boundaries, talking about girls in a different way than how I was raised, etc. And also to raise my daughter to value her own “gut feelings”, safety, and emotional health over being a “nice girl”.

  10. Marley says...

    God, myself and every woman I know has so many stories . Rape, molestation, harassment. If so many men do it, and so many women experience it, why does everyone act like it doesn’t happen and blame the victim so often? I have two little girls and my four year old is already dealing with this at school. SHE IS FOUR. Seriously, WTF? Whoever mentioned teaching their daughters jujitsu in the comments, I am right there with you. Tell them firmly “no” once, tell them twice, the third time you get destroyed.

    • Jess says...

      I encourage the parents of BOYS to teach them what sexual harassment, sexism, bullying, and sexual assault is. This has to start with the earliest life lessons, like basic manners. It’s not fair that girls need to be taught avoidance and defence skills.

    • Grace says...

      Jess, YES. Exactly this. Instead of teaching girls/daughters how to avoid being raped, we should absolutely teach boys/sons NOT to rape in the first place!

      I’ve always felt teaching women self defense and avoidance tactics was well and good but that it was ultimately solving the wrong problem and ignoring the root cause of the issue which is that rape and sexual harassment/assault in most cases originates from the male species.

  11. Your words resonate. Thank you for helping us to see we are not alone and something must be done. When at the movies at 16, a female friend brought a male friend who I had never met, and during the movie, he leaned over and reached his hand into my shorts. At my first job out of college, the owner of the small company said ‘you know, your looks will only get you so far…’ At a bar in my 20’s, a stranger approached me and wouldn’t stop groping me. When he followed me out of the bar and continued to harass me, a line of people waiting to get in all watched and heard but not a single person came forward to help. Once while walking down the street in my own neighborhood in DC, three young men cornered me and one man grabbed my ass while the other two watched and laughed. I’ve had men cat call at me and comment on my hips and thighs, making me want to hide and cover my body when I was just minding my own business. In all of these situations, and there are so many more, I’ve stood up for myself but how can there not be cumulative repercussions chipping away at the women (and men) who have been harassed. I hope we can all share our experiences here and elsewhere and that someday our voices will be heard and something will finally shift.

  12. Tonia says...

    Such an important topic. I doubt there’s a woman on Earth that doesn’t have at least one story like this. It’s time to move these behaviors out of the “normal part of being female” column and into the “oh hell no” column.

    I have so many instances I could write about here, both big and small, some more sexual in nature and others just blatant sexism. My “favorite” was when I asked my boss for time off for my wedding and honeymoon (vacation time I had accumulated by working there for two years). He looked right at me and said, “TEN DAYS?? What are you going to do next, get knocked up and ask for maternity leave??” He wasn’t joking, not that that would have made it better. I’ll add that I was the ONLY female employee…it was a small tech firm and everyone else there was single, male, in their 30s. I said, “What did you just say? You might want to think about what you just said.” He blushed and back-peddled and granted me my vacation time.

    This was the same boss who used to come into my office to check over my work and if he found a mistake would yell “You’re f*cking worthless”, among other pleasantries, in my face. I never observed him treating the male employees this way. There was no HR department…the OTHER manager would come into my office once every couple months to “have a chat about anything that might be going on”. I was supposed to tell him about anything that was bothering me and he “wouldn’t tell anyone, it’d just be between us”. HAHAHAHA! :|

    I took my honeymoon and then quit. Got a call from them a month later begging me to come back because none of the clients I had been managing wanted to work with anyone else and the firm was losing all their business. I absolutely did not go back, and the company sold not even a year later. Not gonna lie, that Karma Pie tasted pretty sweet.

  13. Nina says...

    Oh my god, so many things. I’ve had friends husbands, while out at bars, tell me how gorgeous I am and demand a hug. A lingering, butt grabbing, hug. I feel disgusted that my friends don’t know that their husbands are like this, but I feel trapped I can’t tell them.

    But the one that sticks out the most in my mind happened earlier this year.

    I’m a member at a country club and one of the bartenders asked me to follow him into a room to show me some photos he had taken of an event. Instead he decided to show me photos of women in lingerie photos on his ipad, told me I reminded him of those girls, and then asked to watch me walk away. I was horrified, but I played it off and, I couldn’t do anything BUT walk away. But this was the first time where I thought, holy s**t, you’ve got this dude in this club, where there are teenage girls that come home every summer. I’m a grown woman, I should say something. So I asked for a meeting with the General Manager, off property. I told him everything, how uncomfortable I was, how I was standing up and speaking because a teenager wouldn’t have the courage. He apologized, told me the bartender would get “sensitivity” training. Then as we said Good-bye, we stood up, he told me I was “too pretty” to be lost as a member and asked for a hug. I COMPLIED. I was SHOCKED. I had just recanted an entire story of how inappropriate a member of his staff was, and he did the SAME THING. I resigned from the club a week later.

    I have never felt empowered over my own body. I’ve always felt like an object that will always be whistled at, stared at. A day doesn’t go by where I’m not cat called.

    But this shift that’s happening in society, it’s making me stop, think and take ownership of my OWN space.

    THANK YOU LADIES. Without you, I don’t think I would have ever found this courage.

    • Nina says...

      Oh and the bartender still works there. Go figure. Starts from the top down.

  14. Emily says...

    Thank you for starting this dialogue. My first time was at 11 while walking home from school. I was too ashamed to tell my parents. I thought it was my fault. (Also, anyone else think #myfirsttime would be a powerful way to share these stories on Twitter?)

    As you say, it’s not just Hollywood. Science magazine broke a story at the beginning of this week about a well-known Antarctic geologist who harassed an intimidated his female graduate students: scim.ag/2fQsE5e

    • Morgan says...

      I think the #myfirsttime idea is actually brilliant.

  15. Grace says...

    It’s so scary to he honest. There’s an entire Reddit thread filled with worse stories called Let’s Not Meet and honestly it changes you. So many examples come to mind; walking my dog wearing yoga pants being followed by a guy on a bike trying to get me to talk to him for so long my dog started growling and I made note to go to the park with tons of people before heading home because I didn’t want him to know where I lived. And then always wearing the baggiest clothes whenever I walked my dog thereafter. Being groped at a party and telling the guy friend I was there with what happened who flew into a rage and almost beat the guy up, but I told him not to (which, again, weird feelings of undeserved guilt). My assertiveness towards men who give me unwanted attention stem from this.

  16. Kate says...

    Reading about your pizza place story brought back a memory I’d pushed to a far away place. At one of my first jobs in a restaurant, several men on the kitchen staff barked at me. I was an overweight teen with confidence issues to begin with and this devastated me. I quit immediately out of embarrassment and of course said nothing to the owners. Amazed now reflecting on the suppressed memory that I let other’s bad behavior go completely without consequence while I suffered immensely.
    It wasn’t until I became a mother to a little girl 4 years ago that I shifted. I decided that I didn’t ever want her to come to me for advice in a similar situation. If women don’t begin calling this behavior out we won’t see a change. Our daughter’s will endure the same harassment we have tolerated in silence. Proud of everyone who shared here. Next time you encounter harassment, call it that right then and there!

  17. p says...

    thank you joanna.

    in 2009, i was living in london pursuing my graduate degree. i lived in east london and often took the bus down whitechapel high street to visit a good friend that lived nearby. one day i stood on a crowded bus with a bunch of teenage boys standing behind me, in front of the exit doors positioned in the middle of the bus. as the bus slowed down to stop, i felt a hand reach under my legs and rub my vagina. i turned around and saw the boys jump off the bus – i’ll never forget the look on the boy’s face and the feeling of shame i felt afterwards.

  18. liz says...

    The statistics for sexual assault for women and men is extremely alarming. I am glad these things are being brought to the surface, maybe we will see some progress. Every woman I know (and many men) has/have had negative experiences from rape down to inappropriate verbal assault. My parents always taught us to trust our gut, to run or scream if something felt off and not worry about being nice or polite. I feel lucky that my parents believed the things we told them. Once my aunt called my dad and said her daughters had been forced to pose for photos by an uncle. Even though the uncle was married to my dad’s other sister, he said “call the cops”. He didn’t hesitate to empower her to take care of her children and herself. And that brought a lot of history to light for the family that helped in healing for both sisters. Let’s support each other to speak up, tell our truth, own our power. And support each other when we fumble or are unsure or not quite ready as well. Let’s be beautiful and empowered.

  19. Megan says...

    Joanna, thank you for writing and expressing your experiences in a way that I’ve never been able express to to my close male family members. I’m going to send this to them.

    However, I also wanted to share a story of empowerment in the face of all this. In my early 20’s, I got a LOT of unwanted attention from men– at work, on the street, on the subway. They were typically aggressive, handsy, and rude. The encounters left me feeling ashamed and dirty, even though I hadn’t done or consented to anything.

    One day, I was walking home after a really hard day at work. On the way home, I got a phone call with news of a family member’s illness. After I hung up, a man whistled at me as I approached a crosswalk. The light turned red and I was stuck on the corner. He approached me, made a few comments about my butt, got angry when I didn’t respond and started insulting me. He was in my personal space, his mouth only inches from my ear when I turned on him and shouted, “I don’t KNOW you! I’ve had a really horrible day, and YOU are being disrespectful to ME. I’m a PERSON. Can you respect that?” When he didn’t answer, I got in his face and yelled again and again, “Can you RESPECT that? Can you RESPECT that?” The light changed. I wasn’t crying. I wasn’t hysterical. I just stared him down, not moving. None of the other pedestrians moved either– they just stared at us. He started mumbling, apologizing, backing off. I said, “What? I can’t hear you.” He said, “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry you had a bad day. I can respect that. I respect that.”

    That day, a switch flipped. From that moment on, I’ve never stayed silent. The moment something happens, I say something to the offender. Sometimes I say something with a smile or a joke, if I think it was an accidental transgression or am willing to give them a second chance. Sometimes I snap angrily. Sometimes I might sound plain crazy. Sometimes I just say, “Inappropriate!” with eyebrows raised (mostly at work). Once, I grabbed a man’s misplaced hand and said, simply but firmly, “NO.” He blushed and stammered so badly I almost felt bad for him. I feel like it doesn’t matter so much what I say as long as I say something, so I ALWAYS say something right away, in the moment, calling men out for their behavior. Demanding their respect.

    And I think it’s translated into carrying myself differently, more confidently. Yeah, I’m a lot older now, too, but the last two catcalls I got were: “Look at Wonder Woman walking down the street over there!” and “Girl, I’d vote YOU for president!”

    Yeah, I’ll take that with a smile. And a fist raised :)

    • Maureen says...

      THIS IS AWESOME. I needed to read this.

    • Olivia W says...

      I cannot tell you how much I identify with this comment. As with many/most women, I have silently put up with harassment and abuse over the years, until about 2 years ago. I was walking home late at night when a man lunged to grab at my crotch, I was so shocked that, reflexively, I shouted at the top of my voice “don’t you DARE f***king touch me”. He, in turn, was so shocked he mumbled and shuffled off. I then growled for the rest of my walk home. Since that moment I have not let incidents pass without comment and I agree with you, it’s more important to say something than the right thing. Fear keeps us powerless.

    • Kimberly says...

      This is amazing. I’m going to start this now. I too have been silent for far too long.

    • Maggie says...

      You’re my hero!

    • Carol says...

      Thank you so much for sharing this – you are awesome and from this day on I am adopting your ways.

    • Zoey says...

      I’d vote YOU for President too Megan!!! That was amazing!!!

    • YES! I love this story. I’m so sorry you had to go through that, but I hope I can respond like this next time.

    • Joy says...

      Your responses are wonderful. Firm and clear. It’s made me rethink how I teach my daughters (1.5 and 4) to respond to unwanted touch (usually pushing and shoving) from each other. I’d like to change how I frame it from the current “be kind and clear” to “be firm and clear” about how they should reclaim personal space and shut down unwanted touch.

    • Rams says...

      YES!! Thank you for this. Copying and pasting it to read again and again.

    • A says...

      I feel teary-eyed reading your brave, awesome comment. Like many others I started off reading this article thinking, ‘I’m lucky to have avoided this kind of thing…’ when in fact, a male ex-student sent me a personal email that contains a threat of sexual violence JUST THIS WEEK! I lost sleep over it on Tuesday and had already brushed it off (and semi-forgotten it) by the weekend! How have I normalised such a thing, especially in a week like this?

  20. April says...

    These comments are heartbreaking, but thank you for this post, Joanna. When reading about scandals like these, I usually think “thank god something like that (rape) has never happened to me”. But in reading your post I’m reminded of times in the past when I have been sexually harassed – a guy shoving his hand down my skirt at a club when I was a teen, instances when I had been drinking and doing things I was less than okay with because I didn’t have the courage to say otherwise. These are things that I guess I bury deep in my brain, but the fact that I’ve done that saddens me even more.

  21. Kristien says...

    Thank you for writing this. It comes at a particularly apt time for me, as I was sexually harassed three weeks ago by a videographer at a wedding I attended. He stared at me all evening, followed me around the venue very aggressively, and even brushed his body against me twice. I contacted the company and was met with a less than helpful reaction. I didn’t hear anything from them for a week until I posted a review on Google. This lit a fire under them and I had an email within 20 minutes from the owner asking me to please call ASAP. He seemed to take me seriously, but then suggested having a conference call with the harasser and his wife to help mend things. The fuck? No, I do not wish to speak with this person or his wife. He kept asking how he could make things right, and I told him I had no idea. There’s nothing that can take back the discomfort and fear that I felt during the reception because of this person. They were terribly concerned about the review, which I ended up taking down because I want to forget about this and leave it behind me, and I worried they wouldn’t leave me alone until I removed it. I hate that I caved to them. It makes me feel violated all over again but I just want to move past it. They thanked me and said they had taken my words very seriously and had been “super stressed out all day about it.” Oh, no, that must be terrible. Please, tell me what that’s like!/s I don’t know what will happen to him, and I don’t care.

    At my first party in college, a boy groped my breast. It was disgusting how blatant he was about it. I was standing with another girl, and he walked up with another guy and just grabbed me – in front of everyone – and laughed. I was really drunk and didn’t really process what had just happened. Looking back, I’m so horrified and it was the only time I got that drunk without my boyfriend around again.

    A neighbor/friend we regularly see and hang out with has been harassing me. His girlfriend is great, and I love hanging out with her, but he has been making me more and more uncomfortable. He always tries to sit next to me and will sit verrrrry close. His leg will graze mine, he’s touched my butt, a hug will reach a bit to far and grab my boob. It’s all so discreet and jussssst within the realm of being accidental. But it’s fucking not. I started giving him the cold shoulder and ignoring him, but a few times he texted me asking what was wrong. This pissed me off so much, so I finally told my husband about the texts and how he makes me uncomfortable and is way too familiar at times. I haven’t said anything because I love his gf and don’t want this to hurt her. It’s been a while since anything occurred, but if it does again, it’ll be the last time.

    Countless creepy old men have made disgusting inappropriate comments to me when I was younger and too naive to realize what was happening and tell them to fuck off.

    Happier harassment story: A boy in gym class freshman year of high school would rub my thigh in class (we sat next to one another). He did this twice before I told him, calmly, that if he ever touched me again I’d kick his ass. He actually stopped and later apologized. I honestly think he felt bad about it and realized that shit is not cool. We actually were on friendly terms a few years later when we shared a class senior year. Who knows, maybe that experience changed him, and I don’t hold anything against him now.

    What sucks is how the recipients of harassment end up being the ones who decide what happens. Do I tell and risk hurting this person’s family/business? What’s the right thing to do?

    • Nina says...

      Tell the girlfriend! I would be horrified not knowing that my significant other was a predator to my friends!

    • Talia says...

      I agree with Nina!

    • Claire Sexton says...

      Yup, tell the girlfriend, it would not be you hurting her, it’s the BF’s behavior.

  22. I was working at a restaurant on my birthday, I was standing near the front door on my lunch break. My boss came up behind me and smacked me on the ass and said “that’s your birthday smack”.

    I walked out, and I heard the women co-workers that saw what happened tried to complain after I left about it. I wish I made a formal complaint about him, but unfortunately he was the owner. I found out the men that also saw what happened, denied that they saw anything once other managers asked.

    I struggled after that, this job was my only way of paying bills, but I would have died inside if I had money be the reason to stay to accept a man doing that to me.

    • jill says...

      You should have just looked at him and said “inappropriate!” and then carried on as usual. No employer wants to be cited for sexual harassment. Plus, men really need to understand that professional boundaries are an actual thing. It’s not complicated.

  23. Laetitia says...

    Like you, I have had my share of inappropriate behavior, mostly comments, or men being a little pushy, and as a young girl, I have witnessed men masturbating in front of me and my friends on several occasions for example.
    Interestingly, when I think of inappropriate behavior like this (which I think should be clearly separated from actual sexual assault and rape), I tend to see it as a weakness on the male part. As a woman, I feel like I have been able to turn it to my advantage. I definitely have used men’s sexual attraction to get some favors or distract them from something else. And in a way, I’ve used this as an excuse not to get too mad about it and let many inappropriate sexual behavior “slide”.
    I guess my point is that I feel like that has been my strategy to “live with it”, and sometimes even turn the table and convince myself that I was really in power. And it’s worked pretty good. But I really wish I did not have to enter this , and the reality is that it does not make it a bit more O-K.

  24. L says...

    My elementary PE teacher would excuse a group of girls out of running/exercising if we massaged his back. I’m not sure on the age range, but I vaguely remember him being the coach around 2nd-5th grade.

    • Kelly says...

      oh.my.ick.

    • Jess says...

      My elementary school music teacher let students play instruments and he even gave us piano lessons at lunch time if we wanted to stay in. He was great, but I remember that one day at lunch time in the music room, a student complained about having a leg cramp, and he had her lie down on her stomach on the carpet and he massaged her legs. :/

    • Meghan says...

      My elementary school teacher told the entire class what nice, strong and beautiful legs I have. I am still mortified.

  25. Rach says...

    a lot of what you shared really reveals how systems of oppression work, not just sexism, but most others as well. gaslighting, it being dangerous (in many many ways) to seek justice, how ubiquitous and pervasive the threats are…. even if many small instances seem like they don’t add up to anything, simply having to be on guard and dealing with the stress during and after harassment can impact your mental and physical health. naming it helps: this is systemic oppression (which includes interpersonal, intrapersonal, institutional, and ideological elements). i think something promising today are the ways that people oppressed by different, but overlapping systems are recognizing how they can collectively work to bring awareness and fight back, for and with each other. (for lack of a maybe better example, think women’s march!)

    • A.L. says...

      YES. I fully appreciate the need to call out individuals who transgress, but there is also a larger system of oppression at work. When you are 8, or 13, or 23, you don’t realize it yet, you don’t know what it’s about and maybe you think “I imagined it,” “Maybe it was my fault,” “I’m being too sensitive,” “I can just forget about it and move on,” but the fact of the matter is, drip by drip, all these episodes add up. Even if you eventually forget about most of the gropes, pats, whistles, innuendos — they all add up. They affect how you move through space, how you walk down the street, how you introduce yourself to people, how you present yourself at work, how you — everything. So that one day, when your shoulder hits that cold hard glass ceiling at work (where you’ve busted your a** proving your skills but still get asked to order lunch for the clients, get passed on for “demanding” projects because someone’s worried you don’t have “stamina,” get thanked for your overtime with “thanks, sweetie” instead of, well, money) you’re not angry or upset or surprised, you just think “Well, of course. I didn’t belong here anyway. This isn’t my space.”

  26. Lisa says...

    Kudos to have a momma who believed their child about the creepy pizza guy! The majority of moms don’t/didn’t…..especially back then. Mine didn’t.
    It’s important to not criticize how we respond or don’t respond. Stupid predatory men….that’s who we blame!

  27. Kristien says...

    Thank you for writing this. It comes at a particularly apt time for me, as I was sexually harassed three weeks ago by a videographer at a wedding I attended. He stared at me all evening, followed me around the venue very aggressively, and even brushed his body against me twice. I contacted the company and was met with a less than helpful reaction. I didn’t hear anything from them for a week until I posted a review on Google. This lit a fire under them and I had an email within 20 minutes from the owner asking me to please call ASAP. He seemed to take me seriously, but then suggested having a conference call with the harasser and his wife to help mend things. The fuck? No, I do not wish to speak with this person or his wife. He kept asking how he could make things right, and I told him I had no idea. There’s nothing that can take back the discomfort and fear that I felt during the reception because of this person. They were terribly concerned about the review, which I ended up taking down because I want to forget about this and leave it behind me, and I worried they wouldn’t leave me alone until I removed it. I hate that I caved to them. It makes me feel violated all over again but I just want to move past it. They thanked me and said they had taken my words very seriously and had been “super stressed out all day about it.” Oh, no, that must be terrible. Please, tell me what that’s like!/s I don’t know what will happen to him, and I don’t care.

    Happier harassment story: A boy in gym class freshman year of high school would rub my thigh in class (we sat next to one another). He did this twice before I told him, calmly, that if he ever touched me again I’d kick his ass. He actually stopped and later apologized. I honestly think he felt bad about it and realized that shit is not cool. We actually were on friendly terms a few years later when we shared a class senior year. Who knows, maybe that experience changed him, and I don’t hold anything against him now.

  28. Ines says...

    I was recently pregnant, and was shocked to find that it’s the only thing that works to prevent harassment (street and otherwise.) I began noticing that I was feeling progressively more comfortable on the street, and then it became fully clear one night in my second trimester. I was standing outside a restaurant in a pretty dark street, and a guy started cat-calling me (the “give me a smile” variety) from the other side of the street. Eventually he crossed over and realized I was pregnant, and began to apologize profusely, signaling with an arm that he now realized I was pregnant. It was so eye opening–no matter how many times men say that that kind of comment is “friendly”, they do know better! And if it’s inappropriate to say to a pregnant woman, it’s inappropriate to say to all women.

    A couple of weeks after my baby was born, I was out in public and felt the familiar stares. I turned to my husband and said “I guess my invisibility cloak is gone.”

    • Pregnancy may prevent blatant harassment, but (I am currently finding) it opens the door to a world of other inappropriate comments about our bodies, our sex lives, etc.

    • Laetitia says...

      Sadly, not always. I was at a bar and a friend of mine (one of my girlfriend’s husband), asked if he could touch me belly – I was 7 month pregnant at the time), I said ok, so he put his hand on my belly, but then instead of removing it, he proceeded to go up and cup one of my boobs :(
      I did not say anything, I just backed off. Did not tell my girlfriend but told my husband – and then did not see the guy for a few years after that…

  29. Melisa says...

    This was so well written, Joanna. Definitely have my stories, too, and it’s pretty eye-opening to realize how much, and for how long, I’ve shrugged them off. Dear friends and family of mine have their own stories, many of which are unimaginable. I’ve seen firsthand the aftermath of a woman who confronted her attacker, and the fallout that ensued when that man and his family–all of whom she was extremely close to–turned on her. It’s sickening, and yet has been the norm for so long. My heart goes out to any woman or girl who’s ever been assaulted. It’s amazing how strong, resilient, smart, and powerful women are, and what we’re capable of when we come together and support one another.

  30. Leslie says...

    I switched schools as an undergrad, because one of my professors came to my dorm room under the guise of loaning me some books I needed for one of my classes. He then proceeded to shove me onto my bed and push his tongue into my mouth. I wrestled to get away. I went to the university, and they did absolutely nothing, other than to suggest that because I opened the door to him, it was my fault.

  31. Natasha Ayers says...

    Thank you for making this so openly clear. Your blog is lighthearted for the most part, but this is a real occurrence in the everyday lives of women everywhere, and I’m glad you are blatantly putting it out there what it is to be a woman. While in the States, (and of course plenty of other nations) we have the privilege of recognizing this as sexual harassment, in many other countries such behavior is scoffed off; considered the norm, even considered as complimentary to women. To me, it is evidence of “rape culture” and the normalizing of male power over female power. I had experienced such sexual harassment very young as well, and as a teenager I was definitely afraid of men as a whole because the whole gender came across as predatory to me. I’d had doctors attempt to date my mother through me, knowing my parents were divorcing at age 13 (WTF?!). Male teachers and staff members came on to me in high school. All varieties of boys crossed lines in pursuit of me because I was a very gentle, quiet person (seemingly easy to take advantage of until I got them suspended for it). I was born a feminist in the 1980’s; educated by feminist teachers in the 90’s, and perhaps this is generational, but I learned not to tolerate any bullshit from guys from the start, especially as a result of fear. Guys, however, were not taught how to behave and treat women, and to this day, those in power see themselves as having the position to use it negatively against women. This is not “just how it is;” this is ages of cultural training that needs to be undone. Sexual harassment is so common, and so socially accepted that Harvey Weinstein’s victims have slowly started to come forth decades after the offenses took place out of fear. They stood powerless against him until the tower began to fall. Such as the case with Bill Cosby, I believe this kind of event is a catalyst, and it is the kind of cultural event that sparks revolution to bring down these constructs of power that have been built through the ages. It’s painful, but it will cause change, even if slowly. Thank you for addressing it; it needs to be voiced.

  32. Amy says...

    This post resonated with me so much! I too have been going over the countless incidents that happened to me over the years (but mostly in my late teens and 20’s), the crotch grabbed under a table by a co-worker, a full-on sex proposition by a boss, men jerking off in front of me on the subway, men hooting, lurking, getting too close, brushing my boobs. It goes on and on! You get a bunch of ladies in the room and we’ve all got tons of stories. I’ve been thinking about a few things, the first is the criticism that more men in Hollywood haven’t come forward to bash Harvey Weinstein and his behavior, it’s because this problem is so widespread that as soon as an actor comes forward, there are 10 ladies waiting in the wings to say “really? Well you grabbed my boobs in 2003 (lookin at you Ben Affleck)!” Also, I’ve been thinking about how it’s been a long time since I’ve been harassed and it might be because I’m in my 40’s and no longer as attractive to men, but I also think it’s because men know that women get less willing to put up with this crap as they get older! Honestly, I’d RELISH some guy coming up to me now to try to grab my boobs! I’d grab his arm and twist it and yell “pervert” as loud as I could! In fact, my flirty neighbor came to my house the other night to drop off some figs (I wasn’t home) and he tried to kiss my sister who was over at my house watching my kids. Well, he got a lovely lecture from me the next day in front of his wife. I think the more we speak up LOUDLY, the less men will think about crossing us. We are stronger together ladies! Speak up!

    • Cynthia says...

      Amy sometimes I think the same way. Like just try me, try and say something inappropriate to me, and see what happens.

  33. AJH says...

    So saddened by this thread, but not at all surprised, which is also sad. I can’t even count how many uncomfortable and inappropriate comments, touches and gestures have been made to me over the years. I have never once said anything to any of them. Now, as an adult, the next one, because there is always a next one, will get an earful and then some. Vowing to do all I can to make sure my little boy grows up to to be a good man.

  34. Clare says...

    I’m so glad we’re having this conversation.

  35. Kato says...

    Just a thank you. For making your blog a place to also share these stories. X

  36. Debby says...

    Great post, thank you for sharing this.

    The day after a large 2,000+ people multi-national work event (read: lots of strangers, all same company), a male coworker lamented how some of the men on the dance floor were trying to hold his hand and dance really close with him. He told them he wasn’t comfortable and moved to find a different spot on the dance floor. The story ended and my female coworkers and I looked on for him to finish his story, but that was it. How terrible is it that we are so accustomed to that type of behavior, we didn’t even think it was bad? The same thing happened to us a few times that evening and we didn’t even characterize it as harassment.

  37. Thanks so much for your wonderful thoughts on sexual harassment, Joanna, and it is so unbelievable to scroll through these comments and see how so. many. women… All women? have at least a story or two about sexual harassment.

    I was sexually assaulted last October during a massage with a professional massage therapist. I was able to get out of the room, I told the manager, he confessed in front of me to her that “it was professional to a point and then briefly crossed a line.” I reported it to the police and pressed charges. In May of this year, I was informed that the Crown Attorney (I live in Canada, I’m not sure what the US equivalent is to this) decided to cancel the criminal case and dropping all charges because it was “too hazy to determine the line of consent.” This news and the debrief I had with the courts was the most insulting, traumatic experience of my life – it is one thing for a creepy man to do a creepy thing, but it is another thing for our entire justice system to not stand up for the women who come forward. I have found myself reeling in grief and wondering what country I woke up in.

    I want to see women of all ages tell these stories, and not shut up about it. Make noise about the injustices that we have experienced, because we all have experienced it. I hate that we justify things away, that it could have been worse; yes, it could have, but what happened to you, however small, was a violation of your agency. When men cross a line, let them know it is unacceptable. Make a scene. Bring attention to it. Cat-call back to construction workers and men who whistle on the street.

    Gather the men in your life that you trust and tell them your stories, and ask for their help. Tell them how they can support you, specifically, and in general. Gather the young boys in your life and speak to them about respect and honouring their friends, boys and girls. And gather the girls in your life and tell them the whole world is theirs.

    I wrote about my sexual assault in my piece called Eden, and explore what the story about the fall of man could actually be about:

    “Do you know how the story goes? God called out to Adam, “Where are you?”

    “Do you not think God knew where Adam was in the garden, He with his infinite knowledge and understanding? Down where the path meets the river and the birds would take their morning shower, and the flowers would sing sweetly as they walked by? He knew exactly where Adam stood; He wasn’t trying to place Adam, he wanted Adam to place himself.

    “I understand the story differently now. “The woman, she made me do it,” he explained. Here it was: The First Betrayal; The first Deferring Of Responsibility; The first Casting Of Shame.”

    you can read the full piece here if you’d like. Thanks for reading. http://www.visitjessjanz.com/the-daily/2016/11/20/eden

    • Amy P says...

      I feel a similar way about the story of the fall after reading Wm. Paul Young’s “Eden” (a fiction novel). I don’t agree with all that Young believes (he laid it out in a new book called “Lies We Believe About God”, but his fiction work is commendable for encouraging people to re-examine the way we think about God and the stories in the Bible and to see them in a new way; whether we agree with him or not.

  38. Gabrielle says...

    Another solution to this problem- more female/non cis male executives in the workplace.

    I am only 25, but my last three jobs the people at the highest levels were women and gay men (I worked in Fashion and non-profits). I have been so lucky to never work in a place where the culture would create such situations that have unfortunately been described in so many of the comments above.

  39. Thanks for posting this. Sharing experiences like this is so necessary. They are a chance to say, “That thing that happened to you was wrong, and it wasn’t your fault, and it happens to other women too, and it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.” Fourteen is so young for your first brush with sexual harassment, though I guess there’s not really an appropriate age. Still it must’ve been such a shock. How dare someone sexualize a child’s body like that.

    I’m 24 and I’ve already begun to forget the incidents that were so surprising and so horrible when they first happened. I worked as a waitress in a nursing home when I was in high school, and I felt like I was an animal at a petting zoo, constantly brushing off the pinches and ass grabs of senile old men. In college I was sitting in one of my good guy friend’s bedrooms playing music and looking through each other’s photos from a party earlier, and then I realized he had taken his penis out. I was fully clothed, was eating a burrito, and he was dating a girl I knew (they’re married now!). One time the college athlete I was tutoring sent me inappropriate text messages. I ignored them and then they became very threatening. But I didn’t want to lose my tutoring gig so I said nothing, and asked if I could get a new student for next semester. Last week a group of young men followed me as I was walking to the grocery store. They shouted at me, at first they were trying to be complimentary and flirt, but because I ignored them it became insulting and rife with derogatory terms for women. I was so afraid they’d be waiting when I left the grocery store but they weren’t.

  40. N Rogers says...

    Wow — powerful blog! We have a similar incident happening locally at the University of Rochester involving a professor who has been sexually harassing female grad students. It was overlooked and pushed under the rug for many years until recently. It really worries me as my daughter will probably go on to grad school in a few years.

  41. Alli says...

    I am so saddened reading these comments… how prevalent this is. Just last week at work I was in a crowded room and a VP approached me and commented on how my pants matched my shirt and skimmed the side of my thigh with his fingers. I was so taken aback I just laughed and looked around- no one noticed. I didn’t even tell anyone because I felt like maybe I had imagined it? It was weird and startling. I feel ashamed that I didn’t say anything back to him but even now know it wouldn’t make a difference. He’s powerful and well liked.

    Thank you for letting this be a place to share… I feel like I’m not crazy.

  42. Tatiana says...

    I’ve had the same thing on my mind all week. I had an experience as well. I brushed it off and told myself “others have it worse, it’s not THAT big of a deal.” But the feeling of being violated never quite goes away. Even ten years later, I think of it and it makes the hairs on my back stand up. And now as a mother of a daughter it makes me feel confused and afraid. I hate the way things are but I’m also at a loss as to how to change it.

  43. Katie says...

    Kudos to you for starting this conversation and to Johnny Kool and others for posting that this isn’t isolated to women either.

    • Carrie says...

      Yes and how frustrating for an un-consenting man to be in a bad situation, as it is so largely assumed that he is always horny, and always wants sex. They face an ugly and unique predicament.

    • t says...

      Yes, that is why I am disappointing to see Lena Dunham quoted in this article considering she blatantly objectified George Clooney and depending on how he took it, sexually harassed him when he publicly decried Weinstein.

      Her twitter response to George Clooney’s interview: “Ironically, guys, speaking out against Harvey Weinstein only makes you more sexually irresistible (consensually, of course).”

      I just don’t know what to think about anything anymore. Jokes don’t seem funny. I want less Hollywood, less media, less politics, less satire and just more respect.

    • Madison says...

      Thank you for pointing out that sexual harassment doesn’t only affect women as well. I think it is important to acknowledge this fact. James Van Der Beek even spoke out on his own experiences.

      Also, Lena Dunham is problematic simply put. I find it hard to take anything she says seriously as she has discussed situations with her own sister as a toddler that were disturbing.

      http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/lena-dunham-apologizes-sexual-predator-section-book/story?id=26685074

  44. Chelsi says...

    I think our society conditions girls from a very young age to look away, accept it, burry it. Sitting in the kindergarten hall with my daughter in the morning, the boy next to her kept touching her shoe. I told him to stop. I told her to tell him to stop. Then he touched her lunch box which was between her knees. I screamed at the boy like he’d just killed a kitten. At pick up that day, my daughter’s teacher pulled me aside to tell me, the boy had played with my daughter’s hair during carpet time. My daughter turned around and pushed him so hard he knocked the kid down behind him. I couldn’t have been more proud of her!

    For me, my best hope for my daughter is to teacher her now. Teach her it’s unacceptable. Teach her to push that little boy. Teach her jiu jitsu. Teach her to interrupt the teacher and yell it out. Teach her that guilt should only lie with the perpetrator, not her. Teach her no one has the right to touch her ever.

    • I love that she defended herself, and I love that you want her to learn jiu jitsu. I’m not a parent, so I won’t pretend this is an easy thing to teach, however, sounds like you’re doing a great job!

    • Lisa says...

      Yes: Teach her that guilt should only lie with the perpetrator, not her. Teach her no one has the right to touch her ever.
      It’s incredible, the victim blaming. We can be the ones to stop it.

    • hb says...

      What Chelsi said x100.

    • aga says...

      Yes!!!

    • Kristin says...

      How about instead of teaching her to hurt we teach her to say firmly and confidently “I don’t want you to touch my hair. Stop.” And then to move away and notify someone if it persists. Violence isn’t the answer. (Not saying ju jitsu is a bad idea, but self defense is different than hurting someone when you haven’t even used your words to tell them. )
      Remember also this little boy is about 6 years old. He is still learning what is ok and what isn’t, and is still learning how to control his impulses. Let’s not put in him the same category as a grown man who knows better.
      How would you feel if the situation were reversed and your daughter was doing the unwanted touching? Would you want someone to push her hard to the floor instead of telling her with words?

    • Chelsi says...

      Kristin – I see what you are saying where a child’s first step should be talking it out. However, I also have a son in first grade and if he came home telling me Caroline had pushed him on the carpet, I would first ask why. If he told me it’s probably because he played with her hair, I would be more upset with him and down right proud of Caroline that she had stood up for herself.

      In no way would I lump a child in with the same group as lecherous adult men. What I’m saying is it’s our responsibility as adults/parents to teach our children that no matter what gender, orientation, age, etc. no human has the right to touch another human without consent period.

  45. Erin says...

    Your line about compromising your career, reputation, etc. for a man to get a slap on the wrist is so on point. I’ve been harassed at multiple places of work and never have had any clue what to do about it. When I tell coworkers that I feel I can confide in, they’re outraged. It’s a horrible position to be in, because you don’t want to in any way compromise the hard work you’ve put in or the reputation you’ve developed for yourself. Furthermore, you’re put in a position where you suddenly have to make a choice. Do you want to report this man and have him potentially find himself jobless? How does that affect his children when dad loses his job?

    I don’t want that responsibility on my shoulders and the only way to be rid of that responsibility it seems is for men and women alike to know the line of what’s acceptable and what’s not…. and then, of course, to refrain from behavior that is not acceptable and teach their children to do the same.

  46. Andrea says...

    I shared this post and comments with my husband. Let’s get the everyday experience of women out of the exclusive realm of the Girl Ghetto.

  47. Twyla says...

    My best friend’s daughter is 10 and practically our niece – she’s called us Aunty and Uncle since she was a toddler. The other day my husband was goofing around with her and her younger sisters and he smacked her butt – she stopped, turned around and very seriously said “Uncle – it makes me uncomfortable when you do that.” He was horrified and apologized to her. I’ve never been prouder of her (or her mom) than I was at that moment. Every single one of us should be teaching every little girl in our lives to speak up for themselves like that.

    • Lindsay says...

      Wow!!! I am so proud of this little girl! Way to stand up for herself at such a young age. I’m sure your husband felt awful because he didn’t mean it like that, but boy am I impressed by her!

    • Rachel says...

      That’s awesome. I’d love to hear more about how to teach your daughters to react like that. Perhaps a “how to” article.

    • Annie M says...

      This is AWESOME! I can only hope that I teach my 3 year old daughter to stand up for herself like this little empowered chica! We’ve been talking about being the boss of our bodies on the daily, so hopefully it sticks…
      Thanks for sharing :)

    • t says...

      This made me smile!! Go Twyla’s ‘niece’!

  48. I tried explaining to a male friend that this stuff happens so frequently, that a lot of the time we just get angry, walk away, and try not to think about it. He could not believe it and was completely shocked.

    The context for this conversation? A man in the bagel shop came up to me one early morning a month or so ago while we were both waiting for our bagels and said, “I’ve been looking at you and wondering how the hell you get out of those jeans, cause they’re so tight.” He leered and winked and I was so taken aback I had nothing to throw back at him. I know I blushed, grabbed my bagel as soon as it was ready, and took off.
    What I wear is none of your business, is what I should have said. Or, more succinctly, just F*** off.

    • jill says...

      hahaha

  49. Sharon says...

    in the spirit of sharing… i too was sexually harassed at work. a coworker slowly escalated touching me over the course of a year: a poke in the ribs, a shoulder rub etc. until one day he cornered me in the kitchen, slapped and grouped my butt. at first i was paralyzed but then i blurted out “you can’t touch my body” and i emailed HR. i felt conflicted about him losing his job (he has a wife and two young children) but in the end it felt right to speak up. only later did i learn he had done the same thing to two other young women in the office.

    • Zoey says...

      I’ve been reading through all the comments and a recurring theme among the ladies seems to be a sort of guilt over reporting their harasser(s) and (potentially) getting him fired. All due respect and love but ladies, this needs to stop — you are NOT beholden to the creeps who forced their unwanted attentions on you. You do NOT need to take into account his feelings or even his family’s (wife, young kids, whatever) because he sure as heck wasn’t thinking about YOUR feelings when he was harassing you. And if he was thinking at all, he’d have stopped to think about his own family’s wellbeing and future before HE jeopardized his own job and put his family’s livelihood at risk over some sick illicit thrill. Let the perpetrators shoulder the responsibility and consequences for their own actions; it’s not on you ladies.

    • Suzieq says...

      So proud of you for reporting. That is HARD, but you did it!

    • jill says...

      @ zoe, so true because honestly, his wife NEEDS TO KNOW! If he’s fired for being a predator, she needs to know that is who she is sleeping next to at night so that she can course correct accordingly.

  50. All of these stories are incredibly mind-numbing. Imagine if we had all spoken up every single time someone harassed or assaulted us… and even then, so much gets brushed under the rug. My husband and I recently went out to dinner and were discussing the Weinstein news, and once I started, I couldn’t stop. I told him about so many instances over the years, starting when I was 12 or even younger, where I have been harassed, grabbed, made to feel uncomfortable. It just goes on and on.

    My first memory of sexual harassment/assault is from when I was a freshman in high school taking a typing class that included upperclassmen. There was a male senior who began by standing behind me, very close, while I was typing, and grab my hands to mess me up. The teacher, an older women in her sixties or seventies, did nothing aside from occasionally tell him to return to his seat. As the semester wore on, he became more bold, grabbing my waist or holding my wrists so hard there were bruises later. Everyone stood around watching, but I guess it was “all in good fun,” even though I clearly remember telling him time and time again in a firm voice to stop, to leave me alone, to go away. He eventually followed me through the hallways, pulling on my backpack, or jumping onto my back (!) or catcalling me between classes. This happened week after week after week. I would cry in private, but since the adults never intervened, I was sent the message that what I did, said, and wanted did not matter, and that I was going to have to just deal with this as a part of being a female person in the world. It eventually got so bad that I went to the guidance counselor to report him, but I’m afraid the message that was sent to this guy was that people would look the other way, and he really only received a verbal warning, while that experience has stuck with me my whole life. It’s infuriating to think of how many young women have been through these situations.

    • Dai says...

      Wow, that’s awful. I am so sorry you had to go through that.

  51. Oh yeah, starting when I was 14: the dad of a child I babysat, my high school biology teacher, a doctor, a boss, a professor, a friend’s husband … I never told anyone but I should have. They were assaults on my body, but instead of calling the perpetrators on it I turned those events into a kind of pride. Yes, pride that I had walked away unscathed. But I was NOT unscathed was I?

  52. I can’t help but think of my own boss of 10 years who is CONSTANTLY “adjusting” himself in front of anyone at anytime. It’s ridiculous that sitting at my desk, him in front of it, I am witness to his inappropriate junk touching on the reg. Like DAILY. And how his does it more frequently when he’s in a good mood. UGH! HOW?! I’m baffled. Did his parents never teach him theres a time and a place for penis touches!? It’s gotten so bad I have thought about bringing it up to his girlfriend. I am at a loss….

    • Tis says...

      Bring it up with him! We’re never going to “fix” these men if we don’t make them feel uncomfortable about it. Why should it become another woman’s problem? So awkward and humiliating for her. Good luck!

    • jill says...

      Say, “I feel really uncomfortable when you touch yourself in front of me. Can you please stop?”. If it doesn’t end there then you really need to look for another job. Consider it the universe giving you a promotion to bigger and better things. The time is NOW.

  53. Lisa says...

    Thanks for this post. I also for the most part brushed it off. I remember in college there was this guy I really liked, but looking back on it, he was just so creepy. He was handsome and I think I just brushed off all the awful comments he used to make because I was so starry eyed. We were installing an art show one day in the school gallery and he said, “If you feel something pressing into your back, don’t worry, it’s just the drill.” Obviously an innuendo for his penis. He used to make dirty jokes all the time, and I felt like I had to laugh. I’m so glad I didn’t end up with him. He used to call me a cock tease, and I was so uncertain how to respond. Thank God he’s not in my life anymore.

  54. Jennifer Manzano says...

    Men seem to “know” it’s a thing, but don’t realize the daily reality of it. When I told my husband that I’m street harrassed at least weekly, but probably almost daily that I have some sort of uncomfortable experience in being talked to or looked at (I like to walk alone to a cafe to write at 8 in the morning. I dress fairly conservatively, though clearly that shouldn’t matter) he was horrified at the frequency & reality of my life. It’s insane to me that we ALL have these stories. I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t.

    • t says...

      I also don’t think they realize what they are doing. I am not talking about sexual assault like what Joanna experienced but with sexual harassment I think if you polled many men they wouldn’t consider some of these experiences as harassment.

      I have a client who always ends our meetings by complimenting my looks. I KNOW he isn’t coming on to me; he genuinely thinks this is what I want to hear (you know because that is what is important to women…) but I always feel belittled.

    • jill says...

      @T, just compliment him back! Simple.

  55. Beth says...

    I remember taking a trip to Miami with my girlfriends from college. One morning over breakfast we happened to start talking about sexual assault because of a recent news story and were remarking on how lucky we felt because we were never sexually assaulted at our small liberal arts college. But soon into the conversation, stories came out from every woman starting with, “but there was that time…” or “I’m not sure if this really counts but…” and an hour later we’d each uncovered multiple instances where we were in fact all harassed, violated, and even assaulted. Many of us just were conditioned to see them as not a big deal, or part of college life, but collectively a totally different narrative emerged.

  56. Claudia says...

    I’m so right there with you. I’ve been thinking how lucky I am to have not been abused this way. But then I remembered the time this dude masturbated next to me at the campus library, or the times random dudes grabbed my ass when I walked by. Or the catcalls and leers that happen regularly.
    I have a son. I feel like my husband and I are teaching him to respect women (and men too, and Republicans [but that one’s hard]). The fact that this situation with Hollywood has reached such a fever pitch is excellent because we’re all talking about it. The only way to change it is to keep talking about it. Don’t let those slimebags get away with a single thing.

  57. Jasna says...

    Speaking about this topic, I would recommend to everyone to watch Netflix’s series “13 Reason Why”. It is incredibly well done, I cannot stop thinking about it. I watched it from the perspective of a parent and it is heartbreaking. Whether you have a son or a daughter you should watch it.

    • Alex Yates says...

      Yes! I remember when it came out I wasn’t too keen about watching it because I felt like it was glorifying suicide, however you watch the season and you realize it was about so much more! I was horrified with the scene of here and the guidance counselor and he basically said she should just brush it off because he was a senior.

  58. Eleanor Teetee says...

    Great share. As a woman of your mother’s generation, I too might have said to my daughter , what your mom said to you. I only hope that if a similar situation arises with my daughter and granddaughter’s, their mom would go directly to the owner of the pizza shop, and bring in the authorities.

  59. Steph says...

    I was 5 years old.

    My 15 year old cousin told me we could do something fun but no one could know about it. He fingered me. This happened on multiple occasions before I finally told my mom because I felt guilty. Because I felt I had done something wrong. She was outraged and told his mother and his punishment was being slapped and yelled at. That was all. That was all for him, but I’ve had to live with it for all of these years.

    Unfortunately that was not the last of sexual assaults or harassments against me. I was a very quiet and shy little girl, who grew into a teenager with depression and anxiety and little confidence. The monsters saw easy prey in me. I have been harassed. I have been assaulted. I have been date raped and then bullied by the monster’s friends.

    Most importantly, now I am a strong and confident woman. I am the mother of a daughter. I will not let my daughter be a victim. She will fight back, though I hope she never has to. She will know her strength. She will know her worth. She will not be damaged by a monster.

    • Cooper says...

      So terrible. I had a similar experience with an older cousin and his friend when I was around the same age (5), but thankfully, the friend’s mom walked in before any physical contact occurred. What horrifies me most is that I never told my parents. How could I, at 5, not feel comfortable telling my parents about I experience I found so confusing? I’m so glad you’re raising your daughter to know her strength.

    • paula says...

      I’m so sorry.

    • Cindy says...

      I am so sorry for what you had to go through and live with. I understand because…my brother….yeah, that.

    • Jess says...

      Oh my god, I’m so sorry you went through that! I have some vague memories that are really fuzzy, I’m not sure if what I remember actually happened or not. I understand what you mean about feeling like you can’t tell your parents. I don’t know why we carry that guilt, maybe because girls are conditioned to be compliant and quiet and ‘well behaved’ from birth.

    • -*- says...

      Well, my mother couldn’t handle anything even vaguely grey area (due to her own childhood experiences with abuse) and blamed me. In fact I was slapped when I told her. I think this is perhaps common, especially in foreign countries.

      Often children intuitively know when their parents are not going to be able to provide the support they should. Sad but it’s pretty common, that’s why these things happen.

  60. Carrie says...

    We used to live across the street from this old man who’d have my two older sisters and I over to watch Lamb Chops and eat snacks. He had a few sheep and a jungle gym so those things were quite an attraction for us girls. Anyway, I can remember him holding me down hard on his lap, I remember him kissing me on the mouth and trying to put his tongue in my mouth. He used to say “give me a french kiss”, as if I knew wtf that was. He’d promise to take us on a “shopping spree” if I’d give him a french kiss. I never had any clue what his angle was with me. Why was he doing these things? What did they mean? I just remember so well him holding me so tightly on his lap. He used to buy us bubble gum all the time and hide it in his underwear drawer and then watch us while we looked for it, sorting through his underwear. To think of that now makes me feel demeaned and embarrassed. I can remember how we dug so excitedly. In my mind I venture back and imagine a bubble of protection around us three sisters. I thank God he never raped us.

    Our parents were quite young, but I feel frustrated sometimes that they did not use their sense to keep us away from him. I will do better for my children one day when I am a mom. I am deeply in tune with others energy and I think I have an excellent sense of things. I will always trust my gut.

    As a teen I experienced a man masturbating while watching me tan at the Santa Cruz boardwalk. I put my towel around me and set off to find my group. I walked about 50 deep into the little carnival area before I realized it was not yet open for the season and turned to see he had followed me. I had no choice but to look him in his eye and walk straight toward him as it was my only way out. He ran.

    The list goes on and on. I take these experiences to heart, each had a big impact on me. I can remember every encounter so vividly. I hope I can learn from each one how to better protect myself, my nieces/nephews and someday, my children.

    Even if no one reads my comment, it felt good to write this stuff out!! I could fill a book with all these horrifying moments but I don’t think anyone would want to read it.

    • paula says...

      I read it.

    • Carrie says...

      50 feet deep*

    • Amy says...

      I read it. I’m sorry these things happened to you. I truly believe that our collective telling of these stories and shouting them to the world and telling them to all the men in our lives, will make a difference. Keep talking!

    • Megan says...

      I read it too. And it’s mind boggling how “normal” these experiences are for women – we put up with this sh!t all the time.

    • Lesley says...

      I read it too. We are with you.

  61. Sarah says...

    Two weeks ago, I saw a colleague whom I haven’t worked with in several months (freelance music). I am pregnant and am showing. He walked up to me and put his hands on my waist and said, “From behind you don’t even look pregnant. You’re skinnier than the last time I saw you. Nice.” and walked away. I wanted to throw up. I was so mad at myself for not having the perfect comeback in that moment- when I told one of our mutual friends, she was horrified, but then said, “Well that’s Karl for you.” I get it- he has a reputation, he’s generally harmless, but at what point do we say something to our bosses? Does his talent in our workplace and his friendship outweigh the comfort of the women in our ensembles?

    • wb says...

      I thinks it’s part of ‘the boys will be boys” mentality. It gives men a big pass, when it shouldn’t.

  62. Kate says...

    I do pushups. Does it fix anything? No. But at least I’m channeling my rage into something productive.

  63. Lesley says...

    I am in-house counsel at a large workplace. I have been sexually harassed on two occasions by the friendly, happy-go-lucky father type in one department. I have hesitated to enforce the company policies against him because everyone likes him and I may be perceived as uptight. Why is it so damn difficult? Obviously, people need to stop shaming those who speak up. And people need to keep speaking up even when it is difficult.

    • Jess says...

      I was sexually harassed by my boss in my first job after law school. I was the youngest person in the office and gave my notice in the heat of an angry outburst during a work meeting, with all staff present. After the meeting, the next most senior lawyer (a woman who was about the same age as the male boss) came to my office to ask me why I was quitting. When I gave her details of the inappropriate things our boss had said to me over many months, she said “he’s never said anything like that to me.” She didn’t believe me.

    • jill says...

      If you don’t value how you feel over how your workplace feels about your well-being then what do you expect? This is what personal empowerment means. YOU must speak up for people to respect you. If they actually do consider you “uptight”, (and it is not just inner fears posing as demons in your head), then you reallllllly need to find a better workplace!

    • Lesley says...

      Jess, that is terrible and I am so sorry you had to go through that. I have encountered quite a few women in our profession who not only deny any gender-based discrimination or harassment, but seem to enjoy the rough experiences that their younger peers must endure. It needs to end. I am honored to be your peer and promise to respect you, even if we never meet.

  64. Elise says...

    Dear Joanne, thank you for voicing this. It has happened to me and my friends on so many accounts, at work, at a bar, on a plane, in a shop. All the same story ending up with silencing ourselves. Once I did confront a man who was harassing me on the bus while everyone was watching. I never ever rode that bus again. Instead, I biked everywhere and change cities. However, it isn’t a solution. Partners, brothers, male colleagues reacted strongly too when I told them about what happened. I think a major question is educating them to speak up if they see something. I also have two little nephews and I hope my brothers – and I already told them – will educate their respective boys to treat women with respect and never force anything onto them, or anyone else for the matter.

  65. T says...

    All of this is just so sad and relatable, unfortunately. My most recent experience with harassment was at an event I was just at for work two days ago. A 30-something year old man walked up to the booth I was sitting at at a trade show, and at first he was just talking about the company was starting up, but soon turned into “my ex-girlfriend used to go to a lot of trade shows like this, and she said things get crazy afterwards and everyone goes out and drinks. Is that true, have you experienced that?” And then he proceeded to tell me how co-workers at his old company slept with each other, and every time I tried to politely end the conversation, he kept lingering. Like, I don’t know you dude. You don’t need to be discussing these things with me. I felt so uncomfortable.

    And, the day before that, when I was in my office, my male boss walked into my cubicle and did a quick tug on my ponytail to get my attention. And it reminded me that he once did that another time maybe a year or two ago. There haven’t been any other uncomfortable incidences with him, but how inappropriate is that?

    My worst experience was in college, when a guy I had hooked up with previously in high school and in college, wanted to hook up when we were just hanging out at his place and smoking marijuana. I told him no, I wasn’t in the mood, and he proceeded to take out his penis and forced himself into my mouth. I left immediately and did not hang out with him again.

    After the Access Hollywood tape with Trump came out last year, and one of my friends (a Trump supporter) saying that she doesn’t believe the women coming out saying he harassed them, I got triggered really hard with my experience. It was the first time I actually told someone about the experience with my old hook up (9 years after the incident), but I didn’t even tell her – I told another friend who was in on our group text at the time. And when I felt uncomfortable the other day with the man at the trade show, I told my friends in the group text about the experience, saying that I was either getting hit on or just felt like the conversation was so inappropriate, and my Trump supporter friend (I hope jokingly) said to take it as a compliment. I wrote back in disgust, saying that a man speaking to me like that was not a compliment and that it was disgusting that men think they can talk like that freely to women. To sum it up, last night I texted my friend vaguely about the incident in college, telling her I was assaulted and had kept it inside for 9 years since I told our other friend last year. I wanted her to know that women that keep this information inside for years are still to be believed. They’re not making accusations to be famous or get money. Unfortunately harassment and assault have become things that we are supposed to accept as normal behavior, but I am hopeful this will change now following these Harvey Weinstein accusations and the support women are getting.

  66. Exhausted says...

    Real world example from YESTERDAY. I’m working part-time and needed “Todd” to take my shift. Todd’s one of those guys that some people can get along with others can’t. He comes off as a bit creepy to girls with his playful, flirty comments but I don’t think he realizes it. Or he does but he doesn’t care and does it anyways.

    In a conversation along not getting along with a supervisor, he said “Oh, you ‘ve been a bad girl.” I know he doesn’t mean harm but it makes me uncomfortable. In a conversation about taking a shift, he said:
    “you would have to check with supervisor about shift change. I’m a bad boy ?”

    So my question is: Do I confront him and say this is unprofessional? Do I gather others to report him? Power in numbers? Do I just pass it off? I’ve deflected the comment and kept it professional. My thinking now is, “is it worth it?” I honestly don’t know…

    I HATE that we have to deal with this BS on a regular basis.

    • Andrea says...

      Bring it up with him as a first step. Set your boundaries. If that doesn’t work, escalate it.

    • CCMA says...

      I would confront him stating it is degrading to hear him speak that way. Make it clear he is undermining your dignity AND his by making those types of remarks. Tell him he can get his point across in classier way by having higher standards for himself and those around him. If you simply tell him it is unprofessional, it will fall flat. His definition of what is professional may differ vastly from your definition.

    • Amy says...

      Say something! Tell him that his comments make you uncomfortable. Do it while it’s small because if/when it escalates, you will have wished you said something to him earlier. If it keeps up after you told him to watch his language, go to HR! I think we often let things start small and then when it escalates, we feel guilty that we didn’t do something about it earlier. Why should we feel guilty for saying something! If he’s a nice guy, he will sincerely apologize and never do it again.

    • Tis says...

      These other women have come up with very articulate strategies, but I’d keep it short and direct. I often think it’s easier to throw out a quick comment than to prepare yourself for an entire uncomfortable conversation.
      “Dude, your bad boy talk is not cool. It don’t think it’s funny. It’s gross.”
      If he’s actually clueless, he might appreciate it. If he’s a jerk, maybe (fingers crossed) he’ll stop, because you called him out.

  67. Gabrielle says...

    Two nights ago I was out at a steak restaurant in NYC with my mom and my brother, who is 19 years old. This restaurant is sort of a “boys club” where men get together to eat steak, drink, and watch baseball games. Behind us was a table of about 5 men. When the waitress came over and was taking their orders one of the men patted her behind 4 times. The waitress moved his hand, finished up what she was doing, and moved away from their table. She was our waitress as well, and when she came over we mentioned to her that we saw what happened, and asked if she was ok or if there was anything we could do. She thanked us, and said it did upset her, but made it clear this kind of behavior happens often.

    After our meal, we asked to speak to the manager. We said how we had definitely enjoyed our meal, but we did see that happen and it was disturbing to us. We wanted to be sure that this restaurant was a place where employees would feel comfortable letting the manager know when somthing like this happened with a customer. The manager (who was a woman) thanked us and said she was aware, and that the waitress had told her right after it happened, and the manager had been monitoring that table for the rest of their meal.

    While I am happy the waitress felt comfortable going to her manager, I wish we were at a point where behavior like this would lead to someone getting kicked out of a restaurant, rather than getting no repercussions.

  68. JA Cotton says...

    I’m still confused how we as a nation elected a President with these same, known behaviors? Anyone? And how many women voted for him and supported him? Admitted behaviors on tape? I find it hard to be outraged now over anything. Sadly we choose to rationalize what we want to on the one hand, and condemn others depending on the circumstances.

    • Vava says...

      My outrage continues. The Grabber-In-Chief is as slimey as Weinstein.

      Early on in my working life, I was subjected to groping by my boss. He put his hand down the back of my jeans. I stood up, slapped him in the face and demanded my paycheck right there and then. I walked out and looked for another job elsewhere. I was 20 years old. Luckily for me, nothing like that ever happened to me again. But this shit continues in this society and it is disgusting. Women are preyed on.

    • Sara says...

      Totally agree! Some men lose their jobs but one gets to become president. What is wrong with people ?

    • Mari says...

      But how many here voted for Clinton…either or both? Bill Clinton is a known sexual predator. He and Hillary both tried to destroy the women who came out against him again and again. Hillary also got a child rapist off then laughed about it on tape. Until EVERYONE is held to a higher standard, nothing is going to change. Everyone.

  69. J says...

    In my experience, when the “top guy” in the company is a harasser, it creates an environment where the men under him (and this goes aaaall the way down) think they can do the same. Mark my words, there will be more executives at the Weinstein Company accused of sexual harassment, maybe not of rich, powerful actresses but of regular women that work or worked at the company

  70. Sarah says...

    Hi Jo,

    Thank you for this post, it has been cathartic for many of us. Although it would be really good if you could put a trigger warning at the beginning of your post because this is a topic that can cause a lot of trauma.

  71. I work in a male dominated industry and have an unreal number of stories to tell. I have to be judicious about when to go to HR, because if I went for everything I would be there at least once a week. The sad fact is that when I first started I was so shocked that these things were happening to me that I didn’t even know how to handle it. Finally, one day my boss “accidentally” dropped a piece of candy in my chair and slid his hand, palm up, all the way under me (way past any reasonable place that the candy could have traveled) to retrieve it. I jumped up and laughed, because that’s what we do to keep ourselves safe, but the next day I went to him and spoke about him directly. He was shocked that I was bothered by what he had done. I later found out that he warned every man in the office to watch their backs around me because I was out to get them. He learned nothing, and blamed me for overreacting. I had no idea that what he had done was sexual assault. I was 23.

    There have been countless other instances, at work, in social settings, walking down the street (recently I was walking to my kids’ daycare and a man told me he wanted to put his dick in my face), and they fill me with rage. At the same time, I feel defeated because my rage never solves anything. The quote about men’s reactions is so spot on. They either react with disbelief that these things really happen, or with out sized anger with little understanding. The only man I know who understands work place harassment is my husband (he still struggles with street harassment), because he’s a lawyer and he sees first hand what happens when you try to fight. He will be the first to explain that reporting anything results in an in-depth investigation into everything from your character to your work history, and it will ruin your career. The laws against this behavior exist, but they’re false protection. I will say that this issue seems to be improving. Nearly 100% of my workplace harassment was done by a man in his 50s or 60s. I hope that my kids will live in world where sexual harassment is shocking, and not the norm.

    One last thing to add: men often ask why we don’t stand up for ourselves, but the boss who “grabbed my pussy” was 6’6″ and probably more than 300 lbs. What was I supposed to do? Fight him? Even an average size man can easily overpower an average woman. We deflect out of self-defense, not permissiveness.

    • Carrie says...

      I work in construction as a dispatcher, luckily my 6’4″ 250lb husband also works here haha……the stuff I have to put up with daily is stupid comments like “is it that time of the month?” if I’m in a bad mood (the answer: Nope, you’re just a lazy dummy) or people not taking me seriously, etc. Other fun things we have to work and push through as women in the work place.

    • Not the admin says...

      This rings so true me – I work in real estate development and I’m the only woman present most of the time. I’m 40 with 15 years solid experience, a good title and a lot of responsibility. I’m good at my job and I love it. I’m mistaken for an admin at least once a week, which isn’t harassment but an example of how little power and authority women are expected to have. The idea of speaking up about comments that happen every day is a non-starter for me. It would ruin my career and I’ve worked really hard for it.

  72. Jessica says...

    WHY IS THIS SO COMMON? Something has to give. I was 20, a very young wife and mother to a three year old. I had grown extremely close to an uncle (through marriage). My aunt married this man when I was 12. I loved her and grew to love him very much as well. Until this point when I say we grew extremely close I mean as in family. I spent a lot of time at their house. We went on trips together. No funny business to this point. Then one day we found ourselves alone. I had on shorts and was walking in front of him. He reached his hand up my shorts, grabbed my ass, tried to move his fingers into my panties, leaned in close to my ear and whispered, “Would you?” I was so shocked and disgusted the only thing I could mutter was, “I’m married.” And then I slowly moved away. I never told anyone until a few years ago when I confided in a relative. Thankfully nothing more happened. But that was enough. I will never forget that day. And obviously our relationship has never been the same.

  73. E says...

    I had a middle school band teacher who always creeped me out (but he had mentored my older sister and my parents loved him). On the night of a concert, I walked by myself into the band room to get my instrument and he was in there. He looked at my concert formalwear and said, “Wow, you look beautiful.” Said slowly, while staring at me. “Aren’t you going to tell me that I look nice?”

    My parents brushed it off. I was in sixth grade.

    Years later, he was fired and his wife left him after he had an affair with an ex-student, who he went on to marry.

    Trust your gut, ladies.

    • Carrie says...

      Yes. Intuition is such a gift. I had a very similar experience with a youth pastor. He brought me into his office to speak with me and locked the door behind us. He did not act on anything that day, but I was SO uncomfortable. Two years later he was fired for trying to have sex with one of the young girls in the youth group.

  74. Genna says...

    I took a job as a front desk associate at a small luxury boutique hotel in my hometown shortly after completing my Bachelor’s degree (09′). It was an odd job that paid the bills while I continued to dream about where the future would take me but also a job that I had some enthusiasm for. We’d often welcome celebrities, athletes and political figures, you never knew who would walk in the door. It was a really good match for my personality because I enjoyed the service industry, greeting people and literally just employing my kindness. The owner of the hotel was a well known investor in the community, notorious also for his outgoing and overly social personality. It didn’t take me long to catch on to how he saw/treated women in the workplace. Our degrees didn’t matter to him, our passions – he saw a smile, blonde hair, and a black dress that made me “really look like a woman today.” He would toss comments around at odd times, mostly when we were alone and I was busy at work. The breaking point was one afternoon alone at the front desk when things were still quiet that he said, behind my back while sitting at the computer “I’d really like to bend you over my knee and slap you.” He even tossed the “mmm” in there like he was eating a big piece of birthday cake. I turned to him and looked around wondering if what I heard was right, if anyone else was around. Had his wife just walked in? Was he talking to her? Was there another woman around? No, we were alone. He was talking to me. I had straightened my hair that day and taken a little extra effort to apply eyeliner and wore my new black dress because a wedding was going to take place at the hotel… did I invite this? Was this my fault? No. It wasn’t. I went to the bathroom and cried, alone. Everything that I had worked for in my life felt like it was being sucked into an invisible vacuum in the sky. Staring at myself in the mirror, I felt soulless, just a physical body…I offered nothing to the world in that moment. It was the worst way to feel, the worst feeling of all the feelings I’ve felt in all my life.

    I marched back to the front desk and asked him if I could speak to him in the other room, anxious and scared out of my mind, I built up the courage and told him every single time he had made me feel uncomfortable since I started working for him and said ” you are awful,” and left. He just gave me a smug grin and walked away shaking his head. Had anyone ever told him this before? Had anyone else ever had the courage to look at this man and tell him who he really was? I felt brave and powerful, though still a little scared. I never went back. I didn’t know what my plan was financially but I knew if I stayed in that situation any longer, I would have way too much repair work to do on my soul.

    Thanks for writing about this Joanna. I’m sure it’s safe to say that many of us have encountered situations like this in our past – some forgotten because of how “small” they are, but others, not forgotten – they are the propellents, the little rocket ships that move us forward.

    I will say that I am now in my dream job in DC and doing exactly what I saw myself doing back then as a fresh college grad. I’ve worked with women in domestic violence situations, trafficked youth and refugees starting new lives in this country.

    For anyone reading this who may be experiencing something similar right now – don’t doubt your instincts or brush these things off. Stand up for yourself and for the rest of us out there, for our daughters – so they may never encounter a thing like this along their journey in life. There are so many out there trying to make ugly what is beautiful. Something I learn day to day.. please be brave.

    • Jenny says...

      So good. Thank you for sharing :)

  75. E says...

    I, too, have several examples I could share. But the most recent, and possibly the most disturbing involved my EIGHT MONTH OLD daughter. At the mall with her, an older grandpa-like gentleman stopped us, said “oh, she’s so sweet, what a cutie, etc.” I thought nothing of it, until he grabbed her legs, and said “Wow, she’s SO pretty, I would just love to babysit and watch her.” He was leering, and it turned so weird so quickly that I got chills and just said “Nice to meet you, we have to go.” She’s a BABY.

    • E says...

      P.S. Not sure why I referred to him as a “gentleman.” What I should have said is “grandpa-aged creep.”

  76. Katie says...

    I remember the first day of work at a non-profit and my boss said he would take me out to a welcome lunch.

    When we got to the restaurant, another man met us, my boss’s friend. Throughout the course of the meal, I realized that my boss was trying to set me up with this older man, and that he had “told his friend all about me.” I felt sick to my stomach and didn’t know how to respond and ended up being silent but polite the whole meal.

    As you say Joanna, as women we sometimes try to make these experiences in our mind add up to nothing. But it was something – it made me rethink the reason I was hired, it made me feel uncomfortable with my new boss and the work environment, and when I came home and cried that night, it made me feel powerless.

  77. Katie says...

    Though I feel as though I have led a fortunate life, I am surprised by all the memories that pop up on reading these comments. . . .

    Being catcalled as a prepubescent 10 year old in shopping center parking lot. Being harassed as a middle schooler by passing cars while I waited for the bus. As a 13-year-old finding polaroids of a man’s penis on neighborhood sidewalks and being brought in with the police and counselors to talk about it (though I didn’t think it was a big deal at the time, I am now disgusted). In high school having a boy push my head down to his crotch to fellate him. My 29-year-old high school track coach spending nearly a year calling me, his 17-year-old captain, late at night to convince me to go on a date with him and let him kiss me. In college getting drunk with a “friend”, saying no to hooking up with him 15 separate times and then being too exhausted to stop him from having sex with me. A coworker after college who insisted on pursuing me for a threesome with his wife. Countless, countless instances of smaller yet no less disturbing acts of invasion and coercion. As a mother of a little girl, I will make it my mission to teach her to confront these situations proactively, fearlessly and without hesitation since I doubt she will be lucky enough to avoid them.

    I do want to point out that while certainly male on female dominant, sexual harassment is not always so gendered. I once had a female boss who asked me very uncomfortably personal questions, including what type of birth control I used (we were DEFINITELY not that close) so she could recommend it to her daughter. My husband, who was adorably innocent all through college, experienced shocking instances of women coming on to him in aggressive, violating ways. As a man, however, people could not understand why he wasn’t simply welcoming their behavior with open arms.

  78. Amy McWilliams says...

    I feel so encouraged by articles like this and all these women coming forward to talk about inappropriate things that have happened to them in the workplace. It makes me feel more confident that the next time something happens (or is about to happen) I’ll be strong enough to speak up and put a stop to it in a way that I never have been in the past.

  79. Caitlin says...

    I had the same reaction when I first started hearing the stories from all these women – that I felt lucky that nothing like that has happened to me.

    But then I remembered when I was 14 or 15, and the cashier at the 7 Eleven where I was getting my after-school snack patted and then slowly dragged his hand across my inner thigh after showing me where the spoons were for my yogurt.

    And then I remembered when I was 16 and at the park with a guy that I thought I liked and could possibly date, and he stood in the open car door preventing me from getting out, and leaned in and kissed me. I didn’t have a choice in the matter – I was stuck in the car with nowhere to go, and he knew it.

    Its saddening to think that I (and the rest of the lovely women commenting on this post) just wrote those moments off as ‘creepy’ and gladly let them fade from my memory. Situations like the ones I was in, and so many others, are NOT ok and should NEVER happen. Hopefully one day soon they will become less commonplace.

  80. teal says...

    One thing I’ve been confused about is where is the line between sexual harassment and sexual assault? If someone forcibly or unwittingly touches you or forces you to touch them, I would think that is classified as assault, and harassment is more verbal. Part of the issue for me is that growing up I learned that “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me” so I’ve let a lot of harassment go by without saying anything. But if someone grabs you, or kisses you forcibly, isn’t that assault?

    • This is such a valid question!! And I don’t know the answer…

    • Cooper says...

      I think sexual assault is defined by the part of the body that’s touched – sometimes the law refers to it as “intimate parts” – genitals, buttocks, breasts, inner thighs, etc., whether over or under clothing. I think some unwanted touching (shoulder squeezes) might be considered harassment rather than assault. That’s just off the top of my head, so it might not be 100% accurate.

    • Lisa says...

      Depends on the legal jurisdiction. Assault is often the threat of bodily harm whereas touching is considered battery. But in other places, assault is both the threat and actual touching.

    • j says...

      Its actually battery if someone grabs you or kisses you forcibly! In most jurisdictions, assault only requires reasonable apprehension of imminent harmful/offensive contact (ie they don’t even have to touch you, you just have to be afraid that they were about to). Harassment requires no physical component. So, for example, when Weinstein was chasing those women around his hotel room or blocking the door so they couldn’t leave – not touching them at all – that was assault.

  81. Zoey says...

    I’ve been on the receiving end of so so many of these comments/catcalls and unwanted touches over the years that they’ve mostly blurred together in my mind. Perverts deliberately standing behind me and pressing their hard-ons against my butt in the bus/train? Check. Pervs sitting way too close to me even in an empty bus/train carriage? Check. Pervs masturbating next to me in the aisle seat, effectively trapping me in my window seat during a 4-hour plane ride? Check! Cabbies and shuttle bus drivers who suggested I go someplace else with them to “have fun” instead of me getting out when stopped at my destination, freaking me out and triggering my flight response? Check and check!

    The worst of the public transportation harassment incidents had to be the time I felt something uncomfortably hot pressing against my right calf while standing in a bus otw home. Thinking it was someone’s hot food takeaway, I looked down and instead was horrified to find some filthy old man’s FOOT extended from his seat way across the aisle! Like he had deliberately extended his leg way across just so he could violate me! And worst of all he tried to follow me when I moved away from that spot!!!

    This is precisely why I bought my own car the very nanosecond I could afford it…

    Sadly the onslaught of sexual harassment began from puberty, which directly contributed to me taking years and years to finally feel comfortable in my own body. I was nothing to look at — rows of metal braces in my mouth, super thick unfashionable glasses for my shortsightedness, enough hair to cover my face and hide from the world, the smallest boobs and heavyset hips — but men just felt it was their right to shout disgusting comments out of cars driving past me, “jokingly” make inappropriate comments to my face while serving me in delis/stores even when it made me clearly uncomfortable and didn’t elicit any kind of response from me. (In my mind anyway. Maybe the sight of my discomfort was precisely what they were getting off on!) This happened repeatedly at the bodega near my house that my dad used to send me to fetch his fave snack from. I got more and more reluctant to go. I finally told my dad I hated going there and why, and he promptly went over there and gave those guys what must’ve been an epic smackdown, because I never had a problem with those guys again. God knows my dad and I had many many issues over the years — he was also a bully and overbearing but never sexually — but I can say that that was one of the only bright spots in those turbulent teenage years, that he took me seriously instead of disparaging my experience and telling me to just get over it.

    I’ve often felt that the only way to really stamp out sexual harassment was to somehow magically turn every unsympathetic chauvinist pig into a 12-year-old girl and make them suffer through the years of powerlessness, insecurity and fear at the thought yet very real possibility that men might one day decide to go beyond catcalling and cross over into physically grabbing or assaulting them. Maybe once they’ve had to really experience what women go through on a daily basis, they’ll finally be truly inspired to help dismantle and renounce the patriarchy that they currently clearly benefit from.

  82. LB says...

    I just want to give all of you guys a big hug. You make me feel so much less alone and like I’m not a crazy person for being mad at all the people who have tried to take advantage of me.

    In high school, I was in JROTC and one of the teachers, a retired army colonel, would walk up behind me and other female students while we were in formation and put his hands on our waists and talk into our ears. We weren’t allowed to move because we were at attention.

    In college, I had a professor who constantly would corner me to have very weird conversations. He would make comments about my body in class, in front of all my male peers. When we were doing field work for class he would get extremely close to me for no reason, sometimes even touch my arm or shoulder or waist. He always wanted to go out to dinner and want me to tell him about my personal life. I would try to rebuff him with jokes. I was usually one of the only women in my classes with him so I made excuses for him because maybe he just didn’t know how to interact with female students. He would often invite me, and just me, to go out drinking with him. I was wary of him and avoided being around him as much as possible, maybe I was even scared of him. I was trying to graduate at the top of my major and I couldn’t piss him off and ruin my chance of a good grade. When I was close to graduating and no longer in his classes, I passed him on the sidewalk and he stopped to tell me that he had recently seen my (17 year old) little sister in a grocery store and that she was very attractive, and so friendly. The way he said it seemed to have some underlying threat, but maybe I was just imagining it based on how he treated me. I got really angry, cussed him out, and told him to never speak to her again. He looked so shocked and taken aback, I’ll never forget that look on his face. I realized that I had basically shown him that it was okay to treat me the way he did and now he thought he could do the same thing to my little sister. I know now that the problem was all him, and not my fault, but at the time it seemed like I was complicit.

    I was in bar in my hometown a few years ago to hang out with one of my other little sisters and her friends. While we were dancing, this mutual “friend” from high school walked up to me, said “I haven’t seen you in forever!” and I thought he was coming in for a hug. Instead he proceeded to grab my breasts, right there in the middle of the bar. He was a small guy so I grabbed both his wrists and snapped them back, and I told him I would break them if he tried to touch me anymore. He literally said to me, “It was just a joke!” I punched him and he got pissed. People around us laughed and joked that I was overreacting so I grabbed my sister and left the bar. Maybe I was overreacting? I don’t know. I wanted him to stop touching me and I wanted him to know what it felt like for someone to put their hands him without his consent and make him feel threatened.

    In my professional career I’m ashamed to say that I have tolerated so much more than I should. Never physical, not anymore, but all the comments, jokes, innapropriate questions about my personal life. Some men used those tools to try and undermine me professionally. A few times I’ve asked older men if they would speak to their daughter that way or used some other benign, snarky response. I had one boss who always wanted to take me to meetings with clients even though I had no real reason to be there. I knew I he was just using me as an accessory to get what he wanted from the client. I wanted to succeed and do a good job so badly that I would just grin and bear it. He even told me to wear my “tight dress pants” to a meeting once. He would also call his secretary a bitch but then talk about how he liked to take her to meetings with clients and have her wear low cut shirts so she could charm them. I quit that job.

    I attended a conference recently and went out to dinner with a bunch of my peers who all happen to be men. One of them asked me if I had been to a training with this really well known person in our field, and I told him that I hadn’t because I was not going to pay money to let that guy sexually harass me for a week (he has a really, really bad reputation with women). The whole table fell silent, and I said, “How many of you have been to that training and see him hit on the female participants, and make comments about their bodies while they’re trying to work?” They all said they had but then they tried to make excuses for him: he’s an old-school dude, he knows more than anybody in this field so he’s just used to getting away with it, he’s just joking. It made me sick.

    Most of my professional career has been spent in male dominated fields, but now I work in an office of mostly women, with a female boss. It is SO refreshing! And then men I work with there are so respectful and always professional. I was starting to think a place like that did not exist, but it does and my career is flourishing. I don’t constantly have to be on guard at work anymore and I know I’m lucky. However, this feels like I fight that I’ll never be able to stop fighting, and that makes me sad.

    • Laura says...

      Re: the bar incident. Not over-reacting.

    • Zoey says...

      HE got pissed? That bloody handsy creep should’ve been grovelling for your forgiveness, not getting huffy like HE was perfectly entitled to grab your boobs. The unmitigated gall of that guy!!! And no, you were most definitely NOT overreacting. If anything you probably should’ve punched him a few more times, ha!

      It’s also super twisted that the crowd saw nothing wrong with him grabbing you but hoo boy were you in the wrong when you stood up for yourself and made him pay for his transgression. ? This is the kind of thing that infuriates me as a woman and fellow harassment sufferer/survivor — bad enough that we have to deal with the actual harassment itself, we seriously do not need to have our trauma invalidated and belittled by stupid bystanders or even family members. Talk about rubbing salt into the wound…

  83. anna r. says...

    I am of your mother’s generation and was sexually harassed by my first boss.. he would repeatedly push me up against a wall and I would feel his whole body… felt disgusted and powerless at the same time.. did not dare to tell anybody anything… later on, I especially remember being told countless disgusting, sexist jokes and being called “humorless” when I did not lough about them, which I did not! while raising my two girls I was extremely watchful and took the piano teacher of a friend to court, who had groped her and my daughter between the legs sitting innige piano bench as children of about 12… I remember my friend being mad at me because I went to this extreme and she had to appear as well.. later on I found out that she too had been a victim as a child and was ashamed that SHE had not found out about this man who came to her house for months… I am glad that you wrote about this topic on your blog, it’s SO important if we want to change anything!

    • Hayley B says...

      Anna, I know this comment is years late and you might not even see it, but I just wanted to let you and anyone else who might be reading this that you are not alone, that sexist jokes are still being told at work in this generation (I’m an X-ennial) and women are still branded as humourless witches if they find them unfunny/offensive or god forbid actually speak up and say as much. I remember being so shocked at my first job at a major newspaper when my older male boss constantly made inappropriate comments about any woman who caught his eye and lewd jokes to his group of frat-boy type lackeys. It didn’t matter that none of them were about or directed at me (at least not while I was within earshot); it’s been 15 years and I still distinctly remember thinking “Is this really happening? Am I actually expected to laugh along with this? Do they really not understand how sexist and awful this is?” The first few times it happened my smile was frozen to my face but I don’t think anyone saw or cared about my discomfort. It wasn’t the first time I’d had a male boss or a co-Ed work environment, but this was the first time I’d butted up against the unrepentantly male locker room environment of this office. I recall having a serious discussion about whether this was sexual harassment or a toxic work environment with my family and the other 2 fellow female journalists in the department, and if it was even worth bringing up to HR, which was infamous as being utterly toothless, and whether there would be retaliation from my boss. The consensus was that as long as he didn’t try to harass me, I’d just have to grow a thicker skin and let his comments roll off my back — in other words, play along to get along. In every other way it was my dream job that finally made use of and appreciated my skill set, so I didn’t wanna leave or risk losing it. The one difference from my mother’s generation is that at least even men like my then-boss knew better than to actually lay his hands on any woman at work. Then again, it’s a pretty low bar to clear.

  84. sylvia sichel says...

    thank you for this post. i appreciated it greatly.

  85. Mallory Schulte says...

    Joanna, I’m in a puddle at my desk at work again! Thanking you for starting this conversation. The incident that keeps popping up in my head recently happened to me in law school. One day I was collecting my books, bending over my study carrel, before class when one of my older male colleagues proceeded to rub my pack and tell me, “You can’t be bending over in front of me like that.” In that moment, so taken aback, I said nothing. Something I have regretted ever since. I faced other harassment in law school, such as a classmate telling everyone he slept with me, which was entirely untrue and upsetting because I was weeks away from getting married. There, I was able to stand up to him personally (I wish I could have recorded the look on his face when I did –
    I think he had engaged in this behavior his whole life without anyone standing up to him) and tell administration they had to do something about him. They did nothing for me, which was incredibly upsetting. His conduct clearly violated the code of conduct. A few weeks later – he pushed someone in the hall, then they kicked him out. His physical harassment got him kicked out. His sexual harassment got him nothing. During law school, I learned that I feel better when I confront individuals who harass me. It brings no resolution, but I do think I take some power back.

  86. Logan G says...

    I work at a front desk, and recently one of our clients made a very nasty sexual joke to me. At the end of the joke he said, “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” And I wanted to tell him off then and there. In any other situation I speak my mind, but somehow the fact that he was a client, that he was so much older than me, and that I couldn’t believe he was actually speaking this way to me, prevented me from doing so. Instead I fake-laughed and mumbles, “Yes.” Then he had the audacity to say to me, “Really? I didn’t think you were that kind of girl.”

    I was FUMING after this. I immediately told my manager, and the situation got taken all the way to the CEO. Thankfully, everyone in my company was supportive of me, and they were abhorred by how the client had behaved. Their solution, however, was to give ME the decision of whether or not the client should be fired. I didn’t want that responsibility. And it made me feel guilty, or that I had somehow overreacted. Ultimately I decided that I would prefer if the CEO just addressed his behavior and let him know that if he were to speak that way again, they would then fire him.

    The day he came in and had this conversation addressing his behavior, I hid in the back. I didn’t want to see him; I didn’t want to have to face him because I was afraid I’d end up apologizing to him for “overreacting” or “getting him in trouble.” The girl who covered for me at the front desk let me know later that the man had told her, “I apologize if I offended you the other day. My wife always says I need to control my mouth.”

    He didn’t even realize that she wasn’t me….I was in turmoil over the situation, and he didn’t even remember my face.

    I always imagined that I would stand up for myself in situations like this, but when it happened, my reaction shocked me. How deeply is it ingrained in our society that strong, intelligent women should feel ashamed or in the wrong if someone sexually harasses them? I am not okay with this. I want to be part of the narrative that changes the way we think about this.

  87. Melinda says...

    I have also brushed off an experience as “nothing.” There was a creepy IT guy who would come in when we had computer problems, and he would stare at my boobs the entire time he talked with me. I kept wanting to shout, “my EYES are up HERE!” One day he came up behind to show me how something worked and laid his hand on my shoulder. I pushed it off and told him firmly not to touch me. He acted shocked and I repeated again that I did not want to be touched. He kept his distance after that. It’s important to speak up early and to be firm.

  88. Molly says...

    Whew, what a post! This passage sent goosebumps up my arms:

    “Last night, I was wondering, how have all these experiences always added up in my mind to nothing? That I’ve chalked them up to just part of life, part of being female? That I’ve brushed things off again and again and just tried not to think about them? Have you done the same?”

    I know I relate to that sentiment; I am sure countless other women can too. I “put up” with similar situations for much of my early career and schooling and didn’t think much of it, other than to silently stew. Now I have a 5 year old daughter and a 3 year old son, and the lens by which I view this systemic harassment has changed drastically. I don’t know the answer for society, but for us, it will start in our home with a focus on strength and respect regardless of gender or power. Baby steps.

    Thank you for writing!

  89. Johnny Kool says...

    …You think this only happens to women…??? WRONG…!!!!!!!!
    I work in a small office with 6 women. Daily I’m bombarded with sexual innuendo that are laughed off by these women. 2-3 times a week I’m brushed on, touched, groped, etc… Included in this behavior is my so called boss. I’ve brought it to all of their attention, just to be told “welcome to the other side of the coin”. “You really like it, go with it. You’ll have fun” My word against theirs. I make great money and have awesome benefits. I can’t afford to quit or lose this job.
    I KNOW HOW IT FEELS!!!

    • Thanks for sharing!! This experience certainly isn’t isolated to women.

  90. Anne says...

    Thankyou for once again putting awareness to such an incredibly important topic Joanna!

    The ‘funny’ thing is when global media last started putting a lot of attention to sexual harrasment, among other things due to the Trump tape, I actually started to remember the many small incidents I have encountered throughout my teenage years and early 20s that I always have considered to be a ‘natural’ part as life of a woman. When I read the comments from women here, I cannot believe how many other women have thought that too of similar experiences.

    When I was younger, I was the party girl. I loved getting boy’s attention, and while I rarely slept with any of the young men I met, I still did experience sexual violiation on a few occations.

    Two incidents are especially clear to me. One time, I was 15 years old, I text flirted with a popular guy, 18 years old, from my circule of friends. We did not knew each other well at all, and text flirting seemed very innocent at that time. For some reason he came up with, one night he had to come see me at my place. At this point, I still lived at home with my parents. We had not been alone before yet had a real conversation. He came up to my room, my parents were downstairs thinking I had a ‘friend’ over or so I told them, and shortly after his arrival we started kissing which I was fine by. However only within a few minutes after, he started to undress me, and some way I ended up on the floor where he pushed my face down towards his penis. I was a virgin, and while I was not afraid most of all I just felt… weitd. Like, how did that happen? Had I initiated more than an innocent flirt that made him think or get the impression of I wanted to performe oral sex on him? Afterwards, we barely talked, and he left quickly – my parents realizing nothing of what had happened in their house. The incident did not feel like a directly viloation, but it certaintly did feel like an older guy taking sexual advantagen of a young unexperienced woman. We never talked for once after the incident, and the worst thing is that now more than 10 years later, I am still faced with the disgusting memory when I occasionally walk by him in my area where he lives too.

    I have one or two other similar experiences to this one, however not as ‘bad’ though they still were clear violations of me as a trustworthy and happy girl who always thought the best of men.

    When/if I get a child one day, I always want it to be a boy who I can educate on the importance of trust, respect and boundaries towards the female gender. I think we as a society need to educate young boys much more on these values. However it can be hard to set a strong example when powerful men every day easily can get away with this sort of vilolating behaviour.

    Thankyou for speaking up Joanna, your voice makes a difference!

  91. Mar says...

    Thank you for summing up this conundrum:

    If a man reaches under your skirt on an airplane, does that mean you should put your career, your ambitions, your livelihood in jeopardy just to watch him get some kind of slap on the wrist?

    • Carrie says...

      AWFUL! I am so sorry that happened to you. It’s extremely frustrating how so often our backlash to sexual harassment is met with a “calm down” or “you’re over reacting” type of response. Using the age old stigma of the “hormonal female” against us.

  92. I think you have articulately captured the challenge of these situations. Often, there is not one “right” reaction. There are positives and negatives to all possible courses of action. Most women choose a path that will be the least harmful to their greater lives, without really being able to know the psychological impact an encounter may have down the road. My heart goes out to all who have been impacted.

  93. Helena says...

    I also have experienced this so many times. Cars following me not letting me cross the road, hands up my skirt, a man showing me inappropriate pictures at work etc etc. It’s like it’s no biggie. How is that really possible?

    Even though the worst I’ve experienced is a gang of boys on mopeds encircling me and my friend, groping us, the incident that stays with me is when a respected friend of my parents said that after a certain point a no is no longer a no to him. Everyone around the table heard it and yet no one called him out. To this day he still scares me! I’d never like to be alone with him.

  94. Lisen says...

    Oh my gosh yes. This piece is so on point, Joanna. Soooooo many women have countless stories like these, including me, and it is exactly how you describe it. On the one hand, yes he was my boss/important colleague/well connected aquaintance/potential client and I did smile and looked him in the eyes as we were talking. So I was partially to blame? And on the other hand I didn’t feel like risking my job/reputation by taking a hard stance (“kick him where it counts”) or reporting him. That makes me weak/illoyal to other women? The woman always pays. Maybe she can make the man pay too, but we never get out of it without having paid some kind of emotional, career related or reputational cost. I have never spoken up about these incidents except to the man himself, because I felt that the emotional cost I paid was enough, I didn’t want to be implicated further. But then it never ends. I am considering speaking more loudly. But as you say, what else? There should be something else.

  95. Janet says...

    Joanna, I’m sorry that happened to you! I, like you, had one particular event in mind where I felt small and helpless to say or do anything. But the more I think about it the more uncomfortable and inappropriate encounters I remember. Things that you just ignore so you can get on with your day, your life. As to what we do next, I am reminded of an evening out with a group of male friends in my mid-twenties. We were walking home, it was late and dark, and a few girls were walking home ahead of us. When they reached their stoop a few of the guys started cat calling “Nice ass!” and the like. I lost it on them. Don’t ever do that, No, they do not like it, It’s scary enough walking home at night as a woman, No, it’s not funny. That shut them up. But you know what I did next? I apologized for being a buzz kill. As if I was the problem for ruining their fun. But now that I’m older, more experienced, less afraid, I hope I’d stand up to those asses but keep that lame, nonsense apology to myself.

  96. Carolina says...

    I was reminded of a work party in which I was with my boss and another director and my marriage was in a really bad spot at this moment. And the more I drank, the more this other director kept listening (or pretending to listen). On the way home, he kissed and groped me and this just began a nightmare for me. One in which I was forced to continue to be nice for fear of loosing my job or him telling my boss what had happened in the taxi (he probably did anyways and they high fived), Thanks for posting this.

  97. John Duberstein says...

    Nice work Joanna! Loved this.

  98. CCMA says...

    I read this on twitter yesterday and it rang so true to me: “At a certain point we have to reintroduce some notion of sexual morality to society or there’s no way to prevent the next Weinstein.”

  99. Meghan says...

    Thank you for posting about this, and thank you for your thoughtfulness in saving the post to the end of the day. I know if I had seen the post at work it would have sent me spiraling. I’ve been doing a lot of processing of this on my own this week as I’ve been without much social contact besides my coworkers so I am glad to have this community of women to feel this pain with.

    I, like everybody else, have stories. I know that I am not finished accumulating my stories for my lifetime. It has happened to too many women I know, by men who I brush shoulders with and are generally seen as GOOD GUYS. Too many times. I belong to a politically “progressive” community and have seen these men run for government, get positions as newspaper editors, create radio shows, etc. on the platform of “equality”. It makes me sick.

    I don’t know what to do about it either. I want things to be different. I don’t want this to be reduced to jokes at the Oscars, I want a fundamentally different world for women (women of colour, disabled women, poor women, etc. etc. etc.). I want change. I’m so tired. Here are some small things which I and people I know have done:
    -After too many (one is too many) women experienced sexual violence or harassment at the hands of prominent male students at our university’s politics department, my friend wrote to the department head and suggested that he and the professors in the department go through anti-oppression training
    -Make space for women to share their stories. I am in a semi- position of authority at a small (tiny) non-profit and I am sure to “vet” any potential volunteers through an informal word-of-mouth assessment. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes I am not.

    What I don’t know how to do, yet:
    -Speak up for myself when a longstanding, well-respected volunteer at my job does things like come up behind me and tickle me or suggest that I do my job in a bikini.
    -Not have cordial relationships with my office neighbour, whom I heard a very vague yet trustworthy rumour about. I don’t want to condone it but I don’t know how to address it without just being standoffish 100% of the time.

    I’m learning. There must be another way. Thank you to all of you brave women for sharing your stories. It’s not okay and I’m sorry that it happened to you (us).

  100. CG says...

    I was sexually assaulted by a male housemate. He tried to get into the bathroom while I was on my way to take a bath and the next 3 or so minutes of fighting him off and yelling was the longest ever. I did not feel afraid then, only very very angry. It was only when he stopped trying to hold me and let go of me when I felt very very scared. I could not stop shaking the entire time as I ran out and and called my friend on the phone what happened.

    The most difficult thing was when the entire issue was downplayed by some people close to me. I felt mute, and that my story was not important according to them “it normally happens if people are attracted to one another but the other does not realize it.” As a result, I did not press charges.

    I told my story several times to some people, in a forum, in an office training as a way to exorcise the assault. I still feel very strongly that the one with the strongest impact was not the assault itself. But what truly hurt, and still hurts and affects me the most was how people around me reacted.

  101. Diane says...

    I don’t believe there is a woman in this world that has not at some time in her life been harassed by a man in some way when all she wanted was to live her life and be successful in some way and happy. If there is one unscathed woman out there, please raise your hand.

    The first time I recall this happening to me was at the age of 24. I had recently divorced and my young daughter and I were moving to another state after having moved into my childhood home with my parents. My family was saying goodbye to friends who we had known for years, and just before getting into the car to drive away to another state across the U.S., a family friend walked up to give me a goodbye hug, but instead attempted to kiss me and shove his tongue into my mouth. I pushed him away and felt nothing but disgust and disappointment in him. I always wondered in the following years if his wife knew what her husband was really like. I never saw this so called family friend again. It changed my opinion about ‘family friends’ forever.

  102. Ellen says...

    Thank you for writing this post. It’s so helpful to read things like this from voices I trust when the rest of the media coverage can feel so deeply overwhelming.

    • Loribeth says...

      I posted this on my Facebook wall a few days ago and one of my uncles commented and said,
      “Not good advice to give a bunch of Alpha males. You want to be treated like you’d be treated if you were The Rock? Get ready for burps, farts, scratching, doors intentionally slammed in your face, etc. all without 1 apology. Satire or not it is an issue. Maybe 10-20 attendees were guilty of truly offensive conduct at Tailhook ’91 but about 500,000 men were told they were guilty simply because they were in the Navy or Marine Corps.
      Men are scared to say anything because what’s OK today can result in harassment allegations or worse the next week. At the same time treating ladies like “One if the Boys” results in being called a pig.”
      So my response was, “Men being scared to “say anything” is nothing compared to the experience that some women have of being scared to exist in any male-dominated sphere because of harassment and assault. I wish more men were actually scared to act inappropriately towards women, but I call bullshit on that claim. The point of this semi-satirical article is to imagine that someone who might be viewed as vulnerable or weak is actually deserving of the same amount of respect as someone who exhibits all the traits that are revered and respected by a heteronormative male. If you’d prefer that the message be, “Treat women in a professional capacity with the same amount of respect you would give your mother or a sister,” then fine. Ultimately, it’s pretty freaking terrible that we have to keep talking about this issue. Apparently not all men are scared enough.”

      I am DONE letting men tell me how I should think and feel about harassment, and I’m done with tolerating ignorance. My uncle is currently not speaking to me, and that’s fine.

  103. ellie says...

    I was raped.
    I didn’t realize until recently but I was.

    My friend and me got so so so drunk on brandy that the bar didn’t let us in. The taxi driver didn’t let us in the taxi. We got a bus to a guy’s house. My friend was ‘in love’ with this guy. She was so drunk that she described hitting her head ‘on something’ over and over when she was outside talking to him. She realised later that it was the floor as she kept falling over and standing up.

    In the morning she was pleased, she had finally ‘had sex’ with her guy. I was a bit blurry, sick and woozy. I had ‘had sex’ with his friend. All I recall was laying on the bed and him walking in naked and me thinking , oh ok now we are having sex. Then waking up the next morning. Her memories were similarly blurry.

    Both of us so drunk.

    I will teach my son that if someone is too drunk to consent then that is rape. I will hope and pray that my daughters do not live to have the same experiences as we all have had.

  104. Elizabeth Vdovjak says...

    In the early ’90’s I was the pastry chef for a large hotel. The pastry kitchen was separate from the banquets kitchen and occasionally I would be alone. There was one banquet captain that I used to try to avoid. He would come into the pastry kitchen and if I was alone he would start talking filth. I never felt like I was physically in danger but it was it was unsettling. I never went to Chef to complain because I didn’t want the captain to lose his job. He had a family and I felt that they might very well suffer, that it would be on me if he was fired. In a situation like that I think a lot of women “take the high road” and stay silent. It also depends on your place of work. At my hotel, people in the higher paid positions were constantly getting fired. That place was a revolving door. You were a hero one week and fired the next. I don’t remember where we were as a society on the problem of sexual harassment in the workforce at that time but I’m pretty sure that I felt that counseling would not have been offered. A complaint could also have come back to haunt me! So I never said anything, not even to my husband, until recently. He was really surprised that I had kept quiet all these years. He asked why. I told him that honestly it was just one of those creepy things that I felt I had to put up with. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who ever felt that way.

  105. sylvia says...

    12 year old not 1!

  106. Kendall says...

    Thank you for sharing this Joanna. I’ve realized as all these stories continue to spill out how many times I HAVE been sexually harassed/groped and, to my own guilt, chalked it up to ‘that’s life’. I’m horrified by it, and feel so strongly that I needed to change how I viewed it — and of course hope others will too.

    I remembered being at the annual Jazz Festival in Montreal when I was 14, and in the massive crowds, a person behind me reached up my shorts, grabbed my ass and tried to move fingers somewhere else…I was horrified. My instant reaction was to pick up my foot and stomp as hard as I possibly could on what I hope was the person’s foot. Because of how crowded it was, I didn’t even get to see their face. How I’ve hoped so many times it was them I stepped on — then again, if it wasn’t I imagine the person whose foot I smashed would’ve yelped in surprise…

    I carried that feeling, much like what you describe here, for years after it happened. The crazy part is that when I told others about it, their reaction was, “What a jerk!” … As if that’s something jerks do to women, maybe others… oh well!

    I remember the relief I felt when I told my boyfriend, now husband of 10 years, and he just wanted to hunt the guy down. And to be clear, this wasn’t out of ‘how dare you violate my woman’, or something like it….it was because he was horrified by the behavior and viewed it as abuse.

    I think it’s so important that everyone view this behavior – which encompasses a HUGE variety of actions and behaviors – as abuse, as a violation, as something people will face consequences for. Many in world feel it is their right to touch others without their permission, with most of these violations being acted out on women. Almost like as long as it can’t be classified legally as ‘rape’ it’s ok. And something that adds to the problem is that SO many rapists face no consequences.

    Having a conversation about this has helped me so much to view these actions as what they are, and boost my self-respect.

    My heart hurts for those who’ve experienced this treatment more than I have, and who have faced much, much more severe abuse. You are entitled to respect as a human being, it is your right.

    I feel that talking about all of this prevents these issues from being forgotten, forces people to face the fact that this is so widespread, and ensures that more and more people view this as unacceptable.

    Thanks again Joanna <3

  107. Jen says...

    I’m with you. I simply cannot deal with men who continue to be surprised and shocked that other members of their gender commit acts of violence and harassment towards women. It signals that they really do not see what is happening all around them. It means that they do not recognize and thus do not stand up for women when the behaviors of their friends, family, and colleagues cross the line. It suggests that they themselves do not realize when they cross the line.

    • jill says...

      Well most women never say anything about it so how would an actually decent man comprehend that intelligent modern empowered women are allowing this to continue? Frankly, I am blown away by the stories of silence here, though I understand the fears, that is what allows it to continue. We must simply be braver. Perhaps create our own jobs, businesses, etc, if that’s what it takes.

  108. Charlie says...

    People are scum.

  109. I wrote a post on this before the election — almost a year ago exactly, recounting my own experiences with sexual harassment. I had the same sentiment as you, that I was “lucky” that my harassments had been minor (because we all know women who have experienced much, much worse). But being a mother with two young daughters who will grow up in this world, it infuriates me how common this all is. I think I took it all in stride for so long because I really believed these were one-off instances, that the world was not so sexist, so anti-women. Now we have elected a man who has openly boasted about physically assaulting women and who is working diligently to strip us of our rights. I’d love to think that this will be a turning point for us, that they are laying the tinder that we will light on fire for our daughters so they don’t have to find their way through the same dark woods we did; but I honestly don’t know. Right now it feels like we’re fumbling through the darkness and these men are the ones with their hands on the switch.

    http://rulesofsisterhood.com/2016/10/19/it-happens-all-the-time/

  110. A says...

    I had a really disturbing experience aged 9, at an unfamiliar beach. My friend and I were playing in the sand dunes and a man followed us. We moved away from him, sadly towards a fence which we didn’t know was there. We ended up with him on the path in front of us, fence on one side and behind us, and steep sand dunes on the other side. He took his shorts off, started touching himself, and asked us to touch him. My friend froze, I said no, grabbed my friend’s hand and pulled her up the slope. I remember how my feet sank deep in the sand like glue. My eldest sister is still harrowed because she was meant to keep an eye on us while my mum was in the water. My mum called the police and they searched endlessly but never found the man.

    For me this experience is always a what could have been. Yes, it affected me, but because of it, I have never suffered harassment quietly. I speak up every time, because honestly it scares the hell out of me. I rarely speak of it now, but it’s been helpful to share today, to check in with the fact that it actually shaped me. And the fact that I’m so aware of every time I have spoken up (college, trains, buses, cinemas, and it goes on) and that so many times my complaints have been brushed off.
    It makes me particularly sad that Trump, guilty of harassment and condoning it, bragging about it, was elected.

    Jo, thank you for this post and for sharing, through it you’ve provided such a source of comfort and support. I want to know what happens now, too.

  111. Caroline says...

    Joanna, thank you for starting this conversation, it got me thinking about my experiences and brought up old, uncomfortable memories.

    When I was a child, about 8-9 years old, we regularly went horse riding.
    The owner of the stables was considered a ‘flirt’, he would grab, hug and kiss every woman that walked past him.
    My sister and I found him uncomfortable and creepy and always tried to hide when we saw him approach.
    Back then I had no concept of sexual harassment, I simply knew that I felt uncomfortable.

    My mother was equally harassed by him and witnessed him harassing me and my sister, however never stepped in.
    She clearly felt powerless, but I only just realised that it should have been her duty to protect her children and to step up for us, instead of accepting his behaviour as the norm.

    This is just one of many incidents throughout my life, and so many times the incidents were ‘small’, so that I always felt ‘silly’ for complaining.
    After all, it was just a quick pinch, just a creepy comment, no need to make a fuss…
    Clearly, my mother’s failure to step up back then taught me that keeping quiet, brushing it off, is the appropriate reaction.

    It’s our duty as grown-up women to step up for those who aren’t confident (yet), to protect younger women and teach them that no-one is allowed to touch us unless explicitly invited to do so.
    Let us all make sure that we never let a woman feel inferior for having sexual harassment inflicted on her.

  112. Bella says...

    Reading this post and the comments has caused me to think very carefully about how I consider my own history of sexual violence. Up until now, I would have said I have been sexually assaulted three times: once when I was 6 years old; once when I was 15 and once when I was 20. These were violent and involved penetration.

    Then I started thinking about the “everything else” … a man groped my breast on the street when I was outside my workplace. A tradesman at my home started talking to me about what kind of sex I like. A man got into a taxi I was in and tried to take me to a strip club. A fellow lawyer made a joke about how he would like me to strip search him (in front of my colleagues). There are thousands more examples like this.

    I suppose when I think about these things, I can’t really distinguish the “assaults” from the “weird things that made me feel uncomfortable and violated”. As a criminal lawyer (prosecution) I can classify them based on what the law says they are. But to me, they exist on a continuum of predatory and violent behaviour. And I’m ashamed and confused thinking back on them because I was always so concerned with not making a fuss and so nervous that I was overreacting that I never said anything.

  113. Alex says...

    I worked at a cafe in high school over summers, very small, multiple ovens, and no AC. I wore shorts and tank tops, nothing super provocative just standard summer clothes in America. A customer once told me if he had to he would eat me if choosing between, you know, like a group of people stranded on an island… referring to the fact that I was muscular… My boss’ husband also complimented my skirt and touched my leg after giving me an unnecessary ride home (not to mention a handful of other uncomfortable touches and comments). Then one day my boss (who I like a lot! A woman!) told me I need to not wear a particular pair of shorts. Oof. Do you know how that made me not think about all these creepy comments for about a decade? Obviously my reaction was to not wear those shorts because I wanted this job and I respected her but once it would have been nice had she called that irritating customer out on his weird comments or slapped her husband for being inappropriate. It felt like my fault at the time and now I view it differently and wish I’d thought to respond more directly.

  114. Christie says...

    I’m a woman, and was sexually harrassed by another woman at a Christmas party for a job I had just started. While I was on the toilet, she reached her phone over the top of the cubicle and took a photo of me (I was wearing one of those dresses you basically have to take off to use the toilet, so it was a REALLY compromising photo). She showed the picture to some people she was with.

    She admitted what she did and deleted the picture (she was very drunk) but the experience has stuck with me more than any other time I was harassed by a man. It was as if, being a woman, she knew exactly the right way to humiliate another woman. A year later and I still feel angry and humiliated.

    She was disciplined by the company but didn’t lose her job. Imagine if a man had done it – he’d have been fired immediately.

  115. Annie Green says...

    Beautifully summed up, especially the confusion around motive and reactions. This case is going to unfold with interesting results and reactions but I think we should be very clear: helping yourself to any female, of any age, just because you think you have some evolutionary-defined right, is a crime. And – let’s be clear – men know this otherwise they wouldn’t bluster and point the finger of blame at the woman. A few massages? How would you like it, buster, if you were going for a job and ended up being treated as a private dancer? Keep your damned hands to yourselves, men.

    • Agreed! To expand… helping yourself to any HUMAN, of any age, without consent, just because you have some DESIRE, spontaneous or longstanding, is a crime.

  116. Hannah says...

    When I was in school and a little after (between the ages of 17-22) there was a guy in my then-circle-of-friends that kept trying to grab my breasts or put his hand between my legs – always in public, always when we were with my (mostly male) group of friends. I slapped him when he tried (not as hard as I should have), called him out on it, but he didn’t stop and I didn’t stop hanging out with him or them. I thought of him as a friend, even.
    Once, when we were hanging out at a friend’s place, he – a 6’5” guy – pull me across his knees and tried spanking me. When I asked the others for help, they laughed it off (he was only “horsing around” after all, they said). When I told my mother, she told me to kick him in the crotch – I was actively practicing Karate at the time and was even an instructor, for God’s sake. I could have hurt him bad. But I didn’t.
    When he offered to take me home one night, I accepted, but when we got to his car he pressed me up against it and tried kissing me. I turned my head away and tried pushing him away, saying “N., please, I don’t want this. You don’t want this.”. I thought “Is this it? Would he cross that last boundary for good? Would I have to kick him – would I hit the right spot? Would I be fast enough to run away? There was a dark park between my home and him – would I even get that far? This went on for a good ten minutes before he finally stopped. And I got in his car and let him drive me home.
    I only told my best friend and none of the guys, because I was worried that guy might be in love with me and I could hurt his feelings. I still don’t understand what I was thinking. But I had had a couple of guys in that circle of friends have crushes on me, and I expected this might be the same.
    I only got out of that circle of friends when I moved abroad. Distance and time gave me the chance to realise at least at that guy was toxic. Several years later I realised he was much more. And I’m glad I haven’t seen him on so long. He is still part of that same group of people.
    I wonder what kept me from kicking or punching him or leaving that group sooner. I’ve always been feminist, I’ve stood up for myself and even threatened guys with a “let’s take this outside”. Maybe it’s because you’re not supposed to hit “friends”? Or because we’re somehow taught that it’s our own fault if someone “likes” us (too friendly, too nice, too touchy, too something or the other). I don’t know. But my mother never taught me that I have to comply with anything, so I do wonder where I got that from.

  117. aria says...

    Just yesterday, I got a message on Skype from very young and lost colleague. She felt very uncomfortable that other older colleague calls her “cheeky” (whatever it means) and disrespects her opinions.

    I got a little confused at first. Had to have time to think how to answer her. In the part of the world I grew up and live, where you can still feel post-soviet mindset, this topic is barely existing. In the end I left very proud that maybe this is it. Maybe this is the topic and issue in our country as well.

    In some way, these past events gave me inspiration how to respond her.

    In addition, I read a great article last night which is actually for men, but very worth reading for women as well:
    https://medium.com/@annevictoriaclark/the-rock-test-a-hack-for-men-who-dont-want-to-be-accused-of-sexual-harassment-73c45e0b49af

  118. Zoey says...

    I’ve been on the receiving end of so so many of these comments/catcalls and unwanted touches over the years that they’ve mostly blurred together in my mind. Perverts deliberately standing behind me and pressing their hard-ons against my butt in the bus/train? Check. Pervs sitting way too close to me even in an empty bus/train carriage? Check. Pervs masturbating next to me in the aisle seat, effectively trapping me in my window seat during a 4-hour plane ride? Check! Cabbies and shuttle bus drivers who suggested I go someplace else with them to “have fun” instead of me getting out when stopped at my destination, freaking me out and triggering my flight response? Check and check!

    The worst of the public transportation harassment incidents had to be the time I felt something uncomfortably hot pressing against my right calf while standing in a bus otw home. Thinking it was someone’s hot food takeaway, I looked down and instead was horrified to find some filthy old man’s FOOT extended from his seat way across the aisle! Like he had deliberately extended his leg way across just so he could violate me! And worst of all he tried to follow me when I moved away from that spot!!!

    This is precisely why I bought my own car the very nanosecond I could afford it…

    Sadly the onslaught of sexual harassment began from puberty, which directly contributed to me taking years and years to finally feel comfortable in my own body. I was nothing to look at — rows of metal braces in my mouth, super thick unfashionable glasses for my shortsightedness, enough hair to cover my face and hide from the world, the smallest boobs and heavyset hips — but men just felt it was their right to shout disgusting comments out of cars driving past me, “jokingly” make inappropriate comments to my face while serving me in delis/stores even when it made me clearly uncomfortable and didn’t elicit any kind of response from me. (In my mind anyway. Maybe the sight of my discomfort was precisely what they were getting off on!) This happened repeatedly at the bodega near my house that my dad used to send me to fetch his fave snack from. I got more and more reluctant to go. I finally told my dad I hated going there and why, and he promptly went over there and gave those guys what must’ve been an epic smackdown, because I never had a problem with those guys again. God knows my dad and I had many many issues over the years — he was also a bully and overbearing but never sexually — but I can say that that was one of the only bright spots in those turbulent teenage years, that he took me seriously instead of disparaging my experience and telling me to just get over it.

    I’ve often felt that the only way to really stamp out sexual harassment was to somehow magically turn every unsympathetic chauvinist pig into a 12-year-old girl and make them suffer through the years of powerlessness, insecurity and fear at the thought yet very real possibility that men might one day decide to go beyond catcalling and cross over into physically grabbing or assaulting them. Maybe once they’ve had to really experience what women go through on a daily basis, they’ll finally be truly inspired to help dismantle and renounce the patriarchy that they currently clearly benefit from.

  119. Anonymous says...

    I’m in my 30s and this post and subsequent comments made me reflect on my own experiences over the past decades. Numerous instances of harassment. The most recent and terrifying was being assaulted outside of my place of work a few months ago while walking to my car, about 50 feet away from the work entrance. It was 1 in the afternoon and no one came to help when I was screaming. I called 911 to which I found out that if the person I’m reporting doesn’t have a weapon, the police won’t be sent (per Oakland Police Department). Possibly the worst part, or at least the part I come back to the most, was when I relayed this event to my female boss, she told me, “that she’s never heard of anything like that happening before in the neighborhood, but then again she’s not as young and pretty as I am.” It upset me so much to have been assaulted and so scared to then not have what I had hoped was an ally in the situation. Having her then tell me, “I’m too sensitive”, I truly wish I had told this boss how her comment made me feel like less than a person and not deserving of dignity. It brings me to tears every single time I think of that incident. I no longer work there.

  120. in my country now, Indonesia. there’s hot topic about sexual harassment. A celebrity named Nafa had her 8 year old daughter being interviewed by online newspaper. The comment section was filled with somekind pedophiles’ comment that Nafa really get pissed and went to police to arrested those guys. One of those guys felt angry than sent Nafa pornography pictures and Nafa went to the police again and this time they arrested that guy (THANKFULLY)
    But what’s beyond me is now Nafa instagram feed fulfilled by so many comment whose defend that jerk guy!! cant you all believe it? they say “oh it just a comment”, “so what for sending pornography pics? its not that he rape you or something”, “stop overreacting its just sexting”
    And most of these guys were teenagers! my heart really broke into pieces to see those youngsters could be so easy on sexual harassment. I really hope with this case, our government could give sex education to all schools. And remind them that no matter how small the act was, it was still sexual harassment

  121. Grey says...

    I was raised in a conservative, religious home/school/church. We were never taught about sex. In fact, the only way sex was talked about was teaching us to “avoid fornication”, “save yourself for marriage”, “purity”, and “modesty”. I still learned about sex..and had sex.

    I’m almost 40. Up until this last year, I used to occasionally think about the time I was “almost raped” in college. I still can’t talk about the circumstances of what happened, even now, without thinking that if I say the whole story, everyone will think it was my fault. But this man forcibly removed my shirt and bra, and bruised my lips and breasts with his hands and mouth. Maybe there was more. I don’t remember. Somehow I got away as he was dragging me half naked into the bedroom. Afterward, I kept thinking: thank god I wasn’t raped. I told a school counselor. She told me to write him a letter saying I didn’t want to see him again. She didn’t name what happened. And I didn’t know the words.

    One night in college I was out dancing with friends. I was pushing my way through a crowd of people to the edge of th dance floor. Someone grabbed me. And before I knew what was happening, a man (who seemed a lot older), was sticking his tongue in my mouth. I pushed away and rushed into the restroom. I couldn’t understand why I was shaking and crying over a kiss. I don’t remember telling the friends I was with.

    Another time, in my early 20s, I was out at a bar with a girlfriend from highschool. She had brought along a guy friend, who I didn’t know before that night. I had two drinks, which must have been mixed really strong, and before I knew it, I was extremely drunk. Still aware, but very tipsy. When we got into the car to go to an all night restaurant to sober up, the guy climbed in next to me and immediately stuck his fingers inside my vagina and kissed me on the lips. I remember it hurting, but I was too drunk to respond. The next day my “girlfriend” called me a slut. Apparently she liked the guy. Speechless, all I managed to say was, “but I was drunk!”

    I’ve worked in law enforcement for over 10 years. I work primarily with men and I have plenty of stories of sexual harassment or dismissive behavior by male colleagues and female colleagues who chose to tear down other women rather than supporting them. But as funny as it sounds, I didn’t realize until this last year there was a term for all those things that had happened to me. I think it was around the time Trump’s Hollywood Access tape came out and people were sharing their experiences of sexual assault. All the words that my parents, teachers, etc, taught me…but no one explained what constituted sexual assault. I never thought of it applying to my experiences.

    I’ve since realized that not knowing certain words can limit your ability to tell your story. That I always struggled to tell it and even relate to other victims, because we’re often not taught a common language. When the only way I could frame my experience was in terms of “almost rape”, I was only acknowledging what HADN’T happened to me – not what DID.

    I have a young daughter now. I don’t ever want her to be without the words she needs because someone is too embarrassed or puritanical to say them.

  122. Liad says...

    Like most of the women here, I’ve experienced uncomfortable, inappropriate behavior (starting at a very young age). Perhaps as a result, I became hyper-professional at work; I NEVER wanted to be mis-construed. I never went out to lunch/for drinks/for coffee with male supervisors/professors/etc. unless other women were present. I never spoke about my personal life, or joked about anything outside the parameters of work. The result: I worked extremely hard, but had trouble developing relationships with mentors in my male-dominated field. Although it is not politically correct to state it, it was also frustrating to see women who seemed to be less competent advance (seemingly) by flirting/getting romantically involved with men in power.

  123. Steele says...

    thank you for your courage and openness in sharing this!

  124. For myself, and I’m sure a lot of women, I fear saying “no”. If I turn down an unwelcome advance, I’m afraid it will get more aggressive.

    Unfortunately, I have so many stories to share. One in particular was my Biology college professor. We were celebrating the end of the semester with the whole class at the nearby hotel bar. I was 20, yet he ordered drinks for everyone. After he asked if I could drive him back to his office. When we were in the parking lot he started touching my legs, and unbuttoning my pants. I was mortified. I was afraid. I remember being on my period, so I quickly mentioned that hoping he’s back off. He didn’t. I eventually got out of there.

  125. Steph O says...

    Today, some asshole didn’t like how I parked my car, so he left a note calling me and my 3 year old daughter bitches. He did not write any insults towards my 2 year old son. My daughter lived only 3 years and 10 months before some misogynistic piece of shit called her a bitch. The only bright spot in this is that it’s easier to stand up for others than yourself (at least, as a woman, I feel that tends to be the case) and I caused a major uproar in the shopping center and got the guy banned (they knew who it was). So I’m proud of myself for making it clear that this is unacceptable, but heartbroken that misogynists have already tried to dehumanize my baby, simply because she’s a girl.

    • What a story. Glad this creep is getting some consequence for his harassment. What a sad realization that your daughter has already been called a “bitch” (by a stranger, no less) before she’s 4.

    • Annie Green says...

      Well done to you for speaking out – as loud as you like – and for them at taking action. It is horribly upsetting to experience such vile behaviour but you did the right thing so let that comfort you. With you to protect her and to show her how to manage this attitude, your daughter (and your son) have the best advocate. I bet the man concerned knows he is a bit of shit and that little nugget will nag away forever at his nasty little brain.

  126. Becky says...

    “Countless times for decades” just about sums it up. I am 37, and couldn’t add up the times I have been sexually harassed, molested or assaulted if I tried, but I will try: every job I’ve ever had, other then two (twice I complained to my bosses and was brushed off; the other times it WAS my bosses); by several college professors; by my therapist in college, who spent every session telling me how beautiful I was and how much he would like to give me a bubble bath and romance me slowly (it’s worth noting that the reason I was seeing him in the first place was because of sexual assault); the ob/gyn who delivered my first child (I was a single mother in my late twenties — he told me at every appointment how great my body was and how cute I looked in my underwear, and at my six-week post-delivery checkup pronounced that my vagina felt “perfect” and would be a real treat for my next lover); men on the street; strangers in stores; several of my friends’ fathers or my parents’ co-workers; the dentist I saw for years who had known me since I was a toddler. The list goes on and on. I’m realizing now how very much the men who didn’t harass me have meant in my life — I only wish they weren’t so outnumbered.

    Thank you, Joanna, for opening up this conversation. I guess I needed to share and a lot of other women did, too.

  127. Thank you so much for writing , Joanna. I hate that this has happened to you (I always hold out hope that maybe some women have been spared), but I am so grateful to you for sharing your story.

  128. EA says...

    It is only as I have gotten older that I realize how great the imbalance of power is between men and women. Being shamed, stigmatized and degraded is a normalized experience for women (look at all these comments!).
    This realization also makes me more sympathetic toward other groups of people who are marginalized in our society. And it is so sad to realize the careful way they have to live their lives and the abuses they endure is also normal. It’s like, Hey…. they’re not just ‘throwing in the race card’ as a excuse for being lazy or just being hysterical or just being an unstable crazy bitch.
    So this makes me think that you really can’t be a true feminist without championing other human rights as well.

  129. Oh Jesus, I just commented but reading through everyone’s comments has just brought back a flood of other incidents that I’ve pushed to the back of my mind… that’s really terrifying on so many levels!

  130. aga says...

    I was molested by my babysitter as a child (i was 10), I couldn’t bring myself to say the words to my best friends so I wrote it down; my mom found the paper snooping in my room; years later it went to court, I testified, his attorney held up the mini skirt I was wearing and claimed I made up the whole thing since, according to my creative writing teacher, I was a gifted writer, and got an A in grade 9 drama.

    But it’s not that that has me in tears right now, it’s the infinite little non-criminal instances. This post made me remember ALL the little advances: the boss at SportCheck who pushed up against me in the dark, narrow stockroom; my boss at a bike shop who would grab my ass and say he knew I liked it; my dad’s friend sitting too close to me on couch and telling me how pretty my lips are (and I didn’t want to be rude and walk away); it’s an acquaintance at a party condescendingly telling me that I look good and I should stop eating or I’ll get fat again (not that it matters, but i’ve never been fat); it’s the guy in the club trying to kiss me because I was asking for it since i was wearing red lipstick; it’s the old man sitting on the bench and looking me up and down as I walk by… it go on….
    Being a woman means having to constantly claim and reclaim and defend and analyze my body, my image, my sexuality, myself!, and it is FU*K!NG EXHAUSTING AND INFURIATING.

    The list is too long to keep track, so we move on, and brush the advances off. We develop callouses to the many, many small violations, because the alternative is death by a thousand cuts.

    In solidarity,
    AB

  131. Joanna,
    Take a bow for speaking up. Take a bow for starting a conversation.

    I love you blog and everything you do with it.

    Would you be willing to start a podcast in the future ?

  132. I am so sorry, Joanna. What a sick, disgusting man.

    The earliest incident I can remember happened when I was around 12 (and it’s not even “that bad”). Two boys in my class told me my necklace looked like a candy necklace. They went on to say that they bet I let boys eat it off of me and lick my body all over, even in my underwear.

    I remember being in tears in the hallway and telling my teacher what they said. Her response? “Boys will be boys”.

    Of course, like most of us, this is just the first of hundreds of incidents, big and small. I think it’s so important to share these stories. Men need to realize this happens all the time to women of all ages. It needs to be acknowledged and spoken about openly so that it can be changed. If half the population doesn’t know it’s happening, it’s going to keep on happening.

  133. Sandra says...

    The first time I ever encountered sexism was in 7th grade. My male gym teacher used to make comments (I think he thought they were jokes) about men being superior to women, especially in sports. He was just constantly throwing out sexist digs. My stomach used to hurt a lot in his class because I was so angry but felt like I couldn’t say anything. One day when we were in the weight room he let all of the boys go to the shower. Then he went around the room and rated each girl on a scale of 1 to 10. (This was around the time the movie “10” came out.) He gave us all 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s just to make us feel bad. I think he had inappropriate relationships with at least one high school girls who used to come hang around to see him. He was later charged with statutory rape for an incident involving a student, but the charges were dropped. Then he coached at a local college and got fired for doing something inappropriate, I can’t remember what. So it all finally caught up with him. He was a real piece of work. But the good thing that came out of it after that was whenever I was taking on a physical challenge I’d just get strength from the anger I still to this day have for this guy, and that would cause me to push myself harder just to prove him wrong.

    There have been a number of other instances…I got my butt grabbed a lot in the hallway in jr high/high school, but when I would turn around to see who it was everyone would be facing their lockers or looking away so I could never tell. I remember feeling this weird mix of being embarrassed and violated, but also a tiny bit glad that a boy found me attractive enough to grab. Sad when I look back on it now.

    I also got groped on the bus my on my first day of work in Chicago. I wasn’t used to public transit, and the bus was really crowded. I thought someone was poking me right in the middle of my butt, like really up into my butt, with a briefcase or something, but it wasn’t until another woman on the bus noticed and told me (the guy ran out of the bus right after she said something) that I knew what was going on.

  134. Kara says...

    @ Alex, yes: “We’re made to feel complicit or foolish when we notice.” That’s the thing, isn’t it? People wonder why no one spoke up sooner about this big harassment scandal, but we all know the truth: harassment usually starts small, something “little” like an inappropriate comment or grope (“it’s not like he tried to rape you or anything”), not a lot (if any) witnesses. You question yourself and secretly wonder if there’s something you unknowingly did to make it happen or didn’t do to prevent it. In many cases, you don’t want to bring it up because you’ll be the first to be asked to defend yourself (“Well, were you drinking?” “Did you tell him to stop?” “Why were you alone with him?”) and there’s usually a power imbalance (in my latest case, it was my first year at a new job and I didn’t want to seem not capable or like a drama queen). Often, it’s someone you have to deal with on a regular basis and what if you report something and it goes no where? How’s that gonna feel the next time you’re stuck in a room together? The other person acts like it never happened and so you slowly start to wonder if maybe it did happen or if it did happen, was it really that big of a deal? The worst part, though, is that it erodes your confidence in yourself and what you know to be true.

  135. Megan says...

    Thanks for sharing. As others have mentioned we all have these stories of a lifetime of uncomfortable comments and inappropriate touches that we seem to have collectively accepted as just part of being a woman. I doubt I know a single woman who hasn’t experienced these little moments. And I have friends who have experienced even worse. And as others have mentioned it is just so exhausting and demoralizing. How much more could we have achieved had we not had to constantly remain on guard?
    I’ll add one anecdote– I remember a few years ago having a conversation with some colleagues about a news story about a woman who had gone into surgery and awoke to discover the male surgeon had drawn on her, supposedly as a prank because she also worked at the hospital and people liked to prank each other or something. And she sued and said she was worried something more than just being drawn on had happened. A male colleague, whom I did not consider as anti-feminist, was rolling his eyes about how it was just a prank and no big deal and could you believe this woman was suing. And all of my female colleagues were horrified. Because of course we could identify with this woman who felt so violated and probably had to wonder whether she had also been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted while unconscious. And it just really crystallized for me that this straight male colleague had probably never spent a moment in his life afraid of being raped. (Of course I understand men can be raped so excuse the generalization). And it was just eye opening for me. And it made me feel so sad and so angry. I really think if we want change we need to tell these things to men and tell them over and over until they get it because until men can put themselves in our shoes it seems like things will never change. But then that gets back to the whole exhaustion thing. Because how exhausting to have to constantly explain your reality like that.
    Let’s keep amplifying each others stories. This matters.

  136. Johanna says...

    Thanks for your honest, powerful, absolutely necessary post. As I read it I can’t help but think about how “sexual harassment” (I roll my eyes as I write it because it’s such a mild way of describing what is in fact abuse of power and bullying) overlaps with racism. Every person of color also has the same countless list of racist things that they have had said or done to them and has had faced the same conundrum on how to respond. Speak up for the sake of a slap on the wrist, thus potentially alienating yourself or worse? Risk losing your credibility, your house, your job, your life? There is overlap all of the time, all over the place. How many queer people have had to deal with the equivalent of sexual harassment in their daily lives as well? How about Muslim individuals? I could go on.
    Coincidentally I sat in a discussion among high schoolers today regarding bullying, (which again involves abuse of power in this case for the sake of social capital or more) and they all ended up talking about what the victim should or shouldn’t do. And I sat there and thought about the times not only when I was bullied but when *I* have been a bully. And the questions which came to me then and come to me now (which I think are most important) are what do we do with people who abuse power? When have we done it ourselves? What would have stopped Harvey Weinstein? What would have stopped Donald Trump? What would have stopped me? What would have stopped us? Only they know. Only I know. Only we know.
    Because of this, in the meantime, we must look inward and answer that question. Then take responsibility for whatever power we might have (according to gender, race, etc.) and be brave with it. Tell our stories and listen to others tell theirs. Believe each other. Support each other. And as they tell the kids in school, be upstanders instead of bystanders. We must figure out how we can best play that upstanding role and then play the shit out of it, no matter who we are.
    Thanks again for your post. It means a lot.

  137. Claire says...

    That Jia Tolentino quote about how it attempts to CONTAMINATE everything about you is painfully accurate. I’m going to have to remember that.

  138. Sita says...

    I love this. I love the conclusions you’ve drawn, and the beauty and compassion you’ve used. I am so ready for women to be treated with the respect that we deserve, and I’m so ready for women to come clean about sexual harassment, and assault, they’ve experienced. Effectively eliminating the shame we’ve secretly hidden inside ourselves ‘for everyone’s sake’ for so so so long. I hope that all of the men out there who are offenders are shaking in their boots, knowing… that they too will fall.

  139. Jen says...

    Well done, Joanna. You managed to caputure everything I have been feeling about this and unable to articulate fully. I could tell hundreds of my own stories, and beat myself up for laughing along when I should have been fighting.
    But, following the news over the last couple of days has actually given me hope. These things are coming out into the open and we’re having conversations about it. We’re defining it, we’re drawing boundaries, we’re collectively moving our consciousness to a new state, and it’s oddly uplifting.

  140. Leslie Welsh says...

    This past election made me realize that I only really talk to women about sexual harassment that happens to me. When I told men, they would get so angry and want justice, that it was just all too much to deal with, when usually I would want to put the incident behind me. Since then, and seeing how high sexual assailants can climb in this world, I’ve been making more of an effort to share when these sorts of things happen.

  141. Hallie Greenberg says...

    YES.
    Thank you for being so vulnerable.
    Secrets lead to shame and shame is so isolating and so so dangerous.
    We need to speak loudly about this. It is NOT okay. I so admire your strength to speak up. I often feel too scared and ashamed to, but I have found that when I do open up with friends about this topic it leads to the highest levels of empathy, compassion, and a sense of collective strength and sisterhood. :)

  142. Alison says...

    Thank you for posting this! I have been feeling crazy this week for how strongly I reacted to the stories about Harvey Weinstein, but realizing, clearly like many women, that it just reminded me of so many times similar incidents have happened in my own life. I almost started drafting a letter today to the headmaster of my old high school asking him to fire a male teacher who has long been known to harass girls in his classes (including me). I felt the same shame and self-doubt that so many of you have mentioned… maybe I’m exaggerating what he did, maybe I instigated it, it wasn’t that bad, he didn’t rape me… I stop short of calling out this man because I feel bad, because I don’t want to cause a scene, because I don’t want him to get in trouble…

    • Tis says...

      Alison, please reconsider this. You aren’t causing the scene, HE is. You aren’t getting him in trouble, HE is. Imagine all of the girls he has made to feel just like you are. Imagine all of the girls he will do this to in the future. Do you have a former classmate with whom you could talk?

  143. Katie says...

    Thank you for having the courage to write this! It’s so powerful. Growing up, I was taught that if a stranger hit on me it was a compliment and if I didn’t take it as one I was upright. So, if a guy I didn’t know at all would come up to me as say “you’re beautiful” I would actually thank him! Even though my skin was crawling and I felt sick and scared. I’m embarrassed even to think about it, but I didn’t want to “make him feel bad.” Good gosh What about MY feelings? I never even stopped to consider them. NO MORE. You’ve inspired me and opened my eyes. I’m a recent college grad trying to figure out life as a working woman and I can assure you that the next time a man says something like that to me I’m NOT SAYING THANK YOU. It’s time we stop called sexual harassment a compliment.

  144. Liz says...

    Thank you, thank you so much for saying this. “Women don’t have to explain these things to other women”–but we do need to share, and loudly, yes. It means so much to see this on my favorite blog.

  145. In the 1970s, I was a plain, skinny girl in a Catholic school uniform, walking a mile home every day along a busy road. I worked out “escape routes” all along the way because men in cars would follow me slowly, turn around when they had to pass me, and follow me again. This happened often enough, with different cars, that I got used to it. I would disappear into backyards so they’d never figure out where I lived.
    One day, a young guy pulled up to the curb and asked for directions. I remember thinking that he was cute, with dark, curly hair. I went up to his car window so he could hear me, and saw that his pants were down and he was playing with himself as he watched me. I was 13 or 14, and knew next to nothing about men. I backed away and he took off.
    I never told my parents any of this; I was afraid I’d be forbidden to go anywhere alone. I’ll never forget how shaken-up I was after that last incident. That night, my Dad and I visited some kind, elderly friends of his. I was quiet because I was busy telling myself over and over, “You’re safe now, you’re safe,” in their cozy, old-fashioned kitchen. I still remember how hard the wind blew on that cold March night, and how bright the stars were, out in the country on the ride home.
    I also remember this: When I walked home after seeing that exhibitionist, I remember feeling surprised that a man who seemed cute and normal could be so nasty and sick. And I asked myself what I should have said or done so he never did that to another girl. I decided that I should have sung that Peggy Lee song: “Is that all there is? Is that all there is? If that’s all there is my friend . . .” I have come to admire my 14-year-old self. I wonder if I’m still that smart and tough now.
    I hope there are women who don’t have such tales, but I doubt it.

    • Susan Magnolia says...

      This sound eerily familiar. Man in a van trying to get my attention and jacking off to my young body wearing a school uniform. I felt disgusted that men did such gross things, never knowing how to talk to anyone about the embarrassing interactions. I remember avoiding sides of the street with construction workers and quickly walking home to escape their calls. I wish I could forget the priest who would invite me back to his room, offer me chocolates and tell me how beautiful I was. It disgusts me still. I was so innocent to this world and I didn’t want to play a part in their games.

    • Alex says...

      This reminds me of my own experience. It has happened to me four or five times – a man showing me his penis in public. I never said anything, just ignored them. But every time I was filled with rage afterwards, when the shock was over. How dare they? And every time I think I should have said something like – oh, I have seen better than yours (ha). But never said anything. Maybe I was too shocked, or afraid he coulsd actually hurt me :(

    • sylvia says...

      Me. 1 year old with coke bottle glasses, a messy ponytail and too short shorts. I was sweeping the driveway which was littered with sports equipment and my little brother’s tricycle. A guy in a VW beetle pulled up and said he was lost and could I give him directions. I walked over to the window and there he was. He laughed at me. Laughed.
      I gained 30 pounds that year and crawled into a shell that took all junior high, high school and college to try to come out of. 54 years old and I still gross out whenever I think of it and the POWER I gave over to that person.

  146. Kimmie Rodriguez says...

    When I was around 9, I went to a Christian private school that was neighbors to a mental facility. We shared a parking lot and both buildings were in a business park, so there really wasn’t any type of division between the group of children and mentally handicapped adults. For the second that nobody was watching either groups, an older man grabbed me forcefully, kissed me hard on the cheek, smiled, and smuggled me into a hug. My sister, seeing this, grabbed me from him and went to tell a teacher. They discussed with the hospital what happened and decided to stagger our outside time, something I assumed they would have already known to do sooner. But the thing I remember the most is just the sheer embarrassment of it happening. I really didn’t see that it was wrong, just that I felt embarrassed that it happened to me in public. I rarely repeat the story and for years, felt like it was my fault for not watching out for myself better or that this man, being mentally unstable, probably didn’t know any better. However, I never realized that it was an assault until very recently. Where were the caretakers? Why were mentally unstable, grown adults surrounded by young children? The school eventually went out of business, but I still wonder what would’ve happened then if I spoke up after the fact.

  147. Lisa says...

    Our daily reality is something I call risk assessment- when walking alone we have a sense of who is around and if they would provide help, are those men nearby behaving in a neutral way?, when I get on an elevator with only men I may not make any eye contact or take out my phone to show I could call for help.One of my experiences was at a music concert when I was groped by a strange man while walking through a dark area in a group of girlfriends. Men don’t experience this- the daily potential or reality of being assaulted.

    • Kendall says...

      I feel this too! So similar to what you describe! Risk assessment. YES!


      I lived in Chicago for 6.5 years – recently relocated – and my husband and were having a conversation about cat-calling the other day, and he asked how often I’d say it happened while living there. To his horror, EVERY DAY was my answer – oh except the days when I didn’t leave the house.
      I feel like this ‘small’ thing is what makes us feel that way a lot of the time. It’s like our existing is an invitation.