The Myths and Realities of Street Harassment

Myth: Street Harassment is an abstract idea and not clearly defined.
Reality: The kind of sexual harassment we are talking about is defined.  It includes but is not limited to the following behaviors:

  • Wolf whistles or “cat calls”
  • Leering
  • Sexual innuendo
  • Comments about an individual’s body
  • Graphic descriptions of pornography
  • Pressure for dates
  • Hooting, sucking, lip-smacking, and animal noises
  • Sexually explicit gestures
  • Unwelcome touching and hugging
  • Sexist and insulting graffiti
  • Demanding “Hey, baby, give me a smile.”
  • Sexist jokes
  • “Accidentally” brushing sexual parts of the body
  • Pressing or rubbing against an individual
  • Leaning over or otherwise invading a victim’s space
  • Sexual sneak attacks (such as grabbing breasts or buttocks on the run)
  • Indecent exposure
  • Soliciting sexual services
  • Demanding sexual services
  • Stalking
  • Sexual assault
  • Myth: All harassment occurs from men harassing women.
    Reality: Harassment holds no boundaries of class, sexual orientation, or gender. Anyone can be a harasser and anyone can be a victim. Yes, many cases are from men harassing women. However, women can harass women, men can harass men, and women can harass men. We have seen this particularly among the LGBTQ community. One of our first stories was about a trans man who was harassed and severally assaulted by two lesbian women.

    Myth: Street Harassment is just an annoyance that you should learn to live with.
    Reality: Street harassment is much more than just an annoyance. Any form of sexual harassment is about power and control. To understand street harassment we have to analyze the complex relationship between gender and power.

    Furthermore, street harassment has much larger reaching effects than just the isolated incidents.  When an individual experiences repeated incidents of street harassment, it can have a major affects on their sense of safety, self esteem, how they view their own self worth, and it can even have a negative affect on one’s interpersonal relationships.

    Myth: Holla Back DC! is ruining the lives of men all over DC by making it more difficult for them to pickup women in bars. (We’ve actually heard this statement from multiple people.)
    Reality: One of our sheros, Marty Langelan says it best and puts this myth to rest in her book Back Off!

    On page 39 of her book she states:

    If harassment really is just a sexual “courtship” behavior, it is a spectacularly unsuccessful one. As a means of generating sexual interest on the recipient’s part, it is not only ineffective, but consistently counterproductive: women react with disgust, not desire, with fear, not fascination.

    She goes on to say:

    There are infinite varieties of courtship behavior among human beings, mammals, and other animals, but none has a failure rate remotely approaching the failure of harassment as a sexual attractant.


    One response to “The Myths and Realities of Street Harassment

    1. Pingback: Monday Morning Fun « Holla Back DC!

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