Picture the scene. It’s Saturday night, I’m sober and can’t afford an expensive cab home. So I catch the night bus, just like thousands of other women every weekend.
So far, so normal? Er, depressingly… yes. Because on the bus I’m jeered by a gang of lads, have to move after one sits next to me – despite lots of other empty seats – and spreads his legs to show off his package (or lack of). And when I think it can’t get any worse, another grabs my arse as I get off.
So what did I do? Apart from shooting them dirty looks, nothing. A fact that makes me seethe as I write this. And I bet I’m not alone.
Every woman has experienced an uncomfortably long stare from an unwanted admirer. It’s usually in the summer when we might be baring a little more skin (I was wearing shorts and heels, so what?). But is it ever OK for a man, or men, to leer at a woman? Grope her? No, it is not.
I immediately ranted my rage over a Facebook status and woke up to dozens of comments from girlfriends having experienced similar harassment. One was waiting at a bus stop when a man grabbed her chest and ran off, thinking it was hilarious. Only last night, a man tried to put his hand up my colleague's shorts when she was out for a run on the street. It’s not a new problem, sadly.
But how, in this day and age, can such blatant sexual harassment be tolerated? Why do men (correction, some men) think it’s acceptable to bully women in this way? Do they get kicks out of intimidating us?
Or, do they think we deserve it or even want it? ‘There’s a woman alone on a night bus at 2am. She’s wearing heels and shorts. She obviously loves attention, let’s stare at her until she has sex with us.’
How’s that particular pulling technique working out for you, boys?
And what’s a girl to do in such a situation? Do we confront these louts or just stay silent for fear of what they’ll do if we react.
My boss advocates the ‘Holler Back approach’. She asks them, ‘Is this how you talk to your sister?’ I tried something similar once, telling a group of guys to ‘f**k off’ as they threw revolting insults at me from their car. This infuriated them and the verbal assault was made worse. You can’t win.
It’s not just a London thing. A Los Angeles-based model posted a video this morning of an ‘Ass-Cam’ – a small camera she attached to her friend’s bottom to see just how many stares it received. Answer: A lot. They weren’t even subtle about it.
Staring is one thing. Shouting abuse, deliberately intimidating and groping are beyond acceptable. It’s just a shame these guys are not man enough to realise it.