Feminism, Personal

Sexual Harassment on the Metro

I’m teaching a class on anger management at HD, which is PERFECT for me, because I desperately need to learn how to express my anger.

I am an emotionally repressed person.  I mean, duh, I’m a Protestant.  We do a lot of things well, but sharing our feelings is not one of them.  And anger might be one of the worst emotions to feel (after lust, of course, but no Protestant experiences lust).  This anger-aversion can be REALLY PROBLEMATIC when situations call for someone to stand up and furiously say, “THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING.”

Case in point: last Saturday.  It was, ironically, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  Ever since I gained an appreciation for the rhythms of celebrating Holy Week (or at least…the end of it), I try to pretend on those Saturdays that Jesus is super dead.  So five days ago, I stood on the metro platform and thought, “All of life is a horror; there is no hope of anything getting any better.”  (Pro tip: Celebrating the full Easter cycle is a GREAT way to get out your most embarrassingly depressing thoughts.)

So after that cheery sentiment, I got in a car and wandered down a couple seats until I found a relatively empty section.  I sat down catty-corner to an old man and pulled out my Kindle.  

The old man scooted over so that he was directly across from me.  He sat so that his knees framed mine, and I instinctively shrank into myself.  Why is that posture so intimidating? Why does a man claiming space automatically cause me fear?  Rape culture!

Which is exactly what was happening, because this man-spreading space-invading man proceeded to touch himself through his pants.  Yup.  “Hahaha, that’s not what’s happening,” my brain shrieked.  I tried to stare harder at the words on my Kindle, but I could see in my peripheral vision that it was DEFINITELY happening.

Now, this would have been a good time for me to one of any number of things:

  • Look him in the eye.
  • Squint at his crotch as though whatever was happening was so tiny it was difficult to see.
  • Say, “You’re disgusting.”
  • Say, “HEY METRO CAR, LOOK, THIS MAN IS TOUCHING HIMSELF.”
  • Say, “Oh God, this is so embarrassing for you.  This is a public place.  Yikes.”
  • Say, “What are you hoping to get from this?  Because I can promise you that there is no way in hell this is turning me on.”

Or at the VERY LEAST, I could have gotten up and moved to a different seat.

But no!  I was coursing with anger (I have been for five days), and I. just. sat. there.  I moved my knees together, he moved his closer to mine.  I hiked my backpack higher in my lap as if it were a shield.  I mentally begged, “Please stop please stop please stop.”  I did nothing!  I knew that this man would continue to harass other women unless something were done to make him stop, but I did nothing.  Nothing, nothing, nothing.

At this point, my anger turned inward (old habits) and I hated myself for my inability to act.  That’s right, in the face of this Creep violating me, I was mad at myself!  Lunacy.

Thank God, my guardian angel (who is apparently an old woman – unsurprising) appeared and took the seat next to him.  He stopped touching himself and folded his hands discreetly across his lap.  If I never learn to express my anger, at least maybe this will be my superpower: growing into old age, diffusing gross situations by simply existing, using any and all mature feminine energy to project “WHAT WOULD YOUR MOTHER THINK” at people.

But.  I DO want to learn to express my anger.  How I WISH I had had the courage to just look him in the eye, to raise my eyebrows in humorous contempt, to let him know that he cannot intimidate me.

I was so intimidated.  I hate myself.

NO.  I HATE HIM.

Okay, so if I can’t express my anger in the moment in a proper way, at least I can blog about it five days later.

Baby steps.

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2 thoughts on “Sexual Harassment on the Metro”

  1. Ugh…this is exactly why rape culture is so damaging. It makes something so obviously not my fault (a man/person openly degrading me), my fault. Which OF COURSE it is not. Baby steps are good. And anger is not bad. I know your brain knows that. Next time (and let’s hope there isn’t a next time!) you’ll throw snark or maybe something hard and pointy. On second thought, maybe just snark….the latter gets me into trouble. 🙂

    Like

    1. Thank you Anessa! YES. It was so frustrating to be the obvious victim and yet simultaneously feel responsible. For what? Existing?? UGH, rape culture is the worst.

      Like

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