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The Polite Pervert….And Why Some Drama Is A Good Thing

Here’s a bit of incredible rudeness that I was subjected to a few months ago:

I was at our local grocery store on a Friday evening, right around dinnertime. I prefer to get as much of the shopping done as possible while the store’s not too crowded. And this time, it was practically empty. I didn’t even spot another customer until I had stopped in the chips/snacks aisle. Just as I had finally taken a guess at what flavor chips my other half might want (he has wildly varying tastes) and was headed off to the next aisle, I heard someone call out, “Excuse me?”

It was a young man I’d never seen before, in basketball shorts and a t-shirt, keys in hand. I figured, it’s Friday night, he doesn’t have a cart/basket/bag, and they’ve just relocated half the product in the store – he’s probably run in for one quick item and now can’t find it or an employee (I’d yet to see one away from the cash registers myself). But I as soon as I turned and answered him, he mumbled a quick “Never mind” and was on his way. As I continued with my shopping, I may have passed him again once or twice, but I didn’t think anything of it. Finally, I’m reaching for scrub brushes, and this stranger approaches me again – this time in an aisle with a third shopper. “Do you want to know what I was going to ask you before?” I say sure, why not. He seemed nervous, and at this point I thought either he has incredible anxiety about not finding whatever it is he’s shopping for, or he’s going to try to flirt. Now I’ll admit to being a fairly attractive young lady, but on this particular excursion I was in my jeans and a loose t-shirt – not exactly done up. Which I say in additional (and unnecessary) defense of how blatantly awful the next words out of his mouth were:

“If I give you a hundred dollars, would you let me play with your boobs?”

Exactly. Those. Words. I can still hear it in my head, in his dropped-Rs regional accent, in the brightly lit home goods aisle of the Stop&Shop. I wish I had punched him in the face. I wish I had told him that making an obscene request of a complete stranger is NOT okay and that he owed me an apology. I wish I had marched up to the front of the store where there is always a policeman standing around, and reported this creep for solicitation. I wish I had done any number of things. But I was in shock. The most I could do was to stammer “No” and book it out of there. I managed to pay for my groceries, checking over my shoulder the entire time, and hustled out of that grocery store and up the street toward home. I couldn’t think, until about three blocks later when I managed to explode in a chorus of, “Seriously?! Seriously!” By the time I reached my apartment I was about ready to burst, and it took several weeks before I was willing to go shopping on my own again. I was floored. I’m *still* floored. I’m no stranger to vulgarity, but still – How? Why? Who does this? 0222-14

Well, at least he was polite in how he made his lewd request. Who does this?   Entitled, narcissistic perverts with no sense of decency who believes he can get away with this type of harassment because he intuitively knows women are not likely to create a scene.


My mother was a petite spitfire who did not brook any man touching her inappropriately.  I grew up hearing the stories of how some lug trespassed on her personal space and how she gave him a taste of her fury.   So I was always encouraged to respond similarly and throughout my teen years into early adulthood, I have slapped, elbowed in the groin and stomped on the foot arch of about a half dozen boys and men who dared to think my body was a hands on experience.   My dad used to laughingly say that I had an invisible sign around me that read, “Touch me and you die”.

For some odd reason, this inner determination to never let a male behave ungentlemanly around me did not transfer to my eldest daughter who began to encounter the crudeness of teenaged boys at age 13.   She was reticent to confront them, in large part because she thought it was unladylike to make a scene.   I suspect a lot of women are like deer caught in the headlights and are quite reluctant to angrily counter outrageous rudeness.   My point has been that the scene has already been created by the man and how you respond puts an end to the scene.

For example, I have had young women ask me how to deal with the incredibly awkward and often lewd wedding reception game where the man who caught the garter puts it on the leg of the woman who caught the bouquet while the DJ encourages the uncouth crowd to egg on the man to inch the garter as far up the woman’s thigh as possible with the stupid claim that every inch above the knee means 10 years of happy marriage for the newlyweds.   My advice was to cross her legs, tuck her dress in around her legs making it quite clear that just below the knee would be a good final resting place for the garter and if that hint was not honored, the woman had my permission to swiftly kick the kneeling man in the vicinity of his man bits.   And while he’s rolling on the floor, apologize profusely for your terribly ticklish knees.

To react means you have to be prepared to act.    You have to determine what your line in the sand is and god help the person who crosses it.    This is a great learning experience for the OP to solidify her line in the sand and gird herself with inner fortitude to respond assertively to a future dilemma.   Had it been me, I doubt I would slap a stranger but you can bet I would have dropped what I was holding, pointed my index finger at him and loudly and  angrily exclaimed, “You are a pervert!  PERVERT!”, and followed him through the store aisles as he beat a hasty retreat.  And it wouldn’t take long for the store staff to notice at which time you point to the man, yelling to them, “He is a pervert.”       I witnessed a near similar incident at a Chili’s restaurant about seven months ago.  Apparently a woman had been groped right outside near the Take Out area by  a man who chose to run away through the front parking lot.   The woman came through the side door, pointed to the running man yelling, “Get him!  He assaulted me!”    Five men, including my husband, immediately  leaped up from their dinners and ran through the restaurant, out the front door and chased the man down, tackled him and held him there until the police arrived.   Yes,  it was quite the scene and a lot of drama but it’s the right kind of drama.

I would encourage the OP to go back to the store and inform management of the incident.   They have a vested interest in keeping their customers safe and comfortable.   Also, file a police report.   Years ago when a man exposed himself to me, I filed a police report and the officer brought me about a half dozen mug shots to look through and identify him.  It turns out this was not his first offense.   I doubt this is the first time this man has made this kind of unwanted solicitation to women and you will want to add your name and report to the growing list of his offenses.

{ 130 comments… add one }
  • kingsrings February 26, 2014, 6:03 pm

    Like a lot of women, I’ve also been in that situation before. The thing is, there’s how you think you’ll react when faced with that kind of situation, and there’s how you actually do react when you actually do sadly experience that. In my case, shock has overcome that wow, this guy is really doing this to me, and I don’t react the way I should. That’s a very dangerous mindset to have, I know.

    My worst experience was years ago when I was at a party and very drunk, and a guy I was talking to suddenly forcibly grabbed me, fondled me, and forcefully kissed me. It was beyond awful!! But because of my impaired physical state and my emotional shock that this was indeed happening, I could only fight back a little, and screaming didn’t stop him. A guy friend was nearby watching the whole thing unfold, but he was no physical match for the perp, so he did nothing except give me sympathetic looks. Fortunately, I was able to squeeze past him in one little area of our encounter I found and run away. It was so awful! I also saw the same thing occur once at a bar a couple of years ago where a single young woman was innocently talking to a guy when all of a sudden he grabbed her inappropriately. You could tell how shocked she was and thus didn’t react right away. Fortunately, the rest of us and the bar staff chewed him out and he was thrown out of the bar.

  • Saucy Minx February 26, 2014, 6:17 pm

    I am not much into screaming, as I tend to get choked. I can, however, belt out a booming voice, & I taught my daughters to bellow: “Take your hands off me!” if ever anyone touched them against their will. As far as I know, they never needed to, but they knew that it was their right & it was perfectly mannerly to say that.

  • Kat February 26, 2014, 7:08 pm

    My sympathies for the letter-writer, and I second those who give props to Admin’s advice. I think it’s really important that women (and, generally, victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, solicitation, etc.) talk about these issues, just as people are in this post and in the comments section. So often, these events catch victims by surprise (as they did with the letter writer) and the victim is unable to process what’s happening and respond at all when the event occurs — which can lead, sadly, to victims blaming themselves, wondering if they should have said or done something else, or beating themselves up over not reporting someone or making a scene in case the harasser takes the victim’s silence as tacit endorsement to keep behaving this way toward other people.

    In some instances, it can even be difficult to determine whether a line has been crossed. (Random example from many in my life: is it harassment if a bodega-owner you know fairly well asks to hug you? What if he hugs after you say no? What if while he’s hugging you he puts his hand down your skirt and underwear? His bodega is next door to your apartment — does that influence your decision to call the police? etc.) And on the spot, processing: 1) what happened, 2) whether lines were crossed, 3) what the most pragmatic course of action is — all of that can take a while, often longer than it takes the harasser to walk away, unscathed.

    I think it’s wonderful that so many commenters here have obviously taken time to determine for themselves what they consider inappropriate, and what to say in these scenarios; thinking about these issues concretely can make it so much easier to act in the unfortunate event that harassment occurs. (Also, for what it’s worth, I start with “Please don’t touch me,” then “My body is not public property,” then “I’m calling the police,” depending on the level of harassment.)

  • Annie February 26, 2014, 7:15 pm

    When I was living in the dorm, a guy exposed himself to me. I found out his name, and also found out that he was known to do this–to the point where guys on his floor would escort their girlfriends when they were visiting. No one had ever bothered to report him.

    I reported him to the dorm director, who told me it was “no big deal.” I told him that I was going to report it to campus security and call the cops, and he told me not to do that.

    So, I reported it to campus security and the cops. They thought it was a big deal. The guy was promptly arrested and got to spend the night in jail. He was also kicked out of the dorm. I complained to the dorm director’s boss about his treatment of the situation, and his contract was not renewed at the end of the year (although there were plenty of other reasons for that).

  • Gracie Lou Freebush February 26, 2014, 7:28 pm

    It’s easy to armchair quarterback OPs reaction when we all have the benefit of time and hindsight. I think I might have been initially so shocked, horrified, and humiliated that my reaction would have been exactly the same. I’m so sorry this happened to you!!
    But now that we DO have the benefit of time and hindsight, I think it’s its a good time to practice (in our own minds, or out loud, role playing with someone) how we want to react if this type of situation should happen to us. I know I have!
    I love the idea of screaming “Pervert!” What a great way to draw attention of others without putting yourself in further jeopardy.

  • theLadyBugg February 26, 2014, 7:47 pm

    Hi, everybody! OP here, feeling like I need to defend myself a bit to several of you.
    First of all, the dame’s advice to make a scene is certainly good advice if one is harassed in a crowded place. However, the effectiveness of “making a scene” relies a bit on having an audience, and in my case, there really wasn’t one. Up until this moment, I hadn’t seen anyone else in the store. I assumed there was a cashier at the register, and I assume there was a cop up front, because that’s the norm for this supermarket, but it was after 6 on a Friday, and there was no one in – no butchers, no bakers, no shelvers, and no customers other than the ones in my post. Even if I’d had the presence of mind to do so, I really don’t know if anyone would have heard me if I’d started screaming. Maybe the one other shopper would have been crowd enough, I’ll never know.
    Secondly, a lot of you seem to have gotten the impression that I am a sort of shrinking violet, unable to stand up for myself and/or afraid of insulting a pervert. This is also not the case – this was not the first or even most recent time that some jerk has taken it upon himself to act unacceptably towards me, but it is the only time I’ve failed to address it directly and immediately. And the reason for that is exactly as The Elf pointed out earlier: it was so very unexpected that I did not process what was happening until a few minutes later. I suppose my body kicked in with the “get out of here” response, because I left right away, but I didn’t have a coherent thought for several minutes. When I finally did process what had just happened, in the worst case of l’espirit de l’escalier I have ever had, I was outraged, and immediately thought of several reactions I wish I’d had that would have given the cretin his comeuppance.
    I’m ready to defend myself against this kind of thing in bars, on the sidewalk, on public transportation, at conventions or even just with people I’ve been talking to for more than four seconds; and when it’s come up in those settings, I react the same way many of you claim you would have in my situation. If you’d asked me to list a hundred places a woman might get harassed by a stranger, I honestly don’t think I would’ve come up with “home goods aisle of a supermarket” before this incident. And I’m sorry to say it, but all the mental preparation, self-defense seminars, and real-world experience with harassment I’ve already had did not prevent me from being blind sided here.

    I still go to that grocery store every week, although admittedly I didn’t go alone for a while after this incident because it made me realize I could be so horrendously caught off guard. I still keep my eyes open for that guy around town, because he does still owe me an apology, but I haven’t seen him since.

    • Mya February 27, 2014, 3:52 am

      I’ve not read any posts that suggest you were wrong so I’m not sure why you feel the need to defend your reaction. Your post has prompted people to recount their own experiences and to me, this is an incredibly educational thread. I really don’t think it is too late to contact the police and make a report. I assume the supermarket has some form of CCTV even if it is only at the entrances and if you are committed to pressing charges for harassment I am certain obtaining a copy of the footage for identification purposes is simply a matter of course. Many of us have been where you were and may have reacted differently. Honestly, if I were to experience this NOW I might ‘make a scene’ but a few years ago I would have done the same as you and hightailed it out of there ASAP. I think it is fortunate that this pervert/college pledger only asked you something inappropriate (and one of the previous posts mentions solicitation being illegal so this is a really good avenue to explore with the police) rather than, say, sneaking up behind you and cupping your breasts (for example).

      Don’t feel like you need to defend yourself because you really don’t. I read all the responses to this thread as a sharing of experiences – every situation is unique and every victim is unique I don’t think there is ever a solid infallible response.

    • PM February 27, 2014, 7:26 am

      There’s no reason to defend yourself. No one really knows how they’re going to handle something like this until they’re confronted with it. You got yourself out of a potentially dangerous situation safely. That’s all anyone can ask of you.

      • Enna February 28, 2014, 12:47 pm

        I agree with the other posters OP – you have done nothing wrong. This is about people sharing what they have been though and making suggestions as well as giving each other moral support. I am so sorry you went though this.

  • Kimberly February 26, 2014, 9:19 pm

    I agree with the poster that said kids need self defense classes – but I wouldn’t wait till HS – start in elementary. In elementary a schoolmate was kidnapped for ransom the moves they taught us in PE helped her get away.

    For situations like in the OP – your voice is your best weapon. Scream Get Away From ME You Pervert while walking away from him (backwards don’t keep him in sight). I wouldn’t try slapping or anything like that – because it puts you inside his grasp. If you can hit him he can grab you.

    From about 4th grade on up in all the self defense classes I’ve taken on thing they emphasized is self defense is for escape – you hurt the other guy bad enough to get away. You don’t beat the other person to a bloody pulp and stand over them.

  • Basketcase February 26, 2014, 9:33 pm

    Ugh, these stories bring back memories of being on a commuter ferry as a teenager and having a dude in a wheelchair leering at my chest (I was well developed). Sadly my friends gave him a pass, even though he was drunk, and decided to tell ME that I should do more to cover up – when I was already wearing a baggy sweatshirt!
    I still wish I had reported him.

    • sixxAM February 27, 2014, 3:49 pm

      Wow. Please tell me you called your friend out.

  • Spike February 26, 2014, 9:59 pm

    It’s so sad reading all these comments and being reminded of just how common harrassment toward women is. I have a few stories of my own and so do all my female friends. I don’t know what I’d have done in the OP’s case. Sometimes it can seem like “making a scene” is too embarrassing because this behavior on the part of men is so normalized, we are expected to just laugh it off and let it roll off like water off a duck’s back.
    Once I was in a bar watching a band play and some guy kept sliding up behind me and touching my behind. At first I assumed it was just by accident but then the third time it happened I guess I went into “fight” mode and turned around and said in a loud, deep voice “do I know you??” so that everyone around could hear me (except my boyfriend, who was standing next to me OBLIVIOUS) and kept repeating it until he said “no” at which point I said loudly “then why are you touching my ass??” He slunk off pretty quickly as everyone around stared at him. I was pretty proud of myself…
    Another time, I was sitting at the back of the city bus when a group of teenage boys came on and went to the back and sat all around me, one of them slinging his arm around the back of my seat. I reacted by just staring him straight in the eyes with a neutral expression until he sheepishly turned away and removed his arm. I did not move and did not receive any more harassment from them for the rest of my trip.
    It can be very satisfying when that fight-or-flight reaction turns to fight instead of flight. You are so much less likely to regret giving the guy what-for than you will just shrinking away and thinking furiously later of the snappy comebacks you could have made. Having said that, you have to judge in the moment whether escalating things is going to be to your benefit or detriment.

  • Jess February 26, 2014, 10:43 pm

    I have had an experience similar to the op’s a few years ago when I worked in the automotive fields. I was the only female working there. A customer that I has helping thought, because I was helping him with an order, that it would be appropriate to physically pull me aside and whip his junk out. I was shocked, but then told him if he didn’t leave instantly and never come back that I would be on the phone with the police charging him for assault. Some men think that no matter where you are or, for this matter, where you work, that you are for sale and can be so obviously convinced to their charms. I never saw this person again, but my only regret was that I didn’t report his actions. Sadly, that type of work field you get a lot of harassment that wouldn’t be appropriate anywhere else. Op, never be afraid to stand up for yourself and cause a scene. Sometimes a scene is what will save you from a potential assault-regardless of how polite they are.

  • Rebecca February 26, 2014, 10:57 pm

    Definitely not an unusual occurrence. A few of mine (out of many):

    1) I went into a small corner grocery store to buy milk. There was only one other customer (a guy) in the store. I’d also picked up a free paper and I needed to free up my hands to pull out my wallet and pay for the milk, so I put the paper between my legs (nothing suggestive; I just gripped it slightly with my knees to hang onto it while I paid). The other guy in the store then says to me, “I like the way you hold that paper.” I looked at him, bewildered, “Huh???” (Because I honestly didn’t know what he was getting at; it was just an odd thing to say). He repeated, “I really like the way you hold onto that paper.” All I could think of to say was, “Uh….okaaaay.”

    2) I was 19, worked in a store, and a customer in his 60’s came in. He was a regular customer and I didn’t like him much already, but as I had my back turned to him and was bending down to get something for him out of a drawer, he said, “I like the way you fill out those jeans.” WHAT? How on earth does he think this is flattering, witty, etc. I suspect it was a power play – the big powerful businessman from next door exerting his influence and lack of respect for the young girl in the minimum wage job who is there to serve him and is required to be nice to him.

    3) I’m walking down the street wearing baggy sweats and hiking boots (as if it matters, but I mention this to counter the notion that women are “asking for it” with what they wear) and some guy getting into his car starts ogling me, licking his lips and making slurping noises. He looked so stupid and I told him he looked stupid.

    4) A bit more scary when I was 11 or so, totally innocent and sitting in the back of my parents’ car when we came to a stop light. I glanced over at the next car to see the driver looking right at me and licking his lips lavisciously. I can still remember the feeling of horror and shame, and I never told my parents.

    5) When I was 12 I was getting my hair cut and when the stylist left for a second, another patron asked me a question about what my t-shirt said, with a very obvious reference to my breasts. (The t-shirt did not reference breasts or anything else suggestive, but creeps always find a way to make a double entendre).

    6) When I was discussing this and the numerous other incidents and sharing the stories of other women in a group setting one time (in college, a group of us just hanging out and talking) the guys in our group were astonished to find that every woman had a story, and often multiple stories. They had thought it was rare.

    • The Elf February 27, 2014, 9:03 am

      I’ve been very fortunate in that my experience in this area is extremely limited! But one time, as a 14 year old, I was walking through my typical suburban single family home neighborhood to get to a strip mall. It was a hot summer day, and my intention was to use some of my summer job money to buy an ice cream and walk to the nearby library. A 30-ish man drove up and literally propositioned me for sex. Boldly, no euphanisms. I was shocked and said “NO!” and he quickly drove off. I wish I had the presence of mind to have taken note of the make and model of the car and a better description of him, since the police station was right next to the library, but I was too shaken. Later, I was more so when I realized what could have happened if he DIDN’T drive off. I didn’t stop walking that route – in fact, two years later I had a summer job in that same strip mall.

      BTW, at a late-blooming 14, I really looked more like 12. I definitely wasn’t one of those teenagers who looked a lot older. Think on that one and shudder.

      • Rebecca February 27, 2014, 8:12 pm

        Yuck. I was waiting for a bus, and I was desperately late for work (I’d got my shift mixed up and only realized I was working when they called to ask where I was…already half an hour late when they called!!) So in my anxiety I kept stepping off the curb to look down the street to see if the bus was coming. (Wide street with plenty of room to do this without getting hit by a car). I thought everyone did that at bus stops. A driver saw me do this and pulled up just ahead of me and tooted his horn and waved me over. I thought it must have been someone from work who was going there too and offering me a ride. So I approached the vehicle, opened the passenger door, and saw….a complete stranger. I said, “Oh, do I know you?” He then said in broken English, “Oh no, sorry, sorry…..” and drove off (I guess when he realized by my reaction that I wasn’t a hooker). I was wearing shorts (not super short) and a jean jacket….I mean, it was summer!!

  • BagLady February 27, 2014, 1:46 am

    Much as I dislike the knee-jerk “But what if he’s autistic?” response to posts about misbehavior, the OP reminds me of a story I read about a young man with autism who got in trouble with the law for approaching women in the mall and asking, “May I touch your breasts?” “May I touch your vagina?” Because of his autism, he had a skewed interpretation of the lesson “Don’t touch a woman sexually without asking if she’s OK with it.” As for the offer of money, he might have also picked up the notion that women will grant sexual favors for money, without getting the part about that only applying to women in the “profession.”

    None of that excuses the behavior of the young man in the OP, but it is a possible explanation. I think a firm “no” to him, and reporting the incident to store management is the best response. He needs consequences to learn that this behavior is not OK, whether it’s autism-related or just a fraternity prank, as PPs have suggested.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think a true pervert would ask — he’d just grope. And my reaction to that *would* be to make a scene.

  • just4kicks February 27, 2014, 4:16 am

    Apologies for so many comments on this topic: It’s very sad, yet comforting to read all these stories on this particular topic. After discussing this with my mom, a female friend and both of my son’s girlfriend’s, they too, have at least one, if not many, stories of being inappropriately touched or hassled.
    Also, it’s true it just doesn’t happen to women. I had a male very close friend when I was younger who was raped in his teens by an older woman. He told me he stopped telling male peers because the response was always the same: “an older chick?!? ALRIIIIIIGHHHT!!! Get some!” He was always ridiculed for saying he had been raped by a woman. Very sad and disheartening.
    Much love to all, men and woman, who have been assaulted.

    • Cat February 27, 2014, 10:28 am

      I spoke with my high school students about this years ago. If a fourteen year old girl is sexually assaulted, her father calls the police and tries to restrain himself from murdering the guy while her friends try to comfort her and tell her what a terrible person the man is. If a fourteen year old boy is assaulted by a woman, his father might suggest that he stay away from her, but may be tempted to brag to his friends that the boy, “…is just like his old man; women can’t keep their hands off him” and his friends will tell him he lucked out and they envy him. It’s a weird world sometimes.

    • Mya February 27, 2014, 10:30 am

      This bothers me immensely but I believe my SO was abused. Apparently a teacher at his school had sex with him when he was 13. This is ABUSE but he (for some perverse reason) is proud of it! When I was teaching the idea of being attracted to 13 yos was wrong on SO many levels.

      It is still an example of the tables being turned though.

      • Sammy February 28, 2014, 2:31 am

        It might also be strong defense mechanism. It might be easier to think about the incident as mere sexual encounter and to be able to define himself as a .. i don’t know, stud? than think of it as abuse and having to define himself as a victim.

        That being said, there are also minor girls who have sexual encounters with older men and the girls do not think of it as abuse. I had once a colleague (20-something woman), who still at that age thought that some teen girls are just so mature that of course it is okay they date 30-year old men. (I have to stress that I strongly disagree with this, but this was just to comment, that not thinking it as abuse might not be only male thing.) Luckily most countries have some kind of age of consent set.

    • Library Diva February 27, 2014, 11:54 am

      It is very sad. Here’s a truly depressing exercise: next time you’re with a group of women, open this line of conversation. I guarantee you that everyone, from the young, skinny and hot to the older, overweight and less traditionally attractive, will have a story. I read one online by a woman who got hit on while at the supermarket with her five-year-old daughter. I remember reading another story on this very blog from a woman who said that she was terrified of such attention and deliberately dressed and wore her hair so as not to attract any — she too had to deal with street harassment. I’ve gotten it at the grocery store parking lot, waiting for the subway, walking down the street in the winter bundled up to a degree that I was amazed the harasser could determine my gender, and even while staining outdoor furniture on my porch.

      Viewed from this perspective, it’s pretty clear who’s at fault for the harassment.

      • Mya February 28, 2014, 4:04 am

        I’m given to understand that the entire purpose of the Islamic women’s dress – Burquas and Hajibs etc is to protect Islamic women from the predations of men, but many Islamic women I’ve spoken to, particularly those living in non-Islam countries (like the UK) have been on the receiving end of verbal abuse and suggestive comments, if not actual actions, and I’ve witnessed groups of lads shouting inappropriate comments at Islamic ladies in full body covering. I don’t think ANYONE is safe these days and THAT is the really sad thing. A previous poster suggested self defence classes at school – I think we should go a stage further and educate children in respecting people of other genders (as well as self defence techniques to enable someone to stand up to someone assaulting them either physically or verbally) because the only way we will eradicate this in society is to address it as early as possible.

        • Library Diva February 28, 2014, 10:26 am

          I agree. Yes, self-defense is a vital skill but it would be much better to work towards creating a world where it’s not a terribly necessary one.

  • violinp February 27, 2014, 9:36 am

    When I was 12, I was on a hiking trip with the rest of my class at a local park. A boy decided that my burgeoning frame was where he needed to stare the whole time we were having lunch. Finally, I’d had enough of the uncomfortableness, and dumped my whole water bottle on him. I never got in trouble for it.

    When I was a senior in high school, the class clown joked that I, wearing a shirt that didn’t even show my collarbone, needed to cover up. Except I didn’t take it as a joke, because I am well – endowed, and burst into tears. The other girls had to school him in why that was a terrible joke. At 18 years old, you’d think he’d know better.

  • Elizabeth February 27, 2014, 12:20 pm

    I think the LW is woefully mistaken to take this person’s offensive behavior as rudeness. This person is likely a sex-offender in the making … it is well documented that deviant behaviors escalate over time as the perpetrator tests boundaries and assesses reactions. Sadly, I’m unsure what could be done at this early stage.

  • theLadyBugg February 27, 2014, 12:40 pm

    Thank you both. “Defend” may have been a little strong a word to use, since I certainly don’t feel attacked here – maybe just sensitive to early comments suggesting I shouldn’t be afraid next time when fear wasn’t the issue here, and one commenter who actually said something to the effect of “I’m so confident, I would have had no trouble handling this. ” again, a lack of confidence wasn’t the problem. I agree that the conversation has turned toward sharing experiences and tips, which is the best thing I think I could hope for in sharing a story line this. It is unfair and despicable that we need to be ready to deal with harassment at any moment, and being open about it, having these tools, is the best way I can think of to fight back.

  • Nic February 27, 2014, 1:41 pm

    I had an incident with one of my cousins friends when I was 13 or so (he was about 23 or so). A bunch of us were swimming (my older cousin and his friend, my younger cousin and myself) and he thought it would be a good idea to get me against a wall and grab my chest with both hands (I was well endowed even at that age). I ended up clocking him and when he got over the surprise of being punched in the face, my uncle kicked him out of the house and told him never to come back or near me ever again.

  • just4kicks February 27, 2014, 1:48 pm

    @Mya: My husband too! He was a PRE-teen, and a female baby sitter performed oral sex on him. I was appalled when he told me of his “first sexual encounter”, and he seems to think it’s a badge of honor on his masculinity. I almost threw up when he told me and said in my book, that’s sexual assault, and truly disgusting. He was assaulted plain and simple by an authority figure. Now that we have children, I’ve since asked him if a male babysitter did that to our preteen daughter, what would he think?!?

    • Mya February 28, 2014, 3:53 am

      Yes! Exactly! It really concerns me that his TEACHER took advantage of him AT SCHOOL! He says it doesn’t bother him and is quite proud of it but it makes me uncomfortable because he doesn’t see it as abuse! He may change his mind when we have children because whilst I’ve tasked him with ‘the talk’ if we have any boys, I will make sure to reinforce that having sex with a teacher at 13 is abuse whether they think it’s cool or not.

      • just4kicks February 28, 2014, 9:26 pm

        Thanks, I’m glad I’m not alone in feeling disgusted and sad this happened to our SO’ s. A teacher no less, in your case is horrifying! But, yes, my husband and I do differ in raising three boys and a girl. The teenage boys are encouraged to “sow their oats” by my hubby. They do practice safe sex, and their dad will buy them condoms. But…..when talk turns to our now ten year old daughter having some oats of her own to sew in the future…..Well, THAT is quite the different conversation. She is “not allowed to have sex until she is 40!!!” according to my husband. What happens when the inevitable discussion rolls around and she says to her father, “You bought (brothers) condoms!!!” ???
        Double standard much?!? One of my son’s made a disgusting comment I will not dignify on here, but I slapped him upside his head and said, “You WILL be respectful of women….you have a grandmother, mother, and sister….what would you do if that comment was made in relation to one of us?” It’s an uphill battle, for sure.

  • Rowan February 27, 2014, 3:32 pm

    The thing is, sometimes these things come so out of the blue when you’re going about mundane stuff that, by the time your brain has processed the situation, it’s over and done. That’s not an issue of confidence, it’s your thoughts changing gear from “hmmm, do I need to buy cat food?” to “That is NOT okay” with a long pause of “wait… what??” in the middle.

    I had a car full of middle-aged men stop me as I was crossing outside my son’s school mid-afternoon, purely so they could yell “is your muff the same colour as your hair?” into my face. I think back to all of the things I could have said and ‘should’ have done, but all I actually did was give a sort of bemused stare.

  • Kali February 27, 2014, 8:06 pm

    It took me years – and two incidents of being sexually assaulted – to accept and internalize the fact that it is okay to be a “bitch”. It’s okay to be the “rude bitch” who tells someone to go away. It’s okay to be the “frigid bitch” who doesn’t want to talk. It’s okay to be the “bitch”.

  • Ally February 27, 2014, 9:45 pm

    The last time I failed to react to someone touching me inappropriately was when I was 13 and groped by a guy in gym class. When I told me parents, they told me in the future I should make a scene and defend myself. So I have.

    Bad people take advantage of the “politeness” people are supposed to have. You’re not supposed to make a scene and perverts take advantage of that.

  • Stella February 27, 2014, 11:25 pm

    I was in a bar once, in a tank top that was covered in sequins. I had to walk past the entrance line to get to the restrooms, and as I was shuffling my way past, a slightly out of shape guy put his hand on my chest and said, “nice tits.” I stared at him coolly, put my palm on his manboob, and said, “you too!”. It shut him up effectively. Sometimes being ready with words comes handy…

  • Ann February 28, 2014, 12:39 am

    When I was about 14, I had permission to walk a few blocks from home to a drugstore on a busy street by myself. One day, I passed a 30-ish man who then turned to follow me. He followed me into the store and tried to start up a conversation in one of the aisles. I felt very uncomfortable, but I made the poor decision to leave the store instead of asking the druggist for help. He walked up next to me and put his arm around my waist. At that point, I “remembered” an errand in a dry cleaners, and went in there. The creepy man went away.

    I didn’t told my parents about this at the time, especially my mother. If she heard about an incident like these, she almost always blamed the girl or woman. Years later, I brought up this subject with my mother and she told me a story about when she was a teenager and a date got fresh with her. She kicked him in the um-hmm, jumped out of the boy’s car, and ran until she found a phone and called her father. Her father came but told her very sternly “Don’t make me come for you ever again!” She admitted that that scolding from her father affected her attitude for a very long time.

  • MichelleP February 28, 2014, 2:29 am

    Total sympathy for the OP and other posters. Got my own stories. The worst part was my parents were the “blame the girl” generation too. I’m teaching my daughter better than that.

    I agree with other posters who do NOT advocate slapping or assaulting the pervert, as well. I was eighteen, in a club/bar with my sister and her boyfriend. A guy came over and joined us, uninvited and would.not.leave.me.alone. I told him that if he got in my face again I would slap his face. He shoved his face into mine, and I backhanded him. He jumped up, grabbed my arm and twisted it behind me, lifting me out of my seat. He nearly broke my arm. My sister’s boyfriend and a bouncer saw the whole thing and didn’t do anything. The worst part was I didn’t either. Lesson learned.

  • Janet February 28, 2014, 10:04 am

    When I was in Ireland, I went to a club with my male best friend. I had had a few drinks and he was keeping an eye on me. One guy was trying to grope me and I told him off and my friend noticed & heard. He went to the manager and a bouncer tossed the guy out. My friend said if the manager or the bouncer had not done so, he would have done so and the guy would have been tossed out by my friend in a less than polite manner (as my friend does not appreciate any of his female friends or family being accosted). The following year, my friend asked me to wear a ring on my finger, and if any guy tried to hit on me to say I am here with my fiance. It worked out well as a few less than savory men tried to hit on me and the line worked.

  • JWH February 28, 2014, 12:28 pm

    Regarding that wedding garter game … how should a male react if he finds the thing distasteful?

    I was at a family wedding a couple years ago, and they got to the bouquet/garter ritual for bachelor males. I tried to make myself scarce, but the crowd, egged on by DJ, started chanting my name. Fine, fine. I deliberately moved to the back of the group when the garter was thrown, then did my best to ignore the idiotic “put it on the girl who caught the bouquet” bit. I think if I had caught the damn thing, I might have tried to throttle the groom with it.

    So how does a male steer clear of this imbecility w/o causing a huge scene?

    • admin March 10, 2014, 12:07 am

      What needs to change is your perspective as to who exactly is causing the scene. You did not initiate it and you did not perpetuate it. Merely holding up your hand, palm facing forward in the “stop” gesture, accompanied by a slight smile and shaking of the head “No” should be enough to excuse you from participation. It is the rude, obnoxious cretins who create scenes of coercion targeted towards hapless victims and who won’t take “No” for an answer. Continue to stand there with a bemused smile on your face and make it a battle of the wills where you win simply by refusing to budge an inch.

      When I encounter despicable DJs like this, I walk up to their table at some point during the reception, introduce myself as an event coordinator, and ask for one of their business cards. Of course, they happily comply thinking I am networking for future clients and they will be one of y preferred vendors. Upon receiving the card, I thank them and state quite matter-of-factly that I will never hire them and I’ll make sure none of my clients do either. At one point I think I had just as many cards for DJs I wouldn’t ever hire in a million years as I did for DJs I would.

  • SJR February 28, 2014, 3:17 pm

    When things like this happen to me, it’s the shock that paralyzes me. This seems to be the case with the letter writer, too.

  • littlebosammy February 28, 2014, 8:07 pm

    OK this was a really weird encounter in a grocery store. Nervous young man, did the mumble thing first, then got up the courage to ask LW something completely inappropriate. Not a bar or club, no alcohol involved. Mental illness? Almost certainly. LW should have called the store manager or perhaps the police. Young man in question needs some help.

    • BekkaW March 1, 2014, 6:00 am

      Are you for real? Women deal with these kinds of comments all the time as clearly evidenced from the anecdotes here. It is NOT “almost certainly” mental illness. Not all, but many men think that womens bodies exist for their objectification amd pleasure. It is male privilege plain and simple.

      I have read some pretty ridiculous things on this site but your comment takes the cake.

      • The Elf March 3, 2014, 9:40 am

        I wouldn’t rule mental illness out, but does it really change the story at all? It does not. He still made a widely inappropriate remark, she still felt threatened. Whether this is caused by something beyond the man’s control or if he gets his kicks from causing such a response or if he really thought he could touch her breasts for cash, HER response is and should be the same. Whether she confronts him right there or finishes her business and hurries out of the store, both are valid and good responses regardless of the cause of the offending behavior.

  • The TARDIS March 1, 2014, 12:26 am

    It saddens me how women are taught from a young age to not cause a stir. Ha, too bad that lesson never sank in for me. My mother taught me no man is allowed to lay hands on me without my permission, and if one does I am allowed to make as much noise as possible to make sure everyone in the area knows a shameful excuse of a man has chosen to touch me without permission.

    It only happened to me once, but it caused a ruckus all right!

    I had a man try to solicit me as I was getting into my car to go home from work. I said no and started to sit down in my vehicle. He grasped my arm and tried to say his spiel again. I twisted his arm behind his back and screamed in his ear, “Touch me again and swear I will break your f[bleep]ing arm, you pervert! DO YOU UNDERSTAND? I WILL BREAK YOUR ARM IF YOU TOUCH ME AGAIN!”

    The screaming caught the attention of two women at the bus stop across the street. I let go of the creep and he took off running. The women at the bus stop actually chased this guy up the street yelling that he was a pervert, a coward and a whole bunch of other names I won’t repeat here. Half that city block knew what he had done to me. I don’t know if he was apprehended or not, but I have never seen him since.

    I hope he learned not to trifle with women anymore!

  • just4kicks March 1, 2014, 12:19 pm

    My very last comment, I promise!
    I just have to say to “Gracie Lou Freebush”….best. name. Ever.
    Makes me smile every time…..:)

  • nuit93 March 2, 2014, 10:07 pm

    I was sexually harassed at 15…by the younger brother of my stepfather. I’d been raised to respect my elders without question (after that incident I firmly believed and still do that respect had to be earned and I didn’t care who they were), so yelling at him or calling him out on it would have gotten me in trouble.

    Mom wouldn’t allow him back in our house. My stepfather thought she was overreacting because he’d been calling me fat (he didn’t, he was expressing an overly interested and inappropriate opinion of my developing body), and my stepgrandmother thought I must have invited the harassment in some way by how I was dressed. In my baggy jeans and oversized sweatshirt.

    To this day, the stepfather (now mom’s EX-husband) and his brother don’t understand what the big deal was.

  • Ladyxaviara March 3, 2014, 8:26 am

    One night I was walking home from an art show, and a man pulled over next to me and asked where I was going. I said home, and didn’t stop walking. He then said “I will give you a ride home for a hand job”. I was absolutely appalled. I told him to drive away or I was calling the police. From that day on, I started to carry pepper spray.

    Three weeks ago, on a crowded bus, a man noticed my engagement ring, looked me in the eyes and said, “I would like to know you intimately before you get married”. I removed my pepper spray from my bag, pointed it at him while staring him in the eyes. He got the hint and got away from me pretty darn quick.

  • LizaJane March 3, 2014, 10:32 pm

    I must live in Mayberry. I’m not saying nothing like that EVER happens here because it certainly does. I’m just shocked at how many girls & women have had this happen to them numerous times.
    When my daughter was in about 4th grade, a boy in her class made a remark about her “tacos”. It upset her a lot. I promptly called his dad, who I’ve known for years. He was mortified but not surprised. Seems the boy had been spending a lot of time in the garage with his teenage brothers and their friends. Youngest boy was banned from the garage and the dad bugged it and threatened to play the tape for the boys’ grandmothers. Brilliant.

  • Barreleh March 4, 2014, 8:36 pm

    I had a math teacher in elementary school who for some reason (which I found out years later) hated my brothers and myself.

    HATED us.

    And in one class — I forget the scenario — he forceably embraced me in front of the entire class. I did my best to push him away, saying ‘Get away from me, you dirty old man!!!’

    Believe it or not, I got in trouble for calling him a dirty old man, but this was the 1970s. If it had happened today, he’d have been out of a job.

    I found out after my parents passed that this creepster had known my mother growing up, and had wanted to date her, but she wasn’t interested.

    Interestingly, he passed away several years ago on my birthday, which was nice.

  • Barreleh March 5, 2014, 3:02 pm

    Ooh, I should have posted this even before I mentioned the teacher, because it’s so similar to what the original poster experienced:

    Some years ago, I was in a Salvation Army store, when a young man approached me shyly and asked if he could feel my feet, and offered to pay me $5 for the privilege. As soon as the manager saw him, she told him to leave — apparently, he was famous for coming in and requesting this of women.

  • Lisa March 8, 2014, 8:25 pm

    I’d say, “No, I won’t let you play with my boobs for a hundred dollars, but I’ll kick you in the nuts for free ! “

  • LonelyHound March 14, 2014, 5:03 pm

    A little off topic, but in this day and age when charges are being reduced or dropped for rapists whose victims “did not act right” it is a safer bet to call attention to yourself. Make yourself heard. Making a scene at this point in time might prevent an attack from happening. At one point in time I was told my a police officer in my high school health class to let the rapist have his way. Better to survive the assult alert and report it than be in the hospital or dead. Nowadays people blame the victim- she was asking for it by wearing a skirt, she did not fight hard enough, she did not report it fast enough. Now the message being delivered to girl is make a scene. Scream, yell, fight. Behaviour like that man’s warrants screaming, yelling and drawing attention to you. That would be a time where I, too, would be tongue tied; but, and I hope you did it, I would wait for the store police to escort me to my car.

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