An Essay on Male Entitlement
This post was prompted by the fact that in the last week I have seen statuses posted on Facebook by two different women both along similar lines but I’m fairly sure every woman who follows me has similar stories to recount. The title came to me because even when a situation makes us mad rather than scared as a general rule I feel all the women I know are to some degree living in fear.
Living in Fear
In a week, where a rapist was found unanimously guilty on three different charges but sentenced to just six months jail time because of the impact prison would have on his life. A week where I read this post and nodded along because I too have had sex when I didn’t want to but couldn’t say no. These Facebook statuses told stories detailing how women are living in fear; how in the normal course of their day to day lives they have been made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe by men who have felt it is their right to yell out obscene comments at any woman who walks by them, men who feel it is totally okay to invade someone else’s personal space, men who think any woman should be grateful to be treated like she is there purely for their entertainment. Men who’s sense of entitlement is so strong it overrides common human decency. Men who are shown by the ‘establishment’ that their potential is worth more than that of the women they violate.
No is a complete sentence
A few months ago I had this type of situation happen to me twice in a week, and these men seem incapable of understanding the word no. Or maybe they just don’t hear it, no matter how clear you are.
One of these times I’d been out for food with friends, and was in the City Centre at about 9pm waiting for a bus home. I’d walked with my friend and her husband from the pub to my bus stop, then they’d carried on to their bus stop. I had about 20 minutes to wait for the next bus. I’d been there about two minutes when a guy approached me (I was wearing jeans, big stompy boots, a hoody, a hat, and a scarf).
His first comment was “You have pretty hair? You should show it off. Why you hiding it under that hat?” Really not sure how he could know what my hair looked like under the hat.
I turned and glared at him, “Because it’s fucking freezing, and I want to.” I turned back towards the road.
“Where are your friends?” I paused, wondering how he knew I’d been with other people.
“You were with a guy and girl, I saw you crossing the road with them. I parked my car to come and talk to you.” Alarm bells went off, did he really not know how totally creepy that sounded. My heart was now pounding, that feeling of living in fear set in, and I just wanted him to go away.
He touched my arm, “What’s your name?”
I pulled my arm away, “I’m not telling you my name.”
“Why not? My name is xxxx. Now what’s your’s?”
“I didn’t ask your name, I’m not interested.”
“Where do you live? I live in xxx. Do you live near there?”
“I didn’t want to tell you my name, why on earth would I tell you where I live.”
He actually laughed at me, “I’m only asking the area. Not like I can find your address, and come to your house.” At this point I was starting to panic. There was hardly anyone about, just a few people down the street, and this guy had just laughed about what amounted to stalking.
“I’m not telling you. Look I said I wasn’t interested. I don’t care what your name is, I don’t care where you live. I don’t know you, I’d just like you to go away.”
He smiled, and reached to touch my arm again. “I’m just trying to start a conversation with a pretty girl. My car is over there, I can give you a lift home, we can get to know each other.”
I looked at him in disbelief, “I’m not getting in a car with you. I’m not interested. Please go away.”
He laughed again, “You’re really cute. Want my phone number?”
“No, I didn’t want your name, why would I want your number.”
He smiles, “Maybe we can see each other sometime?”
“No.” I started to turn away from him again but he reached to touch me again.
“Well I might see you here, then I can talk to you.” Maybe it was paranoia but by now I was really freaking out, and that sounded more like a threat than anything else.
“No, and if you do see me, don’t approach me, don’t try to talk to me. I am NOT interested. Now please leave me alone.” I stepped away from him turning my back, while trying to keep an eye on what he was doing.
“Bye pretty girl, I’ll see you around.” He walked away.
My heart was thundering in my ears and I was so anxious I felt sick but I forced myself to watch him get in his car and drive away. About two minutes later a couple arrived at the bus stop, they were reading the timetable, and I couldn’t decided if they were waiting for a bus or just checking times. Living in fear meant I was really desperate though, and I quickly spoke to the woman, briefly explaining what had happened and asking if they would mind waiting with me until my bus came in ten minutes. I think they could tell how panicked I was and they were really lovely about the whole thing. Turned out I was really glad I’d spoken to them because a few minutes later the guy came back, I don’t know what he’d done with his car, or what he would have done if I hadn’t been chatting to the couple but as soon as he approached us I spotted him, and it must have shown on my face because the woman asked if I was okay. I just managed to stutter out that the guy was back, and angled my head in his direction. The woman’s partner stepped round to my other side so he was between me and the guy, and after a few minutes the guy just walked off.
I was terrified. I thought he was going to try and see what bus I got, or that he would try to follow the bus, and see where I got off. It was awful. When I finally got home, I ran round the house checking all the doors and windows were locked, and when my housemates got home I was sitting waiting for them. It took lots of hugs and some herbal tea before I calmed down enough to explain why I’d just crazily asked if they’d noticed anyone hanging around outside. That is living in fear.
The other time I was on a bus. The guy had sat behind me, and then tried to talk to me. I’d ignored him; staring straight ahead with my hood pulled up. But he kept talking, and when I still didn’t answer he leaned closer and tapped my shoulder. I leant away from him still not looking round. At which point he started trying more earnestly to engage me in conversation.
Finally I turned and said, “Look I’ve had a long day, I don’t want to chat. I just want to get home.”
“Okay.” He sat back in his seat for about two minutes and then it started again. But it gets worse…
I stood up to get off the bus, having waited until the last possible minute to ring the bell, he gets up and follows me off. I thought maybe it’s just his stop so I stopped at the bus stop bench and pretended to be looking for something in my bag, thinking he would just keep walking. He stopped, and then tried to speak to me again. Living in fear you plan how you will react but my fight or flight kicked in, and with the bus still standing at the stop I pretty much yell at this guy, “Stop following me, you are making me feel unsafe. I told you I didn’t want to talk to you, I have no interest in talking to you. You are making me really uncomfortable, please leave me alone.”
I could see the bus driver watching us now, as well as a number of passengers. His eyes shifted towards the bus, and without saying anything else he turned and walked away. I had another bus to catch, and set off walking round the corner to the stop, the bus I’d got off passed me as I got to the main road. As I turned the corner I glanced back and the guy was standing by the bus stop watching me. I hurried to the new bus stop, swearing when I realised I had a 20 minute wait for the next bus. There was a pub behind me with people coming out, so I ducked inside. A girl looked up, “Sorry love, we’re just closing.” I walked to the edge of the bar and explained about the guy following me, a voice behind me said “Stay as long as you need, and when you go out I’ll come out with you.” I almost sobbed in relief, stuttering out a thank you. The girl smiled, “that’s our manager, he’s a really good guy.” I sat down and she brought me a drink. The manager was true to his word, he came out with me, and made sure I got on my bus okay.
I was lucky in both those situations, I managed to find other people who I could be around until I felt safe again. But what if I hadn’t. I was also lucky that I didn’t trigger an aggressive response in either of them, but again what if I hadn’t? The first situation was worse because I was saying no loudly and clearly and the guy was just not getting it. The fact that he’d seen me crossing a road and parked his car so he could follow me is still a terrifying and very creepy thought.
The other thing about these situations that I hate is that in my head I am thinking but what can we do about it? About these men? Because so often if you say something back, if you get angry, you run the risk of antagonising them, and the even greater risk of them becoming violent. Which of course would then be our own fault for being “so mouthy when he was just trying to compliment you.” We as a society need to change things; men need to realise they are not being complimentary, they are being creepy. If we try to stand up for ourselves we risk escalating the situation, and if we do nothing or try to diffuse the situation we are risking being assaulted because we’re “stuck-up bitches who wouldn’t answer them.”
I’d like to clarify here I am not talking about the guys who stare too long at my tits when I have on something fitted, or the ones who having checked the boobs then turn to check my arse as I’m walking past. While that is not always great fun it’s just a look, and as long as they’re not too close or actually leering it doesn’t really hurt. Besides, I’ll admit I often have a good perv if a nice looking guy walks past me but I don’t say anything (I might smile if they catch my eye), and I am fairly sure none if them are worried I’ll attack them, I’m fairly sure most of them aren’t living in fear of the women who might eye them up. The problem is the guys who feel they have a right to a conversation (or to comment on you personally) just because they think you’re attractive.
I have a friend who is a gorgeous woman, she is beautiful inside and out, and while I know there are many people who will be saying lucky her, it’s as much of a curse as it is anything else. She gets so many personal comments, to the point where she is now living in fear and hardly goes out because people get right in her face, and feel it’s okay to be overly familiar. This is part of a post she shared on Facebook (shared here with permission):
How big are you boobs? Real or fake? Do you use all of the toys you work with…? You must be really good in bed. How come you’re single? – would have thought a bloke would have snapped you up. Don’t do that, your face is so pretty.
I last went out properly in public a couple of weeks back to catch the rugby and I was shouted at (based on how I look) so much in the stands that I was shaking by the time we got to our seats. The only thing I could do is comment to my friends ‘this is why I stay at home all of the time’.
We are woman who smart, funny, confident and we are being held hostage by situations that aren’t our fault. We are living in fear because people think they are entitled to make personal comments about anyone they see. What happened to common decency, and politeness. I am fucking sick of it. I am tired of living in fear. Of mistrusting every man because of the ones who make us feel we can’t trust any man. Do you see the difference there? No? Then read it again. No, it’s not ALL men but it is ANY men.
#NotAllMen but enough of them that we have to fear all of them.