I walk with my head down, silently pleading he will just drive past but he slows and creeps next to me in his car. I know what’s coming. I am on my own, he is on his own and we are a good few minutes’ walk from anywhere public. He starts with “oi” which is never a good one for me so I ignore him and carry on walking. He then starts calling me baby, sweetheart, sexy and pleads me to speak to him. I continue to ignore him in hope that he gets bored but instead he starts picking on various body parts and begins to get more vulgar, “I just wana speak to your beaver, I’m an animal lover, c’mon baby let’s have chat, we can go for a drive”. I lose it. I turn to look at him dead on and say, “I’m not interested now FUCK OFF”. He snaps. He revs his engine so loudly it makes me shiver and starts yelling at me, ironically calling me a “slag” and he says I look like a skank with my disgusting ugly clothes and my shitty figure. He asks me why anyone would want to fuck me when I am such a skank. We turn the corner into the busier street; he spits one last insult, “frigid bitch” and screeches into the distance.
Most women will have experienced some form of street abuse in their lives ranging from a few words slung in the street to violence and rape.
Why does it happen?
I have tried to research into why street abuse happens. There are lots of theories and explorations into violence and rape but for the purposes of this blog I want to know about the less severe behaviour like the example I began this blog with. Why do some men have the urge to intimidate women sexually?
I have three theories:
- We are still animals: As much as we like to flatter ourselves and believe we are evolved humans, I believe we are still ruled by our animalistic instincts. It could be argued that a man’s instinct therefore would be to hunt prey and hunt a sexual partner in order to reproduce, therefore approaching women they find attractive could be a stepping stone to the ultimate goal.
- Control: Those who experience loss of control in their lives will seek out ways in which to confirm and prove their power. Intimidating someone will produce a feeling of strength and regaining control.
- Image: Much of the media promotes strong, sexual and powerful men as role models and those who want to prove their alpha masculinity may use intimidation as a tool to promote themselves as this image.
But why when these men’s advances are rejected to they become aggressive?
Many psychological studies refer to anger and aggression as an outlet for those dealing with rejection. What I am trying to understand is why some men will put themselves in a position where they are likely to be rejected if this is an emotion most people would consciously try and avoid? I have dug deep to answer this and tentatively give you my answer – people who have already been rejected in life by parents or family are likely to have very little self-esteem and therefore do not feel as if they deserve much from life. By yelling sexual abuse at a girl in the street and getting rejected the man does not have to have any expectations of a positive outcome and therefore confirms their beliefs. Even if their opinions of themselves are negative, any form of confirmation is showing that person that they are correct and being correct is a positive feeling.
Ladies, I recommend taking a leaf out of Miss Congeniality’s book and learn how to S.I.N.G.
Is there a solution?
For years I have tried to find a way of hitting back and tried various responses. I have tried ignoring the comments which only makes me feel more vulnerable and angry at having to accept the abuse. I have also attempted in politely declining any “come ons” which ultimately ends up making me feel stupid and spineless. I have also tried slinging abuse back verbally or through hand gestures which only fuel the aggression in the abuser potentially making the situation dangerous. And then I found Hollaback. Hollaback is a non-profit international movement powered by activists. Stylist wrote a good column which you can read here: Why women are #shoutingback. Their idea is to take the focus off the women and turn it around onto the abuser. Simply taking a picture of the abuser removes the power from them and empowers the victim. With mobile apps, blogs and social media this equips those with a story to have it circulating within minutes. This is giving victims a safe response to street abuse and it is spreading around the world.
So ladies, have you smart phone weapons at the ready and don’t forget to SING!