Tonight, while coming home from a coffee shop downtown, I was sexually harassed. Again. This is certainly not the first it’s happened, and not the first time it’s happened on my way home from the same coffee shop. But this may have been the tamest thing I’ve heard as sexual harassment. “Will you be my Valentine?”It was so tame, in fact, that I might not even consider it sexual harassment if it hadn’t been yelled from strangers in a moving vehicle downtown late on a Saturday night while I was alone. “Will you be my Valentine?” It’s something a well-intentioned child would ask the cute boy in their class. Or perhaps something someone would ask their current romantic partner with a bit of an ironic smile. What should one do with a comment so tame? It certainly doesn’t make me want to scream and scream and scream, wear radical sandwich boards, and start throwing punches. In fact, I’m not sure what I want to do. I’ve asked my father about picking me up so I don’t have to wait outside alone, but the onus shouldn’t be on me to avoid sexual harassment.
This also has me thinking about the climate in which these incidents happen. Generally, the attack comes from a large group, of both men and women in their early 20’s, who are in the safety of a vehicle. Alcohol might be involved. Generally, the victim is outside, walking or waiting for a bus, alone. The harassment certainly sounds like peer pressure and the gross group dynamics of young people colliding, but I wonder if perhaps class privilege plays into this. I do doubt that this would happen if I too were in the safety of a vehicle. Do I deserve harassment because I need to take the bus home?* Should getting home safely be a luxury?*
Do you know what I would really like for Valentine’s Day this year, more than chocolate and roses and red wine? The eradication of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape. A world were young women can take the bus home late at night alone on a Saturday night and not think they were lucky to have been left alone.
* No and NO!