Sexual Harassment on the street comes from all kinds

“Hey, baby, what’s your hurry?”

“Smile, honey, you’re probably pretty when you smile.”

“Damn, I’d like to (insert overtly disgusting sexual reference here) to that.”

“(Blows kisses. Dog whistles.)”

Do these sound like familiar occurrences to you? If so, congratulations! You’ve experienced street harassment.

That’s the politically correct term for the Neanderthalian wank-fest that some men like to endeavor upon whenever they see someone of the female persuasion in public.

Street harassment is what happens when we indulge a boy’s every whim — he begins to think he’s entitled to everything, even the right to momentarily forget that he’s a member of what’s supposed to be the most evolved species on the planet. (Given that we still choke on our spit and get blinded by our own eyelashes, this is suspect already, but I digress.) He thinks it’s okay to comment on a woman’s appearance and make her go from happy, tired, or complacent, to feeling like she’s constantly on surveillance video — and it doesn’t matter how she looks or what she wears. It only matters that she’s female. (Believe me, I’m no Miss America, but I still get harassed, as do my friends.)

It also doesn’t matter what the man looks like. Last week, a Minneapolis woman posted a Missed Connection on Craigslist eviscerating the man who harassed her from his car as she tried to catch the light rail from work. She said he speculated as to whether or not she was wearing a thong, then sped off as his traffic light turned green. She described him as “middle-aged, dark hair, tan skin, driving a green SUV and wearing the kind of red polo shirt you corporate douchebags love to wear on Fridays so you can easily transition from day to night.”

Not quite the slumped-jeans-wearing, walking stereotype you like to imagine. Nope, harassers come in all shapes and sizes, but the common theme is this — they have no respect for women.

Nor do the people who say, “Take it as a compliment, he’s just being a man” as if the notion of a grown man acting like a child in the junk food aisle of the grocery store is something that we should feel flattered by. What they don’t understand is that, more often than not, what seems innocent to the man uttering “Ooh, you’re pretty, you got a boyfriend?” is anything ranging from annoying to downright creepy, even threatening, to the woman receiving it.

How is yelling at someone and speeding off a compliment? And for that matter, how is hitting on someone at the cash register, blowing kisses from your bike, or in some cases, following your target down a block or two asking “why won’t you talk to me?” any kind of flattery? In what universe?

The problem with street harassment is that it’s a smaller part of a very big problem in our society. Men are socialized to believe they reserve the right to comment on women’s bodies whenever and wherever they please, which leads to them thinking they can do whatever they want with them too. And when a woman ignores their catcalls and questions, or responds negatively? “Fine, bitch, you weren’t that cute anyway,” or worse, “What did you say to me?” because “real men” don’t take a simple no for an answer. (Doesn’t that sound like something? … Oh, yeah, rape. Because acting like street harassment is no big deal breeds rape culture.)

I remember the first time I ever got harassed. I was 14 or 15, in Manhattan, and the man was much older. I’d accidentally knocked into someone else, and he said, “Oh, you can knock into me anytime, baby.”

I walked faster. My heart was starting to pound as I hurried to catch up to my mother and aunt, who were almost half a block ahead. He kept calling after me, “Why you walking so fast? I just wanna talk to you,” until I yelled back, and then my mom heard him. She and my aunt started yelling at him until he retreated.

The worst part of that ordeal? When I yelled at him, he laughed.

Thankfully, most of the harassment I’ve received since then is fairly benign (most recently, a dude in the backseat of his friend’s car decided yelling out, “Hottie!” as I walked down Military Road was a good thing to do). But sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes, women get threatened. Sometimes they’re even followed, or groped, or hurt, because they didn’t just stand there and let themselves be disrespected.

And all of this is just “men being men.”

Sorry if I’m not buying it.

Thankfully, there are organizations dedicated to stopping street harassment in its tracks, literally, as daunting of a task as that may be. One such group is Hollaback! (, comprised of men and women across the world who understand that these guys’ actions are wrong and try to fight it by documenting incidents and harassers — and, most of all, by showing that those who experience harassment on the regular aren’t alone.

Because you’re not — not by a long shot.

Angelica Rodriguez can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @A_Rodriguez39.