Me Too: My Sexual Harassment Stories

We’ve all heard the Harvey Weinstein allegations by now, the sickening claims that women in Hollywood have made towards the influential Producer, who by all accounts seems to be a Trump-level power-hungry perv.

I’ve been absolutely horrified by the stories of actresses and entertainment workers who I’d otherwise have thought of as untouchable, and similarly saddened by comparable accounts of women on Social Media who’ve been through sexual harassment in their day-to-day lives.

But I’ve also been empowered and emboldened by their stories of resilience and strength, which is why I say: ME TOO.

As a woman, low-level sexual harassment is sadly something I’ve come to expect on a daily basis. I don’t even notice it any more, automatically blocking out the bothersome gazes and uncomfortable comments. So as a little experiment prompted by the #MeToo movement, yesterday I decided to note down each incident a man made me feel uncomfortable.

The first was on the train, where a man sitting opposite me asked if I could plug his computer into the socket next to me. I obliged and he took this as an invitation to repeatedly try and engage me in conversation, despite making it clear I was busy working. He continued his crusade of telling me unfunny jokes and winking, not employing these same efforts to speak with either of the other two gentlemen sat at the train table.

I felt uncomfortable

The second was on the tube platform at Embankment station, where a man openly and repeatedly looked me up and down as I walked past him and beyond to the end of the platform to get away from his gaze.

I felt uncomfortable.

The third was in a restaurant, where I was eating lunch alone while working, with the man opposite me gawking at me throughout the meal.

I felt uncomfortable.

The fourth was on my drive home from the station, where a man in a van pulled up next to me at traffic lights and made a lewd gesture through my car window.

I felt uncomfortable.

The fifth was as I was sitting in a coffee shop window, where a man walking past slowed down and looked me up and down. As he walked off down the road he turned around and continued to gaze piercingly at me.

I felt uncomfortable.

The thing is, a man looking at me as an incident on its own is not in itself threatening. But when I can’t sit on a train, drive my car or eat a meal without having a man’s unrelenting gaze making me feel uncomfortable, it becomes a problem. And if you think my worrying about the simple look of a man is an over-reaction, I’ll say this: I’m scared.

As Caitlin Moran once said:

Try to imagine, for a moment, what it’s like to live on a planet where half the people on it are just … bigger than you. We are smaller, and softer, and we cannot run as fast as men. We know you can grab us, and we would struggle to get away. We know if you hit us, we’ll go down.

Sometimes, when you think about the stats on sexual assault – 90 per cent of women know their attackers; 1 in 5 women are attacked – it feels like a fact too awful to be acknowledged. One in five, man. If those were your odds on the lottery, you’d already have pre-emptively bought the car. One in five means you often look round a room of your girlfriends and think, “Which one of us will it be?”

Sometimes the actions of some men* go even further, leaving me not only feeling uncomfortable but unsafe.

There was the man last year (a lawyer, no less) who tried to force his way into my home when dropping me off after a date – insisting on having sex with me because I’d ‘led him on’ by giving him a good night kiss. Then there’ve been the men (multiple) who tried to put hands up my skirt or on my bum as I walk through busy bars, on a level with the men who push their crotches into me on the morning tube commute. Then there are the many times a man hasn’t accepted no as an answer, telling me I should enjoy the attention before I become to old to get any more.

There was also man who sat at his desk opposite mine asking when, how and with whom I lost my virginity before fellating a sausage and telling me how he thought I’d ‘like it’ (I complained, there were witnesses, he was fired). Another man who thought it appropriate to show myself and three other female work colleagues cartoon penises projected on a big screen while telling stories of who he thought would get chlamydia (I complained, he was a client so I was told to ‘deal with it’).

This is the reality of what it’s like to be a woman.

While our tales of sexual assaults and harassment are horrifying to read, they’ve also given me the confidence to realise I’m not alone in the way I feel about the behaviour of some men. It’s Not Cool to be bothered or harassed and we do not have to stand for it.

Sadly, I know I’m also not alone in feeling historically that I’ve been to blame somehow for the attention I’ve attracted and the situations I’ve found myself in. Perhaps I’ve dressed too provocatively, smiled too readily, been too friendly?

No.

A smile is not an invitation for sexual attention, neither is a kind word, an above-the-knee skirt or a chaste kiss.

This problem is not with me nor the millions of other women out there who can’t quietly live their lives without inadvertently attracting sexual attention of men, the problem is with the men who can’t live their lives without giving it.

Me too has realise it’s up to me to mould the next generation of men – one of them being my own son – to realise this isn’t OK. I promise he will grow up respecting and appreciating women, not thinking it’s acceptable to demean and objectify them.

Me too has made me realise I don’t have to apologise for this attention, and I don’t have to stand for it either.

So when the man on the train yesterday couldn’t take his piercing gaze off me? I stared right back.

He soon stopped.

Me too: let’s reclaim our right to not feel scared.

* I’d like to stress the point of some men here: I in no way want to demonise an entire gender, some of whom have gone through sexual assault or harassment themselves.

15 Comments
  1. Thank you for writing this. It’s nice to know that other women also find these scenarios really uncomfortable and we shouldn’t feel ashamed to feel that way.

  2. Thank you for another fantastic piece Alice! It is so shocking that in this day and age ‘some’ men are behaving in this disgusting manner and I’m so saddened that women around the world are made feel this way everyday. As you’ve said it may not be physical but it’s by no means less intimidating. Do these men acting in this manner actually believe this is OK? Would they be OK with men doing this to their daughters or even their grand-daughters? Fair play to you glaring at that guy but how shit is it that you have to put in that position daily!
    My blood is boiling now and so I best not continue here otherwise my words will won’t be so filtered. I just hope that now women will start speaking up no matter what role in life they are in, we all matter equally and no one should have this power on us!

    1. Thanks, Tracy. It really is sad that we feel this every day, and I think there’s a huge disconnect when it comes to men and the reality of the women they hassle being someone’s wife/mother/sister/daughter. They just don’t get it!!

  3. An excellent post Alice. I was going to post something on line about my experiences but haven’t found the courage just yet mainly as my first thought was “people will think I am attention seeking”. That right there is what is wrong.

  4. Are you sure you didn’t just have a booger on your nose or something yesterday? Nah just kidding. It’s alarming to read this and I’m a man. Seriously. Seeing all the me too posts over the last few days has made me feel sick to my stomach to think that women are dealing with this crap day in day out. I mean I’ve always known it’s out there but I never realised on what scale. It makes you think that just about every woman has a me too story and that’s something we all have to put right. I just don’t know how other than not being a perv myself and calling it out when I see it. That doesn’t feel like enough somehow. Sorry I’m rambling now.

    1. Really nice to hear a guy’s perspective – thanks Giles. I think calling it out is a great start for all of us.

      (can’t promise there weren’t any boogers though!)

  5. This is amazing. As someone who has been subjected to sexual harassment on many occasion and even abuse, I feel so blessed to read what you have to say which is written so beautifully. You are right – so many of us (women) will just overlook seedy looks and comments and accept them as normal behaviour, and we need to stand up to this!! #metoo

  6. I love that you stared back! Such conviction. I have begun doing that it myself recently and it’s empowering. We will not be backed into an uncomfortable corner. #metoo

  7. Good for you! Totally agree with your sentiments. I’m sorry you’ve had to experience such shit unacceptable behaviour. Its far too accepted. Here’s hoping the strength of women speaking out will change what’s deemed ‘a culture we live in’

  8. For me, I always worry I am over-reacting and that somehow I am the one with the problem or making a mountain out of a mole hill. I still remember the morning after I was raped (which only now will I refer to as rape… I din’t say no… but then I wasn’t really conscious so….) when I told a friend she acted like it was no big deal. So I blamed myself, I still do. Every time a man smiles at me in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable, I think I’m being too sensitive. I shrug it off and blame myself. It’s almost laughable. I pride myself on being a strong, confident woman and yet when these things happen I say nothing, blame myself and try to look the other way.

    1. I’m so sorry you have been through this Lauranne. I know exactly what you mean when you say you blame yourself – I do it too. And we shouldn’t xx

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