Unpopular Opinion: Men Deal With Harassment Too

Usually, when I get a message online that makes me uncomfortable, I don’t feel obligated to deal with it. I can block the person or just not respond. I don’t have to face the fact that there’s a real person behind those remarks, a person who doesn’t care about my boundaries or the fact that their attention is unwanted. Unless, of course, you go to the same university as one of those people and regularly interact with them, as I’m forced to do.

As much as I try to go about my days and keep to myself, whenever I see this guy, he invariably greets me with a sensual or suggestive remark that leaves my skin crawling. If we have to sit next to each other, he’ll scoot right up next to me so our legs are touching. If somebody tells a joke, he’ll laugh and “casually” grab my thigh or my arm. Whenever something like that happens, I feel uncomfortable and awkward, but I’m scared to speak up or cause a scene.

When people think of catcalling and harassment, they usually think of men harassing women with loud, crude statements and then reacting poorly when their unwanted advances are rejected. However, even this problem is often dismissed. Instead of reprimanding the men who catcall, people instead try to excuse their actions. “Well, what was she wearing that might have made them say that?” “You must have been acting like you wanted the attention.” “What’s the issue? Why can’t you just take a compliment?” It’s disgusting and disappointing to listen to my male friends—who are otherwise generally good dudes—voice these ignorant and insulting opinions. 

First and foremost, people should understand that catcalling is not flattering. It’s never a compliment, and it is rarely done with good intentions. It’s done because people, whether they’re male or female, want to exert power and control over somebody else. Whenever my female friends have complained to me about being catcalled and being harassed by creepy guys, I’ve done my best to understand and empathize with them, but I didn’t really, truly comprehend how they felt in those situations until I was in their shoes. It makes you feel powerless and weak. It makes you feel as if, somehow, this is your fault. One of my best friends once told me that she dreads even going grocery shopping by herself, because so often men will follow her around the store with constant comments about her body—comments can and will turn into threats if she doesn’t respond to them.

I’m well aware that my own experiences being harassed and catcalled are pale in comparison to examples like that, but I’m done being silent. Being quiet about what’s happening is giving him power over me, and I won’t let him have power over me anymore. For women, they often remain silent to protect themselves, but if you feel safe to speak up; please do! And if you overhear your friends engage in conversation that enables catcalling, speak up and educate them on it.