We Got Mail: One Reader’s Story of Everyday Street Sexual Harassment

[Editor’s Note: We here at TIOMAR receive feedback from our readers daily. And we really enjoy reading them all. This one in particular came in response to the post: Street Meet: Black Women, Black Men, & Everyday Sexual Harassment. This email is one of many we’ve received inspired by that post.]

I read your blog about street harassment and your personal experiences and I just don’t know where to begin with my response.  I am a 26 year old Nigerian woman (who is also curvy) and I have lived in this country since I was 4  and have lived in Maryland since I ‘ve been in America.  I have experienced verbal and physical sexual harasment as well.  One aspect of harassment that I have often recieved from black males, are automatic insults.  Meaning that they insult me before anything else.  I have had older guys and teenagers tell me to my face that I am ugly, without me saying or doing anything to them.  I had  a guy who appeared to be in his 50s (He appeared to be Carribbean) walk up to me and tell me that I am only nice looking because of my body.  He them made gestures towards My breasts and hips and tell me that I am actually only averagE based on my body and start laughing.  This was done in front of a group of several guys.  When I was in college (I graduated from the University of Maryland)   I was ‘forunate’ to have one class that a lot of the basketball players also had.  I  did not know them and did not want to know them, they would talk about me while blatantly staring at me in class.  One day after class I was walking to my car and a group of them were behind me commenting about body.  One of them, went ahead and said, she’s just phat!  Translation=ugly girl pretty body.

I had never done anything wrong to any of these guys, I didn’t even knoW them.  I have been walking down the street and happened to look up and a guy that looked to be in his late 20s looked at me and touched his nose with his finger (I guess he was making fun of my African nose.  I did not know this person either.  I was standing on an escalator one day when a I turned around and saw a guy that was probably in his 50 standing so close to me he was almost touching.  When I confronted him he yelled at me, callimg me a bitch.  Another time three teenage boys wanted my attention and when I wouldn’t give it to them one made the mistake of throwing a coin in my direction, fortunatley it didn’t hit me, but he still made a big mistake.  I procceeded to run after him with a double bladed knife…this was when my tolerance level started to change.  He ran from me and maybe I saved another woman from having him throw something at them.  I’ve had my butt touched my guys I don’t know.  I’ve had  guys follow me in stores  and start talking to me about nothing.  I even had a plainclothes officer lash out at me in a grovery store over nothing (he stated something  about how I was standing in an isle listening to my music which I only really do so that I won’t have to hear random comments from disrespectful guys).  At this point I did not know this was an officer.

I was at my limit because all the previously mentioned occurences had already happened to me.  I lashed out right back and called my brother who happened to be across the street.  To make a long story short the guy pulled out his weapon on my brother in a grocery store because my brother asked him why he was bothering me.  It later came out he was an officer.   I filed a complaint against him only to have his lieutenant exonerate him and tell me that I should own up to my blame in this (interesting huh).  I wrote the chief of police after that and am currently in the process of reporting this to a government agenct being that this incident happened a few months ago.  I have random guys just look at me and start laughing with their friends.  I have had guys follow me with their cars and sometimes acting liike they will hit me with their car just so I will be forced to notice them (It takes a real animal to hide behind a car).

For about a year I’ve been carrying pepper spray which is atatched to my key chain and in my hand everywere I go when I am in public, and I mean everywhere.  I could be in a grocery store, mall, metro, street, and it’s in my hand.  I do this because I’ve found that in a lot of cases where touching is involved, or getting in my personal space is involved, it’s because I cannot see who is  behind me.  I hate when dummies tell you to be aware of your surrounding…like I’m supposed to have fucking eyes behind my head at all times! Well a lot of them think twice when they see what’s in my hand, but it still doesn’t stop comments.   I went through a phase where I was ashamed of my body because I thought that all of my attacks and unnecessary comments were because if it.  Boy was I wrong, when I covered up, I found that harassment still happened and usually they would just find something else to comment on.  So now I’m back to dressing how I want, although I never dressed trashy in the first place.

It’s sad how people always blame the woman.  I’ve had female friends down play my experiences and tell me that if I don’t want the attention then, to not wear form fitting clothes.  So what is the excuse when I was covered up and I still had problems?  And these comments were comming from women who wore not only form fitting clothes themselves, but even more risque. I had one friend tell me that when women dress a certain way, men cannot help what they say.  She’s a petite girl and has never experienced the comments and behaviors I have (she did have her car broken into while she was in it by some black guys though).

Yes, they can help it, they just don’t care and they seem to get a deep pleasure of saying sexually explicit things. It must make them feel real good inside as mush as they do it. I truly wonder where this notion of trying to abuse/humliate/and disrespect women actually comes from.  And in my experience it cuts across age and economic level because I received this shit from a broad range of black males.  For the longest time I atributed this to me west african face, dark  brown skin, and pear shaped body, but I know that if I looked different, but was still a woman, I would be lashed out at over something else.

I have to be honest here…in the past year and a half the harassment became a lot worse (maybe the recession has a lot of males tripping out over here, or maybe my life experiences are just accumilating).  Anyways things got too crazy for me to handle being that I am a peaceful woman who doesn’t want to be bothered and especially after the police incident, I stay home as much as possible.  I don’t like going out honestly anymore.  Because of my experiences as a woman I realized that I can be lashed out at in the worst ways while minding my own business simply because I am a black woman.  I don’t want trouble, I don’t have a boyfriend (I actually only had one bf and that was in high school) and I don’t really have many female friends so I’m buy myself a lot.  I don’t to be terrorized and lashed out at so I stay home alot.  At one point I did want to get  myself  a gun, but in Maryland the concealed carry law is really strict, and I’m not trying to get locked up.

Honestly I’ve never even had sexual intercourse.  My one high school boyfriend would perform oral sex on me and that along with kissing and touching is as far as it would go (he was biracial black/white).  But do you know how many men assume that I am promiscous just because of my body…it’s ridiculous.  I have a strong disdain for black males too because quite frankly their behavior is atrocious.  As far as sexual intrusions, the worst I have experienced is my butt being grabbed/touched (and I am so sorry about what you have experienced).  But I have been verbally threatened many times and also experienced the random insults/intrusions/bullying/menacing/accosting.  One of the main reasons I don’t really like talking to  black guys (I refrain from using men) is because like many women I realize that if you give them an inch they will take a mile and I can’t deal with that.  Also I’ve had guys walk up to me smiling and the next thing I know they are trying to touch me or insult me (the latter is what happened with the Carribbean son of a bitch who told me that I only look nice because of my body.

There was a time (probably only a few years ago being that I am only 26)  when compliments from strangers were welcome as long as they didn’t cross the line.  But once I started recieving more crude and crass comments as I became older (I was sheltered by my parents as a child and teenager and now I see why) insults out of nowhere, and touching, now I would just rather be left alone all together.  Now as far as people saying other races do this, I have had white guys try and talk to me at a bar and on the steet (one even tried to get me to come home with him) but all in all, they never ever got hostile with me when I rejected their advances, I can never remember that happening ever (like you may have said, I don’t know what they do to their women and I could care less).  This is a serious problem because I am now very cautious about where I go and what I do because I want peace.

So most of my time is spent at home and with my family.  Quite frankly I can’t see myself being sexually intimate with a black guy.  Because int he back of my mind I’ll probably think that’s all he wants me for. I know that they are not ALL like this, but too many of them are and it’s just too much. To know that you are an intelligent and respectful woman that is just reduced to her body is ridculous in their, and I’m tired of it.  Now when I am given compliments by these black guys, I cringe, even if he does seem really nice because I have learned that you can never really be to sure with them, you just can’t.  It’s sad that now as a woman who will be 30 in a few years, something as simple as going to a museum or something of that nature by myself isn’t too appealing because of possible intrusions from different black guys.  When I was younger (just a few short years ago) I wouldn’t say anything if someone called a bitch or disrespected me.

Now  I will say something back…but after a while it does get tiring. And after having my brother receive a firearm in his face for defending me by  a plainclothes harrasing officer motherfucker, I learned to pick my battles.  Especially if they are not touching me, I will probably just laugh at them and walk away.  If I had money, I’d just move to where a lot of black guys don’t reside, and then I would probably be able to go out more and be more at peace in public, instead of constantly watching  wear [sic] I go and what I do.  You’re a strong woman and you sound beautiful (which is no reason for guys to harass you) you have been through a lot, and you’re still resilient, I salute you. Even if you don’t get the chance to respond I just want you to know that I read your blog and I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about.  I just don’t know why they do this…it’s pathetic and I just don’t get it.

QUESTION: What would you say to this woman about her experience?