Girly Thoughts

June 10, 2008


Filed under: personal experiences — judgesnineteen @ 3:02 pm

A man on the metro just flashed me.  It was sort of subtle, it wasn’t like a guy in a trench coat running up and opening it.  He was sitting across from me and his fly was open – actually it looked like there was no zipper, nor underwear, just a gaping hole – and he had a bag with him that he kept over it most of the time so you couldn’t tell, but at one point I glanced there while he had it moved.  I gasped and looked away, it shook me up more than I probably would have expected.  Later I saw him move the bag back.  I just don’t think that could be an accident.  There are a lot of beggars in Paris that don’t have proper clothing, but I figured this was intentional.  So I started wondering why.  I wanted to stay because there was a girl next to me who seemed unaware, what if he followed her off the metro?  But then what if he followed me?  I’ve been approached by way too many guys after getting off the metro to think this would definitely be the end of this.  Maybe he was just an exhibitionist, maybe more.  I was very protective of my friends in Morocco when guys were giving them trouble, I always wanted to be there, I wasn’t afraid of yelling at them.  But there, if you yell at them they stop.  I didn’t know about this guy.  And I felt at a disadvantage because I was terrified of being touched by his genitals.  I reminded myself of the girl in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  I got off the metro at the next stop and sat in the next car over.  Thank you line 4 for having separate cars.  When I got off I looked in at the spot where I had been sitting.  The girl next to me was still there, the flasher was gone.  I don’t know what he’s up to, but at least she’s ok.  I wanted to do something about him, because I hate being the scared girl that lets harassment have its intended effect, but alas, there’s a reason why people do what they do – because it works.  Even in this big city in broad daylight where I comfortably speak the language, I just didn’t think I could count on not getting somehow assaulted if I tried to do something.  The idea of trying to loudly out and embarrass him on the metro, which is what I told myself I’d do if I was ever grabbed or anything, didn’t cross my mind until I was already safely inside the building I was heading to.  It seemed laughable.

It’s always a weird feeling when something like this happens to YOU.  I have one friend here whose butt was grabbed by a man in the metro.  I have another friend here who a man in the metro pressed his erection against when it was really crowded and she couldn’t move away.  I have another friend who a guy yelled sexist obscenities at, waved money at while grabbing his crotch, and slapped in the metro.  But this was my first encounter with something more than a guy trying to ask me out.

I’m just writing this because I have to right now, it’s how I deal with things that freak me out.  I’ll check comments from while I was gone a little later.



  1. You are right, this is really scary, and it is even harder to know how to act when you’re in a foreign country where you are occasionally uncomfortable with the language. Stay safe, and don’t be too shy to ask for help when you need it…

    Comment by habladora — June 11, 2008 @ 8:53 pm | Reply

  2. God, it’s hard to feel safe in your own country. Austin is probably the safest city I’ve ever lived in, but it’s still scary when people cat call/whistle/whatever. I’ve taken self defense classes-but that only helps a little bit. And, most of the time I have my kid with me. I can’t get into a fight with my toddler right there! I’m probably being a little irrational–but this whole sexist, street assault thing is so frustrating! I’m so sorry you had that experience on the train… Glad you made it off ok. Oh–you might find this interesting:

    Comment by theladymel — June 13, 2008 @ 4:42 pm | Reply

  3. Ew. I was just in Paris! Thankfully there were no bad experiences on the metro. I did see a little poster on the subway saying Bush is coming to talk to the president of France. There was a criminal profile pic of Bush saying he was wanted for crimes against humanity and the planet. Beside this there was a picture of a woman’s vagina with a person holding something. I didn’t know what it was. An aborted baby? The poster said Bush wanted Iraq and this is the reality. I really wanted to know what problem they were protesting against. I could read all the french but still didn’t understand.

    Comment by Lyndsay — June 14, 2008 @ 9:00 pm | Reply

  4. Theladymel – I love hollaback! And you’re right, it’s a problem here (I’m back home!) too.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — June 16, 2008 @ 2:17 am | Reply

  5. I know–it’s so cool! 🙂 Welcome back to the (Grand) usa….

    So, my question about the whole stree harassment thing is: what is the best way to deal with it? I always thought that if, for example, some kid’s shouting come ons at me while I’m idling in front of his bus stop, that what he *wants* is a repsonse and that saying something like “fuck you” or “shut up” is just goint to encourage him.

    But, then, if I’m just sitting there–PRAYING–waiting for that stupid light to turn green…that paralyzing feeling of “just ignore him” and feeling vulnerable isn’t right either. God, it’s SO frustrating! I hate feeling vulnerable and like these men are attacking me…verbally, energetically.

    Comment by theladymel — June 16, 2008 @ 6:06 pm | Reply

  6. Yeah, I don’t know what the best response is either. It rarely happens to me in the US, so I hadn’t thought about it much before going abroad. I’ve always just ignored it, but once I said “Fuck you” – I actually wrote about it here. Didn’t go so well. But there’s something about talking back that I like. Mostly my goal is just to not let them make me feel self-conscious, because I reject the idea that they get to judge me and I have to care about what they think of me. The problem is that whatever you do, you have to worry about safety, too. That makes it different. You’re probably right, they probably do want some sort of response. But no matter what reasoning I think of, it never seems to really make sense to me as a motivation to do that, like something I can understand. It’s messed up.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — June 21, 2008 @ 1:21 am | Reply

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