Walking in Rape Culture

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As a child you are told not to talk to strangers, but never taught how to react when spoken to.

Like a typical summer in New York City, it’s hot. Today I wore a dress and accessorized it with sexual harassment. I should’ve known when I questioned was it too “shapely” before walking out the door that it would create attention. I stare at the sidewalk a lot and rarely do I ever smile. My head is down and headphones are in mainly for protection. In the corner of my eye, I can see you whistling and shouting. I try not to make eye contact or acknowledge, but unfortunately it seems like the inevitable as you are consistent with your pursuit.   

As a teenager you are now told to speak, but never taught how to react when it is taken as an assumed invitation.

I respond to your initial greeting with a “hi” and continue passing. “How are you doing sweetheart?” is your response. I take a mental picture of where I am and pick up the pace of my walking. See, you probably didn’t notice that the streets are empty, the sun is about to go down and my phone is at 16%, but I did. I text my friend and tell her where I am. Instead of getting the hint, I can hear the agitation in your voice “Oh, now you can’t hear me?”  Sometimes rejection in a person can create the most spiteful actions - I just hope that isn’t you. What you fail to recognize is that while you find this to be a harmless conversation between two strangers, I’m scared.

I’m uncomfortable.

Yes, my body is beautiful, but my mind and soul offer so much more. Intelligence is key as I hold my pepper spray that much tighter. I tell myself not to go to that dark place of recognizing I am defenseless when up against you, but I can’t help it. In a rape culture that suggests I’m “asking for it” because of what I’m wearing; I can’t help it. My three-day old shaved legs and bare shoulders from 45 ft away are clearly too much for you to handle yourself. I get further down the street and closer to the restaurant. I am comfortable now with the distance between you, the restaurant and my location.

I can now breathe.  

As an adult Women are told not to dress too provocatively, be aware of your surroundings and don’t ask for it.

...but the inappropriate comments about my body and appearance are things I never asked for.

I am defeated. The attempts of getting my attention are often and exhausting to ignore. I am now numb to the yelling, whistling, and inappropriate remarks. I don’t stare at the ground or “need to smile” because I’m sad, it’s because you have made it impossible for me to be me without having trepidations.

In a world accepting of toxic masculinity, what else can I do but add another layer or button another button. And what does it matter?

I’m ugly anyways, right?  

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Written by Nikki 

Read more works from Nikki, Acne Told By an Adult and The Real New York City

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