Sex-Based Harassment: What Men Can Do to Help Stop Sexual Harassment Against Women

** Content Warning: Discussions of rape culture, sexual harassment and violence **

Ever since I was young, I realised that women were subject to different rules and expectations to men. In secondary school, this was exasperated. When I was in year eight and most of our teachers were on strike, remaining members of staff had the girls undergo a self-defence class. It was boring. The boys, on the other hand, went to play football. When I was sixteen, I was walking home, covered in mud from a trek in the countryside, and two grown men catcalled me from their car. When I was in Sixth Form, we had an assembly in which our teachers scare-mongered us about the dangers of sending photos of an explicit nature online. I recall a few times when photos were leaked, where the women received backlash from their peers and the men who leaked them got off Scott-free. And throughout my time at school, I was slapped by the hands of too many men, pushed about, and had my wrists and arms twisted, even as I approached and entered adulthood. I quickly realised that school was a breeding ground for rape culture and violence against women.

University culture is hardly a feminist utopia either. I have been harassed in nightclubs; whether it be a man not leaving me alone, or thinking he can touch me in inappropriate places, it’s impossible to go out and let your guard down as a woman. In my first year of university, I was at Timepiece and a guy approached me and asked my name. I told him, and within a second, he was leaning in for a kiss. I had to quickly duck out of the way, scowling at him. “No?” he said, his eyes wide, and his eyebrows raised. “No,” I repeated, disgusted with the speed at which he moved. From my experience, it seems as though men are often shocked when you give them a blunt “no” for an answer, which really goes to show how they seem to think they are entitled to us: our time, our thoughts, our bodies. I’ve worked part-time jobs throughout my time at university and I can testify it’s not much better on the other side of the bar. I’ve had to have people kicked out of the places I’ve worked at for harassing me, such as making sexual suggestions or persistently asking for my phone number. On one occasion, a man wouldn’t leave the bar and I could tell he had bad intentions. He was repeatedly asking for my phone number, and I kept telling him no. He then repeatedly asked why. So, I told him I thought he was unattractive – and he was unattractive, to conduct himself in such a manner. He left after I slighted his ego like that. I’ve been told I should be careful about being so blunt with men when I respond to them, but the truth is, I don’t care for making up excuses. I do not want to.

And when they’re not touching us or begging for our phone numbers, they’re making unwanted comments about our bodies. I really could not care less for the opinion of a man who I have never met before. Being as cowardly as they are, a lot of the time these types of comments are shouted out of car windows as they zoom past us – catcalling. Catcalling always repulses me and puts me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. Why can’t men keep their thoughts to themselves?

Because it is men. It’s almost always men. Too many men. I am fed up with seeing the same conversations on Twitter, of defensive men parroting ‘but not all men’. The problem is that it’s 97% of women. A man is more likely to be assaulted by another man than a woman and is more likely to be raped himself than falsely accused of rape. If I read a Tweet that said, ‘people murder too much’, I wouldn’t rush to assert that I am not a murderer. In the light of Sarah Everard’s death, the two rapes that took place on our own university campus last month, and the rapes and sexual assaults that take place every single day, the defensive responses of men to these harrowing statistics should not be a consideration; we should be looking at the real threat level women face daily.

Rather than leaping on the defensive, men should take the conversation forward by asking themselves what they can do to help women. This is a conversation they should be having not just with women – because women have been very vocal about what it is they want – but also, with their male friends and family members. They should be holding other men responsible for their actions, rather than acting as enablers. This epidemic is not going to change until men change their actions and their way of talking, because women cannot solely solve a problem they did not create.

As misogyny is so ingrained in our society, I know that, sadly, this isn’t a problem that will change anytime soon. I imagine it will take years. I have been asking myself what I can do as a woman, even though, ultimately, I know the real change must come from men. I was left feeling quite hopeless for a little while, but what we can do is continue signing petitions, writing to our MPs asking what it is they are doing about this epidemic, getting involved with charity work and doing our best to protect our fellow women.

Anonymous RAZZ Writer

If you feel as though you have been affected by any form of harassment, verbal offence, physical force, emotional blackmail or aggression, then please reach out. You can call the University’s estate patrol on 01392723999. Call 112 if you want to report a crime, or 999 if you’re in immediate danger. To talk to Rape Crisis then call 0808 802 9999, Women’s Aid Federation 0808 2000 247, or 02035983898 for Suvivors UK.

Below are some other useful services and resources:

MindDevon Rape CrisisSurvivors UK (for men, trans, and non-binary), Rape Crisis England & Wales (for women and girls), One in Four (offers advocacy and counselling services for victims), Galop (for LGBTQ+ survivors of hate crime, domestic abuse and sexual violence), Imkaan (women’s organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and minoritized women).

Featured Image Source: Pexels

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