The other day a friend referred me to an article that made me cry. I would copy/paste the whole thing here but I won’t.
It’s written by adult performer Stoya about how the treatment she receives as a porn star tends to be less cruel than the hostility of common street harassers.
First she counts off the times she’s been harassed at a trade show. The harassment is creepy but sounds not much worse than Bridget Jones’s family reunions.
The following bit is what made me tear up. It’s too familiar.
They say I have a sweet ass, nice tits, a real pretty dress. They say I’m their future wife, or I’d look good with their dick in my mouth. They try (and probably succeed at times) to take pictures down my shirt. They ask if they can get my number, they ask where I live, why I’m not smiling, why my boyfriend lets me walk around by myself. Then they ask why I’m such a bitch, if my pussy is made of ice. They say that they never do this, as though I’ve somehow driven them to inappropriate behavior and deserve it. They say they’re just having fun, trying to pay me a compliment. Pretty frequently they get mean, slipping into a loud tourettes — like chant of bitch-whore-cunt-slut.
Street harassment is not a rare or isolated occurrence. It does not only happen in America. It does not only happen to young or traditionally-considered-“beautiful” women. It does not only happen on public transit or in low income areas.
We shouldn’t have to have a big angry dog named Funster to protect us. We shouldn’t have to carry Mace or a knife, hoping that we’ll be able to use it properly if necessary or investing hours of our lives in self defense courses (something a lot of women have neither the time nor disposable income to do). We shouldn’t have to travel in packs to feel safe (again, something that isn’t really feasible).
I don’t know what more I can say about this other than it makes me want to die.
They say that 1 in 6 women will be raped in her lifetime. And based on the number of friends who have told me about their rapes I’d say that’s a conservative estimate. Well, then I would say that at least 5 in 6 women “has at least one truly terrifying story of street harassment and a whole bunch of other stories that are merely insulting or annoying.”
Can you imagine if 5 in 6 men had a story of being harassed in the streets for being a man?
What if all women were bigger and stronger than you? And thought they were smarter? What if women were the ones who started wars? What if too many of your friends had been raped by women wielding giant dildos and no K-Y Jelly? What if the state trooper who pulled you over on the New Jersey Turnpike was a woman and carried a gun? What if the ability to menstruate was the prerequisite for most high-paying jobs? What if your attractiveness to women depended on the size of your penis? What if every time women saw you they’d hoot and make jerking motions with their hands? What if women were always making jokes about how ugly penises are and how bad sperm tastes? What if you had to explain what’s wrong with your car to big sweaty women with greasy hands who stared at your crotch in a garage where you are surrounded by posters of naked men with hard-ons? What if men’s magazines featured cover photos of 14-year-old boys with socks tucked into the front of their jeans and articles like: “How to tell if your wife is unfaithful” or “What your doctor won’t tell you about your prostate” or “The truth about impotence”? What if the doctor who examined your prostate was a woman and called you “Honey”? What if you had to inhale your boss’ stale cigar breath as she insisted that sleeping with her was part of the job? What if you couldn’t get away because the company dress code required you wear shoes designed to keep you from running? And what if after all that women still wanted you to love them?”
I just don’t believe so few people would care.
We are not asking for a right to the streets, we are taking them; we are not asking for advertisements that do not objectify women, we’re destroying the commercial mechanisms that objectify women; we are not appealing to male power for an end to rape, but threatening: ‘If you touch me, I will fucking kill you.’
For once, the mechanisms that create and maintain identities of womanhood were refused, and our desires were our own, our bodies were our own, and our violence was our own.