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I say I don’t see it, I didn’t see it, not until recently.

I was driving through the city one hot Summer night and heard, clear, loud, and shouted across the grey road:

“Leave me alone, you f*cking paedo, I’m f*cking fourteen.”

In the rear view mirror I saw three male figures on one side of the road, all tall, wearing hoodies, two smoking, the third leaning on the handlebar of a BMX. Opposite were two girls, half their height, one in double denim. My eyes wide, my thoughts racing, I sat in the car for several minutes once I arrived home.

My first feeling was a sisterly, feminist, pride. ‘Right on,’ I thought, pleased this young woman had shouted back with righteous anger at a sexist stranger. Tell him off, shoot him down, own yourself!

But then: ‘Oh, god,’ I thought, ‘This isn’t a young woman, this is a girl who’s just experienced a big, strong, stranger looking at her body and harassing her ACROSS A ROAD.’ I felt deep pity and horror for the child, repulsed by the world that we live in, where even the bodies of children are desired.

However, I then considered that maybe the victim was a young woman, who had a stock response to make harassers feel bad - no man wants to be seen as a paedophile. ‘Hit him where it hurts, sister!’ I thought, before this feeling also crumbled into dust.

If a young woman has developed a coping strategy for street harassment, this means she needs one. I asked some female friends, and they all have them. They cross over roads when passing building sites, they take taxis to avoid bus stops, they fake phone calls, they wear headphones with no music on, they consider how likely street harassment is when choosing their clothes.

And that is f*cking bleak.

Rest: Witnessing street harassment as a straight male (HuffPo, emphasis added)


Scott Manley Hadley writes the autobiographic literary lifestyle blog Triumph of the Now. Politically, he is unfashionably centrist. He is bald and under 30.

#womenslives: "If a woman has developed a coping strategy for street harassment, it means she needs one" - @Scott_Hadley