The Sexist

Profiles of Street Harassers: The Guy Who Honks

Street harassment in Washington D.C. is both extremely common and readily ignored. Women who speak out about street harassment have been accused of arrogance and ungratefulness. Believe me when I tell you that women who catch street harassment don't have to be hot shit. Most of the time, the only requirement is that they be women.

The real discomfort with reporting street harassment is that it requires us to call out the harassers. And some people are still more comfortable ignoring victims than they are admitting that their significant others, relatives, and neighbors routinely verbally harass people based on their gender. But hey, I'm not one of those people. Welcome to Profiles of Street Harassers! Up next: The Guy Who Honks.


Weapon of choice: Automobile.

Defining characteristics: Guy Who Honks moves at an advanced a speed, making anticipation, avoidance, and examination difficult. Even balls on a truck are not a reliable indicator that a harasser is inside.

Tactics: The Guy Who Honks is a most vexatious class of street harasser. This Guy subsists on the abuse of a device generally reserved for emergencies and expressions of extreme rage. Unlike reasonable drivers, Guy Who Honks liberally palms the horn in order to make his presence known to nearby females. The traditionally negative associations of the sound ensure that the honked-at experiences a brief sensation of panic before realizing that the honk signals not a road emergency, but rather a passing douchebag.

Targets: Women Who Walk, Women Who Bike, and Women Who Wait for the Bus. Guy Who Honks thrives on an an elevated sense of importance derived from sitting in a fucking car. Women Who Bike are especially vulnerable to Guys Who Honk, as honks meant to flatter and offend can provide a dangerous obstacle on the road.

Appropriate Response: Guy Who Honks provides little recourse for his targets. Sneers, expressions of disgust, and even pointed refusals to respond have little effect on Guy Who Honks, who is already breezing down the block in search of his next victim. While erratically waved middle fingers may be spied through the rear window, they tend to leave the target with a lingering feeling of embarrassment, and unrealized dreams of duct taping a bullhorn to her bicycle handlebars.

Fantasy Punishment: A forced biking across D.C. in rush hour. In a skirt.

Previously in Profiles of Street Harassers: The Smile, Baby Guy; the Subway Sandwich Guy.

Photo by beeep.

  • monkeyrotica

    Meh. My favorite is still the unemployed guys who make kissy sounds on Columbia Road. Nothing boosts a gal's ego quite like a bunch of smelly hobos making inarticulate mouth noises and grabbing their junk. Just thinking about it is getting me ALL WET.

  • Amanda Hess

    Don't worry. Guy Who Makes Kissy Noises will receive his moment in the sun.

  • jules

    Oh my gosh, the Guy Who Honks has almost gotten me into about 203984750928483 bike crashes. I hear the horn behind me, startle, freak out, practically flip over my handle bars, and then look up to see some douche blowing me kisses and winking. Good good, I'm glad you almost killed me in order to wink in my direction.

  • DirkJohanson

    Amanda, it appears to want to find bad deeds by guys targeted at women everywhere, but its not just all about gender. Guys are targets of The Douche Bag Who Honks, too.

    I'm a guy that can in no way be visually mistaken for a woman, and very straight-looking males, often in pickup trucks, have honked at me on numerous occasions, often in combination with screaming out the window. They always do this when my back is turned to them, so as to startle me. It has nothing to do with gender, other than, in my experience, the gender of the offender has almost always been male.

    That having been said, I am going to try to bring some truth to your post. I am sending out an alert on my blog, The Balls Monologues, asking my readership to stop honking at guys. After all, if guys are going to falsely accused of targeting women for misdeeds, a good deterrent to the false accusations is to actually start targeting the very misdeeds dreamt up about us. Hopefully the douche bags who honk will listen.

  • Victor

    I honestly don't understand this at all.
    I'm completely baffled. Why bother performing this action, which one would assume is instigated by a guy's desire for the woman in question, when you just drive off in the end? I mean, even on the off chance that the woman was just standing there, thinking to herself "I'm gonna have sex with the next guy who honks at me", he's driven off by the time he's finished honking.

    My only conclusion is that the honkers are actually gay, and in fact do NOT want to have sex with women. The honk is just an attempt at making those around them assume they are straight. Guys that actually want to have sex would at least harrass women in person, where there's that imaginary chance of success. Its only polite.

  • Shiyuan Deng

    Vincent - guys don't honk because they want to get with a woman. Guys honk their car (& slide up to you at the bus station, wave to you from the construction site, ambush you as you're walking to your car at night..) because they FREAKING CAN. Because we live in a society where the shame & blame associated with unwanted male attention falls squarely on the woman's shoulders. Like the article says - either you're arrogant, or unappreciative. If the blame & shame were put on the men committing those acts instead of the women who unwittingly found themselves the recipients, the streets would look a lot different.

  • Victor

    "because they can" is a ridiculous reasoning. I am a guy, and yet in my many years I've never felt compelled to honk at some woman on the street. You need to come up with a better reason as to why these guys in particular are doing this.

    And again, the "shame and blame" line is overused. If you'd bother to notice, mainstream society already doesn't approve of these actions. Unless you have different information, my experience has been that this is generally groups that are already marginalized from mainstream society. You don't see 35 year old businessmen in suits honking and catcalling.

  • jules

    Victor: 1. We know you're not a street harrasser, and we know most men aren't. Got it. 2. You bring up a good point: a certain milieu of men are more likely to harrass.

    Why is that? An open question, all are welcome to respond.

  • DirkJohanson

    Because they can? Thank you, Ms. Deng, for yet another sperm libel against guys.

    And a guy sliding up to you at a bus station is an "act" for which a guy should get "blame & shame"? I won't defend some of the types of acts mentioned here, and don't engage in any of them, but undoubtedly countless marriages have their origins in a guy sliding up to a woman in a bus station.

    Women aren't the only ones targeted in public because of their gender. Just last Sunday, I was repeatedly harassed on Ocean Drive in South Beach as a result of my gender. As I passed virtually each restaurant, one hot chick after another stuck an advertcard practically in my face and verbally tried to coerce me into eating at the restaurants they were hostessing for. The cards were stuck in my face, not my date's face. She wasn't approached by a single one. The hostesses probably assumed, correctly, that I was the one paying, and also probably assumed, incorrectly in this instance(my date is very bi and had just shared two other women with me the night before), that I would be more swayed by being approached by a hot chick.

    I was approached and harassed before I ate, and I was approached and harassed after I ate. I even thought that next time I go down there, I am going to wear a sticker or carry a sign that says, "I already ate."

    In fact, of course, a sign that says, "I already ate" is really the same thing as a woman wearing a wedding or engagement ring - it, in effect, says, "your time and energy is better expended elsewhere."

    BTW, speaking of Florida, its illegal under state law to honk a horn unless there is an emergency traffic need - I know - I got a ticket for it once, after blowing my horn having nothing to do with the target's gender. If its illegal where you are, take down the license plate and turn the jerk in.

    As far as what to do about guys waving at you from construction sites - why does that bother you so much, anyway?

  • Victor

    Not so much fun when it's railing against already marginalized subset of the population, is it? I know, I know, complaining about street harrassment is a lot more enjoyable when it's part and parcel of the evil "patriarchy", "rape culture" and "slut shaming" or whatever...

    Street harrassment is a serious problem. And I DO wish I had the answer to it, but it can't be lumped in with everyone's favorite anti-men sayings.

  • Magnetic Crow

    Yup, you guys keep whining about how unfair the world is to you. Meanwhile, those of us who have to experience this kind of crap almost every time we go out in a public space will continue to discuss it constructively.

    Amanda, it appears that the links you posted to the prior Profiles are broken. They take me to blank "The Sexist" page, with nothing but header and side-bars.

  • Amanda Hess

    Hey, thanks Crow. I'll fix that right up.

  • Victor

    I don't think the world is unfair to me. I'm tall, white and male with an upper-tier education. I think I was very lucky.

    But that doesn't give others free license to make illogical assertions. Dirk seems to like to whine, with an interspersal of "look at me" statements. His constant whining about paying for stuffcan get very tiring, I agree. You don't want to pay, don't ask a girl out. To ask a girl out and whine about paying is a passive aggressive move which no one with any self-esteem would put up with for any length of time. Hell, I can barely stand it. The statement "grow a set" comes to mind.

  • DirkJohanson

    Yes, Magnetic Crow, "constructively." By constructively claiming that obnoxious horn honking is gender-directed, by constructively accusing guys approaching women at bus stops as committing "acts" for which they deserve "blame & shame," and by constructively implying that harassing people in public is a guy thing.

    And Victor, growing a set isn't the issue - at least not for me, since I'm not the one trying to deflect criticism to another guy.

    That having been said, growing tall is definitely an issue - a huge issue. If you're not tall - and I'm not - most women these days expect you to pay for their virtually every move. There was an excellent study reported by the New York Times a year or two ago which found that, on average, a woman willing to be with a guy 6' tall making $65K would require a guy 5'9" to make over $200K to compensate.

    As an example from my life, my date tonight, who I went out with once, has been flat-out asking me to wire money for days now. I can blow her off, and face the exact same thing from another broad soon enough, so what's the difference? I'm not 6' tall, have never done felony time, I like hot chicks, and I don't have a job where I'm the boss and can fuck women in my office, so I am going to pay for it one way or another - that's not whining, just reality.

    Also, if you'd read what I write a little more carefully, you'd see I really don't complain about paying for women, and I certainly didn't complain about it above. I accept paying for things for women because the reality on this earth is there aren't enough decent ones go around, but unlike many other people who contribute to this blog, I don't deny the reality of underwriting women's lifestyles as one of the dominant undercurrents to male/female relations since the dawn of time, and more so lately than 20 years ago. In fact, I pay for women all the time, and I have no issue with saying I directly pay for sex on a regular basis. What I was complaining about above is being harassed in the street on account of my gender, the assumption of the harassers being that I was the one they could get money out of. The women contributing to this blog seem to think that only women get harassed in public. Not true - both women and guys get harassed in public - women get harassed for sex and dates that lead to sex, and guys get harassed for money. Often by women, I might add. If you haven't been to South Beach, think shot girls.

    Anyway, as I said, I'm not the one who needs to grow a set, you are. You've fallen for one of the favorite verbal tactics of women, which is to accuse any guy who asserts himself half as loudly as they exclaim their nonsense to be whining, and, of course, its not attractive for guy to whine.

    If speaking truth to female empowerment is considered whining, I'm happy to say I'm whining my balls off - even when I'm not. You should, too, before you retreat by dumping on fellow guys after you make good points merely because some whiney woman describes your good points as whining.

  • Emily H.

    "Guys honk their car (& slide up to you at the bus station, wave to you from the construction site, ambush you as you’re walking to your car at night..) because they FREAKING CAN. Because we live in a society where the shame & blame associated with unwanted male attention falls squarely on the woman’s shoulders." Indeed. They're misogynists, it pisses them off when some woman is walking around not paying attention to them, & it takes no effort for them to get a little charge of power from startling, frightening or irritating the target. (These honks can be a bit frightening if you're alone on a dark street, because what if the driver is a crazy who decides to get out of the car & harass you in person?) The harasser gets to force a woman to pay attention to him; men rarely see this behavior at its worst and assume it's harmless.

    "'Because they can' is a ridiculous reasoning" [sic]. Perhaps that's a sign that there is no good reason for doing it, and those responsible should stop.

  • ChibiK629

    Victor: "Unless you have different information, my experience has been that this is generally groups that are already marginalized from mainstream society. You don’t see 35 year old businessmen in suits honking and catcalling"

    Sorry to just jump in the convo but this line reminded me of the times in Miami where I have been called at from men who were 35 year old business men in suits. They were older, in expensive cars and all that, and generally not the guy you'd think would start calling out at a random woman on the street. They might not have been shouting all the time but it was the same unwanted attention. I always got this feeling it had to do with the fact that they looked like they had money and maybe felt they were entitled to a woman. Either way it was creepy. Especially the guy who started calling out to me with his young kids in the back of his car. It taught me that you can't necessarily look at person and tell if they're the street harasser type or not.

  • Victor

    Dirk - Drawing attention to an action = whining. You're acting like some poor stereotype of a jewish mother listing off all the things she's done for her son. You are short... and as such probably don't deserve to date. But that's another issue... The issue at hand is that you have created an exchange with some women which works for you. To assume that this exchange is the same deal all of us guys work out, is silly. And to keep drawing attention to the "poor deal" you got, is whining. I don't see anyone else constantly bringing up the various concessions they may have to make in their relationships.

    Emily - "Perhaps that’s a sign that there is no good reason for doing it, and those responsible should stop." ??? No one is arguing that there is a good reason for them to be doing it. No one has even argued that they shouldn't stop. I'm merely suggesting that it is already a behavior which is widely disapproved of, and that if you want it to stop, you have to deal with the individual groups where it is still acceptable.

    Chibik - interesting... that is something I haven't seen here in DC... (although I have seen a guy in a suit pissing on a garbage can).

  • jules

    UGH, stop making comments that are more than 5 lines long! No one wants to read that shit!

  • DirkJohanson

    Victor, As patently clear from my post, I make no such assumptions - I, myself, went out with a girl less than half my age last year who insisted on spending more money on me than vice versa. I do, however, deal in dominant trends.

    And, for the record, I'm not short - I'm just not tall - I'm 69", which is one inch shorter than the average American guy.

  • Victor

    Dirk... Less than 6' is too short for a male. You're 3 full inches short of that. That means you're short and you whine.

    (how's that Jules?)

  • Fuchsia


    “Unless you have different information, my experience has been that this is generally groups that are already marginalized from mainstream society. You don’t see 35 year old businessmen in suits honking and catcalling.”

    So construction workers and lorry drivers are not part of mainstream society? Only businessmen in suits qualify?Suddenly mainstream society does not appear to be very… mainstream.

    “Street harrassment is a serious problem. And I DO wish I had the answer to it, but it can’t be lumped in with everyone’s favorite anti-men sayings.”

    Oh, so now they’re not even men either! Do they at least qualify as human or are we looking at an entirely different species here?

  • DirkJohanson


    The night before the harassment incidents on South Beach I mentioned in one of my posts above I had sex with four women. How many were you with that night?

  • Victor

    Ah Dirk... First, even if I were inclined to believe you (and through the years, I've learned to only believe about 1/4 of what short guys say... so that makes, maybe one woman)... all that does is make you a short guy who had sex with 4 women that night. See how that doesn't change your height at all? You're not going to drag me into any "how many, where, how much" competition. I was a tall bartender in a popular dance club for a few years. I had my fun. I have no problem with you having fun too, I don't even have any problem with you paying for it (as you've admitted in the past)... I just find your incessant whining tiresome.

    Freaking short guys.

  • Victor

    Fuchsia -
    I don't know about you, but in my lifetime I have never seen a construction worker whistle or otherwise harass a woman. It's a silly stereotype, and if it happens constitutes a very small percentage of the overall street harassment that goes on. Any person representing a company puts that company in jeapordy of a lawsuit when they do something like that. That means they don't keep their job long. If a construction worker harasses you, all you have to do is call their company and complain. The company signs are all over the sites. There you go, empowered without needing to rely on anyone else. As for suits not being "mainstream"... um, have you looked at how people dress in downtown DC? I feel underdressed when I wear jeans in the daytime.

    as for your "not even men" comment, reread what I wrote. You misinterpreted it. My statement is that you can't use the same general "all men suck" statements for something that applies to only a small distinct subset of the population. You're blaming the "patriarchy" or "rape culture" or "slut shaming" (insert your favorite feminist phrase here) for something which 90% (made up number) of the time is performed by a population which is itself being marginalized by the groups you are blaming.

  • Christina

    I understand the frustration of non-male harrasers feeling accused but unless you've walked/biked around as a woman in this city you're not really going emotionally understand the point of all these harrasers blog entries. I'm basing this statement off the responses I'm seeing.

  • Fuchsia

    “My statement is that you can’t use the same general “all men suck” statements for something that applies to only a small distinct subset of the population.”

    You seem to know a lot about street harassment Victor, considering that you claim not to be either on the giving or on the receiving end of it.

    I have never been to DC, I’m afraid, but the street harassment of women is a global phenomenon and I find it somewhat hard to believe that Guys that Honk in DC are of a fundamentality different variety to Guys that Honk in all the rest of the world. Anyhow, in my experience at least, the construction worker stereotype holds plenty true – although I should explain that I would not put the phenomenon down to any lack of culture or education on behalf of such workers, but rather to the intensely male environment within which they work which encourages them to attempt to prove their masculinity through – why, what other method could easier?! – wolf-whistling at the ladies.

    You seem to want to put the callous interruption of another person’s day down to social exclusion, psychological issues, personal or financial failure – this is simply not true. In fact, I can’t say I’ve ever witnessed such behaviour (at least not in a sexual undertone) from anyone who seemed to be truly down on their luck – and as another commenter noted above “businessmen in suits” are often far from above it. Otherwise perfectly, materially and socially, successful people are generally absolutely capable of imposing on the comfort and feeling of safety of others in order to satisfy their own narcissism and egocentricity.

    This was the point that I was trying – very hastily and probably inarticulately – to make above. I instinctively snorted when I came across your comment and could not help typing out a quick reply. I simply have to admit that I find it infuriating when people try to place the blame for wide-spread tendencies of the population to the influence and agency of those otherwise excluded from society – after all, we manage perfectly well to ignore them the rest of the time, but remember to pick on them when we need a scapegoat…

    “Any person representing a company puts that company in jeapordy of a lawsuit when they do something like that. That means they don’t keep their job long.”

    So I will call up the company to complain that I some anonymous guy called at me, who I can’t describe due to the fact that he was up on, say, the third floor of the site and was wearing the same homogenous uniform that all the workers on that site wear, and the company will launch a meticulous investigation to hunt out the guy who-dun-it or failing that fire all their employees altogether, right? Victor, I’m afraid that strikes me as some pretty out-of-touch advice there.

  • Victor

    I'm obviously not a harassee, but I do take particular interest in this because it affects my girlfriend, who has to walk alone daily, frequently in the evenings. So, take it for what its worth, but my experience is admittedly limited to the following things - activities I personally observe, activities which are reported to me by the girlfriend, activities which I read about.

    I'd have to say that from this set of information, I don't think I've ever heard of or seen a construction worker in DC actually cat-call anyone. I'm sure it happens, I don't doubt it at all. But compared to the number of instances of harassment from other groups, it seems to be a small subset.

    The highest percentage of harrassing activities in my experience have been from either:
    Homeless guys
    groups of "thug life" teens

    Since the honkers I've seen are usually driving beat-up trucks, vans or cars with shot suspension, I can only surmise they aren't exactly living the american dream. I at least have not really witnessed this coming from a nicer vehicle.

    I'd be willing to bet that if you could magically add up all instances of street harassment, these 3 groups would constitute 90% or more... Sure, some guys in suits probably harass women. Sure, I'm certain there are construction workers who do it too. But I think its a drop in the bucket comparatively. At least in DC... we have a lot of homeless.

    As for calling the company... Hey, if the company is creating an environment where you are being harassed.. you don't need to know the employee's name. That's their problem. Sure, one call probably won't make a difference. But he's probably whistling at more than one woman and doing it every day. After enough calls, lawyers would recommend the company find out who it is, enforce existing policies on harrassment and get rid of the guy rather than risk an expensive lawsuit (every lawsuit is expensive, even if they win).

  • Pingback: Sexist Comments of the Week: Honking Harassment Edition - The Sexist - Washington City Paper

  • crankosaur

    Dirk is a douche of the highest caliber. If he's going to espouse a system of gender relations that places women's worth in their sexuality and men's in their ability to have access to that sexuality, he really has no right to cry over having to pay hot women to have sex with his dumb ass. But no. This arrangement allows him the luxury of having group sex with prostitutes AND being able to complain, which seems perfectly suited to his particular form of douchebaggery.

    Also, does anyone else get the idea that the real reason he has to pay women to touch his penis has more to do with his being a giant turd than his height? I mean, 5' 9" isn't really short at all.