The Sexist

Sexist Beatdown: Guys Who Grab Butt Edition

This is what the guy touching your ass thinks you're thinking.

Public sexual assault: I'm still fucking talking about it! But this time, I've got a little bit of help from the illustrious Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown. Join us for a Very Special Episode of Sexist Beatdown, specially tailored for Guys Who Grab Butt, and what the hell is wrong with them.

When our powers combine, we get to the bottom of your most pressing groping questions. Such as: Why doesn't Sady appreciate it when you comment on her jugs? If it's not featured on an episode of SVU, does it still count as sexual assault? And if the girl whose butt you grabbed responds by assaulting you back, is she going to get in trouble, or what?

SADY: well, HI! I am so excited to join you on the Train to Gropetown this evening!

AMANDA: Hi! The Train to Gropetown departs now.

SADY: Perhaps we should note that many ACTUAL gropings take place on trains, which is a bummer? Truly, Gropetown is a destination of the spirit, and not one of mere place and time.

AMANDA: Right. And that on these trains, and subway cars, and buses are dozens of other people who are not gropers or groping victims, but really just witnesses who are standing but feet away from a sexual assault. One thing I hear all the time is that sexual assault is so difficult to "prove" and to "deal with" because it happens in private, tucked away behind doors and in intimate relationships. But really, it happens all the time in front of people's faces, too! And most people still don't really give a shit about it.

SADY: Yes. Oddly, I think people have a problem conceptualizing public gropings as sexual assault—the same way they don't think of street harassment as sexual harassment. It's just supposed to be one of the many things that, as Ann-Margret would say, help you to Enjoy Being A Girl. Like, there is a "Special Victims Unit" concept of sexual assault that most people have, the kind done by scary dudes for dark and wacky purposes—and then there's getting your ass grabbed on the subway, which, CALM DOWN, sweetheart!

AMANDA: I, too, have noticed a big resistance to considering groping on the spectrum of sexual assault. Of course, I have all sorts of feminist conspiracy theories as to why that's the case.

SADY: Ha. The BEST kind of conspiracy theories! But I honestly think it's the same blanket denial of assault as reality that you find everywhere. Sexual assault is rare; therefore, if it's common, it's not sexual assault. I don't know anyone who would sexually assault someone; therefore, if I know someone who would do this – or if I MYSELF would do this – it's not sexual assault. I've never been sexually assaulted; therefore, if it happens to me, it's not sexual assault. It's a wonderful loop of logic that keeps anything from ever changing EVER!

AMANDA: Your arguments appear sound, forcing me to discredit you as a man-hating feminist. But seriously folks. One of the most interesting things I've discovered in doing this series is that a lot of women respond to being sexually assaulted by freezing and shutting up. But if you look at your other options—like, say, screaming—you find women who report being stared at like she's an annoying bitch for screaming for no reason, in public.

SADY: Allow me to submit to you some anecdote as data, in lieu of an explanation for why this might be the case!

AMANDA: great!

SADY: So: picture, if you will, Sady, a burly man-friend, and a not-at-all-burly lady friend walking up the stairs of the subway. The lady friend occupying the stair level in front of me, the gentleman and I behind. Lo and behold, I see before me a hand! And the hand is most definitely reaching out to grab – and subsequently grabbing – my friend's ass. I freeze. The lady freezes. The dude who is with us keeps on a-walkin' like it's no big thing, but, whatever. After about 2 seconds, I grab the butt-fondling dude's arm and shove him into the side of the stairs and yell at him, because, WHAT THE FUCK. But for a second there, nobody was prepared to deal with what was happening. And as soon as I took action, the first thing that came to my mind was, "Am I going to get in trouble for this?" Honestly, I think people are worried about getting in TROUBLE if they respond. I think that is part of the deal.

AMANDA: I actually have a request out to the D.C. police department addressing this very issue. I haven't heard back from them yet. But my question was basically, "So, women want to know, if men touch them on the genitals, may they respond by punching the men in the face?" And they've been working on it for, like, a week. SO, surprise ending to that conundrum to be revealed later!

SADY: Hahaha. Well! I imagine it would take some time to think that one over! Except that is the thing. When you get grabbed, or someone is masturbating in your general direction on the subway, there's no time to rifle through the bylaws. And I think you just freeze up because, what are you supposed to do?! There is no chapter in Miss Manners that tells you how to politely request that someone put his boner away! And there's the possibility of retaliation, too. Like, I can't tell you HOW many times a dude has gotten up in my face to be a dickhole, just if I ask him not to compliment my astounding jugs while I am WALKING, or whatever.

AMANDA: Bitch!

SADY: I KNOW. I am a total bitch; many a person on the streets of New York has confirmed this. Also, I am not in fact all that, and although they once thought I was attractive, further study has revealed that I am not so fucking hot as was once supposed.

AMANDA: And the scary thing is that real people—people who are not the scary dude who just yelled at you on the street—would probably agree with that sentiment.

SADY: Exactly. It's the culture of tolerance around it that is the real psychedelic freakout bad trip of terror. Like, people seem to believe the phenomenon of groping to be HIGHLY COMICAL.

AMANDA: Or that grabbing a guy's arm for touching your butt is such an overreaction! Silly, emotional women.

SADY: Or, for example, you can be telling a story about a guy who grabbed your boob in a bar, and male onlookers will weigh in to tell you that you have no idea how hard it is for the men, what with their having to initiate sexual encounters!

AMANDA: HAH. That one I haven't heard! “You don't understand—if I can't just reach out and touch your butt, what am I supposed to do? Talk to you?”

SADY: I KNOW. Perhaps they feel that the ladies will appreciate their forthright natures! And I'm not entirely sure that this is all coming from guys who grab butt, either. I think these are non-grabbing guys who are just, like, "oh my God, if ladies are talking about how OTHER behavior is inappropriate, perhaps someday they might interpret MY PRESUMABLY DIFFERENT BEHAVIOR as inappropriate as well! And then I will not get laid! When clearly the priority here is for ladies to make it easier for me to get laid."

AMANDA: By any means necessary. But if you end up not being able to get laid, hey—there are butts everywhere up for the grabbing.

SADY: Like, I don't think we're long past the stage when casually smacking a strange girl's butt was considered a cute and roguish flirting maneuver, rather than a reason for that girl to methodically snap off your hand like the head on a Barbie doll. And I think that people for some reason still conceive of gropers as people trying to "flirt" who are awkward and inappropriate and Go Too Far. At least, some people. So for a girl to respond with anger rather than, I guess... sympathy? Dating tips? A welcoming smile? That is just SO CRUEL.

AMANDA: That's the real crime. I mean, the other thing that has been striking to me is how open victims of groping are to consider how their groper feels. I've spoken with women at length about what they think was going on in that guy's head when he rubbed his erect penis against her back, or whatever. You know—maybe it was an accident! Maybe he didn't mean to, maybe he was abused, maybe he can't connect with women, maybe they learned it from their dad, maybe they don't have any other sort of social power and so they want to get it this way. Because they want to know why this happened to them. I seriously doubt that these poor, lost souls are giving the targets of their erections the same courtesy.

SADY: Yeah. I mean, the point at which you casually assault someone is the point at which we can determine, objectively, that you do not give a fuck about how that person feels. That's kind of the rationale: “I want this, she has no right not to give me this, I will therefore have it without her permission. And who gives a fuck about consequences! I'm getting off at the next stop!” But that's part of women being expected to bear the burden of empathy; the last thing you should do is be a person who doesn't TRY to care, so even when people act in an uncaring way, you try to figure out motivations or whatever instead of just dealing with their actions. And that's not necessarily a bad way to be, unless you're in the presence of someone who takes advantage of it.

AMANDA: I'm not sure I have anything else to say about groping right now. I've been kind of hitting the groping sauce pretty hard lately.

SADY: Lay off the sauce! Perhaps you can get on the Job Discrimination Wagon! Or enroll in a program for Pick-Up-Artist Methadone! Truly, I think we have delved far enough into groping. And for this, and for your excellent coverage, I thank you.

AMANDA: Does the Train to Gropetown stop anywhere near my house?

SADY: Let us hope not. I am less than fond of their preferred local entertainment.

  • Trent Fingland

    I basically agree with everything that's been said here, but I take issue with the suggestion that it is a "real crime" to try and understand the underlying causes of such behaviors.

    In nearly any instance of cultural discrimination, finding out why group A feels the way they do can be a great first step to putting an end to those actions. Simply classifying them as just plain wrong (as they often are) might put an end to discriminatory actions (or more likely see them done more covertly, or expressed in alternative ways) but it wouldn't do much to change attitudes.

    I think it is a credit to women who make an effort to understand their harassers, as it is a credit to anyone who ever tries to see things from a different point of view.

    Note that I don't believe that simply understanding is going to solve any of the world's problems, but I do thing coupling this effort at understanding with shoving him into the side of the stairs and screaming at him would probably a great, well-rounded approach.

  • A Guy

    Ok, this question isn't exactly in line with this conversation but I want to ask it anyway:

    What's the difference between looking at a woman and leering. I have to admit that there are some women on the subway that are just too attractive not to keep glancing at on the ride. Not in order to make eye contact and certainly not to rub one out, but simply because it's a small endorphin rush to look at someone attractive. Even my wife admits to staring at beautiful women when around them.

    So at what point does it become leering? I try to keep it to no more than a few seconds at a time (mostly to avoid eye contact because A: I'm married and B: I'm shy to boot) but is even that too much? Is it only leering when it's not furtive?

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  • SilverAeris

    A Guy, I would say the point at stopping when it comes to looking is when the woman looks uncomfortable due to your looking. Even if you only been giving her glances only a few seconds at a time and some time apart, if you can tell that she doesn't look happy with what you're doing, I would stop.

    I too like to glance at beautiful men and sometimes I may look for a few seconds too long. I can usually tell when a man looks disconcerted with my looking and then I promptly stop. So no, I wouldn't consider little glances to be leering and I don't think most women would, however that doesn't mean it's free from making people uncomfortable so we still need to remember this.

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  • Jenny

    Yeah, I doubt the police are going to get back to you on that whole "is it okay to fight back" thing, because they won't want to get dragged into court in case you actually do it and tell an arresting office that Officer X said it was okay. But in my understanding, the person who lays hands first on another person loses the legal right to sue for assault. But AGAIN, in my experience, a guy who grabs your anything is also a guy who is very likely to haul off and smack you or shove you, and you might be legally right but it's still your face that's gonna get broken. End result; I'm too terrified to do anything about it.

  • Gregory A. Butler

    A Guy,

    First, let's keep it real - you stare at women's bodies (specifically breasts, butts, bare midriffs, lower backs, legs and other sexualized female body parts) for the same reason that I do - because it turns you on!

    There is no "endorphin rush" (there is SOMETHING rushing, but it sure as hell ain't "endorphins"!), you are NOT just "admiring female beauty" and, unless your wife is gay, you are NOT looking at women's cleavage for the same reason she is!

    Man up and admit it, you like checking out women, just like many other straight guys do.

    As for the whole "rubbing one out" thing - again, let's keep it real, you memorize some of the more sexually arousing female body parts and you masturbate to your memories of them when you get home!

    That's the whole POINT of staring - to memorize every curve and every detail, for later mastubatory recall!

    That has always been the rationale for MY staring, starting from 28 years ago, when I was a 13 year old high school sophomore and I staring at the cleavage of my more developed female classmates down until this very day as a middle aged man.

    As for "how long is too long to stare" I've found that, on the New York City subways (a great venue for staring at women's bodies) the "one one thousand, two one thousand" rule applies.

    That is, it typically takes the average New York City woman about 2 seconds to realize that some dude is staring at her body in a sexualized way.

    Usually, they can tell, with remarkable accuracy, from which direction the staring is coming and it's still just as embarrassing to be busted checking out a woman's body as it was in high school.

    The women still don't like being stared at either (and, honestly, if I was in their shoes, I wouldn't care for it either).

    So, "A Guy", here's what you do - while staring, count off two seconds silently to yourself "one one thousand, two one thousand" (or "one Mississippi, two Mississippi if you prefer - it works out about the same) and when you get to "three one thousand" YOU HAVE BEEN STARING FOR TOO LONG AND SHE WILL SEE YOU!

    So immediately STOP - try to memorize the parts of her body you were fantasizing about - and wait at least FIFTEEN SECONDS before you resume staring.

    The closer you are to a woman, the more likely it is that she will bust you - if you are doing the classic "New York subway cleavage stare" where you are standing over a seated woman in a low cut top, you might have to wait a full minute to stare again, and even then it is very likely she will see you staring.

    Or her friend might catch you staring - and she might LOUDLY tell her friend that "somebody is enjoying the view!" (an actual quote from somebody who caught me staring at her friend's cleavage on a bus).

    Now, as a heterosexual man, I know how hard it is NOT to stare at women's bodies - but, if you do it right, they won't notice, and if you do it wrong, they will notice and, even if they don't say anything, they will probably be offended.

    But, "A Guy", can you at least be HONEST with us about WHY you stare?

    Cause I know damned well it is NOT because "because it’s a small endorphin rush" and it's NOT for the same reason your wife looks at other women - just Man Up and admit the REAL reason!!!!

    You stare at women because it turns you on and gives you material to masturbate about at a later time and place.

    As for men who grab the sexualized part of women's bodies - that is a clear cut CRIME and any man who does that needs to calm the hell down and correct his conduct!!!! There is NEVER a good reason to grab a woman's butt without her permission!!

  • Melanie

    Gregory...... Don't judge everyone else by your standards. Just because you can't look at a pretty girl without viewing her as your own personal pornography, doesn't mean others can't.

  • Gregory A. Butler


    I hate to tell you this, but MOST straight men look at women the same way I do - as our "personal pornography" that we view on the street every day.

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  • jellyleelips

    Gregory, there's pictures on the internet for that. I find it severely troubling that you (and apparently "MOST straight men") look at women as "personal pornography" and not, you know, real people with thoughts and feelings and desires. If you've been starting at women to the point that they're uncomfortable often enough to have a system wherein you have discovered EXACTLY how long you have to stare at a woman before she becomes uncomfortable, you are FUCKED UP. Start viewing women as people and see how that goes. And, if you're going to keep staring at your "personal pornography" anyway, try to at least do it on the street and not in a crowded subway car. Or, take up reading (books, not Playboy) and do that on the subway instead of purposefully making women uncomfortable.

  • Gem

    gregory... eww. sounds like you haven't grown past the age of thirteen.
    I think "a guy" is being honest about staring at beauty rather than collecting masturbating material, some guys grow up.
    It might turn him on, sure, but not everyone is calculating the seconds it takes for a woman to feel your eyes gathering images of her body as the material you will masturbate with later. I know that "most straight guys" are not like you, as I know most straight guys don't have to keep mentioning they are heterosexual.

  • lawyer face

    too much groping sauce - i agree. but before you finish post more pictures of that bearded man groping. they are COMICAL. me and my girlfriend laugh like hell at them. we recreate the image and have a ball. that hand shake one was classic.

    also greg... like has been said, there are pictures on the internet for that.

  • jf1

    ...stop, really. Now you're just wallowing in this.

    Getting down to brass tacks, a)
    "Sexual assault is rare; therefore, if it’s common, it’s not sexual assault."

    What the hell is wrong with this woman? Does she normally analyze things by contradicting herself in the next sentence?

    B) yes, if an act is "common" then legally it isn't criminal because it is unconstitutional for the law to criminalize "common acts". Don't ask me how that works, I'm not a judge. But I can show you case text that says just that.

    Really I have no fucking clue how judges think, in my opinion they are total idiots, you'd have to be a total idiot to put precedence and the desire to sustain lower-court decisions above all else. But that is the legal system that we have right now.

    C) yes, if you take action, any action, against a perp then you open yourself up to a number of charges. But remember that asking the POLICE is not the answer to this problem (hint: "Pershing Park"?). Ask a *prosecutor*. The police cannot try you in court, they can only arrest you, and they wrongfully-arrest people on a regular basis. But I would say that pursuing and attempting to subjugate and restrain a perp is within your legal rights. Attacking him is a different story. You would have the right to attack him in self defense before he gropes you, not after. Big difference.

    The bottom line is that if you see a creepy guy moving in close to you, move away. That's your safest bet. And don't let the close confines of the subway keep you from doing this, or you're likely to suffer the consequences. At least keep an eye on him just like you would with any mugger or pickpocket. Standing there passively with your head averted, you're sending him a message, that at least you're going to be a passive victim.

  • jf1

    "Is it only leering when it’s not furtive?"

    It's leering when you're standing there staring at her, doof.

    But the bottom line is that what annoys one person may not annoy someone else, and we all have things that annoy us. It's a fine line, the line between assault and mere inconvenience. It's quite easy to say that someone is "seriously annoying" you. What exactly makes it a crime?

    Technically there's no difference, though.

    But let's put it this way. Say you're there staring at some girl and she looks at you and says "you're making her uncomfortable, please stop". Say that you feel that you're within your rights to look at her so you keep on doing it. Say her boyfriend then punches the shit out of you. Who has done wrong to whom?

    But the fact is that you'd probably stop if she was standing there with her boyfriend (or a group of friends, or some concerned bystander) and that should tell you a lot.
    Unless of course you're one of those badasses who rides subways and stands on streetcorners with a bunch of hoodlums and harasses people just to see if you can get into a fight. But let's assume the answer is easy in that case.

  • jf1

    "Gregory, there’s pictures on the internet for that. I find it severely troubling that you (and apparently “MOST straight men”) look at women as “personal pornography” and not, you know, real people with thoughts and feelings and desires."

    Assume much?

    Ever occur to you that what turns them is that very fact? Oh wait: everyone else but them (and homos and pedophiles) is supposed to find these women attractive for that reason?

    It's the age-old problem. Anything of value will attract people who want it. It doesn't matter if it's "valuable" because a lot of skin is showing in close-proximity with large breasts and a "come fuck me" pose, or if they are sophisticated or "girl next door" cute or even butt-ugly. Some guy is going to be attracted to it. How can you seriously expect men to not look at attractive women in public out of sheer pleasure...just because there are porn sites where women are hired to pose for pictures?

    There's just a fine line between enjoyment and abuse, just like everything else.

  • jellyleelips

    'Getting down to brass tacks, a)
    “Sexual assault is rare; therefore, if it’s common, it’s not sexual assault.”

    What the hell is wrong with this woman? Does she normally analyze things by contradicting herself in the next sentence?'

    jf1 -

    The author is snarkily explaining the argument of sexists and people who would downplay how common sexual assault really is. We as a culture live with an assumption that not only is sexual assault rare, but only bad, deviant men assault women; furthermore, we assume that those bad, deviant men fit a certain social profile: poor, non-white, mentally ill, drug-addicted, what have you. Along with this assumption about the kinds of men who assault is an assumption about the kinds of women are are assaulted: sluts, whores, women who were "asking for it." In reality, all kinds of men sexually assault, and all kinds of women are sexually assaulted. Men engage in behavior that is textbook sexual assault without acknowledging that it is, such as groping a woman's butt in a public place. Men more than women (but plenty of women) deny that sexual assault has happened to women they know because women are silenced in this culture, and punished verbally or physically if they speak out about sexual harrassment. What the author is saying is that this cultural assumption that sexual assault is not common leads people to deny studies or women's stories that show the prevalence of sexual assault on the grounds of their mistaken assumption that sexual assault is rare. Basically, the author is pointing out how people deny reality.

  • SK

    Great disscussion THough I have previously done some questionable things in my own life, I now understand how much groping hurts, and am commited to stopping it... I stand in solidarity with the victims of sexual assault.