The Sexist

“I Wanted Him to Feel Physical Pain”: The Revenge Fantasies of Groping Victims

    stilettoheel

The man never even touched Miranda Vargas, but her body felt him. While riding the Metro, Vargas watched as a man with a “stale, semen smell” inched close to her, opened his legs, and “began playing with himself over his pants,” Vargas says. As the guy publicly masturbated to her, Vargas’ body experienced symptoms of mild shock. She started sweating, breathing rapidly, and overheating. Her mind raced through various exit strategies.

Meanwhile, Vargas struggled to maintain a perfectly calm exterior. “I was so horrified the whole time, I just pretended I was reading my book but I never turned a page,” she says. “When I started breathing faster, I remember I consciously told myself to breathe slower, because I didn’t want the man to know how much he was upsetting me.”

Even the most low-contact public groping incidents assault the nervous system. One woman lay in bed shaking with rage all night after a man swiped her butt at a coffee shop. Another woman dry-heaved after a man grabbed her genitals at a bus stop. One man felt so sick after being deliberately rubbed on the Metro that he was physically unable to look himself in the mirror. Instead, he sat blankly in front of the television all evening until he could fall asleep. Years later, memories of the incident still produce a shudder.

Violent revenge fantasies are common.

Months after 27-year-old Jessica Graves was grabbed in the coffee shop, she still had daydreams about kicking her groper’s ass. “What I wanted to do was push him down the stairs and pound his face into the pavement,” she says. The bus stop victim, 28-year-old Elizabeth, has a recurring fantasy, too. “My anger and my frustration—I got those feelings out in my fantasy,” she says. “In my fantasy, I would turn around and grab him and get someone to grab the Metro police, and he would have gone to jail, and then he would learn that groping isn’t OK.”

One groping victim has spent years reliving his assault, but with one slight revision—the swift downward motion of a sharp pencil.

A couple of years ago, John, then a 23-year-old law student, was sitting on a crowded Red Line train, clutching an open casebook in one hand and a pencil in the other. Halfway through the trip, a new seatmate decided to make it a bumpy ride. “As the train started moving…I felt some
motion from the man next to me—his body was kind of moving slightly up and down against my side,” John says. “At first, I thought this was due to the natural movement of the Metro train, but it soon became clear that the movement was not from the train, but from the man.”

As the train continued down the track, the guy’s movements advanced beyond “natural movement.” “As the train moved on, the [rubbing] got more intense to the point where the man was grinding his side and back, half his ass, and part of his leg up against me,” John says. When John attempted to edge his body away and focus on the reading, his assailant stepped up his activity. “My efforts to get away from him seemed to only embolden him more, and at one point he even reached back to lift up his shirt so the skin of his back was rubbing up against my arm, leg, and side,” he says.

John did nothing. “I just retreated into myself,” he says. Years later, he still fantasizes about taking the pencil in his hand and swiftly stabbing the guy in the leg. Or leaning over and quietly whispering, “If you don’t stop that right now and get the fuck away from me, I’m calling the cops.” But mostly, he thinks about the pencil. “Out of all the scenarios I went through in my mind where I actually did something, this is the one I replay over and over again,” he says. “Of course, I didn’t follow through on it, and I still don’t know if I ever would have been able to. But I do keep thinking about the possibility of attacking my attacker.…It seems more satisfying than trying to embarrass him in front of a train car full of people.” Memories of the minutes-long attack still produce a physical effect in the victim. “I wanted him to feel some sort of physical pain for what he did to me,” he says. “I still do.”

Megan Carpentie
r, 32, makes gropers feel physical pain. In the decade she spent as a District resident, Carpentier was groped, grabbed, and grinded over and over again. Eventually, she began responding by pushing, elbowing, and stomping. “The crotch-grab—and my lack of reaction to it, honestly—was what pushed me over the edge,” says Carpentier. In 1999, she and some roommates were exiting a crowded Republic Gardens dance floor when a man swooped in for a double grope: “One dude literally just reached down and cupped my genitals over my skirt…without even looking at me. And I just froze,” she says. “He then reached down and did the same thing to my roommate.”

After that, Carpentier understood that the common club practice was a legitimate assault. “[He did this to me] because I had female genitals, and he was bigger, and close enough to grab them, and felt entitled. And it was the first time I realized that,” she says. Since then, Carpentier has been living the fantasy. “The next time some dude groped me in a club…I turned around and punched him in the kidneys,” she says. When another man attempted to grope Carpentier’s friend at (since-shuttered) retro club Polly Esters, Carpentier reached over her friend’s shoulders and “pushed him to the ground,” she says. The latest recipient of Carpentier’s self-defense groped her at an ill-fated Rumors bachelorette party. “Dude walked up behind me, ground his crotch into my ass and attempted to cup both breasts in his hands,” says Carpentier. “He got a 5-inch stiletto to the top of his foot, an elbow in the ribs, and if I’d had less to drink, he might’ve ended up with a sprained wrist.”

stilettoheel2

The aggressive approach can yield mixed results. Some victims find that no amount of pushing, elbowing, or stabbing can negate a sexual assault. “Almost every victim of assault thinks they could have controlled what happened to them. So you get mad at yourself or blame yourself for what you did or didn’t do,” says local self-defense expert Lauren Taylor. “But even if you do everything you’re ‘supposed’ to do, you were still sexually assaulted.”

Other physical resisters find themselves with less philosophical concerns. Last week, another Rumors-based groping ended in a hospital visit for the victim’s boyfriend. According to police, a woman was with her boyfriend inside the M Street club on Jan. 24 when a stranger approached and groped the woman. The boyfriend responded by confronting the groper, who “without warning or provocation head-butted [the boyfriend] in the face.” For the record, here’s the D.C. police’s official word on assaulting your groper: “The Metropolitan Police Department would never recommend that victims of assaults confront the suspect. This can be extremely dangerous.”

This column is the fourth in a series. Catch up:

Part 1: Touch and Go: How Groping Happens.
Part 2: "I Just Wanted Him to Finish And Leave”: Why Some Groping Victims Stay Silent.
Part 3: "Why Would I Want to Touch Your Ass?": When Groping Victims Talk Back.

Find all the Sexist's groping coverage here.

(Illustrations by Brooke Hatfield).

  • noodlez

    MS. HESS, YOUR ADDICTION TO THIS ISSUE IS BECOMING A BIT CREEPY. YOU ARE PUSHING REAL CLOSE TO THE JOURNALISTIC VERSION OF THE "MENDOZA LINE".

    ALSO, USING THAT DUDE JOHN AS A SYMBOL OF EQUALITY ON THIS ISSUE IS SO FAR FROM WHAT CONSTITUES A MAN BEING GROPED IS LUDICROUS. HOWEVER, I DO APPRECIATE THE ATTEMPT OF PARITY WITH HIS INSERTION.

    TO YOUR TOPIC "I Wanted Him to Feel Physical Pain”: The Revenge Fantasies of Groping Victims" I HAVE TO WONDER WHETHER YOU ARE DOING YOUR ENDEARING FANS A SERVICE OR DISSERVICE. WHILE I WOULD GIVE A FEMALE A HIGH FIVE AND A PAT ON THE ASS WITH HER "IM NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE" ATTITUDE. ONE WOULD HAVE TO WONDER THAT IF SERIAL GROPERS WHO HAVE THE GALL TO DO WHAT THEY DO THAT THEY WOULD NOT ALSO ENJOY SOME, ALBEIT BRIEF, S&M.

    FROM MY POINT OF VIEW, GROPERS ARE A LIL OFF CENTER AND SO ARE OTHER FOLK WHO PRACTICE S&M TYPE OF ACTIVITY WHEN ENGAGING IN SEX. SO THE QUESTION IS: HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT DEFENSIVE "THE STILETTO HEEL" MOVE IS ACTUALLY A DEFENSIVE MOVE? IT COULD BE INTERPRETED AS A RECIPROCAL GESTURE.

    SHIT LOOK AT THE Brooke Hatfield Illustration. THAT EXPRESSION LOOKS LIKE SLIM IS BUSTIN OFF IN SLIM-GOODY'S HAND AND BOTH OFF THEM ARE ENJOYING IT! SO IT MAY BE SAFE TO ASSUME THAT "The Revenge Fantasies of Groping Victims" JUST MAYBE THE FANTASY OF THE GROPER.

    JUST A THOUGHT!

  • Former Staffer

    i wouldn't recommend confrontation, but I would myself.

  • Pagan

    This happened to my daughter and her girlfriend a couple months ago. They were walking to the gym in broad daylight and were passing a bus stop where a little gang banger thug was sitting. He decided he was going to restrain and feel up my daughter's friend's backside. My daughter turned around when she heard her friend scream and screamed at the guy to let her f'ing go. The guy let her friend go and then proceeded to punch my daughter in the mouth. Well, a lot of girls would have been put off by the attack but not my "precious little girl." She responded by punching him back, knocking him to the ground and pounding his head into a brick fence (he might think twice before he messes with the next girl)... The police called me to come get her from the scene and when I got there they were laughing there arses off and trying to recruit my daughter for the police department. I think this was one of my proudest moments of parenthood!

  • Gator

    Stabbing an assailant in the leg with a pencil really is as satisfying as John imagines. A middle school classmate used to grope me in class, and when I complained to the teacher, the teacher treated me like the troublemaker and made me go back to sit by Mr. Junior Sexual Assault. One day the kid touched me (again) under the lab bench, and I jabbed my freshly-sharpened pencil into his leg as hard as I could. He yelled. I was reprimanded and moved to a new seat.

    Like other victims, I've also had that awful panic/freeze response. I had lots of time to fantasize about causing my lab partner pain before I worked up the nerve to do it.

  • former groper

    I used to be this a--hole in high school. to all the girls I groped, I apologize. I got older, smarter, and I try to confront acts like this when i see them, which is a very small consolation to all the young ladies I groped growing up, I realize.

    There needs to be a serious discussion amongst men about how this behavior is never acceptable, to young men, amongst older men, we all need to work together to eliminate groping from society. It should be looked at the way we look at pedophilia, utterly unacceptable and reprehensible.

  • http://www.defendyourself.org lauren

    “The Metropolitan Police Department would never recommend that victims of assaults confront the suspect. This can be extremely dangerous."

    I REALLY hope the MPD will rethink this statement. Sounds like the old "lie back and take it." They don't believe in resistance to assault? They don't believe in trying to stop something before it escalates? Just submit to an attack and call us afterward? It's completely outrageous. (Yes, compliance is sometimes the safest option, but certainly not always. Not even most of the time.)

  • a fellow citizen

    A little over five years ago while living in Brooklyn I was home alone one night while my roommates were out of town for the weekend and was awoken by a cracked-out guy breaking into my second story loft window. He sexually assaulted me at knife point after dragging me around the apartment for valuables. During the whole thing I remember consciously trying to separate myself from what was going on and just do whatever he said and hope I make it out alive. I didn't fight back, but I did beg for him not to touch me.

    It was dark and to be honest I didn't want to see him, so I was unable to make a clear ID for the SVU detectives. Not that it mattered, they offered little comfort- bringing audio samples to me at my workplace for possible voice identification and couldn't remember my account of the assault no matter how many times I repeated myself. Eventually they stopped contacting me with information and not once offered me information or resources victim recovery.

    I was surprised how unaffected I thought I was (at first) but over the next few months after the assault my life unraveled, I was so angry and almost wishing the sleazy guys on the street or the subway would make a sexist comment to me so that I could scream at him and take out all my anger from the creep who may still be on the streets assaulting other women.

    I lost my job due to my anger issues. My blood was constantly boiling. I had to take anti-HIV drugs and wait six months to get tested a second time to see if I had the disease. I had chest pains and insomnia and gained a lot of weight. I constantly replayed in my head the events of that night, but they were so horrific to me I couldn't bring myself to tell my friends or family more than "it was bad, Law and Order SVU bad." I withdrew from my friends and family because I felt I couldn't relate to them anymore and they couldn't relate to me.

    I fantasized all the time about what the greatest revenge would be. I had a few scenarios, but the one I kept coming back to was that the next creep to sexually harass me, I would give him a rusty, dull pair of fingernail clippers and make him castrate himself. Maybe I would hold a mirror for him to watch the whole thing. It would be slow and painful and humiliating, just like the aftermath of my assault.

    I was in the mental state where if pushed I would have tortured and killed any guy who tried to touch me inappropriately on the subway or call me "snow bunny" and cat call as I walk home from work. I was so angry that I would have happily admitted the crime to the police and gladly served the rest of my life in prison. In reality I doubt I would have acted on the urge given the stimulus, but nonetheless that was my mental state.

    Five years on I've come a long way, I'm still depressed and not a day goes by that I don't remember what happened, but I got some therapy (mediocre, but better than nothing), luckily don't have the homicidal thoughts, and tried a few different anxiety medications, finding one that works for now. I'm able to get through the day at work without having an anxiety attack. I have a lovely boyfriend who doesn't know what happened, but does know it was bad and is sensitive to my PTSD.

    If I had fought back would my reaction over the long-term been different? Given the opportunity to fight back against the next jerk who crossed my path, would I have felt satisfaction or closure if I followed through on my revenge plan? [likely not, I know...]

    I know this comment is long (and perhaps an extreme case), but reading this article brought back the emotion of that incident and I felt compelled to share my experience in the most detail I ever have outside of the police or therapist's office. Hopefully it will provide a little perspective to a reader who might not take the effects of sexual assault/harassment seriously. Sexual harassment and assaults of any degree will affect the victim for the rest of their life.

    And as a last note, you can't tell just by looking at someone who might be inclined or capable of following through on a revenge fantasy, so the best bet is to follow the golden rule.

  • http://rickmangus@aol.com Rick Mangus

    Christ I come back from the west cost after a week and we are still reading about groping, give it a REST Amanda, no one cares!

  • Jenny

    A Fellow Citizen, I am so sorry for what happened to you, and I'm glad you are doing better.

  • Fox

    Rick, you've never been groped, have you?

  • http://rickmangus@aol.com Rick Mangus

    Yes I have 'Fox' and it's no big deal to me.

  • Pagan

    Mr. Rick Mangus,

    If you don't want to read about groping then don't. You're the one who voluntarily came onto this site. If you don't like it, please feel free to go take a flying leap or do you feel as a priviledged male that you have the right to designate what women can and cannot blog about on their own websites. What a jacka$$!

    Afellowcitizen: I am horrified to read of your experience and so sorry you had to go through that. Be strong lady, it's not your fault. You did the best you could and are making progress and that's really all that matters in the end.

  • Alek

    Ok, so I have this question amanda. And its a genuine question. Why the double standard?

    Let me illustrate what I mean. Last night I was out with 3 friends in a club, and the entire night we got butt-bumped, pinched, groped and stared. My two friends are male-model-quality, and I'm pretty fashionable. This little redhead was the most agressive. She must have displaced at least 3 bones in my body. She alternated between staring and rubbing her ass on me. We even switched locations 3 times. The redhead followed us all 3 times. The other ones weren't so agressive.

    At the end of the night, one of the groups we didn't approach despite their constant groping and staring... looked at us with a mocking tone and yelled "gay!!". Btw, we're not. We just don't approach random women in clubs right now. This stuff doesn't happen to 95% of guys. In fact, it rarely happens to me if I'm out on my own, without these 2 super-attractive buddies.

    But why the double standard? Why is it that when it happens to guys, its guys fault if they don't fullfill the woman's fantasy? When the women are agressive, its your fault that you don't take her groping lead.

    Why? Please explain it to me? Why is groping perfectly acceptable way for women to meet guys, but demonized for men? Btw, I've never so much as pinched someone in my life. So I'm asking for explanation on the double standard?

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Hi Alek:

    I'm sorry that happened to you. Your question is an excellent one. I imagine that the groping double standard has a lot to do with the sexual double standard in general. (Brief recap: men are portrayed as sexual aggressors who are encouraged to seek sex at every opportunity; women are seen as gate-keepers who must deny men sex in order to maintain feminine chastity). I can see how this absurd double standard might be used to explain away groping of both men and women. When a man gropes a woman without her consent, he's just fulfilling his male role in aggressively pursuing sex against a woman who wants to keep it from him. And when a woman gropes a man without his consent, the guy is expected to jump on the free poon in order to maintain a sufficiently hetero image.

    We all know that's bullshit. In a piece I wrote about male groping victims (check it out!), I spoke to several men who had been groped by both men and women, and their personal reactions to the event varied wildly---one guy wasn't phased at all; another was embarrassed that he had been flattered by being groped; another is uncomfortable with the idea that he's expected to touch women's bodies just because he's gay; and another guy was absolutely traumatized by his public sexual assault. Long story short, a person's gender doesn't dictate how they "should" (or will) respond to being groped, and it's not OK for men or women to grope strangers.

    However, I wouldn't say that men are generally "demonized" for casual club groping. You can still find plenty of defenders of that practice. Many readers of my groping series have complained that groping isn't a serious problem, and that victims should just accept the butt grabs and stop whining.

    In that same piece on male groping victims, I also interviewed one female groper who explained why she did it. She was with a guy on the street, trying to convince him to go home and have sex with her. When he turned her down, she groped his genitals. “I think there’s a cultural expectation that a man doesn’t turn down a woman, and a man definitely doesn’t turn down a woman who’s much younger than him and offering no-strings, no-date sex,” she told me. “And when I learned the hard way that it isn’t always so, my reaction was hurt, aggressive, and ugly . . . Maybe ‘culture’ set it up, but I was the one who touched my friend in ways he didn’t want, and I deserve to be ashamed of that.”

  • http://rickmangus@aol.com Rick Mangus

    Hey, 'Pagan' how pitiful that you hate MEN so much, you must be very lonely not to have MALE conpanionship and it shows in you're angry writings.

  • Alek

    Thanks for the explanation Amanda. I have a confession to make... I admit I was biased and didn't expect a that in-dept reply. I'm just human, I have stereotypes. I was expecting you bashing me... But to the contrary, your reply opened my eyes, so thank you very much.

    I especially like your explanation of the "sexual pursuers" and "sexual catch" and those dynamics (gender roles) imposed on us where we men must be sexually aggressive and take everything, and women should wear a chastity bell and all that... That hurts both genders...

    Now here's the followup. I didn't dislike what happened to me. I mean except for the bruises from the redhead, in general I feel great about it. I'm flattered and so are my friends.

    Now, this goes to show why gender-roles are damaging. We're all unique. Only a certain percentage of humans fit the gender role they were born in, right? I mean the gender role says you should like abcdxyz... What if you like abefghx? Then you don't fit society's role and you're outcast... right?

    Well, what if you do fit some of the role? I mean I see some people going too far, and thinking the solution is imposing the exact reverse.

    We won't be liberated from our gender roles when we reverse everything... that's just the opposite tyranny...

    Where I'm going with this is... What about those of who like getting stared at? I mean the groping is kind of very debatable, so let's not even go there...

    But what about the staring? Do we make staring a socially inappropriate thing? Isn't that hurting those of us who like being stared? Most women I know, I have met from them staring me from a far and hovering around me. I don't feel offended by it, I love it. The best most intelligent woman I've ever met (she's actually a PhD candidate at 24, with two masters, no kidding)... I met her because she stared at me for like 10 minutes from across the street. I'd have never met her if staring was off-limits.

    What about that? I mean, in order to save people who don't like relationships started out by staring, we take way rights from those who do like it? I mean, what I want to say is, so what's the solution then?

  • Alek

    Sorry, I kind of confused things in my reply. I wrote about staring, which this discussion has nothing to do with, I was just researching a similar article at the same time, so I kind of combined the two... because over there they put groping, staring, and light touching in the same category.

    But let's just replace "staring" with butt-pinching... physical hovering and light touch. Which most women do. The women who outright grope are more rare.

    Do you put these in the same category? Or are you talking about outright groping a strangers' genitalia?

    If we are just talking about outright groping a strangers' genitalia, than I agree a 100% with a complete making it inappropriate.

    I mean, even if 30% of people like it... The damage caused to those who don't like it warrants that all groping should stop.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    I get your point---so, what do we do about the other stuff that's not specifically groping of genitals? The ass-pinching, the overlong staring, etc.? Some of these are criminal acts and some of them aren't. Groping a person's genitals, breasts, or butt (or forcing them to touch those areas on you) without their consent is a misdemeanor in D.C. The law at some point deemed these areas of the body "sexual."

    That's not to say that some people don't like being touched in those places, by strangers. The people I spoke to who have been groped in gay bars have actually been told that they have *no business being in gay bars* if they don't want to be groped, because some people go there for the express purpose of being grabbed. I wondered at that time a how a gay bar ought to deal with that dynamic: Some people come to get groped, others don't. You want to allow people to get their kicks, but in a public accommodation, you also have to ensure that patrons aren't being assaulted. I still don't know the best way to manage that. I do know that it would be really, really interesting to study the different ways people react to groping (love it!; neutral; disturbed; traumatized) and figure out why different people might react in different ways.

    So how do we accommodate people who are into flirting via grope? I will say this, first: Even people who are really into flirty, dance-floor-style groping can still be seriously violated by an uncalled for, non-consensual grope. The violation isn't in the act---it's in the lack of consent to the act. It often has less to do with the qualities of the victim than it does with the situation they've been put in. I'm sure there are some groping situations you would be less than pleased with. A great deal of groping is not innocent flirting. From experience I can say that it's pretty easy to tell when a person is receptive to your advances, or when they are completely creeped out by the dude in the Metro/bar/sidewalk who won't leave them alone. Say you're staring at a woman: Does she return your gaze with a genuine smile? Or does she look uncomfortable or angry? If it's the latter, stop staring! You're creeping her out. Any reasonable person would stop looking at that point. Unfortunately, there are people out there who will keep staring, even though they know the woman is uncomfortable, because they believe it is their right to look no matter what, and they want the woman to know that. See the difference between that and flirting? Similarly, say you want to begin "testing the waters" with physicality while dancing with a person. Does she reciprocate your touching when you make your advances? Or does she freeze in fear while you relentlessly grind your erection onto her butt? One is flirting, the other ain't. And let's say she rejects your advances: You pinch her butt without knowing if she's into that or not, and she slaps you in the face. That's pretty tic-for-tac, in my opinion. So, do you call her a bitch (or in your case, "gay") for rejecting what was, in hindsight, a totally unwelcome advance? Or do you apologize for invading her space? If it's the former, then perhaps you should consider that you don't fully respect another person's bodily autonomy.

  • Alek

    The groping for me is a clear-cut case. I think that it should just not happen from uninvited stranger... Period. Even if a lot of people like it, the pain on those who don't like it is too great.

    My concern is over the lighter things. There are a lot of extremists out there that want to ban staring... and no, not repeated staring... Just first-encounter kind.

    So your answer was very good on that part, but its not what I asked. You basically explained to me how I can tell if my grinding/staring is accepted... But I don't do either of those things, I always let women initiate.

    But that's not my question. My question is where do we draw the line of what society should regulate, and what's too subjective and should be left to individuals. I think groping is too damaging when its done wrong, so it should be regulated. The other stuff however, where do we draw the line?

    My issue is where we declare something inappropriate and generalize, where some people might find it completely cool and ok. With groping I agree 100%... Let's just call it inappropriate.

    But what about the lighter stuff that's so incredibly individual? The exact same look produces anger in some, and excitement in another... and indifference yet in others. There's also the issue you can't tell whether someone likes something until you do it.

    And a lot of these "anti-harassment" organizations are pretty extreme and declare even plain staring to be "opressive" and "rude" and "demeaning". No, not repeated instances after a clear message that its not welcomed... Just an initial stare or grinding.

    So where do we put the line? They declare all staring, grinding, dancing next to someone and light touching to be (short of) evil.

    Then there are the opposite extreme... Some people believe its never ever wrong, and the receiver should "deal with it".

    So what's the right line between the extremes?

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Well, D.C. does draw lines, and personally I think they're pretty good. D.C. draws lines around specific body parts: No butt, no breast, no genitals, no inner thigh. Touching these areas is against the law without consent. I think these guidelines are reasonable. (Actions done to other body parts, of course, are covered under different laws). You put grinding in the same category as staring, but grinding your genitals against a person's ass against their will is clearly a misdemeanor under D.C. law. So ... better be sure he or she is into it.

    Of course, we can't legislate all the touches and the stares and the comments that aren't explicitly threatening but might possibly offend a person. Yes: Many women do consider staring (and definitely grinding, for the reason noted above) to be rude and demeaning. Are any of these women recommending a jail sentence for a man who stares at a woman for over, say, three seconds? I haven't heard of that myself. I don't doubt that these people exist, but seriously, nobody is going to take that right away from you anytime soon.

    The important thing to remember in these smaller interactions isn't that your bound by law to act a certain way, but rather that you're dealing with another real live human with specific desires, hang-ups, and histories, and you can't make assumptions about what that person will find charming or disgusting. If you want the right to be able to stare at women you are attracted to, in the hopes that they will be interested in returning your flirtations, remember that the women you're looking at have the right to react to your stares in any way they want to---some may react with interest, others with fear, others with anger, others with triggered memories of the guy who stalked her on the Subway two years ago. All are legitimate. Many women are understandably wary of starers because they have been targeted by them before, and not in a fun, flirty way. That response is their right. So if a woman does respond to your stares with anger, or fear, or distress, the correct response is not, "I could never have expected this woman to respond this way, because I have done my research, and I have not broken any laws or established social conventions by staring at her." The correct response is to respect her right to be upset by something that you did, whether or not you meant to upset her. Maybe she'll even make you feel pretty bad about it for a little while. There are no hard-and-fast rules about how your behavior will affect another person; all you can do is respect that person's right to have their feelings, and not be shocked or offended when those feelings don't sync up with your amorous desires.

  • Alek

    No I'm not putting staring and grinding and groping in the same category lol. That was actually my point. I think its silly to put them in the same category.

    I'm referring to the extremists who do that. Don't you feel they're hurting the cause if they put groping and staring the same category?

  • Alek

    Again, I feel you're giving me advice on how to do staring right. I might be misinterpreting your reply, but that's what it sounds like. In fact, I never do any staring, I let the women do it first.

    My question is this: What do you think of the people who demonize staring in general?

    They don't say "Men who stare, and then keep staring even when she has reacted badly"... They demonize staring in general, and the entire male gender with theories about opression, and what not...

    Effectively, your advice is much better. Why not teach men what you just said "Never keep staring if she doesn't reciprocate" and "She doesn't owe you a good response, if she doesn't respond, move on"... etc.

    They teach men "never stare, that's evil" and you're an evil man-being-he-creature for daring to do it. We effectively have raised a generation of boys that are afraid to show sexual interest in women, yet the creepos and pervets are still out there. They haven't been affected, just the good guys who've been desexualized through an overly-extreme campaign.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Alek:

    I know you never stare! But you seemed to be asking me about how society ought to treat the people who DO stare, so I'm trying to tell you what I think a well-meaning starering regimen might look like. But perhaps you should be posing your questions to the people who demonize staring? I don't know who these people are or what their arguments are, so I can only tell you what I think about it.

  • Alek

    Well, pretty much any anti-harassment organization on earth. Yours is the first article I found that doesn't demonize the entire mating-strategy of the human species. Most other (all?) others I've found discussing groping, also put it together in one basket with staring and grinding.

  • Wild Rebel

    I've often wondered what would have happened if I'd fought back against the 5 girls who cornered me and groped me against my will (yes, girls/women do it as well). The truth is I probably would have gotten the daylights beat out of me and then gone to jail myself. Not a good idea.

    Women would have a much better chance of getting away with striking back due to cultural norms, but it's still a risky thing to do.

  • SK

    Alek,
    As someone who has, previously done some questionable "lighter" things, I agree with Hess completely. DC seems to have good guidelines and any response to something questionable would likey be deserved.

  • Blooming Psycho

    Nobody should be groping anybody who is not a willing participant. Men should not be groping unwilling people, male or female. And women should not feel that they can get a free pass to grope men (or other women.) The laws need to be tougher on this type of sexual assault, it sounds like. Probably a lot of people don't report it out of embarrassment, figuring "it was just a grab, the cops will just laugh at me." But it is a form of sexual assault.
    It is a positive thing for women to take some form of self-defense training to give themselves confidence to fend off such attacks.
    There was an incident back in my youth where I was talking to a friend while standing on the sidewalk and a man drove up across the street from us, parked his truck, jumped out and started masturbating. We ignored him and he got back into the truck and drove away. This type gets off on people expressing horror or disgust at his actions. Even though it was not as upsetting as being groped against my will (which has happened) it still left me with a "dirty" feeling like I needed to bathe in Clorox while scrubbing the top layer of skin away with a Brillo pad. (No, I did not do this.)
    Re: "Rick Magnus" I don't know if you're a misogynist, a troll, or both. But you're certainly a jerk.

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