Street Harassment and Proportionality


Cat calling gets marches and campaigns.

There’s yet another post about street harassment doing the rounds on Facebook. While, of course, this kind of thing is deplorable and upsetting I never stop at virtue signalling with a quick thumbs up or reblog. I can’t help but start thinking about the why’s and wherefores, the context in which this occurs. I can’t help but compare it to the situation men face and to ask myself whether the panic over this is justified and why things are so gendered around this stuff.

Let’s drop a few facts first to contextualise things then.

  • A random street rape is the least likely scenario for women to be sexually assaulted. Most such attacks are by people the victim knows.
  • Catcalls are unpleasant, but there’s plenty in life that’s unpleasant.
  • Men are roughly twice as likely as women (3.8 vs 2.1%) to suffer violence of any kind (Crime Survey for England and Wales) and when it comes to random street violence are half-again as likely as women (150%) as likely to suffer random street violence.
  • In those incidents, men are far more likely to end up dead or injured than women.
  • Men also suffer street abuse, it just doesn’t tend to be sexual. Just more like ‘Wanker!’, road rage, random, nasty insults, challenges and attempts at violence.

In our society men suffer worse and more frequent random violence, yet this only concerns us in very general terms about the level of crime overall. We do not consider that a gendered issue, even though it far outweighs violence against women. We obsess and concern ourselves with ‘Hey beautiful!’ but not so much about fifty year old men given a fatal shoeing for challenging teenagers smoking pot in their driveway.

So me, being me – and believe me, this causes me more pain than it should and I don’t recommend it – I have to ask why? Why do we care more about women’s momentary discomfort than men’s deaths and injuries? Why is it that when you bring this up, seemingly because it involves men, it’s instantly dismissed and mocked?

I ask myself why women have what appears – from a male perspective – to be an irrational and phobic, disproportionate sense of fear and why men do not have that same fear. Should women be this afraid? Should men be more afraid? The statistics would seem to suggest at the very least that women should be less afraid (but then again, maybe their actions through fear are WHY there’s such a divide in incidence).

Are we really going to waste time and money criminalising people for saying ‘Hey baby!’ especially when this will end up being heavily concentrated in poor and ethnic communities where such actions are more common? Worse, are we going to let this spread to the internet with loose and poorly worded ‘anti-harassment’ regulations and even laws? That’s what people seem to want.

There is sexism here, but it’s in our disproportionately big and one-sided response to women’s problems, however trivial they are (or seem) and our minimal response to men’s issues, which after 50+ years of political concern over women’s issues have been left unaddressed and allowed to fester.

A particularly stark example of this dichotomy relates to another arena, with reference more directly to sexual violence. Men and women suffer almost the same amount of domestic violence (60% of victims are women, 40% are men – Parity, and other studies) yet while there’s thousands upon thousands of places of shelter and aid for women, there are less than 100, nationwide, for men and men’s charities dealing with male victims have been defunded (Mankind Initiative).

Our compulsion as a society and as individuals to help women is commendable. However, it also infantalises women, treats them as weak and incapable. It is a sexism of its own. The ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ and it also hangs our society’s men out to dry.
Pointing this out, however calmly, however accurately, no matter the amount of data you present will only – ironically – get you abuse, wild, dismissing nonsense about ‘patriarchy’ conspiracy theories or the semantic atrocity that is the Orwellian misuse of the word ‘privilege’.


Shane Tunney being kicked to death gets police tape.

Unwanted attention is (or at least can be) bad, but if we have limited resources we have to practice some form of triage. What is more pressing, the much higher amount of violence and abuse that men face, or someone’s discomfort at being drunkenly asked for a blowjob?

Really. Honestly. Think. Put the same effort into thinking about this, contextually, as I have before you comment or answer.

I mean, seriously for once. What ABOUT the men?


8 responses to “Street Harassment and Proportionality

  1. “A random street rape is the least likely scenario for women to be sexually assaulted… Men also suffer street abuse, it just doesn’t tend to be sexual… Catcalls are unpleasant, but there’s plenty in life that’s unpleasant…”

    I agree entirely. However, when it’s late at night in an empty street and some half-cut idiot is trying to put his hand down your top, ‘Statistically speaking I probably won’t get raped’ isn’t hugely comforting. Logically, it ought to be. But when someone (usually taller, heavier and stronger than you) is making very explicit and unwanted advances, logic doesn’t get much of a look in.

    There are a couple of reasons I think why street harassment has become a gendered issue and why women make such a fuss about it (when statistically they are safer than men). Firstly, if you’re a bloke being yelled at by someone there’s a 30%(?) chance they’re bigger than you. If you’re a woman being yelled at, it’s more like a 70% chance. So whilst the mathematical outcome of non-violence is in the woman’s favour, the immediate comparative threat level doesn’t feel like it at all.

    Secondly, yes catcalls are dumb and should be treated with the contempt they deserve. However, someone screaming in your face for five minutes at full volume calling you a cock-sucking whore and detailing various unpleasant things they’ll do to you (for which naturally you will be grateful) – that’s a verbal assault and more traumatic to deal with. (You have no stats for verbal harassment/assault, I’d be interested to see which way the numbers lean. I’m assuming women get more catcalls, but no idea if they get more frequently verbally assaulted by men, or if the stats even differentiate.)

    Lastly, the sexual element to the whole thing is probably the key to your “Should women be this afraid? Should men be more afraid?” question. You noted that male-to-male harassment doesn’t tend to be sexual, whereas male-to-female harassment nearly always is. Since (according to RAINN,) 90% of adult rape victims are female, women tend to feel fear when some bloke is bellowing the details of how he’s going to sexually assault her. Because whilst statistically it’s not likely to be that particular bloke on the street, she nevertheless has a 1 in 4 chance (I’ve also seen 1 in 3 and 1 in 5 quoted, not sure which to trust) of being sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Taking the earlier 3.8% stat, that would give a bloke a (I assume) 1 in 26 chance of experiencing violence in his lifetime. This may explain why, comparatively, women are scared and men aren’t.

    • RAINN’s stats aren’t too accurate. That 1/4 etc stat turns out to be more like 1/40 lifetime. Men are also excluded from a lot of rape scenarios. ‘Made to penetrate’ isn’t even included as rape in the statistics. When you include it, rape’s much closer to parity and in the US, because of prison rape, men are the majority victims(!).

      As stated, the random stranger is also the least likely rape scenario. It’s the time you should be least afraid of it happening. Those 3.8/2.1 stats include all personal violence, including sexual violence.

      • I default to simple numbers derived from the experiences of my friends and I, whose ages average between 30 to 50. So out of my own aquaintances over their average age of 40 years, most of the women I know have been sexually threatened, harassed, abused or raped *at least once*. A couple of the men I know have. Myself and a group of friends, (men/boys), were targeted in our late teens at college. I think I was stalked because I was *gender fluid* at the time and the perp saw that as a *come on*!! He was someone I knew and trusted! I have also been date drugged whilst transitioning, by a complete stranger, fetishised by *she-male porn*. This individual stalked me to a local pub I used to go to, and pestered me all night. After I refused his advances all evening, he attempted to improve his chances by putting something in my drink. These are the statistics I will quote! The ones from actual harsh reality! I don’t deny the validity of the numbers you quote, but I can only comment on that which I know, and that is more of my female friends have been assaulted in these ways than my male friends.

      • Which is all very well, but here I was talking specifically about street encounters and not just sexual ones but threat to the person overall. Part of the problem is having poor definitions to work with. When you say ‘sexually threatened, harassed…’ some little red flags go up in my sceptical brain because I’ve encountered wildly different definitions of these things. Harassment, in particular, has been rendered – sadly – almost meaningless as a term by over-use.

        I’m sorry for your experiences, but they do also make my point about these sorts of things being more common in non-street circumstances with people you know.

  2. The women are organising against street violence and harassment by men. Men can do the same. Protest against the violent and harassing men, as they’re the ones committing violent acts, against men and women. Or just organise, respond and protest against violence if you don’t want to treat it as a gendered issue.

    • Well this is another part of the difference isn’t it. Men don’t see it as a problem – despite receiving more violence and more injuries, while women treat mere discomfort at inappropriate flirtation etc as a pressing and urgent issue. That still leaves the question as to who is taking it too seriously and who is not taking it seriously enough. Certainly women seem to be being sold a victim narrative.

      • Inappropriate *flirtation* can become very scary! Especially when the *flirt* is bigger and stronger!! Out of my two experiences of this extreme harassment and assault, one I cited as an example, (as you correctly pointed out), of being targeted in *safe surroundings* by an aquaintance! The latter, I think you misunderstood. I mentioned it because it was exactly the opposite: cat calling turned nasty. It was a case of a street predator homing in *for the kill*! Observing his odds were not great, he attempted to even them. This is catcalling turned to an actual rape attempt in public. I am usually very confident these days. Between the tae kwon do, jiu jitsu, kung fu and the wisdom of years, I do not read as a “victim”!!
        As the roofies kicked in however I felt very very vulnerable indeed and only just made my escape, in the nick of time.
        I did not buy into a kind of *feminine hysteria*. I just felt very vulnerable and because of my previous bad experiences I was *triggered* into fear, alarm and outrage.
        My point was that, having more likely than a male counterpart been aggressed , attacked, intimidated or such, the women of the world by and large will be justifiably scared.
        Also … Testosterone! I can speak from all round experience that *T* makes you braver! Conversely oestrogen increases the likelihood of *a more feminine response*!! This is not rocket surgery, nor is it some weird agenda that the *secret society of ball busters* have! It is simply the biological chemistry that makes men *man-up*, whilst women rely on wiles and intuition.
        I find it all fascinating though and having had my feet on both sides of the fence, as it were, it can be even more of a cluster-cuss!! Lol!
        Be interested to know the answer if you find it 😀

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