I noticed the post yesterday regarding that douche bro guardian reporter (seriously; the guardian seems to employ some right pillocks recently) talking about how the everyday sexism project has a bad side because it might mean men can't hit on women all the time! And sexual liberation! And feminists should WANT this because SEX FOR EVERYBODY.
Anyway, I started thinking yesterday about how many women I know have deeply, deeply ingrained behaviours to avoid possible unwanted "encounters" with men (e.g. being hit on, having comments made about your appearance directly or indirectly, etc).
Some of these behaviours are now pretty much automatic, whilst others are still conscious decisions - but that have a direct impact (even if small) on your daily life. Every. Single. Day. The kind of thing that the vast majority of men would never even think about.
So if you think about it for a minute - what do you specifically do (consciously or otherwise) to avoid unwanted encounters by men - do you do anything at all? Maybe I am just paranoid (and I actually think that is what most women tell themselves).
Here is what I came up with, with some examples:
* Yesterday I left my apartment to go to the gym. I immediately turned right, took two steps, stopped, then walked in the other direction. Why? Because if I take the left route I don't have to walk past the two brasseries which ALWAYS have a bunch of men sitting outside, and have, on at least four separate occasions asked me if I was married, huskily breathed "BONJOUR madame...." at me as I walked past, or otherwise made comments on my appearance. I do this pretty much every time I go to the gym.
* When walking alone in the evenings, always carry my sharpest key in my hands to feel safer.
* Have habitually started wearing rings on my left hand (even before engaged, and since my engagement ring has been getting re-sized) whenever I go for drinks with friends (at a BRASSERIE- not nightclubs or big bars!) as men harass you less when you are wearing rings.
* Put my earphones in when walking alone during the day, even if my ipod battery is dead so I can blank men who make comments at me.
* Haven't run outside on my own since 2011 - London has a much MUCH lower rate of street harassment than the places I have lived since then. Plus men here will openly check out women as they run past, and even until they are out of sight.
* Always take a machine at the gym which is directly in front of another woman. Because men in the gym don't even try to hide the fact they are staring at the arse of the woman in front of them. If there are no machines available I will use different equipment.
* Will now only use the launderette at specific hours of the day, to avoid the tramps who hang out in there. At first they were just polite, and I would respond (no more than "thank you" when they hold open the door and "good evening" when I left) because the last few times they have considered I would be open to them telling me "how pretty" I am and asking if I was married, and it's started making me more nervous to be alone with them, in an otherwise empty laundrette, on a not very busy road.
* Have pretended I was German on two separate occasions when being harrassed whilst waiting for my boyfriend outside gare du nord. Why german? Because if you say english then they will continue harassing you in broken english. I don't like to do this often as I don't actually speak German.
* Never leave my drinks unattended when out with friends. Not even for a moment. The guys worry about doing this in case someone steals their beer. The woman worry about doing this in case their drink gets spiked.
These are just the things that came to me within about ten minutes yesterday as I was thinking. It was pretty depressing. I asked Mr Kay Kay if he ever modified his behaviour to avoid unwanted attention and he looked at me as if I had said "apples eat martians but only on every third sunday".
So no. I don't think my "willingness" to be approached sexually by strangers is in any way linked to my sexual liberation and feeling in control of my sexuality. And no, I don't want society to move in a direction where men feel they have "the right" to approach anyone and any time of day. They already feel they can do this.
I would much prefer living in a society where I wasn't constantly reminded of the fact that I have ovaries and a vagina, because the fact I am outside of my apartment means men can indicate that they would be willing to fuck me. It is disrespectful. I am not a walking blow up doll that might fuck you if you just ask. I'm a person. And an engaged person at that.