I've been touched inappropriately by strangers before, but it's never been completely out of nowhere. A guy I'm chatting up suddenly decides to get handsy or whatever. I'm out dancing and someone dances all up on me. I've always been able to respond well in those situation—pushing hands away firmly, turning to give the dancer a clear "Don't do that again" stare. But I've never had anyone just reach out and grab me like they're sampling some part of me for a thrill. I hear other women's accounts of such things and wondered, "What would I do? Would I even be able to react? I hope so." Because when strangers are rude to me, even in non-sexist ways (getting told off in a packed theater for "taking" seats that were empty and not guarded, for instance), I get hot all over and just retreat. I stew and lament that I had nothing effective to say.
Turns out I had nothing to worry about.
On Saturday night, my boyfriend and I met a couple of friends at one of our favorite bars to get some more mileage out of our costumes. This bar, like all the bars in our neighborhood, is currently fighting the zip code's utter bro invasion. It's depressing, so we were happy to see that the bar was less insufferably packed than usual, with a noted underrepresentation of button-down shirts and ball hats. We have a great time. I leave the bathroom for the final time and am told that my costume bullwhip has been taken by security. My friend let some stranger dressed as Bert from Sesame St. play with it, and he flung it around wildly (dumb), and security rightfully took it away. Since we were about to leave, I tracked down the closest security guy to ask if I could please have it back before leaving. I apologized for Bert's antics and he told me to wait by the stairs and he'd bring it to me. I headed in that direction and—there it was. A hand went went right up under my tutu from behind and gave a deliberate handful of my left ass cheek a squeeze.
I didn't even hesitate. I whirled, saw the guy sitting in a high bar chair, pulling his hand back to himself, and I punched him as hard as I could in the pectoral (spoiler alert: extremely satisfying). "Hey! That's not okay, man!" was all I said, and he just stared back at me, drunk and stupid and silent. I was vaguely aware that his bros were at either side of me, watching this unfold with surprise. I didn't want to hear anything they or their friend had to say, and I walked away, over to the stairs. One of broseph's bros followed me. He said "hey, I want to please apologize for my friend's behavior" in a tone that reeked of damage control and not sincerity. He kept appealing to me but I don't really know what he said after that, I just kept telling him, "You don't have anything to apologize for. You didn't grab my ass. I have nothing to say to you." My friends and boyfriend showed up seconds later, very confused as to why I was arguing with this stranger. I announced that some douche canoe had grabbed my ass, and the guy slunk away after a few more attempts to soothe me. I'm really proud of my boyfriend for not puffing out his chest and doing the macho thing—he just shared my general outrage and asked if I was going to tell security. You fucking bet I did.
When the security dude showed up with my whip, I told him immediately and pointed the guy out. He didn't question me. He just said, "Hey, I'm sorry that happened, I'll get him out of here," and stalked off. My friends and I watched from the stairs with great satisfaction as the guy created a big fuss upon being asked to leave. He was escorted right by us on his way out and up the stairs. We saw him again on the street outside, talking indignantly to some other guy, saying "Yeah, I got thrown out for nothing," at which point all my friends and I yelled at him as we passed. "Fuck you, man!" "You didn't get thrown out for nothing!" "You don't grab someone's ass and then say it's nothing!" So then everyone standing around on the sidewalk knew what he'd done, which was an unexpected glory.
We laughed about it all the way to the next bar. I was 100% not upset—there had been recourse, and that made all the difference. Maybe ten years ago, I would not have considered an ass grab worth making a scene over . . . and then lay awake half the night, boiling with rage, wishing I'd said something, forever remembering the event with a sour taste. But that didn't happen for once. In the grand scheme of things, a butt squeeze is not the worst thing that can happen to someone, nor is being kicked out of a bar and publicly shamed. But by god, ass-grabbing should have consequences, and for this guy it did, and that felt awesome.
Tell me about your small victories in the land of gross strangers!