Reading comments and discussions about Street Harassment seems to confirm a number of factors.
1. There is wide disagreement as to what exactly constitutes Street Harassment with the behavior discussed ranging from asking “How are you doing?” to physical assault.
2. The majority of women seem to be bothered by Street Harassment. Some don’t mind it. A minority seems to like certain aspects of it. The most common response is to ignore it.
3. The most common fear is that it will escalate into “something worse”.
4. When a woman does respond, she does it out of anger. She has reached the “breaking point”. But after responding she seems to feel better about herself and the incident.
5. The most common thought is that men do it to get attention.
6. When Seeking Attention men make a “compliment” and get an angry reaction, they sometimes react with anger.
This discussion on Street Harassment is similar to a self-defense discussion session where someone asks “What is the best move for self-defense?” What follows is lots of back and forth suggestions and comments, but no one seems to realize that there is no “best move for self-defense”. Just like there is no “best color” or there is best “temperature”. It is all relative to the particular circumstances.
When it comes down to it, a woman is bothered by Street Harassment when she feels a man is being disrespectful, inappropriate, or threatening to her in a public place. She is usually not bothered if she feels the man is being polite and respectful. In this case the definition of disrespectful and inappropriate is any behavior that would be considered by society to be disrespectful and inappropriate in a “controlled social setting”.
This definition avoids the issue of what exactly was done and why it was done. Male or female, we all know when someone is being disrespectful to us and we don’t like it. Most of the times it is not the exact words, it is the voice tone and body language that determines whether we feel someone is being disrespectful.
Therefore, if the greeting of “Hey baby, looking good today!” is disrespectful in a controlled social setting, then it is disrespectful in the street and therefore it is Street Harassment. Threatening is also defined in the eyes of the beholder. If you feel that someone is threatening you, then they are. Regardless of what that person says his intention is. This definition easily encompasses all public sexual acts which are forbidden in controlled social situations.
This definition is also very understandable to men. Men are known to fight and kill each other over minor “disrespect” on the street. It is something they all can relate to. If Seeking Attention men were to understand that their actions were being perceived as being disrespectful, they would also understand why women don’t like it and why some react with anger. Therefore, the woman’s anger would be considered “justified” as opposed to “unjustified”. This knowledge would make it less likely that the man would escalate with his own anger. This is no different than understanding male road rage. Few things bring on more male anger than the feeling that someone is “unjustly” disrespecting him on the road.
Why does the Seeking Attention man use sexual comments? I think it is because he is “throwing as much mud against the wall as possible and hoping the something will stick.” He knows that the vast majority of women are not interested in interacting with him. He is trying to find one that will respond in a positive manner. It is simply a numbers game. It might be one in one hundred, but he is looking for that one. Catcalling is a tactic for avoiding outright rejection. He can still feel like he is in control. He is basically forcing women to acknowledge his presence and existence.
The next question leads us to the Provoke Reaction man, the one who is purposefully being to be rude or touches you in order to get a reaction. Why is he doing it? I suggest looking at the Provoke Reaction man as someone suffering from a very serious case of the Sour Grapes. This man might be a failed Seeking Attention man, or not. He knows that the Target woman would not be interested in interacting with him no matter what he said. As a result, the best he can do is to make inappropriate and threatening comments to make him feel that he has some ability and power to over the Target.
The Self-Pleasuring man is sort of a more perverted and less verbal version of the Provoke Reaction man. But if Self-Pleasuring man is engaging in some type of public masturbation, he is demonstrating significant anti-social behavior. Therefore, he has the potential to exhibit other possibly violent anti-social behaviors.
Predatory Testing is the most dangerous of the types of intentions. The Street Harassment is being used as a tool to locate suitable victims for attack. It is also a means for him to gain experience with using different techniques and strategies to manipulate women. This type of person must be dealt with strong physical assertiveness. It is important to be able to distinguish this person from the less dangerous Seeking Attention man even though they may appear to exhibit similar behaviors.
The majority of the Street Harassment discussions seem to make no mention of the different types of intentions involved in the scenarios described. It is for this reason that no one is able to come up with the best response to Street Harassment. Just like self-defense, there is no best response. Everything depends upon the particular circumstances.