Content Warning: Explicit Talk of Sexual Harassment.
I’m six foot tall, 250 pounds, AMAB, masc-looking with a big white beard at the moment. But I got full-on sexually harassed yesterday on the bus. Leering, repeated explicit come-ons, not accepting rejection, a weird racial element, and being unwillingly exposed to a stranger’s penis. This is a new experience for this 43-year old, and that novelty probably has some of my AFAB readers feeling jealous. I didn’t feel like my life was in danger, but on the way home from the bus I did look over my shoulder to see if I was being followed.
There was a bit of foreshadowing to this experience. Within the last week on the bus, a drunk lady who may have been trying to hook on me dropped a come-on line that was verbatim the sort of thing men often tell women. “I just wanted to tell you I think you’re cute… I’m not bothering you, am I?” To that I said, “Thank you, no bother, I just prefer to listen to my headphones in the morning.”
Why am I so irresistibly hot right now? I guess with the beard I’m kind of a bear. And I’m more stylish for the office than I was for the mega-retailer. But the A.M. drunk lady was the first time I could remember hearing anything overtly positive about my appearance in over ten years. (I used to catch a few smiles from fellas and ladies back in my 20s, which was nice.) I had my doubts about her motives, but it was almost pleasant for me. That did not prepare me for the dude who was sleazing on me last night. I didn’t do anything about it and probably will not (unless I see that guy again), except tell him to chill out or he’ll get himself arrested, on my way the hell out the door.
I don’t know how I felt about this. At first there was bewilderment and amusement, but there’s a lingering sensation in my head I’d like to get rid of. I’m a little disturbed. At no point did I fear violence, and yet? My body is kind of reacting like I did. I’m taking a sick day. I’d rather not take the same bus home at night within 24 hours of that experience.
But I will almost certainly get over this, and soon. It is not part of a pattern of abuse that preceded puberty for me, unlike the experience many AFAB people have to contend with. That may make it a little more of a shock at the moment, but it doesn’t feel like society affirming its fundamental disrespect for my bodily autonomy, like an atom in a sea of degradation that defines my life.
Moral of the story? Public transit sucks.