Earlier last week, I was sitting in the basement with my roommate’s boyfriend, waiting for my roommate to come back downstairs. She was having an emergency pow-wow session with one of our friends, so we knew she might be a while. Things were pretty chill; we were just hanging out for the longest time. There were only a couple of other people downstairs, and we had the Beatles playing (the White Album, in case you were wondering).
So there we were, calm and relaxed, when suddenly about eight people come down the stairs and into the basement. No problem; there’s space. They bring speakers and plug them into the wall and start playing (really bad) rap music loudly. I can deal. My roomie’s boyfriend is a little upset that these guys destroyed the mood with no consideration for those of us that were already there, but whatever–it’s a public place.
Anyway, so I’m being as chill as I possibly can, keeping my cool, when this guy in the group starts to talk to me. I can tell off the bat that he’s trying to get on my nerves, but I’m determined to be cool. He asks me skads of intrusive questions, not even knowing my name, and every once in a while his friends all laugh. I’m determined not to react the way he wants me to react, so I humor him a bit before leaving the basement with my roommate’s BF.
Once upstairs, we talk about how that guy had been harassing me. It was okay, though; I handled it and that was the end of it. After all, I had never seen him before, and the chances of seeing him again and having him remember me are highly unlikely, right? Wrong.
The next time it’s in the bookstore. He cuts me in line, then recognizes me, and starts talking to me flirtatiously. I’m obviously annoyed, and try to ignore him. Thankfully he goes away. That’s the last of it.
Or not. Three more times I run into this guy over the next two days, each time complaining to my roommate or her boyfriend about how he keeps bothering me. She wants to find him and punch him in the face; he wants to tell him to stop or report him. I want them to do nothing–it’ll go away, right?
The frustration mounts, however, and I find myself taking longer routes to get places if I spot him in the distance. It all culminates, though, one night. I’m in Boon Center with my roommate, her boyfriend, and another friend. We’re in the lobby hanging out, and it’s about seven thirty at night. I stand up and walk toward the restroom. Who should I see standing outside of the restroom but the guy. He’s talking to a girl, but when he sees me he starts. “Hey, hey Maggie! Hey, Maggie, hey Maggie!” I give him this look that screams leave me alone you no-good SOB, which he ignores, and enter the restroom.
I called my roommate and told her that he was outside the restroom, and as she was on her way to meet me, the girl he was with came in and asked if he had been bothering me. I told her the story, and she said she would talk to him. My roommate came in; I complained to her, and then she told her boyfriend.
My friends are very protective of me.
The next day, my roommate’s boyfriend approaches the guy when I’m not around and asks him to leave me alone. The guy says, “Are you asking or telling?” When he says, “Asking,” the guy replies, “Good, ‘cuz if you were telling, I’d have to kick your ass.” So my roommate’s boyfriend tells him to leave me alone, or he’ll go to the A.C.s and file a report. I didn’t see him again for a few days.
The next time I do, I’m walking alone from a professor’s office back toward my dorm. He’s walking with somebody, and as they pass me, I hear him say, “And I was just saying hi to her, but apparently she took it as harassment, so now I’m in trouble…” I just wanted to make one thing very clear.
I can tell the difference between flirting and harassment.
Just because you say you didn’t mean it to be harassing, doesn’t mean it isn’t harassment. Unwanted flirting is a type of sexual harassment. I was really uncomfortable at first when my roommate’s boyfriend kept offering to talk to him and ask him to stop. I thought because it seemed like he was trying to flirt, I should just deal. But that’s not right. Ladies, if some guy is bothering you and you aren’t enjoying his attention, that’s sexual harassment. You don’t have to put up with it. Gentlemen, same goes for you. Sadly, sexual harassment is extremely common, especially in high schools. This article that I read says that 89% of girls are verbally harassed while at school, 83% physically touched or grabbed, and 39% claim on a daily basis. It also says that while most harassers are male, 75% of the boys surveyed also admit to having been sexually harassed.
The thing is, though, if you’re being harassed and you don’t speak up, it won’t stop. That guy didn’t stop bothering me until my roommate’s boyfriend talked to him. If we had let it go, it could have gotten worse. Don’t let it get worse, people. If you’re in school still, go to the administration. If you’re being harassed in the workplace, go to your employers (or your employer’s employer, if need be). You don’t deserve to be treated like that; speak up for yourself until someone in authority will listen.