Yesterday on my way to work, I was late and got on a later train than usual. I was standing next to someone about my age when he reached his leg out and tapped on my foot. I took it as a harmless, run-of-the-mill subway-jostling mistake.

Then it happened again. And again.

The second time it happened, I looked up from my book as if to say, “Seriously?” and he looked back at me like the dictionary definition of simpering. The third time it happened, I walked briskly away to the other end of the subway car. Did he think he was Larry Craig? I thought, laughing at my own topical humor. What did he want out of this interaction? I was totally creeped out.

A few stops later, I had forgotten about him, found a seat, and gotten lost in my book again. Then, though, my knee was nudged and there he was, sitting next to me, leering at me in a disturbing manner – the only way one can leer.

It was at this point that I devised a plan. I was reading a hardcover book and I pinpointed several large strong good Samaritans nearby who would come to my aid. If he did anything else, I told myself, if he touched me again, I would hit him in the face, plea my case to the good Samaritans during a succinct but moving oration, and then they would finish the job I had started with their various thick crime paperbacks. My song would be sang for many, many ages on many, many subway lines.

But there were only two subway stops left and I got away without further incident. And not doing anything during those first FOUR incidents haunted me throughout the day. Should I have hit him with my hard cover after two toe taps? Three? Why do so many people, including me, let these instances of intimidation and sexual harassment slide by?

What if, every time some dude did something of this sort to me, I did something about it — something that would be really embarrassing for him. What if every time some dude shouted at us in the streets, we shouted back – and not just “Fuck yous!”, but clever comebacks that were, at the same time, extremely degrading and self-esteem-lowering? Why do women think the best response to sexual harassment is walking away and not paying attention? Is it because these men just want attention? Even if that’s the case, I don’t think we should let them get away with it. Is it because we’re afraid of what will happen if we do respond?

Of course, this morning on my way to work, I was late again. I got on the train and there he was again – the very same simpering foot tapper. Leering at some other poor girl. Did he do this every morning, with some different girl? Was it part of his morning commute? Was she, too, reading a hard cover? Again, I did nothing.

On my walk from the subway to work, some other guy shouted “good morning!” at me in the bad way, and when I walked by without saying anything or looking at him, he said, “I said, good morning!” and I did nothing again.

Has anyone ever responded to a sexual harassment issue? How did it go for you? Was part of the problem not really knowing it was sexual harassment until after the fact – do these men operate knowing you’ll be too shocked and confused to act?

P.S. If I were going to sexually harass someone, I’d do something WAY cooler than tap their foot and leer at them. How lame.

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