What do you do when a stranger is not familiar with or understanding of social context cues? My patience has worn thin with men who ignore the cues and cross the line.
Last week, I was in Seville for one day before taking the train to Barcelona to meet my family. Wanting to be on the safe side and not miss my train, I walked to the train station, printed my ticket, and surveyed the station. It was extremely warm out, around 85° F outside with little to no wind, and I was wearing a tank top.
As I am leaving the train station, there was a man mounting his moped and we accidentally caught each other’s eye. Now, typically when this happens between two people, a casual/friendly glance is given and both resume their gazes back to the path ahead of them. Not this man. A slow smile creeped across his face and he paused what he was doing until I passed by.
I continued to walk from the station to the street back to my hostel. The same man finally started his moped and inched his way by me, staring solely in my direction with the same creepy smile, eyeing me from top to bottom. As you can imagine, my RBF (resting bitch face) was immediately plastered on my face, hoping he would get the hint and move along. But even as he rounded a corner in the parking lot, he continued to look at me until he finally drove away.
Now, here was my train of thought as this whole situation was taking place. Initially, I wanted to confront him and ask what was it that intrigued him so much to continue to stare at me in an unnerving way. Then, I performed a quick risk-assessment, deciding that it was not worth the hassle because of the uncertainty of how he would react. Next, I conducted a self-assessment on whether I was overreacting at the situation, and even looked down at what I was wearing and seeing if there was something that I could have done to avoid his attention. I even pulled up my tank top a bit to cover myself more, almost like a action that has been ingrained in my subconscious.
As I was walking back to my hostel, this pronounced anger began to consume my thoughts. Firstly, I was angry at myself for even thinking I might be at fault for receiving this unwarranted stare. Secondly, I was angry at the audacity of this man. Even after seeing that my reaction was clearly not reciprocating his desires, he continued to stare at me like a sexual object, consciously knowing that he was making me uncomfortable.
I’m going to take an educated guess and say that many women can relate to this type of scenario. I’m also going to take another educated guess that many people would also say that I might be overacting. But what I struggle to understand is this: why are situations where women are being viewed as sexual objects on a daily basis still being tolerated?
Let’s play Devil’s Advocate for a moment and say that this could simply be the way this man shows his friendliness. We have no way of knowing what he was thinking or know him personally to understand how he interacts with others. There’s also the possibility that his amorous look may be the way he flirts or shows interest in another person.
Some might say, “Well, you can’t blame someone for showing interest, it’s only human nature”, and I agree with that. What I don’t agree with are people (mainly men in this case) not comprehending basic social context clues that obviously show another’s disinterest and not knowing when to back off. Also, let’s not forget that many societies around the world view women as sexual objects, which allows the continuation of this type of behavior.
What I’m trying to get at is that we, as a society and the world as a whole, need to stop normalizing this type of behavior. I want women to realize that this is not something that should be tolerated and not feel as though they need to alter themselves in any way to avoid these situations. Likewise, I wish for men to be aware of their own actions (i.e.: not look at woman solely as sexual objects) and understand social cues.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? If so, how did you feel and how did you respond?