Friday, August 13, 2010


Another strong language post.  Sorry, it's just how I work.

When walking down the street, biking, appearing in public in general, etc, as a lone female or even in a small group of females, and being approached or followed in a wholly unfriendly, inpolite, aggressive and creepy manner by a male, what should you do?

Conventional wisdom:  Ignore.  Because getting pissed off could provoke him to be pissed-off-violent (and when you are walking and he is driving a car, I do actually think this is at least decent advice), being friendly is of course just being a slut (and I'm sorry, in that kind of situation my first inclination is NOT to be friendly), and saying no in any form is especially frowned on because to him it might just be an "actually I want you to try harder" head game.  Even giving the finger, which is what I want to do, can be taken as a provocation for more aggressive action, because "fuck you" in the minds of some people means, literally, "you know, I want to fuck you."

There have been two times in my life when some random stranger aggressively displayed sexual interest in me.  A third times was about wanting money, not sex, so I gave him my slice of pizza and when he kept following me I told him very pointedly to "have a nice evening."  A fourth time I was in Spain, and went down the Wrong Street, and some serious hippie types started shouting profanity in every language they could think of trying to get a reaction by hitting on whatever language we spoke--I reacted in Spanish so they ignored me, but my two companions reacted in English, so they followed us for about three blocks shouting "Fuck you fuck you" in English, Spanish, and German the whole way.  I suspect meth was involved, and I doubt it was about sex.

Anyway.  The two times the approach has been genuinely oh-my-god-creepy, I have tried two approaches.  The first time the guy was in his car and I was walking.  I ignored.  He followed me for a while.  I ignored vigorously. His slurs escalated, my vigorous ignoring escalated, and let me tell you, I was Scared and trying to form a coherent strategy in my plan for effective and non-provoking-him-further escape. He eventually shouted profanity and drove away.

The second time I was by myself in a normally-not-shady-but-I-could-see-Cosmo-telling-me-never-to-go-there parking lot, approaching my car.  A staggering man approached me very close, said some slurs, invited me to have a drink with him.  Somehow, gut feeling said Ignore would be a very bad idea.  So I met his eyes, I was polite but I was firm in my rejection, and kept my hands in front of me and my mace where I could reach it.  To my utmost surprise, the politeness diffused him.  He sort of nodded awkwardly and scampered off.  He was clearly drunk, which is why Ignore Ignore might have just made him go violent.  Or it might have made him just lackadaisical with following through on threats.

Sometimes I wonder if "no, thank you," would have kept the first situation from escalating, as well.  It's hard to say.  The truth is I have absolutely no desire to be polite to this kind of fuckwad.  They do not deserve civility.  But, at the same time, when you think you have no weapons, if you treat them firmly but somewhat humanely, especially if they are the kind who just Hates Those Stuck Up Bitches and is taking that out on you, you might diffuse that anger a little bit.

Enough to to reassure yourself that your conceal carry in still in place, or to get a good surveying of the surroudings and recognize multiple possibilities for what you could improvise as a weapon and how you could put something between the two of you, because politenes as a weapon is, come on, pathetic.  The fact that firm politenes worked once makes me feel better, and I'd rather the world got along through peace and non-conflict and all that...but I don't live in a dream world.  Situations like that make me want to conceal carry.  They make me want self-defense training, the kind that requires years and money and a long period of having your ass handed to you in a controlled setting until you get to the point where you genuinely do have the ablity to hand someone else's to them if they cross you.

And then you can be polite all you want.


  1. One of the things I've learned in martial arts is that any kind of fight can be very unpredictable. I am 6'2", very athletic, and have years of martial arts experience, but I do not and never will "have the ablity to hand someone else's to them if they cross" me. I have a high probability of successfully defending myself or other people from someone who starts trouble, does not have much fighting experience, and is not carrying a weapon. That is a lot more than I could say before, and it does increase my confidence and poise, but if there was any kind of problem I would definitely choose to talk or run even if a fight was justified.

    I will always recommend martial arts as a great way to exercise, make friends, and have fun. But if self-defense is your primary goal and you will not be spending a lot of time in places like university campuses where weapons are restricted, get a gun.

  2. You're right, I suppose I should say, "at least have some hope that a physical attack wouldn't automatically go completely not your way from the getgo", the reverse of which is sometimes the life story of those small girls you one time commented hit really darn hard in practice cause they aren't used to adjusting force. I have always wanted to learn martial arts but not enough to make it a priority, and now that I would see it that way it's just so unattainably expensive at my current income. Owning a gun might also be, because permits come with range time requirements and general skill-proving, right? You can ask Robert how well I did on THAT.

    Since talk is all I've had so far, the situation I outlined really just amazes me at how well it worked, at least that time. Intent is everything though, if you don't know somebody's intent you don't know what they were really capable of nor how successful you actually are at talking them down. Now that I work with people in intense settings (wilderness, ropes course, experiential education) I am starting to understand much more about levels of escalation and the importance of how you treat people when they are not in a normal-person state of mind--albeit those are different situations--it is still an interesting subject with some parallels, and I hope to explore that more in another post.