Why Women Smile at Men Who Sexually Harass Us – Hanna Brooks Olsen – Medium


It is nighttime and it is bitterly cold and I’m at a bus stop with my then-boyfriend. We’ve just left a performance of some sort and are trying to get home but our evening has been interrupted and it…

And, of course, he has told me to just ignore it because that seems like the most logical approach. When you ignore things, they go away, right?

This time, though, he bears witness. His presence at my side does nothing to dissuade the drunk man because, as much as men like to think that just being there is enough to protect women from other men, that is rarely the case.

Example: The time a man on a Greyhound bus put his hand on my leg and physically blocked my path as I tried to wriggle away while the man on his side, someone’s white-collar business dad lured in by the promise of nicer seats and outlets on the bus, looked worried but said nothing.

Example: The time a customer cornered me in the alley outside of the restaurant where I worked during a cigarette break and two college men lingered with a concerned air, but ultimately decided to keep walking.

Example: The time a man who was visibly having a psychotic break swung a padlock at me and threatened to “smash your face, bitch” despite the company of an extremely nervous male friend who was very graciously walking me home “for safety.” He asks after the fact how I could remain so calm and I just shrug.

Example: The time when, walking with my current partner, a drunk man stumbled from a bar and waved a golf club in our direction and it was me that he locked his eyes upon, but my partner who was the most upset. I oblige the imposition just long enough to steer us into a bodega until the man leaves.