June 07, 2011


We needed space so badly. When we discovered that, if we went with boys, space would open for us, we found to our surprise that we needed boys. And yet boys were part of the danger. Thus the balance of power between us and the boys was thrown out of kilter. This inequity about moving fast into the world was the first real lesson I had about the inequities between men and women. We needed boys more than they needed us. We were more scared if them physically than they were of us. We did not know this, but we probably even desired them more than they desired us. If we chose not to go with them, we couldn't go at all. But they were always free to choose to go without us. - Naomi Wolf Promiscuities

One of the reasons that New York is so hard to live in, for me, is because there's an undercurrent of male aggression that runs through the streets and the air. Everywhere. I think about this a lot, especially when the weather starts to get warm and women can no longer reasonably hide behind layers of sweaters and coats. I've been followed down the street by men shouting obscene and humiliating things at me. I've been followed home. I've been followed into and around shops. It's terrifying and stressful and upsetting and embarrassing. Every morning, before I walk out the door, I have to brace myself against the people outside my front door. I have never encountered men like the men who trawl the streets in New York. Even after a year spent living in and traveling around the Middle East, I can say with certainty that I have never been anywhere where the sexual harassment is worse than it is right here in the United States. Mostly New York. I'm sure that's a huge contributing factor to the reason I feel a million times freer as soon as I set foot in an airport for a departing flight. Well, one of the major reasons, at least.

The other day I realized that most of my closer friends in New York are men. I never thought much about why, but I do know that when I hang out with my guy friends -- if I walk down the street with a guy friend or go to a store or eat in a restaurant -- no one bothers me/us. Waiting on the street or by a shop somewhere for my guy friend to show up, men walk by and say things and stare and invade my personal space. I have to worry about avoiding eye contact, not paying attention, not doing anything to respond or make any move that could be perceived as provocation. But as soon as my guy friend shows up everything is okay, I can be myself, I feel free. I don't have to worry that some perv is going to bother me on the street, because, by and large, guys don't bother or harass girls who are with other guys.

I hate having to rely on the company of men in order to walk down the street in New York without worrying someone's going to try something. I want to walk where I want and wear what I want without aggressive men bothering me and terrorizing me.

Of course, I've thought about possible solutions. I could get a boyfriend -- this is, of course, the least feasible of all my options -- hire a car and driver or hire a bodyguard.

Or I could just move.