May 3rd, 2012 | By Polypomp

Courtgasm: It’s Not Flattery, It’s Street Harassment


Street harassment: equal opportunity oogling? Not quite.

Hello hello, welcome back to another sexy installment of Courtgasm, the one time of the week where I get to blow my pre-law load all over the Interwebz. This week’s topic: is it flattery or is it street harassment?

Consider the words “Hey baby, holla at a player,” or any one of countless alternatives being yelled at a girl walking down the street, sitting at a bus stop, or in any public context. This behavior is an all too commonplace occurrence in America today, and from what I hear from my female friends, it’s rather unwanted attention. Most men would claim this is innocent flattery, but there is a point where compliments can cross a line and become creepy.

As a guy, even if I wear a sexually provocative outfit, and even if I do something that makes me look sexy (go for a run, parkour, etc), I still rarely attract stares. When I do, it usually has nothing to do with me being objectified, at least not in the same way as girls. Sometimes I see women looking at me, but that doesn’t mean anything; something I look at people just because they are doing/wearing something interesting (like having purple hair and a mohawk). Street harassment is one of those facets of sexism that I don’t think I will ever fully understand as a guy, and without having lived as a girl, I will always be an outsider to the experience.

This topic was recently brought to my attention when a friend showed me this video, which gives a New York perspective on street harassment. The title of the video kind of says it all, “things men say to men who say things to women in the streets.” It may seem a rather lengthy or confusing title, so let me simply it it for you; when one of your guy friends says something totally out of line, these are some sample phrases you can use to make that line clear to him.

If, like me, you are not from New York and you want a more West Coast view on street harassment, check this out. The same friend who first showed me the original video wanted to make another video to expand off the first (why just repost a viral video when you can truly spread the infection?). The rehash video was part of San Jose State University’s Tunnel of Oppression 2012. The Tunnel of Oppression is a grassroots interactive art/political event, started in 1993 at Western Illinois University which has spread across the country since then and is now a yearly event at hundreds of schools. As a good San Jose State alumni, I do everything I can to stay involved in campus life, including this video. Keep an eye out for your’s-truly in that video, I make three appearances mixed in throughout.

All kidding aside, street harassment is a real problem, so serious that the New York city council recently heard testimony from several women on the issue and is considering legislation to confront the problem. You might think, “that’s just New York, what do those yankees matter?” New York is, without a doubt, the biggest city in America with a solid 8.2 million people living there. In terms of populations, it is bigger than Los Angeles (2nd), San Diego (8th), San Jose (10th), and San Francisco (13th) combined. So a quick reality check for my West Coast brothers, New York matters and the fact that they are considering this an issue worth noting, is worth taking note of.

If you are a women, man, or someone in between that has been the victim of street harassment, there are resources to help take your power back. A good starting place is hollaback a website entire dedicated to sharing your stories of street harassment and helping end the practice. If you want to take a more active role in ending street harassment I would recommend checking out Stop Street Harassment. Aside from websites like these, and that New York city council hearing, there has been little done to curb the problem of street harassment.

To the men out there who feel this is a bunch of women making a problem out of nothing, just try going a day in their place, and not feeling comfortable being outside because some douchebags will make you feel like a piece of meat. On the other side of this, sometimes it can be nice to be objectified, just a little, as a guy I hardly ever get that. I do wish it were easier to get sexual attention as a man sometimes, from women (I get plenty from boys), and I do wish the expectation wasn’t still on men to ask women out (as that is a herculean task). I do feel the trend of men asking women out is beginning to change, but it’s still too early to tell in what ways. Street harassment is still largely a male dominated sport though, one I hope will go extinct like the side pony tail and triple breasted coats.


  • tizz wall

    Righteous.  We all need to be on the same page for this to change; thanks for checking your privilege and recognizing we experience a different world.  

  • Lisa Sinfel

    I don’t mind sincere and actual flattering flattery, but drive by objectification has got to go!