The other day a man working in New York City’s Times Square was following me on a crowded street. I could see him in my periphery, but I was doing my best to just keep plowing ahead, as I had to meet a friend for dinner.

“Hey miss! Hey!”

In my head I’m saying “just keep walking, keep staring ahead.” But my insecurities always get the best of me in these odd situations. “What if you dropped your scarf and he’s just trying to hand it back to you?” my brain went, “They all can’t be potential crazies!”

So I finally turned around to look at him. There was no scarf, just a wanting, thirsty, habitual-line-stepping guy who immediately started grabbing my arm, trying to pull me away.

“What’s your name? I’ve been following you for the last block just to talk to you! What’s your name!”

“I’m sorry, I’m in a hurry,” I said.

“You wasn’t walking like you were in no hurry?”

“Please, I’m sorry. No.”

And yet the grabbing of my arm and pulling continued, until finally I crossed a crowded street and ducked into a pharmacy that he did not follow me into because he had to get back to the vendor station he’d abandoned to chase me down.

It wasn’t until I was out with my friend at dinner that it hit me that I was way too “OK” with what had happened. So “OK” that I’d almost forgotten to mention it to my friend I was eating with. And when I did bring it up finally, it was as a joke.

“Oh my God, Jason! I almost didn’t make it to dinner because some creepy dude tried to steal me from you!”

But when I really thought about it, how often had this happened where a guy grabbing me and pulling me in a direction I had no interest in going got no response out of me? When-oh-when did I get used to it?

And what on Earth made this guy think this was OK?

My fake big brother Jada and I have this constant dialogue about how being good-looking allows people – male and female – to get away with behavior that would be “Dial 9-1-1”  worthy of anyone else. Part of the reason why he enjoys having this conversation is because he’s good looking, in the classic “tall, athletic and big smile” kind of way and usually my stories of having my personal space intruded upon involves men who don’t typically fit those parameters.

So, in their haphazard defense, he’ll often say, “But, yeah, what if he was really good-looking? Would a complete stranger grabbing your arm in the middle of Time Square shouting, ‘I’ve been following you for two blocks just to get your name!’ creep you out?”

And I always respond with, “I dunno. Probably. But I’ve never had a good-looking guy do that. Have you ever done that?”

And the answer is always no. Why would he do that? “I don’t need to do that,” he’d say.

And that’s how I usually win this argument.

Men of the knowingly handsome and/or emotionally secure persuasion know that it’s strange and concerning to do what Times Square guy did to me as I was walking to meet with a friend for dinner. It’s inappropriate in a world where women get snatched off the street and where one-in-six women are victims of sexual assault and a world where I DON’T KNOW YOU WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING ME?

Being good-looking means you do get away with more. But usually the men who are the best with women have learned how to read cues of interest and disinterest and traverse those well. Jada admitted that he’s polite to a fault and I’ve witnessed as much. But he’s pretty good at reading signals. If you throw some his way that you’d be OK with him getting a little handsy, he’ll catch what you’re throwing. But for some guys there seems to be a gross disconnect between a woman minding her own business and a guy looking for a good time. Or maybe they just don’t care about a little thing called “consent” and “mutual attraction.”

Things like asking for a hug when I wasn’t giving out hugs. Or when you go in for the hug your hands just always seem to want to slide as close as possible to the sides of my breasts. Being in New York City is like suddenly being junior high again. And the weirdness and the sexual harassment weren’t appropriate then, but at least you could blame it on the stupidity of hormones and youth. What’s a 30-year-old man’s excuse? What’s a 45-year-old’s excuse when he doesn’t respect things like boundaries? When he think your boobs are like a public park anyone can freely partake in?

The most attention I ever got in New York was the day I wore stretch pants. And I remember thinking, maybe I shouldn’t wear stretch pants. But then I thought, “Why do I have to change who I am because of the half-dozen weirdos who can’t get a date don’t know how to behave? Why can’t they just follow the example of the 99.9 percent of guys who don’t do or say anything?”

So, I kept my stretch pants. But the men of New York are seriously testing my degree of “friendliness.”

  • cocochanel31

    Alot of these men in NYC and even elsewhere who touch, grab, and stalk, are not mentally sane that’s why they don’t know or care about boundaries. Sometimes you have to wild out on “crazy” and act just as crazy as them for them to get it! You gotta be careful either way though bc the truly crazy ones can hurt you if they feel dissed!

  • Patience

    I think one of the advantages of me not being a people person is that I make sure to put distance between others and me, which is why I think I haven’t yet been touched by a stranger when it comes to street harassment. I also carry mace and that could possibly be a deterrent.

  • Downsouth Transplant

    I once was stalked in the mall & it is not cute, ducking in & out of stores to still find the stalker waiting, it was in the middle of the week on my way home from work, i almost went on full blown panic wondering if is he really following me, should i turn around & tackle his behind, i should call 911 etc I happened to run into one of my grad school Proff. who we were not even friends, just knew him from seeing each other in the hallways when i was a grad ass. I literary ran to him & hugged him (imagine his shock) when i told him what was going on, after he stood there shaken, he walked me to my car & I left, he sent me an email later saying he confronted the stranger & the dude said he was smitten. WTH never seen him before & he was sorry he scared me. Yep My Proff told me to get mace ASAP! SMH

  • V.

    Thank you for writing this piece. I can relate to what you experienced. It makes my skin crawl when men troll, follow, track, hunt or violate my personal space. I do not care if they are attractive or not. It’s creepy.

    I recently had a similar experience. I was visiting Boston for the first time. I was getting on the subway. I was approached by a man who asked me if I needed directions. I said “Yes” and asked him to confirm that I was going in the right direction. He pointed out the right track. I thanked him. He extended his hand to shake mine. I smiled, thanked him again, and explained that I was not able to shake his hand. (I had a shopping bag in one hand and a bottle of water in the other.)

    He told me I didn’t want to shake his hand because I was a light skinned snob. I was shocked speechless. He told me that I was probably dating a white guy, he hated light skinned chicks, he hoped that I would never bring children into this world. I told him that was a disrespectful thing to say to me or any woman. I could have had a miscarriage or encountered some other tragic event preventing me from having kids. I started to walk along the platform and left him rambling on.

    Thankfully, the subway came and there were other people on it. He got on and loudly told me how “dare” I get “vex” at him. He told me I was weak. And that I should be open to listening to his “point of view”.

    I only had one stop before I got off the subway. It was a quick ride.

    Initially, I tried to blow the situation off. Hindsight is always 20/20, I thought of all of the things I could have said. But, you can’t reason with crazy people.

    There must be women out there, that react positively to these experiences. I find it hard to believe, that men would pull that crap, if they were not successful.

    I think that the majority of women, do not appreciate men making unwanted/inappropriate advances toward them. All I know is real gentlemen, don’t do behave this way.

  • Patience

    There was this one time ( I was 14) I was walking across a baseball field because it allowed me to get to my house a little faster. As I was walking, some boy who I did not know started calling after me to wait up for him. Of course I didn’t stop for him and he actually ran across the field to catch up and then tried to talk to me. I told him that it was hot and that I was just trying to get home. He said something about how he had to run all the way across the field for me. I just thought to myself, like, no one told your dumbs to do that.

    Anyway. What I am saying is that there have been many instances where I have had to change my path to keep some random man from following me.

  • Patience

    That is horrible.

    From what I gather, that guy had no common sense and is actually the cause of his own frustration. If he didn’t like light-skinned women, then why did he even approach you? What an idiot!

  • http://gravatar.com/libpatriot GeekMommaRants

    This does not happen in other communities, other African communities. You would never see a Nigerian man trying to talk to a strange woman. This is not how men and women in that community treat themselves or each other.

  • Blue

    I live & work near the Times Sq area. Sometimes you can’t be “nice”. If they can’t take a polite “no” the first go round, it’s best to keep walking and act like they are invisible. usually I snatch my hand back from them & spaz on them for violating my personal space. They usually back off. Respect is respect

  • cocochanel31

    exactly Blue LOL ! Crazy doesn’t understand “nice”..especially New Yorkers..you have to be aggressive with these fools..smh

  • Egypt

    “There must be women out there, that react positively to these experiences. I find it hard to believe, that men would pull that crap, if they were not successful.”

    Yesss! You hit it on the head! The sad thing is that some women will actually react positively to this sort of treatment, so some men continue to act this way, thinking that if they are successful once they are sure to gain more.

    Fellas stop creepin’ and ladies. who respond to this sort of behavior, have more respect for yourselves and stop allowing men to treat you any kind of way. You deserve much more!

  • Patience

    I guess that explain why an African man once followed me across two parking lots to a bus stop and motioned for me to get in his car.

  • Shepherd

    Erm…that’s not true at all. This seems to be a problem for all kinds of communities. I’ve been disrespectfully approached by Nigerian men, Jamaican men etc and I’ve seen white women being harassed by white men. It’s the mentality of a lot of men unfortunately

  • Patience

    *explains

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    I agree with Blue as well of checking the “nice/friendly” mannerism quickly when in the city when dealing with people like that because they take that as a weakness. I learned quickly (usually I am the happy go lucky type of girl with a smile on my face) and some men took that as a que to touch and even hug me. Until I learn to keep my face neutral and be a bit standoffish, it may come off as b*tchy but @h well plus carry mace and a switch blade doesn’t hurt…lol

  • Yb

    “You would never see a Nigerian man trying to talk to a strange woman”

    Bwahahahahaha girl stfu. I’m half Nigerian on my fathers side and a citizen of the country and I have been grabbed at multiple times walking on the streets of Victoria Island, and Ikoyi. A beg.

    This is an issues with all MEN that spans ethnicity.

  • Rue

    NYC!?! And here i was thinking this crap only happened in Jamaica. Fun and games aside though the next time some a-hole so much as looks like he is going to touch me $hit’s gonna happen. It is CREEPY and GROSS! Stop it!

  • paul

    chuckling and smh @ these comments

    these are the kinds of humorless ballbreakers ya have to filter out until ya find a woman who is -

    dateable.

    How do you yanks say it?

    “charge it to the game” LMAO (I absolutely love that slang)

  • Leo the Yardie Chick

    Trust me, Rue, this crud is universal. I have on-line female friends from North America all the way to Australia, and the stories are always the same.

    *smh* Too many people roaming the streets with no hometraining whatsoever. Now to get my snacks for when someone rolls in here and tells us that we should ‘lighten up’, ‘stop being so snobbish’, ‘this is why no one likes Black women’, and ‘to learn to take a compliment’

  • simplyme

    ….I stan for the awesomeness of African communities all the time but as a Nigerian American myself I’m going to have to concede this one. In fact, I think we may win the award for creepiest dudes on the planet. On my last trip to Lagos, I received 3 impromptu marriage proposals and I had to be rescued from a mall stalker (I was there a total of 5 days). But I will say the feeling is different…its never physical and there are no insults hurled at you when you turn down the guy.

  • apple

    when i was in nyc i was harrassed several times and chased twice.. i have had my ass smacked in a subway as the crack head jumped the train so i couldn’t say anything.. i have had men in a security truck (you know those places that install security systems in homes) follow me several blocks while holding up traffic then getting violent in the truck when i told them no thanks …men grab their genitals at me while calling me a b*tch and whore..a crackhead(i guess?) chased me while i was delivering things on an internship, i had to run into the building..but the one that will stand out most to me was when i was on Flatbush..this guy was behind me and i picked up pace and so did he..and i started running and i thought to myself IF THIS MOTHERF*CKER TACKLE ME I AM GOING TO PULL OUT MY KNIFE AND WE GONE FIGHT RIGHT HERE, i stopped, turned around and said BACK THE F*K UP in a deep demonic like voice..he ran off

  • http://idreamofspeed.blogspot.com E.M.S.

    That is my biggest no-no regarding strangers (especially men), DO NOT TOUCH ME. I don’t care how attractive a guy is, it is not okay to touch a woman you don’t know.

  • http://gravatar.com/mimiandy1683 MimiLuvs

    Unfortunately, like the rest of the women-commentators, I have experience street (sexual) harassment. My first experience occurred when I was nine years old. The perpetrator looked to be in mid-to-late teenaged years. Since then, I have experienced incidents where I have been groped, insulted, grabbed and have been followed. The worst case of harassment that happened to me would also be considered a crime. When I was twelve years old, I was forced into a car by two older individuals at a busy intersection(I refuse to use the word ‘men’), on my way home from school. I was able to escape (and run into a bodega, where the cashier helped me) when the car stopped at a red light. The cops were called, but the individuals were not found.
    And that was not the last case of street harassment that I’ve experienced. The experience (along with the others) has shaped my opinion of men, who are not related to me.

  • leyla

    Today I was enjoying my bodycombat class at the gym when a guy behind me put his hands on my shoulders, moved me to the left and told me “place yourself here”, apparently he needed more space to kick and felt it was OK to just put me somewhere else, I gave him an evil look and told him not to touch me, the women around me also gave him nasty looks. I know that was not sexual at all but why do you place your hands on a stranger without being asked to do so, just wrong.

  • Liyah D.

    I LOL’d at the switchblade! You ain’t messing around! I need one because I try to look pleasant so I don’t scare people away, but smiling too much seems like an invitation for the crazies. You just can’t win…

  • C

    Oh, God, it’s good you got away and I hope you weren’t hurt …but that wasn’t harassment, that was kidnapping!

  • C

    I was hit on the butt by a guy, but he was standing in a group of 5-6 people, so I had no idea who it was. I wanted to kick someone in the balls.

    As I was walking home from the grocery store, I had two guys follow me for a block trying to get me to catch a ride with them.

    I don’t really walk outside too much, and when I do, I walk with my husband or my neighbor, so that cuts down on some of the harassment.

  • http://gravatar.com/mimiandy1683 MimiLuvs

    Physically, I wasn’t harmed. Mentally and emotionally, I didn’t come out unscathed. It has taken me 10-plus years to accept that I didn’t turn out ‘all the way right’ after that incident. I was raised in a family where the authority figures are intentionally emotionally-voided, so I wasn’t comfortable expressing how afraid that I was (and slightly still am) when I am around men.

  • Perspective

    SMH – Another one of the – YESTERDAY – “No one was checking for me because I’m a black woman and just so undesirable and all these Ninjas out here are self hating”

    to

    “Damn I get harassed everywhere I go because I’m such a fine specimen”

    NO consistency.

    Again it’s not about self hate – its about you just not getting the men that YOU WANT.

  • Child, Please

    It’s amazing how often this happens and I’m sure it’s more than enough to write a trilogy. Does anyone remember that “classic” photo of the soldier kissing the girl. I never liked it and found out that he was merely kissing a woman her felt entitled to kiss because he was who he was and she was who she was. The male psyche (for some) is so far screwed you have to wonder if a psychiatrist will fix their (s)(h)(i)(t). I can’t stand it! What makes me even more upset is if women were to lash out at these creeps to defend themselves, I’m sure these sorry sacks of men wouldn’t hesitate to call the police of belittle her anger by simply calling her overly emotional. This just sickens me!

  • Eric

    @C

    Thank you for clarifying that for. People can be so nonchalant when it comes to serious crime.

    Damn

  • Eric

    @Perspective Link to the article again.

  • Eric

    @Child, Please

    #mansityoazzdown

  • Eric

    DISCLAIMER: No, a man should not touch a woman especially if he is bad at reading social cues

    No, a man should NEVER kidnap a young woman.

    And once a woman says NO, a man should cease talking to her & charge it to the game.

    My fake big brother Jada and I have this constant dialogue about how being good-looking allows people – male and female – to get away with behavior that would be “Dial 9-1-1” worthy of anyone else. …

    “I dunno. Probably. But I’ve never had a good-looking guy do that

    I am glad reasonable men point out when women are inconsistent when it comes to “harassment”. A man can “harass” as long as he is attractive.

    The most attention I ever got in New York was the day I wore stretch pants.

    You should be thankful that guys are even still interested in f**king you. The minute you hit the wall, you will moaning how you are “Invisible Black Woman”, and all that hot garbage.

  • Eric

    Again ladies, if street “harassment” is such a big deal, I encourage you to tell men to STOP approaching, and you go head & approach the men you like.

    End of story

  • Eric

    DISCLAIMER: No, a man should not touch a woman especially if he is bad at reading social cues

    No, a man should NEVER kidnap a young woman.

    And once a woman says NO, a man should cease talking to her & charge it to the game.

  • Eric

    My fake big brother Jada and I have this constant dialogue about how being good-looking allows people – male and female – to get away with behavior that would be “Dial 9-1-1” worthy of anyone else. …

    “I dunno. Probably. But I’ve never had a good-looking guy do that

    I am glad reasonable men point out when women are inconsistent when it comes to “harassment”. A man can “harass” as long as he is attractive.

    The most attention I ever got in New York was the day I wore stretch pants.

    You should be thankful that guys are even still interested in f**king you. The minute you hit the wall, you will moaning how you are “Invisible Black Woman”, and all that hot garbage.

  • Eric

    The most attention I ever got in New York was the day I wore stretch pants.

    You should be thankful that guys are even still interested in f**king you. The minute you hit the wall, you will moaning how you are “Invisible Black Woman”, and all that hot garbage.

  • Apple

    If only that worked. Then we wouldn’t have to keep writing about it. You can’t even tell men no because they get violent

  • Apple

    Oh the beautiful philosophy of a future sex offender

  • OSHH

    Wow these topics never fail to bring out idiotic comments.
    I am sure most women enjoy being condisered attractive by the opposite sex, however that does not mean touch, grab, or aggressively cat call chase, follow, and or berate a woman because you are too clueless, uncouth, and crass to know how to properly express an interest.

  • C

    Women whether single, dating, or married experience disrespect on the streets. It is not just a single woman’s problem, or even a woman’s problem since some grown men will try to get a 14 year old girl’s number.

    Men should already know that while it is one thing to approach a woman who they find attractive, it is quite another to follow her after she tells you to leave her alone or that she is not interested. That is the problem. Most women have a problem once a man will not LEAVE her alone after she expresses disinterest. Why follow or verbally down a woman once she says ‘no’? Men should know that every woman will not want them and that they are not entitled to anything from a woman. What is so hard about leaving people alone if they don’t want to be talked to? Harassment on the streets is something that many, many women have dealt with since they were young girls (like 11-13), so yes, it is a problem for many. Harassment is absolutely NOT flattering and some men act like they can’t tell the difference between harassment and complimenting.

  • ObiOneKnows

    Then can you explain to me why I had a series of Nigerian and other African men disrespect me when I lived in Harlem 16 years ago? And why an African man approached my friend’s daughter in a disrespectful manner here in Cleveland last year? Is it because we are Americans? And for the record, neither of us look or dress like “tramps.” Every woman and older girl on the street is not up for grabs.

  • http://www.blackbiter.com Holliday Vann

    This is probably jealous “Erica” hatin’ on your success and posin’ as “Eric.” Whether a person is ugly, pretty, fat, skinny, or whatever, she has a right to enjoy her own personal space without intrusion, “Erica.” Now, stop actin’ like a teen with raging hormones. Probably not even registered to vote…useless!

  • simplyme

    Seriously… what is there to argue with in this topic…? Theres a huge difference between politely approaching a woman and harassing her. 90% of men on this planet know the difference. Street harassment is not flattering, and women don’t enjoy it…the experiences range from annoying to completely terrifying. Let me help you:

    Politely approaching = a smile, a nod, a comment about the weather, a joke about anything at all even if it isn’t funny, asking about the time or the train, complimenting her conservatively. all done when she is sitting or standing still, alone, and not very engaged —> GOOD

    Harassing = grabbing her arm(or grabbing her anything else…), following her more than 1 step, talking about sex or sexual attraction, looking at her oddly, engaging her loudly or from more than 4ft away (or less1.5 ft away), and being intense in general –> BAD

    If you fail to comprehend this you must belong to the group of men the author describes.

  • http://mommaused2say.wordpress.com mommaused2say

    My favorite line: I’ve been following you for the last block just to talk to you! STALKER!!!! LOL

  • Elmer Madison

    I think what pisses me off the most here in Denver is when I am broke and totally obviously broke I still have tweakers begging from me!

  • fluffy-in-flight

    @patience — Just make sure you don’t accidentally mace yourself.

  • Nehemiah53

    Look no one should be Harassed or touch male or female however if males stop speaking to you women, stop hitting on you women and turn their back to you women, women would whine and complain about men paying no attention to them! Again women nor men should be touch unwontedly, women touch men all the times sometimes unwonted rubbing men shoulders, pat on the back and always a light punch in the chest while trying to make eye contact but you never hear men whine or complain or seek pity about it.

  • Pingback: A simple question for women - Dating, marriage, boyfriends, girlfriends, men, women, friends, attraction ... - Page 12 - City-Data Forum

  • Arghhhhhhhhhh

    Great piece as usual Daniel, but it was an editing failure. I’ve come to expect well written pieces from you and this one had more than one glaring grammatical error which altered my experience. Clutch, please tighten-up on the editorial front!

  • Luci

    What IS it with this light/dark thing?
    I’m not even super light, and dudes try to play the dark-skinned pity card all the time. So weird.

    Why can’t more men just use common sense when it comes to approaching a woman? If she’s giving you the eye, and encouraging a conversation, feel free to holla. But if she just walks by, let her go. It’s not that she didn’t see you: she just wasn’t impressed!

  • Patience

    Isn’t it funny that you made a comment about grammatical errors and at the same time, spelled her name wrong?

  • Patience

    Men don’t care. They are always talking AT me. I specifically avoid eye contact or angling my body in their direction.

  • Downsouth Transplant

    @ Apple, i truly I’m sorry, but this is crazy hilarious “demonic voice”. can’t stop laughing!

  • Downsouth Transplant

    @ Mimi luvs, sending the little girls a big **hug**, I am indeed grateful you are here, & share your experiences, now sending a hug to the person you are today:)

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