Man In Line Gets A Boner: Would You Call That Sexual Harassment?

trippin cat

Disclaimer: I don’t intend this blog post to be a blanket statement about people getting erections in public. Oftentimes it’s not personal nor intended. I totally get that. I just think that the details in yesterday’s scenario make it so that this could not have been a coincidence.

Where I work, there’s a grown man who comes in often enough that I recognize him and consider him a regular. I knew his order and always greeted him with a smile, making conversation because I genuinely believed that he was a delightful, pleasant person, but I never (until very recently) took a look at his pants.

How could I miss something so…obstructive??

It turns out that this was not a unique occurrence but rather, a tradition of sorts…

In my mind, I was grossed out. I started panicking. It was disturbing! God damn sir, you’re in freaking public! In gym shorts! There are children at that table! And grandmas!

What even is sexual harassment anyways? Or is this sexual assault, or abuse, or is this all just in my head? I don’t care about some official definition; if something makes me so uncomfortable in my own skin that I get upset at work, it’s sexual harassment to me.

I tend to overreact about lots of things. Many issues exist entirely in my head, yet I believe that what happened was real and frightening, because after an awkward exchange at the drink counter, he sat down at a table and proceeded to stare at me for about another hour before silently leaving. I refused to look in his general direction.

So, is my hyperactive brain to blame? Am I just overreacting to this whole thing? It’s hard (and so was he) to say, since some bystanders treat it as a joke. Well, I certainly wasn’t laughing…this isn’t a joke to me. It was messing with my head all afternoon, and I was so upset that I couldn’t even muster a smile for the rest of the people in line.

That’s one of the worst parts, that I had to continue standing there for another 3 hours until my shift was over and pretend like everything was alright, when in my mind I was freaking out and psycho-analyzing the whole situation, aware of his stare from just a few feet away.

So strange, that even without a physical touch, I can feel such great discomfort.

Being polite about these sort of things probably encourages this behavior even more. It makes it seem like it’s okay, or as if I’m enjoying it, or welcoming it. As an individual that hates conflict and despises confrontation, that’s probably how it comes off. This makes for a terrible combination when a situation calls for being straight-forward.

For the past few years, the amount of attention that I’ve received from guys has skyrocketed, and at 18, I think it will be many more years before this sort of thing slows down.

Some older females deal with this sort of situation differently. Some shrug it off, some ignore it, and some directly confront the people who cause them discomfort. I greatly admire those who speak up for themselves, and I wonder about those who dismiss it. Is your silence a concession, a green light for this sort of behavior to continue? Or do you just hope that this is a one-time thing? Because it probably isn’t. You’ll experience this in 100 different other ways before you reach menopause.

There will come a time when I, an old woman facing a mid-life crisis, will be desperate for attention from just about anyone. And this thought makes me kind of sad. I’ll be yearning for my youth, when I looked a certain way, not realizing that growing old is one of the highlights of life.

Sir, if you ever read this article, I hope you can take a hint.

Anyways, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

10 comments

  1. Crystal Stethoscope

    I can see where you’re coming from with the discomfort you feel, and I believe your reaction was warranted for. I’m just curious however, do you feel the man was doing it intentionally with gym shorts, or was it something he was just unaware of? In regards to being stared at, I feel that is entirely inappropriate for that man.

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    • catdiggedydog

      I’m not sure why he wears gym shorts, because they are very short and very revealing about what’s underneath. But it’s less the shorts that bother me than the way he treats me, looking at me as if we have some sort of secret, always trying to catch my eye.

      When I initially thought about it, I was wondering if I was just taking everything the wrong way, and if I was just judging him or making an assumption. But I’ve talked to other people who work where I work, and they’ve agreed with me that there’s something off about this guy.

      My boss even reached out and offered her support.

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      • Vince

        Do you think the situation would have had been less uncomfortable had he not stared? Was it the erection or was it the staring that made you feel uneasy?

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  2. G Donnelly

    Hey Catherine!

    So being a guy, my initial reaction to the title was a bit along the lines of “what the hell?” But, after reading it all the way through, and then reading through the comments people made on your fbo post, I came to appreciate the article. Funny enough, I disagree with the polarized argument on facebook and still like your article.

    In the article, you expressed your confusion, frustration, and insecurity simultaneously, without descending to a polemic rant. That was pretty good. At the end, you look for advice instead of dictating the decision.

    Problem: The title is misleading. This will throw off everyone who will read the article before they even start. I had to go back and read it a second time after going over fbo before realize exactly what you were doing and let my own frustration subside. No, I would certainly argue that a boner in public is NOT sexual harassment. Often times it just happens! No reason! BUT the body of your post established a very different story. This guy is a fucking creep. End of story. The question is about HOW a guy handles it. So your title shouldn’t be about the man getting a boner in public being sexual harassment in and of itself, but about how he handles it. I understand this provocative title garners more views, but something more about how he acted and not the state of his boner itself would be a bit closer to what you’re getting at. The next question is about HOW the girl handles a guy like this.

    The doing-something-about-it aspect: on fbo someone posted a long cartoon strip about women’s sexual harassment. It was good, and interesting, but at times still problematic. It was a very reactionary message to creeps. I understand it was directed to guys, but it ironically put the onus on guys to act and mentions little about what a woman should do (again, yeah, it appeared to be mainly directed towards guys). My problem with the strip was its idea about how sexual harassment arises from a man’s sense of ownership of space. Sure, this is correct, but it provides no solution to what a woman should do, and instead just aggrandizes the dichotomy between man/woman power and does jack shit about it except to say that guys should tell other guys to stop. Not the most productive message.

    The doing-more-than-jack-shit-about-it-like-the-cartoon aspect: (I liked the cartoon, but clearly it frustrated me) aryacave (commented earlier) is exactly right. Tell your manager! Go up to the guy and TAKE OWNERSHIP OF THE SPACE. Get what i’m saying? Confront not for the purpose of confrontation but for at least balancing that dichotomy I mentioned earlier.

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    • catdiggedydog

      Garebear, you’re right. I didn’t think about title out thoroughly enough, and I feel especially that people who skimmed my FB post would more likely have disagreed with me. I probably would have, too. I also think that even in this blog post, I didn’t include enough detail about the man or the encounter. I think I was trying to make it less personal and more of an overall issue, but the problem was that then it sounded like a broad attack.
      I’m glad you brought up the importance of how females should handle it. Other women I know deal with it in a very different way from myself: they don’t. They just put it out of their minds (as far as I know), but I just can’t do that, especially with this guy.
      I’m also cursed with a fear of confrontation, which means that in lots of areas of my life, I don’t initiate conflict with people but instead wait until I’m alone to….write and reflect about it, as you can see with this post. I’m trying to get over it, though, and to be more outspoken about these sort of issues, especially. Because I want it to be known that if someone is blatantly doing this to watch me squirm silently, it’s not okay.
      Your comment was a pleasant surprise because you are one of the only people (or so it seems) to have read the whole blog post, as well as thought carefully about what people on FB/NS have said. Thank you so much, seriously.

      Like

  3. aryacave

    “It turns out that this was not a unique occurrence but rather, a tradition of sorts”-So he does it that often!?
    1.Telling your manager might do the job or at least let him/her know the background of your problem.
    2. The next step is to confront him when he is standing with his boner.Saying it clearly and loudly(not shouting) is perhaps best.

    I don’t think it’s sexual harassment but everything doesn’t have to have a fanciful term for it to be considered offensive.Your reactions are valid.The worst thing women do is not speak up more on these issues. Many a times, these outbursts might turn out to be overreactions but they serve the purpose of letting the world know about how they feel.

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    • catdiggedydog

      Aryacave, lots of people have talked with and told me that what he did is technically not sexual harassment. That’s true, but you’re right. It can still be offensive. I’m glad you think I’m not overreacting…I spent the whole weekend pondering this issue and I think I feel a bit more confident about the situation. I think that I’ll be more mentally prepared to deal with it when it happens next time. Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. zebrawoman

    I think I would feel uncomfortable, too, if someone came to my store with a boner on a regular basis. It’s creepy!!

    BTW, a woman in midlife is not old. ;)

    Like

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