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Friday, June 21, 2013

Street Harassment: The Other Side of the Coin

Posted by Jay Williams on Fri, Jun 21, 2013 at 1:44 PM

[You've obviously read this week's feature on "street harassment" directed at women—and you may even have an opinion on the subject or written a comment or two. But there's also the other side of the coin... as described byMercury Circulation Director Jay Williams. Here's his story.—Editor]

In my six years at the Portland Mercury as both a route driver and now head of circulation I have had a lifetime's worth of interesting/awful experiences on the street via Portland's weirdest weirdos and socially maligned citizens. Most of the time it has been harmless, stupid, something to laugh about and a good story. Such as the time I was delivering papers downtown at 10 am and a very drunken man approached me to let me know I looked like a guy that appreciated a good sausage and he tried to force feed me a half-eaten kielbasa then ask me for $36 for a bus ticket. He was so sweet! And so drunk! I wonder sometimes if he fell asleep on the MAX tracks. Seems likely. The grim truth is that I get stopped often, it's not always sexual—but when it is? Portland you really outdo yourselves in being absolute creeps.

More after the jump.

I would say eight out of ten times I get stopped on the street it is to discuss my size and for people to take the opportunity to let their assumptions about social niceties be proven horribly wrong. As I'm sure many many women are well aware, it's not the greatest feeling to be stopped and objectified for looking a certain way. The other two out of ten times it is what would be defined as street harassment but with an asterisk. That difference is that I'm a 6'6" 406 lb male that spends the majority of my free time in a private powerlifters gym lifting things up and putting them back down. So my experience is going to be vastly different and the power dynamic is not the same. I've never felt the least bit afraid for my safety or that anyone was trying to exert power or control over me. I fully acknowledge that is a sole luxury of my experiences in that I've never feared that I would be overpowered, followed home, etc. In turn, I've hit the gross out lottery and been groped, touched, and had the full gambit of sexual comments aimed right at my nethers. All of these half-assed attempts at praise coming by men and women alike.

The first of my many grody experiences was in my rookie year at the Mercury. A man walked directly in my path stopped on the sidewalk right in front of me, stared south, and was mumbling, it's beautiful, just look at it, oh my, look at that. I thought he was talking about the paper so I offered him one and was puzzled at his choice of words. Turns out mumbles was not so interested in the paper. Dude got on his knees and started to reach for my unit. He was going all in. I had to jump back to keep him from touching me. I remember calling him a fuck-face and going about my business as he was left rejected on the sidewalk. Unfortunately he isn't my most memorable fuck-face. Then there was the gaggle of dudes that saw me bent over on the sidewalk that had said "look at that, boys—let's go get us some" then started mock grabbing my ass? Kind of jerks. I get a lot of very flattering attention from men. It's kind of great actually. Makes a guy feel pretty! That experience I didn't feel so pretty. They were being gross for the sake of being gross.

The person I remember the clearest and made me feel the most angry was a woman from a few months ago. I had my one arm filled with 250 copies of the paper and my other arm was trying to crack open a newspaper box. Very confidently she approached me, offered her name, placed one hand on my shoulder and the other extended for a hand shake. She immediately mentioned I looked very big and strong and began rubbing my shoulder. Because this is cooky behavior my brain went scanning for obvious signs of cray. None present. She was a well put together woman wearing clothes that would suggest a job working downtown in an office. Maybe closet crazy? A sexually aggressive woman that never learned you shouldn't do this to strangers? Don't know... I didn't offer my hand back because I was busy doing my job. Besides that I am not interested because this behavior is unacceptable to me. And yes, because everyone asks me when I tell this story, she was attractive. In the proper context I would have probably talked to her. But because within 10 seconds of approaching me she'd touched my shoulder then started to place her hand on my chest and got a good rub or two in before I jumped back and mean mugged, I chose to remove her offer from the table. Sorry lady. Just because I'm a man the assumption that I am in a perpetual state of being ready to remove my pants and wiggle is not accurate. She was creepy, she was not invited, and if I had done to her what she did to me I'd of gone to jail.

It's important to reinforce that I am very aware of how different my experiences have been and will continue to be. The sole purpose in sharing a few of my stories is to simply make people aware there is another side of the coin when it comes to street harassment. It would be easy to get into a tit for tat argument over quantity but that's not the point and big doy. Women are at the receiving end more than men and the power dynamic is different. My point is it's never pleasant to be singled out and have your body be thrown on the table to dissect and discuss. I'm proud of how I look and feel confident when I walk down the street. But men/women, it's never an invitation to get your creep on. There are rules. There is etiquette. Stop being weird jerks. Try some charm. And don't try to reach into my pants. Again.

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