There is a discussion that we need, as a society, to be having more – what is sexual harassment? What is sexist or sexual misconduct? In the light of many international rape cases, political sex “scandals” (many of which are less scandalous tabloid material, and more violent criminal behavior) brought to our attention and into our very homes by major news networks, websites, blogs, and Twitter, and in light of countless personal anecdotes that can be related to each of us by every female friend we know (and a large and increasing number of males), it appears to me that a great deal of the population just don’t fucking know how to behave in a manner that is conducive to a lifestyle of not being a fucking sexual predator.
This problem seems especially profound to me when I go out for my weekly runs. Since I started training for a marathon, the amount of sexual harassment I have been subjected to has quadramillionseptrupled* and the amount of sexual assault has gone up by at least 500%** (but we’ll get to that in a minute).
The reasons running has increased my risk of becoming a This Is Personal.org statistic are anyone’s guess. Some might say the synthetic fabrics often worn while doing intense exercise attract sexual predators like a lure. Others might say they are particularly attracted to the smell of sweat, like mosquitoes. I, personally, like to think that it is a case of correlation as opposed to causation, and that the real culprit is not the running at all, but only the increase in time spent outside, away from the warmth and safety of my former, quiet, hermit-like existence, and that the results would have been the same if I skipped the running aspect of the affair entirely.
But my problems are beside the point, this article is about you! You’ve clicked on the title because you would like to learn how not to sexually harass runners (and general members of the public), be it for yourself, or so that you can help that special sexual predator in your life. And for taking that first step in deciding to be educated, I applaud you!
I’ve put together a short list of things NOT to do, if you’re presented with a situation where you might sexually harass someone…
DO NOT CAT CALL/WOLF WHISTLE SOMEONE WHILE THEY ARE RUNNING (OR JUST ANY TIME, EVER)
So you see a runner and, for whatever reason, you decide you would like to loudly and aggressively compliment them on their physical characteristics – DON’T.
People have a major beef with this one. Look, there are several things you need to understand about cat calling, wolf whistling, or otherwise shouting things at runners, be they compliments or no…The first of these is that it’s just really, really annoying. A runner is kind of doing their own thing. They’ve got the headphones on, they’ve got some kind of positive thinking and goal planning and shit going on, they’ve got pacing to think about, they’re keeping an eye on the road… they’re pretty much always either trying to zen out or concentrate, neither of which is enhanced by the sound of a muffled shouting voice over the dulcet tones of whatever music they’re trying to listen to. The second is that it’s really weird and kind of scary. It is not the compliment you possibly intend it to be, especially when it is directed at someone who is aware of the fact that they are pale, sweating profusely, greasy with suntan lotion, wearing mismatched workout gear, and marked by a shining great big red pimple on their forehead. Especially when it’s a woman. You see, women their whole lives are told not to go out alone after dark, even in a safe neighborhood, not to trust friendly strangers, not to accept drinks poured out of their view from even people they know. In short, we are raised to feel suspicious and afraid, and rightly so. As I said before, the world is a treacherous place and sexual assault is a very real danger to all of us. So, when we get cat called the result is something that sounds a lot more like a threat: “I’m not going to get you now, but remember to be afraid of me!”
Do Not Sexually Assault A Runner (Or Anyone Else)
Since you know you cannot catcall a runner, you decide instead to express your feelings in a more physical way, by reaching out and touching them – DON’T.
Sexual assault includes groping, grabbing, bra snapping, sexual intimidation, attempted rape – need I go on? I have had people grab me as I run past and have had to dodge people leaning in to kiss me as I pass. Again, this is not the innocent flirtation you might think it is. Trying to kiss someone, or touch them against their will (or coerce them in any way) is sexual a-fucking-ssault. It’s as simple as that.
Do Not Stalk Or Follow A Runner (Or Anyone Else) In A Vehicle Or On Foot
So you’ve seen a runner you’re interested in romantically, driving past on your car, or riding past on your bicycle, or even just out for a walk. You decide to do the brave and gentlemanly thing and not sexually harass or assault them, but simply ask for their number. They shake their head and carry on with their training. Upset at this, you decide to follow them around at their pace – JESUS, DON’T YOU HAVE SOMETHING BETTER TO DO?! – DON’T
This is beyond creepy. You will not improve your chances of getting someone’s number by following them around while they are out on a run, or ever. If you want someone’s number, go to a bar and stop acting like Ted Bundy. Also, if you happen to be in a car, or a goddamn lorry during rush hour: WATCH THE ROAD FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!
Do Not Rape A Runner (Or People in General)
So you can’t cat call, can’t touch, can’t stalk, can you at least rape?
So, What Can I Do When I See A Runner Then?
Leave them alone. Or if you really want to show them your support, you can give them a friendly wave or a nod. Or donate to their cause. Or buy some shoes and join the running club yourself!
Have a great day and Happy Not Sexually Assaulting! 🙂
**Also an estimate.