Metro Diary: Getting Harassed by THAT Guy

Transferring to the Blue Line from the Green Line at Imperial-Wilmington. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

AS A FEMALE WHO tends to move unaccompanied through the city by bike or on foot, I get harassed.

A lot.

Several times a day.

Every day.

As in, I often can’t make a move in public without someone reminding me I have lady parts and/or offering to service them.

The intrusions range from hilarious declarations of love and proposals of marriage to bizarre flashes of drive-by penis from masturbating motorists to more frightening threats of rape and associated mayhem from those whose advances I spurn. Sometimes the intrusions are physical — a smack on the behind while I’m riding from a passing motorist or an opportunistic grope in a crowd — and sometimes I am offered cash for services I do not provide.

The less obvious but more frequent kind of harassment often comes in the form of that guy.

That guy on the street that decides to walk with me while I’m trying to do unobtrusive street photography. That guy that thinks he’s the only one that has ever asked me whether the bike I am riding is actually mine, how far I go on a daily basis, where I am coming from, where I am going, and can he ride with me. Or, as happened yesterday, that guy on the train that loudly decided to make me his new best friend and involve the whole train car in the process.

I heard him as soon as I stepped onto the Blue Line at Imperial-Wilmington. He was loudly talking at a woman sitting across from him about things that seemed to make no sense.

Catching her eye, I gave her a questioning look, silently asking whether she needed some help. In that moment, he spotted me standing at the front of the car and it was all over.

“Amiga!” he shouted, gesturing to the seat next to him. “Siéntese aquí!” (Sit here, friend!)

No, thanks, I told him in Spanish. I’m fine where I am.

And, I was. I had just come in from the airport and had a small suitcase with me, giving me an excuse to stay right where I was.

But he wouldn’t take no for an answer.

You’re going to get tired standing up like that, he shouted. I can see you are already falling asleep. Come here so I can talk to you.

Although that is kind of you to be concerned about my welfare, if I come over there you are going to talk to me more than you already are, I volleyed, So, I would prefer to stay over here.

Several of the Latina passengers began giggling to themselves.

Unfortunately, as most women know, the beauty of that guy is that he generally reads outright rejection as a sign of interest.

I like the way you look, he shouted and began offering other passengers a blow-by-blow description of me as he looked me up and down.

Instead of realizing he’d now gone too far and calling him out on him it, a couple of passengers looked up from their reading or phones and checked me out.

Chivalry is indeed dead, I thought.

Not even the Washington Ave. Jesus would intervene to help a girl out. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

So, this is your thing, no? I asked. This is how you spend your time? Harassing women on the train?

He was undeterred.

The guy sitting in front of me looked at me sympathetically but said nothing.

Four more stops til the 7th St. Metro Station.

The attention continued.

What is your name?

Where are you going?

Where are you from?

You sound like you might be from Argentina. I think you are from Argentina.

I think you look very nice.

Why don’t you come sit here?

I looked out the window as he prattled on loudly. I’ve been through worse.

When I lived in Spain, I was physically assaulted four or five times a day, on average. The worst incident entailed being painfully groped while surrounded by 10 guys on 5 mopeds. They had caught up to me as I rode my bike along a stretch of country road outside Sevilla, encircled my bike, and assaulted me as we sped along at almost 20 miles an hour. I genuinely thought I was going to die.

The assault went on for what seemed like forever. People in the small towns we passed through watched placidly from their yards, confused (as they often were) as to why I was on a bicycle and probably thinking (as even my own roommates did) that I had purposely invited that kind of attention by virtue of having been on the bike in the first place. Nobody called out to the boys to stop and nobody called the police.

It only ended because I caught one guy by the collar and threatened to yank him off the back of the moped. At that point, half an hour into the attack, I am guessing I looked crazed enough to be serious about potentially killing one of them. They freaked out and took off.

An annoying guy on a train, therefore, did not faze me.

Until he grabbed my suitcase as I was exiting the train.

“Come on, amiga!” he said, pulling at my things. “Let’s go!”

Now he’d really crossed the line. I gave him a shove and a few choice words.

People looked at me like I was the aggressive weirdo.

I sighed.

“What ever happened to ‘see something, say something’?” I muttered to myself as passengers crushed by me, eager to get off the train.

“Shouldn’t this qualify as ‘something’?”

Women, do you have stories of harassment on public transit? Please share them with me at sahra(at)streetsblog.org.

50 thoughts on Metro Diary: Getting Harassed by THAT Guy

  1. Well, I for one hope that you paid for that transit ticket – otherwise one of our fine Sheriff’s will be waiting outside the train somewhere in an air conditioned automobile to write you a hefty ticket.

    Browne Molyneux, formerly of the Bustard blog, has broken down and bought a car after too many years of harassment and being late to everything on LA’s public transit.

    I ride home late at night ready for anything, but I am a male and can credibly provoke fear in most people simply by being awake and non-intoxicated. I modify this by holding a bike lock in my hand when I am really paranoid.

    If I were a woman, I feel that there are a great many symbolic gestures of aggression that would simply be ignored because I was a woman.

    Having to live in that headspace where you are constantly on the alert is taxing. I hate coming home because I know where I have to go and what might happen when I pass through there.

    If you want to borrow bike lock, I will happily loan you one.

  2. sorry that happens to you. i apologize on behalf of these pigs. i agree when they most pen are pigs. many are also cowards. i feel like i am one who sometimes sticks his nose in where it doesn’t belong (and get scolded by my fiance), but if i were there i would really, really hope i’d say/do something. otherwise, i don’t think i’d be happy with myself for a VERY long time. be safe.

  3. My most harrowing instance of harassment on transit occurred, actually, after getting *off* transit and waiting for a ride home. (This is not shocking. Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris has written about how one of the major factors deterring women from riding transit is their experience waiting for buses and getting to their final destination from buses, particularly at night.) 

    A few years ago, while living in the Valley with my folks, my mother stubbornly insisted on picking me up from Victory and Fulton after I got off a bus at 9:30pm on a weeknight. The bus stop was in front of a 7-11. 

    My parents are not regular transit riders in LA, and they do not understand why I would have preferred to ride my Xootr kick scooter immediately from the stop to their house (roughly 1 mile). They thought I could get followed by a car.

     They did not believe me when I told them that – based on my experience as a captive transit rider and my familiarity with the literature on travel behavior– the period a woman is most vulnerable riding transit in the US is while they are **outside** the confines of a transit vehicle. It’s when they’re waiting for transfers, waiting for rides home, or walking to their final destination. 

    I knew in all my heart that I would’ve been safer Xooting home, risking injury because the sidewalks along Fulton Avenue are unlit at night and have many cracks due to tree roots, than standing at a street corner with a 7-11 whose parking lot was filled even at 9:30 at night with cars with tinted windows with men doing who knows what (probably drug dealing and other shady business). 

    I got harassed four times within the 10 minutes it took for my ride to arrive. 

    I was so angry afterward – at the parents for jeopardizing my safety by not being there to greet my bus, at the city of LA for not maintaining or lighting the sidewalks along Fulton, at the 7-11 for not enforcing anti-loitering regulations, and at the men in that parking lot for conflating their harassment of me with chivalry. 

    http://sirinyamatute.blogspot.com/2009/07/trying-to-get-home-late-on-bus.html

  4. ha ha… he actually shouted me to take his photo when he saw me shooting the jesus out the window. i should have, for journalistic purposes. but it was a photo i couldn’t bring myself to want for posterity. police might respond to that. the shameless do not…

  5. thanks much…i also like to think i’m bad ass and can provoke fear in others, but those others do not have seem to caught on to my bad-assery yet. thus, i do almost always have a lock within reach, just in case…but thanks for the offer. i’m just glad i haven’t had to use it yet.

  6. Great article. You are a lot stronger than I am. Here’s my tale: 
    I stand on a street corner every evening at about 5 PM. Specifically, 7th and Flower in LA. And yes, I’m waiting for a bus. This is a particularly busy corner, with the Metro across the street, a Coffee Bean on the corner, and zillions of different bus connections on all corners of the intersection. I’m not particularly unique – there’s good mixture of genders, races, jobs, etc. The only thing we all have in common is that we stand on the corner, wait for our bus, and pray that THAT GUY doesn’t pick us as his target today. Last week, I was IT. Apparently carrying an orchid (rescued from the office plant service, who was going to throw it out!!!) and wearing a skirt gave me the dubious distinction of earning his attention. While your THAT GUY appears to have a full vocabulary of non-offensive words (or you simply spared us from that assault), my THAT GUY prefers four letter words applied to various parts of my anatomy, his anatomy, imaginary anatomy… all the while moving slowly closer, closer, closer… You have to position yourself strategically or you’ll end up cornered against the travel agent’s window, with this less than sane, less than hygenic person hurling epithets at you, suggesting what can go in where and accusing you of alternately having and missing male genitalia, being racist for not responding to him, being gay (he seems alternately delighted and disgusted by this), and on and on. The whole time, most of the bus riders stare off into space, (secretly glad that they’re not IT today). You consider trying to find a cop (their cars are often parked half a block away) but really, all that would do is make you miss your bus. So you put up with it, until he gets *that* close and whoosh! the kindly Asian grandmother about 5 feet away makes 2 decisive steps towards you, and suddenly you’re peering over her (5′ tall) head as she glares at THAT GUY. He backs off… still talking, and she simply grins at me, turns, and gets on her bus. Bless the (apparently) meek, ’cause they shall protect you from THAT GUY.

  7. I’m pretty the back story to this video was simliar to yours, except the girl decided to throw punches at “that guy”. Fortunately, “SNACKMAN” other some other passengers saved the day.
    http://youtu.be/Erlw-ODVZxU

  8. I was on the Red Line subway a few months back and a guy was standing next to a woman saying perhaps 2-3 sentences, like whats that say on your shirt, to her before he asked for her number. She asked for a piece of paper, wrote down some numbers and then the guy shut up, put on his headphones, sat down across the aisle and never looked at her again. At first I thought, geez that nonsense that this disheveled looking guy said made a positive impression on her? I then noticed that this woman had a wedding ring on. It looks like what she did worked, she got him to stop bothering her.
     
    Another woman recently told me that she takes all of the different Metro trains to visit various sites for the organization she works for. She said that whenever she takes the Blue Line she makes sure to wear a hoodie so that she is not harrassed by men. She told me that one time before she started wearing a hoodie on the Blue Line that a guy asked for her number and she told him she had a boyfriend. He was undeterred, she then told him that the boyfriend lives with her. That didn’t deter him either.

  9. Good thing the turnstiles will be able to ride the trains, walk the platforms and intervene and stop this behavior!

  10. Of course in New York, one is allowed to move freely between the cars of the subway trains.

  11. Every day when I think I can’t be more ashamed of the other members of my gender, I find something new. I’m sorry that you weren’t on a train car with anyone who had the common decency to stand up to this guy with you.

  12. For a while I had a guy that would drive by the bus stop as I was waiting in the morning, probably at least 3 times a week, and he would honk and wave. It both disturbed and confused me. Did he think I would be “attracted” to his honk? One day I’d go running after his van, screaming “Wow, now THAT’s a horn I’d like to know!!!” Did he think I’d start flashing him? I have no clue. I texted his license plate and a description to a bunch of people I knew, just in case. Unfortunatly the next bus stop on the route was about a mile away from the one I was at and I already walked 1.5 miles each direction to get to that one.

    There was one time in particular that I was trying to be friendly to a guy that sat down next to me on the train and who began talking casually to me. The conversation suddenly became extremely inappropriate as he tried to whisper in my ear and get closer to me. I said “I can’t hear you” as loud as I could & he told me it wasn’t for everyone to hear (I knew exactly what he had said.) When I said “if everyone can’t hear what you’re saying to me, I don’t want to hear it. Leave me alone!”, I was surprised that no one, no one at all, did anything on. I was effectively trapped in the train car with what seemed to be a bunch of zombies (during rush hour, no less!) As a single while female in the 20-30 age range, traveling the city alone, it’s frustrating to realize that even in a train car full of people, no one at all said anything to support me, distract him or get him to shut up and let me out of the seat. Really? And I felt like I had to keep him in my view after the interaction because I wanted to make sure he didn’t get off the train at the same time as me and follow me home. (I’ve both had people offer to walk me home before as well as follow me to my destination without saying anything to me and following me for nearly a mile at night time where not much of anything was open.)

    I’m lucky to have a lot of guy friends that are always offering to help me out with rides and worry about my safety, but I shouldn’t have to rely on those guys because random people are jerks. I tell them what happens to me because I want them to understand my perspective and share the stories with others, so they understand. It should be safe and I shouldn’t have to be harassed if I want to move around the city I live in by myself.

  13. This actually isn’t surprising. You’re more likely to get a better reaction and support for a small to medium size group than a large group, since the large group would like to pawn off their societal responsibilities on the other guy. The other issue is that the Blue Line goes through all NAM (non Asian minority) communities where generally “ghetto culture” is prevalent. Not to start a flame war or anything, and yes this kind of stuff happens in the Westside too, but the general lack of culture, failure of quality male role models, etc. make riding the Blue Line a dicey proposition, especially at night. One night I was returning from a bike ride in Long Beach when some random guy was getting too close to a teenage girl with her family, asking for her number and all that (this was a middle aged man). The mother or aunt loudly yelled at him and rather than leaving he argued back. Someone not in that group did get next to him and made him uncomfortable enough to get off the train.

    Riding the bus you can sit in the front, and yes you may be hit on by the bus driver but at the very least if they get too many customer complaints they may find themselves out of a job. 

  14. A friend of mine was recently visiting from Indiana. I’d complained to him countless times over the phone about dudes being inappropriate, how it wasn’t funny/charming, how it was super offensive and frustrating, etc. On the second day of his trip, after we’d be walking and using transit to get around, he told me, “You know, I always thought you were exaggerating when you talked about being harassed all the time. But you totally weren’t! These guys are terrible! How do you put up with this?! It’s been two days, and I’m ready to punch one of these dudes!” While I was frustrated that it took him watching me get ogled/accosted for two days to believe me, it was nice to feel a sense of validation.

    Does anyone else find that when they complain about this, people (especially men, but not exclusively) don’t take them seriously? I often get jokes like, “oh, how sad, guys hit on you all the time! boo hoo, you’re just too pretty!” It isn’t hitting on, it’s harassing, and frankly it has nothing to do with how I look. It’s the fact that I’m a young woman, period. I know there are definitely way worse places to be female in this world, but I would really appreciate being able to walk down the street or wait for a bus without being harassed.

  15. my ex-boyfriend used to tell me to “get over it” when i would come in steaming because some idiot had managed to smack my behind when they passed me in a car while i was riding my bike. he didn’t get how humiliating it was or how violated it could make you feel. until he got smacked on the ass by some guys while riding through balboa park in san diego. then, he went on and on about how terrible his single experience was for DAYS. meanwhile, it was an everyday thing that was happening to me…it was nice to be able to tell him to suck it up stop being a crybaby.

    it really isn’t so much about how someone looks. i mean, it can be about that, too, but it is much more than just that. it is about the guys trying to exert some kind of control or power or show off in front of their friends. it just sucks that they have to make themselves feel better about themselves by calling out our bodies.

  16. @calwatch:disqus yeah, you knew you were going to open a can of worms by claiming it is “ghetto culture” in “NAM” that makes people behave badly. as an independent female who has lived in a number of countries and moved through upper, middle, and lower-class zones in a variety of cities and cultures, i can tell you with a good degree of certainty that you’re wrong. if there is one thing that seems to be universal across the world, it is the idea that a woman on her own is either looking for something or is in need of something. and that “something” — in the minds of would-be harassers — has to do with their penis. They way they let you know that might be very different, but the outcome is the same — you are harassed. If I have to be harassed, I almost prefer the straightforward, in-your-face catcalls/banter/whatever because it is easy to counter. it is almost too easy to put that guy in his place and humiliate him in front of his friends. I am guessing the main reason nobody jumped to my defense on the train is because I was subtly (and then not so subtly) insulting this guy every time I opened my mouth to him. he was oblivious, but those who spoke Spanish were not, and the women were in stitches–glad that someone finally answered him back. Even the guys probably figured i had it under control and were curious to see how far i was going to push back against him. When you are in wealthier parts of town, the harassment can be more subtle and creepier–you’re not exactly sure if you’re hearing what you’re hearing but yet you feel like you might need a shower because it is gross, whatever it is. 

  17. In situations like what you describe, I (a large guy) would generally feel like I should intervene, somehow. But I also feel like my doing so could escalate the situation from verbal harassment to violence, if the harasser were to percieve my interference as a male-on-male challenge to his dominance, or as a competition for your favors. And it kind of sounds like you had the situation under control.

    If you were to directly ask for help, on the other hand, that might (a) deter him, and (b) signal to everybody else that their intervention is required.

    Anyways, I’m sorry you have to endure that.

  18. I was riding to work one weekend morning and a truck load of guys slowed down behind me and yelled out, “Nice ass!”. I pulled out my pocket knife just as they passed and yelled, “I’m gonna cut your **** tongue out b&%!”

    The guy who yelled screamed like a little girl.

    I laughed and put it away, shaking my head.

    The dude said, “I was trying to get you, but then you got me? Hah!”

    His buddies seemed to think that was pretty funny. I still don’t think it was funny, but I laughed an put my knife away.

    It is a brutal social system that requires such explicit and obvious threats of physical violence to maintain the veneer of social order. I am not a social scientist, but the impunity with which someone can drive by and commit some violent act and then floor it outta there seems to be to reinforce some of the most negative types of behavior.

  19.  Looking crazy, dangerous, and like you’re about ready to kill someone deters most people… but not all.  There’s a subset of harassers who appear to lack even the basics of self-protective common sense.

  20. Two words: Kitty Genovese. 

    It’s unfortunate that people don’t speak up and intervene when they could help. But group behavior has been studied by sociologists, psychologists, and the like. Most people will just “mind their business”. 

    I’m not saying it’s right. I’m a woman who deals with the same kind of harassment other women here have experienced. As much as I would love for people to step up and be heroes, no matter the gender of the person being verbally/physically victimized, I know better than to expect it from people. It’s a bleak look at the world, but I can’t control how other people behave.

    That said, I have stepped in myself to help others against “that guy”. When I was a teen, I had to intervene when a grown woman was spewing racist comments at a little boy on the street. It escalated, and yes people looked at me like I was crazy, but I can control my own behavior. In that moment, I knew I was the only one who could help the boy.

  21. Alicia, I completely relate to your comment!

    I’ve always said that looks have nothing to do with it. These guys could hoot and honk at someone in a burlap sack. Doesn’t make a difference how “pretty’ you are. It’s the fact that one is a woman that calls their attention. They feel entitled as if we’re mere possessions.

    My mother is probably the biggest defender of those guys. She was raised in a Central American country where bad behavior is commonplace. I think the women get brainwashed into thinking it’s flattering, or at least, she was brainwashed to think it. Whenever I would complain to my mom, she would tell me that the men aren’t doing anything to me or taking anything away from me by staring (creepily) or whistling or making gestures. But they are taking away something from me: my safety, my dignity, my right to just be.

  22. The problem, as I see it, is that those that need to read this won’t read it (possibly because some of them cannot read) and are not looking at Streetsblog. The beta males that post here are already opposed to harassing women and are quite ashamed of their gender (*rolls eyes*). In other words, posting this on Streetsblog is preaching to the choir.

    There are several places where spreading the message would be more useful, the first being the actual places where the harassment is occurring. This could be done in an unofficial or official capacity, with or without the support of Metro.

    In order to get the support of Metro, you might take the message to the Metro board. You could ask for an advertising campaign. The agency loves to get involved in feel-good campaigns that make the politicians look good without really doing anything. 

    You could ask for zero tolerance enforcement, which would be more useful. Put in undercover officers that look for signs of harassment, ready to remove harassers from the train and arrest them. Metro should go one step further and seek a temporary restraining order on anyone arrested for harassment until they realize they can only use the service if they can ride without bothering anyone. If they are found on transit again harassing people, they should receive an event greater punishment, like a citation or the death penalty. I don’t know.

    Failing that, there’s not much I can say that won’t be considered universally offensive here, such as advocating that women carry weapons (just try to get a CCW permit in LA County, Sahra, you don’t count as “good cause”). Any cultural explanations are verboten here, as making such an argument is probably more taboo than harassing a woman on the train. Everybody is equally harassed everywhere in Southern California and there are no differences across racial or class lines. There is no one place where it happens more than any other place. So we have that at least.

    Anyway, based on the article, we’re not as bad as Spain, apparently. That’s something to celebrate.

  23. Solution? 
    http://dcist.com/2012/04/metro_launches_anti-sexual_harassme.php

    An advertising campaign is not enough. It has to come with enforcement and real consequences for offenders.

    Of course, I would also be worried about the line between harassment and simple interaction. Also, on busy trains, it can be difficult not to bump into people while getting on or off the train, so I hope there are not misunderstandings. 

    It may be worthwhile to examine how the project is going in DC, unfortunate wording and all. Faceless bureaucratic can’t even operate the buses and trains right, so I’m not sure how effective they will be at achieving social change.

  24. C’mon, at least this article was better than the usual “Bart’s People” we get.

  25. As a (male) onlooker, if I were witness this scenario of two people initially bickering back and forth in a train car I wouldn’t dare intervene. Who’s to say that they aren’t friends or have some prior knowledge of one another?

     If I were to tell the man to back off or pipe down I might be:
    – Starting a fight if the man has to prove his “macho”
    – Treating the woman as if she needs a Man’s protection from all the evils of the world
    – Invading the personal space of two associates and imposing my values on them

    However, if someone were to tell another person “Stop it” in plain English I would be happy to intervene and tell the offender that they need to stop or they will face repercussions. The passive-aggressive ”
    Although that is kind of you to be concerned about my welfare, if I come over there you are going to talk to me more than you already are. So, I would prefer to stay over here. ” does not indicate that the person has a desire to stop communicating.

    If I “swoop in” to break up an interaction where no one says anything that indicates that they are upset, how is my attitude of “women are in need of my protection” any less insulting than “women are in need of my skeeziness”?

    TL;DR Next time, try “Stop it”/”Enough”/”Basta” instead of snark, people are more likely to respond

  26. Thank you for this post Sahra, sorry you and other women have to deal with this so much. This topic doesn’t get near enough attention, at least in LA.  Maybe it doesn’t easily make it into often semi-Aspergy discussions of spatial urban design and hardware, bikes and (famously Aspergy) trains, that transportation activism is usually focused on.

    “take the message to the Metro board.”  And
    maybe do so with a subtly implied threat that they need to do
    something serious and soon or face a gender discrimination and/or sexual
    harassment legal and publicity crisis.  Then they can show that they are
    being proactive.  Then again, maybe don’t expect them to
    respond unless it’s accompanied by a few old fashioned protests.  And this might be a popular protest for a lot of the high energy
    progressive groups out there.

  27. Thanks for this article (which reminds me a bit of this one by Elly Blue: 
    http://takingthelane.com/2012/05/24/street-harassment-anatomy-of-a-pain-in-the-ass/ ) – I’ve been thinking about it all week. I am male, 6’3″ tall, 250+lbs, white – all those combine for a whole lot of privilege in moving through public space with very little fear of harassment. I’ve intervened in a couple dozen situations like this – on trains, buses, stations, sidewalks – mostly fights between people smaller than I, but 3-4 times with men’s clearly unwelcome hitting on women. Generally moving toward the situation and just saying something (“hey – don’t be mean – go easy”) can diffuse things… When it’s clear that someone is watching, bullies often turn out to be fairly cowardly. I think that we shouldn’t expect Metro to solve this… but that we all should be aware of our surroundings, and should call out sh*tty behavior like this…

  28. The things that wear me down the most aren’t things like butt grabs or getting followed to my office, it is the loss of my ability to relax on the metro.  I can’t relax, I don’t like feeling like I want to ignore people.  I avoid making eye contact, I wear headphones and ignore people around me to make it harder for men to try to talk to me.  

    I never want to be asked/told again:
    -Whether I have a boyfriend
    -What country I am from
    -If they can shake my hand (or have someone just puts out their hand for a shake)
    -I am beautiful (thanks but no thanks)

  29. Glad to see this get mucho comments.  But be prepared for more of this ladies, because of Zev’s insistence that they will increase revenue, all the LASD employees you see now on platforms and the few that are actually on the train will move up to the faregates, and then only those on the Red/Purple line. 

    There isn’t even any money in the budget to adequately staff the currently installed gates, so forget plain-clothes personnel.

    And to think this was all due to HRH Yvonne Burke’s constituents apparently not being able to understand what the words “Ticket Required Beyond This Point” meant.  Oh and the whole “terrorist” canard. 

    Now look who will be getting terrorized?

  30. YES! Just saying SOMETHING and letting the person harassing actually know that someone else is paying attention can go very far! That’s part of what my problem was in the situation I described about my Red Line incident. The guy didn’t want to let others know he was talking to me very explicitly about oral sex, but if someone even let him know they were listening by asking something or saying something, it would really help. Even if, as a female, you say something, the guy would now have to deal with 2 people instead of one, which is enough to make a lot of people back down. It becomes more of a hassle.

    I didn’t grow up in LA, but I’ve been here about 10 years. I’ve often told people the city seems so lonely because so many people advert their eyes, keep their sunglasses on, hole themselves up in their cars and other very insular behaviors. I wish people were more engaged with what was going on around them. In the meantime though, as TAPman mentioned, I am somewhat disturbed by the turnstiles being locked and what it means for my safety on the train since so many people seem to leave the duty of paying attention to their surroundings to someone else and now the sheriffs will be manning turnstiles. When there were open walkways, surprisingly, no employees were needs to make sure everyone could still move through the station and get out in an emergency. Those employees could be on the platforms and trains, where most people riding the trains are as well. 

  31. Except that some other women do. Now I agree, that if your sunglasses, headphones, and hoodie don’t do it, nothing else will. But some women to dress to get attention. Saying hello or starting conversation is not harrassment, and you should always have a choice to disengage from the conversation. But you can’t preemptively attack someone for giving you a compliment. That is totally unfair.

  32. I lived in NYC for many years before moving to LA and have ridden subways, buses, and bikes in both cities. I absolutely agree that the harassment is unacceptable, frustrating, and ridiculous. That said, I urge women (and men) to NOT engage with harassers. One of the commenters noted that you have to seem angry or crazy. I’d add proactive and disengaged. Proactive in moving your seat, switching cars, standing next to the bus driver, asking for help, etc. Disengaged in that you do not make eye contact, do not engage in conversation with harassers, do not give them the time of day. I have seem too many situations where a woman will stay seated next to a harasser on a bus instead of busting out of the way and moving somewhere else. Let me be clear–I am not “blaming the victim” at all. I’m simply encouraging my sisters to do whatever you need to do to stay safe and sane. Perfect the “don’t *!@# with me” zen avoiding eye contact distant stare.Stay aware. And don’t get discouraged from continuing to claim the streets and public space. To all the male commenters, I’m heartened by your goodwill. Please remember these experiences and perspectives when you engage in bike advocacy.

  33. I used the follow Browne Molyneaux’s blog (until it started setting off my malware alarm–she may have been “hacked” like some of the other blogs I scan).  She used to publish the (single digit) percentage of Metro employees who actually use their company’s buses and trains (and they can ride on their free passes!)  If Ms. Browne felt it necessary to buy a car, that means things are beyond “bad” to “truly disgusting.”
    But this is nothing new–when my first wife was a teenager in the 1950’s, the only child of a widowed mother, she rode the local buses in Monrovia and Pasadena.  There was a man who rode the same buses and harassed teenage girls, and this impelled her to scrape up enough money to buy a third-hand 1950 Kaiser sedan.  When this failed she bought a 1948 Buick Roadmaster from a schoolteacher friend of my mother.  To the best of my knowledge, she never rode a bus again.
    Here’s a story that doesn’t involve public transit, but since this is Streetsblog, I’ll add it to
    the mix:  Back in 1978, another tech and I were doing some work at the SCE Long Beach Office Building.  For lunch, I suggested a restaurant on Pine Ave. that a friend of mine had an interest in.  We were walking along First St., and encountered a young woman being harassed by a “street person” (crazy middle-aged white male).  She asked for help, so my colleague and I took up positions on either side of the woman, and the weirdo backed off.  The “One step closer and you’ll get my steel toe safety shoe….” look I gave him may have helped.  We escorted her to the next corner, where she headed toward her destination and we went to lunch on Pine Ave.  The more I thought about this event, the angrier I became.  It’s just as well that the weirdo was nowhere in sight when we headed back to work, because I would have been sorely tempted to put some major hurt upon this creep, landing him in the hospital and me in the Long Beach hoosegow (and probably out of a job). 

  34. well, nothing has changed here in Spain, either…..at least we had the Guardia Civil to protect us on our rides, hey (;    

  35.  ha ha, mari em… i wish. the first question la guardia civil always asked me was whether i was married. the second was whether i would like to be. to one of them. even though they were usually married themselves. wedding rings were never barriers for those guys… besotes.

  36. Well here’s another “random men harass woman minding her own business” story – and of course, it’s the Blue Line, at 10:30 p.m. at night: 
    http://unwinona.tumblr.com/post/30861660109/i-debated-whether-or-not-to-share-this-story

    Let’s be fair here, though – the first group was probably kids that wanted to tweak someone smaller/less muscular than they were and bike man was probably a 5150 or close to it. And with empty trains, on a weekday evening, I am unfortunately not surprised that half her commutes home are terrible. Drunks and mentally ill people are better off taking public transit than driving, but short of aggressive TSB policing (which could lead to the other problem in the Pasadena Weekly article, of overly ambitious cops that want to show their stuff to their peers), I’m not sure what there is to do.

  37. @Spokker:disqus Awareness is a start. While it would be nice to have officers on trains, that’s not feasible. Start by raising awareness, which enables a community to address a problem together. As awareness is raised, enforcement and consequences will follow. That will also take work, but we have to start somewhere.

    Re: DC, the anti-harassment reporting site is being used. Not sure how much success they’ve had yet, but it’s a start. http://blogs.gwhatchet.com/newsroom/2012/09/06/metro-ramps-up-anti-sexual-harassment-campaign-adds-posters-in-every-train/

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  39. I’m always being Harassed on the Red Line people stare at me ALL the time and go out of their way to start drama with me, I literally go on there and mind my own business while everyone around me passes me dirty looks because I’m attractive and well dressed.
    But that guy was dirty disgusting creep next time threaten to call the police! Carry a taser and pepperspray.

  40. Back in the 1950s, my first wife (only child of a widowed mother) got around the Monrovia-Pasadena area on the local bus system. There was a man who would harass young women and teenage girls (not sure whether it was just verbal or got physical) on the bus. As soon as she could afford one, she bought a third-hand used car, and never set foot on a bus again. She was one of those “I will give up my car when they pry my cold dead hands from the steering wheel” types, and looked upon adults who did not drive with contempt. (for the record, I divorced her in 1987, and she died in 1999.)

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