Thoughts too long for Twitter: Street Harassment

Because apparently, I can’t sit down an concentrate on anything before getting this off my chest, here’s what happened on the bus today. It’s not unusual, it’s not new, it happens all the time to me and all the other women around. And I’m still gonna write about it.

I get into the bus, and a guy gestures me to go first on the ticket machine. Afterwards, he goes:

Man: *mumbles so that I have to lean in*
Me: (in German) Excuse me?
Man: *still mumbling* Do you speak English?
Me: Yeah. Yes, I do. Do you need help with anything?

He points to the ticket machine and we have a conversation about the different rates and distances and where he has to go, until I tell him which ticket to get. After this, I walk away to find a less busy place to stand. So far so good.
He follows me and starts asking me questions.

– What’s your name?
– Do you live around here?
– Where are you going?
– Do you take this bus a lot?
– Do you have children?
– Do you have a boyfriend?

At this point, I lie and say I do, already figuring he isn’t the type to just respect my lack of desire to date him. My answers grow more and more taciturn and at the next station a few people get off the bus so I walk away again to find a place to sit.
He follows me again, standing way too close so that my face is at the height of his stomach/crotch.

Man: Hey, give me your number.
Me: No, thank you.
Man: Come on, give me your number. Your boyfriend doesn’t have to know. It’s just as friends. Just as friends, come on. It’s just a phone number. It’s totally normal.
Me: *shaking my head throughout his speech.* No thank you. Very flattering, but no.
Man: It’s just a phone number. Come on, just as friends. Everybody can use friends, right? It’s no big deal, just give me your number, come on.
Me: *Shakes head and turns away*
Man: Come on, you’re not scared of me, are you?
Me: No, I’m not scared of you. *turns away again*
Man: Here, why don’t you come sit with me. There’s plenty of room here.
Me: *ignores him*
Man: Hey, you don’t have to be scared of me. Just sit with me.
Me: I’m good here, thanks.
Man: Yeah I knew it. You’re scared of me, this is so typical…

Now, at this point I was pretty mad. Not just because I actually do have an anxiety disorder and when it gets bad it is exactly situations like that which make it really scary for me to use the bus or even leave my house. But also because he was African, and I suddenly felt like he was calling me racist for that old cliche of having to be afraid of black men. And again, I wasn’t afraid of him at all, I was just pissed off.

Me: Okay, seriously? I helped you, I was nice. I don’t want to go out with you or give you my number. Leave me alone.
Man: *stares* It’s just a damn number…

At this point I just resolutely stared out of the window until my stop came. Of course at this point, he still had the gall to ask me where his stop was and how many more stops to go. And I got off feeling like crap.

Why do these people do this? Like… I just don’t get it.


  1. Thanks for writing about this. I’ve had many interactions like this, and they leave me with many questions (ie, How is ‘just a phone number’ not obviously so much more than that?) I also sometimes struggle to leave the house, and being harassed really intensifies that for me. I’m sorry this happened, I’m angry along with you, and I’m glad to have heard the story.

    • Thank you so much Annabeth! It’s weird, it happens so much. For a long time, I hated wearing make-up because then it happened more, or I was so on guard I don’t make eye-contact with anyone on a bus or tram… but like, how can that be the answer?
      How is it okay that so many men think it’s okay to behave that way?

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