12 Little Ways You’ve Probably Experienced Sexual Harassment Without Realizing It

Sexual harassment is so common that sometimes you don’t even realize it’s happening to you. Here are 13 things we as women have learned to almost take for granted even though we really shouldn’t.

  1. When someone asks you to get something that involves reaching up or bending over just so they can enjoy the view Yes, this is a thing. Yes, it happens in women’s workplaces. Yes, it may have happened to you. Unfortunately, you probably won’t suspect anything is off unless it happens regularly and in a way that’s blatantly obvious.
  2. Being told by a man that your outfit is too revealing A stranger on the street being “helpful” by telling you your bra is showing or commenting on the length of your skirt is not OK. Sure, women sometimes do stuff like this for another woman as a service. Nobody wants to go around with her panties showing cause she tucked her skirt in wrong. But when a man walks up to you to discuss your undergarments for no apparent reason, not so much.
  3. When a guy sits way too close on public transport despite there being plenty of empty seats further away Nope, probably not an accident. You can tell by the fact that the bus isn’t really crowded, and yet this creeper is definitely crowding you.
  4. Being told to smile on the street Would this guy tell the dude next to you to smile? Does he assume men owe him a smile and a sunny disposition? No? Well, that’s gender-based street harassment right there. Watch his sunny disposition turn to abusive rage when you dare call him out on it. Every. Single. Time.
  5. When you decide what to wear based on how much hassle you’ll get on the street The sad fact is that men don’t even need to actively harass women anymore for women to have internalized the oppression. Every time you stand by the mirror before going out and wonder whether you have the mental capacity to deal with sleazy men sliming over you if you dress sexily, you’re experiencing sexual harassment.
  6. Getting an unsolicited dick pic I mean, this one’s obvious, right? Or is it? Both men and women often seem to think that what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet, especially if you’re on a dating site or app. “But she signed up to a dating site” is the new “she was asking for it”. Unless you did specifically ask for it, this is sexual harassment in its purest form.
  7. Someone at work (or anywhere else) commenting on your body Hello, what? If your boss or a co-worker compliment you on your choice of outfit, that’s nice of them. If they start talking about your body parts, that’s creeper country (not to mention potential lawsuit country). Nobody you work with should find it even remotely acceptable to make personal comments like that. You really don’t want to know what your male boss thinks about your boobs.
  8. Dudes telling sexual “jokes” around you to make you feel uncomfortable Different things make different people laugh. I get it. Sometimes guys just tell the jokes they tell each other and forget there’s a woman in the room who may be offended. I mean, hell, she might not even be offended, right? The fact that these same guys would (likely) not dream of telling a racist joke in the presence of a POC is probably an indication that there is a problem here. Another major red flag is if you’ve clearly expressed that such jokes offend you and are still presented with them, often on purpose because you’ve spoken up. If that’s the case then yeah, this is totally harassment.
  9. That extra long, unwanted hug People are so keen to give out free hugs even if you don’t want them. Strangers will leap out at you at parties, festivals and God knows where else to force a supposedly human connection on you. Even guys you know may hold a hug for far too long and stand far too close. Most of us just let those things slide because, you know, on the grand scale of things, it’s pretty far from actual rape. It’s still very much non-consensual touch, though.
  10. Guys initiating inappropriate conversations about sex This is especially true in work situations, when asking you about your sex life or bringing up sex as a topic of conversation is really not appropriate for a boss or co-worker to do. Of course, this isn’t limited to work interactions, but the lines blur when it comes to friends and acquaintances. On the other hand, strangers, taxi drivers, builders and a whole other people you have no sexual relationship with are really not the right people to bring up your sex life (or theirs) in conversation.
  11. Catcalling Yeah, street harassment based on gender is sexual harassment. The fact that we’re so used to it doesn’t mean it’s not a thing.
  12. A guy coercing you into giving him your number/agreeing to a date despite your previous refusals Pressuring a woman (or anyone, really) into what is deemed a romantic or potentially romantic engagement when they’ve said they are not interested is harassment. All those pickup artist tricks to get you to give out your phone number even though you didn’t want to? Yup, harassment. This is another one that is incredibly common. It’s also comparatively harmless so many women don’t even register it. Maybe you will once you start seeing it as what it really is—a consent violation.
Writer, artist, intrepid traveler and lover of cats, cheese and techno music. Preferably not all at the same time.