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No One Is Immune. I Am Not Immune.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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TRIGGER WARNING. Describes unwanted contact, may be triggering to survivors of harassment or assault.

*     *     *

No woman is immune.

*     *     *

“Don’t I know you from the gym?”

A trim, older man is smiling in line in front of me at the allergist’s office. He does look familiar.

I smile a little. I name my gym and he nods. “Yeah, you’re the one who’s always so serious. You work really hard. The rest of us are just there to socialize and be healthy.”

I explain that I play roller derby and need to keep up with my teammates.

“Oh yeah?” He’s standing a little closer to me now. It’s his turn in line and I motion him forward, away from me. He doesn’t move at first, though I saw he noticed my gesture. Then he reaches out to me. His hand clasps my bare upper arm from the inside – his right hand gripping my right arm – then he runs his thumb slowly over the muscle, feeling it. “Guess you need to get these strong to elbow the other guys, huh?”

I do nothing, just stare at his hand on my body, intimate, almost brushing my chest. He pulls his hand away slowly, his fingers remaining on my skin as long as possible. I make some sort of reply, smile frozen on my face. He touches me again, on my other arm this time, before smiling and moving to the next receptionist.

After I check in with a receptionist myself, I rush to the bathroom and stay there for a while so I don’t have to interact with the man in the waiting room. When I come out, he’s gone.

I spend the rest of the day thinking about this interaction and what I could have done differently. I feel like an idiot for doing nothing, then like an idiot for overthinking it. But it doesn’t feel harmless, and I feel the man’s unwelcome touch – the way he lingered on my skin – every time I think about it. I am sick with disappointment in myself and in this man.

*     *     *

The next day, I quit work a bit early. I’d been burning the candle at both ends for two months, working far too many hours, and I wanted to treat myself to a nice long workout. There’s a part of me that thinks about the man who goes to my gym, and how I probably won’t see him since I’m going on a different day and time than I usually go. I drive over, get changed, and warm up.

I love my gym. I have always felt respected by the men who work out there – they’re meatheads, but they’re my meatheads. I’ve received compliments from the men there several times about whatever workout I happen to be doing, but it’s always felt collegial, like they’re impressed with me rather than looking to sexualize me. They keep their physical distance and we have all sorts of conversations, about exercise, about the weather, about our jobs and of course about roller derby. To some extent, the men who work out at my gym are the reason I keep going back and keep pushing myself.

My heart sank when the man showed up, right as I was starting the first portion of my workout. I was trying to time only one minute of rest between exercises, and I had already gone long once because I wanted to congratulate one of the trainers, a non-traditional student who had just graduated from college.

So of course the man approached me between sets, standing far too close to me, smiling about my serious workout. “What are you doing today?”

“Just trying to fit in some plyo.”

“What’s that?”

“Plyometrics.” I was smiling in a forced way, trying not to be too friendly in the hope that he’d go away.

“Oh, I have a degree in exercise science from back in the day, I never heard of that.” I just nod. “Well, have a good workout.” His hand brushes my arm, then he turns and leaves. We interact a few more times as I head to various parts of the gym for interval training and stretching, and each time I’m careful to only meet his eyes for a second. My seriousness becomes a shield.

*     *     *

I tell my husband that night – I’m not sure why I kept it from him the day before, except maybe a fear I was overreacting. My husband is more upset than I had been expecting. He asks why I didn’t ask the man to not touch me when I saw him the second time (he asked not in an accusing way, but out of real curiosity).

“Here’s the thing,” I say. “I could be very careful and polite, and try to bring him in as an ally. I could explain why what he is doing is making me uncomfortable. And I could convert him. Or, he could become an enemy, and tell me I’m a bitch, and make my time at the gym hell.”

We talk about discussing the issue with the gym staff, but the worst offense didn’t happen at the gym. What can I really say to them? And would they support me or would they make me feel like I’m overreacting? There’s no code of conduct that I know of, no policy about how to treat others. I probably signed something when I joined a few years ago, but whatever it said is long gone from my memory.

It was only during this conversation with my husband last night, problem-solving, that the ridiculousness of the situation hit me:

I am the principal investigator on a research project on sexual harassment and assault. I am a physically strong, capable, smart woman. I play a full contact sport, and I don’t take crap from anybody. One might think I am one of the least likely targets for harassment or assault… except, of course, for the small matter of being gendered female.

The gendered role into which I’ve been acculturated rendered me completely helpless when that man ran his hand suggestively across my skin. My fear of making a scene in the waiting room, of upsetting who seemed to be an otherwise kind man, of somehow reacting excessively outweighed my physical and mental discomfort. Then, a lack of clear guidelines or reporting mechanism meant that I had nowhere to turn after the fact.

Though I have been harassed and worse before, until this week, there had been a small part of me that thought that working on this research project would render me invulnerable from further altercations. I don’t know if I thought I would just give off a vibe, or if I thought I would suddenly develop a witty repertoire of comebacks.

But none of these things happened. I was just as frozen as every other time.

I am not immune.

Kate Clancy About the Author: Dr. Kate Clancy is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois. She studies the evolutionary medicine of women’s reproductive physiology, and blogs about her field, the evolution of human behavior and issues for women in science. Find her comment policy here. Follow on Twitter @KateClancy.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. David Kroll 8:27 am 06/9/2013

    I’ve read this post a few times and wonder if the guy just doesn’t understand how threatening and inappropriate his actions are. You and others know me as a pretty “touchy” and physically demonstrative guy but I would never, ever do this in line with someone I don’t even know or only recognize from seeing in a club or gym.

    I find that many guys are ignorant oafs who behave as they do simply because they never learned what physical contact and context is inappropriate. I know that you don’t want to engage with him. But part of me wishes that he would read this post and explain what was going through his mind to think that his actions were not offensive. It’s not your job or the job of any woman to call guys out to their face on this kind of behavior. But I’m very sad to say that behavior I see around my town is because guys never learned any better.

    So here’s what I suggest to your male readers: if you witness any incidents like Kate describes, tap the fella on the shoulder and say, “Hey pal, that’s really not appropriate.” Outside of parenting boys, I can’t think of any way where I can be effective in changing the behavior of men who’ve been doing this for 20, 30, 40 years or more.

    I’m so sorry that you’ve had to agonize over this.

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  2. 2. undercoverwaitress 9:10 am 06/9/2013

    There are social conventions that are well-known; they include not grabbing a stranger’s arm. Once a man does this to a woman he does not know, he has broken a major social rule.

    As a woman who has been trained in self-defense, that is the moment it is perfectly appropriate to raise your voice and scream, “Get your hand off me!” I appreciate that the author had reasons to not be comfortable doing this; we all have to make this choice in the heat of the moment.

    I appreciate David Kroll’s sentiment that boys (and men) do need to be taught appropriate behavior. I question, however, the validity of the “ignorance” on the part of so many men who choose to treat women in a disrespectful manner. I believe it is less about ignorance, and more about power and the fact that he can get away with it.

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  3. 3. stephaniedavidson 10:32 am 06/9/2013

    I’m immediately taken to one of several such incidents: in line at a local coffeeshop, and someone’s hand on my lower back. Sitting at another local coffeeshop, someone first asking to sit with me, and later snapping his fingers to get my attention as I’m waiting – outside – for my ride, headphones on and head down. For me, it’s not about the magnitude of the intrusion/touch, it’s about the ocean of feelings that cascade in those moments when someone steps on and over the line. Just be cool, he’s going to go away in a minute. Is this really happening? Does no one else see? Raging, but be calm. Should I be? Am I overreacting? Shame. Fear – what happens next? Awkward pause. Paralysis. I can think of a handful of things in the hours after those moments, snarky words and ways to call attention and shame this person (that retaliation instinct, after the fact, brings up a separate feeling of shame), but in the middle of the moment I doubt all my own reactions and instincts, and want to just disappear. Thanks for sharing this.

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  4. 4. SallyStrangelove 10:49 am 06/9/2013

    I question, however, the validity of the “ignorance” on the part of so many men who choose to treat women in a disrespectful manner. I believe it is less about ignorance, and more about power and the fact that he can get away with it.

    You are correct to question that assumption that the men who do this are simply unaware of social conventions. You will observe that they are generally capable of following those conventions when interacting with other men. They choose not to follow them in certain situations because they like the little thrill they get out of exerting power over women and making them feel uncomfortable. There’s even research backing this up – look up “Myth communication” on the “Yes Means Yes” blog.

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  5. 5. GeekGoddess 10:53 am 06/9/2013

    Without even thinking about it, I shake off or pull back if someone strange touches me. I do this instinctively. Actually, now that I think about it, I do this as a reaction even if it is someone I know, who I don’t have a relationship with which would normally allow that kind of intimacy. Heck, I saw my ex for the first time in several years, and when he started to hug me, I stepped back without even thinking about it.

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  6. 6. dusheck 1:11 pm 06/9/2013

    Any chance that this guy is just a bumbling idiot is belied by his starting with a put down, a classic pick up strategy. Just google “how to pick up women” and “insult” and you’ll see that an initial put down is a standard approach. In this case, they guy implies that Dr. Clancy is too serious and maybe even a little unfriendly: “Yeah, you’re the one who’s always so serious. You work really hard. The rest of us are just there to socialize and be healthy.” A put down works effectively to put someone on the defensive. In this example, Dr. Clancy immediately explains herself as follows: “I explain that I play roller derby and need to keep up with my teammates.” In reality, no explanation is owed.

    As one blogger on picking up women explains it, “The goal of material in the middle of our compliment-insult scale is to make her aware of her own faults instead of yours. Once the focus is taken off you, she will be much more susceptible to game.”

    The man then physically grabs Dr. Clancy and begins complementing her. This is an utterly transparent (if clumsy) attempt to get inside her boundaries.

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  7. 7. theAlternaprof 2:59 pm 06/9/2013

    This story takes me back . . . to kindergarten. Since I’m a bit of an introvert (as I suspect you are), I prefer to think before I act. When I was a boy, others interpreted this as a sign of weakness. I was hounded relentlessly by bullies and their toadies and as a result, I learned a few things about power, physical intimidation, and psychological warfare.

    (1) There is a simple move to break a wrist grab that anyone can do, no matter how strong the opponent. People should learn to do it reflexively. I’ve used it myself a couple of times. Search YouTube for “wrist grab break”. The trick is to always twist toward the other person’s thumb. This will do a FAR BETTER job of signaling the inappropriateness of grabby behavior than a witty comeback, asking to be let go, or even yelling. And it doesn’t “make a scene” because it makes no noise.

    (2) If all those other guys at your gym know how to treat you respectfully, he does too. But he’s not doing so, on purpose. He is NOT “kind” and he is never going to be your “ally.”

    (3) He’s probing for weakness, and he’s finding it. He probably first studied you at the gym, where your diffident manner seemed to belay your tough body-building workouts. What kind of woman behaves this way, a sexual-assault survivor perhaps? When he called you “serious,” he was mocking you. When you didn’t respond with strength, he made another move, grabbing your arm, etc. Then you hid in the bathroom, another act of weakness that he most definitely noticed. You’re afraid that if you confront him, he’ll make your time at the gym “hell.” Isn’t he already doing that?

    His game is this: He is going to keep escalating, and either you are going to stand up for yourself or you aren’t. His behavior is going to get steadily more outrageous, possibly culminating in attempted rape. If you stand up for yourself, he’s banking that you’ll do it in such a way as to make yourself look foolish and alienate other people. He’s setting you up for this, and has probably already been talking behind your back telling folks that you’re crazy, that you’re hot for him but he doesn’t reciprocate the feeling, or whatever.

    This guy is older and more experienced than you. He has played this game before.

    (4) So, what next?

    Stop thinking like a victim, and start thinking like a chess player. He’s only a human being, and there are plenty of things he is not “immune” to.

    First, talk to the gym staff. No need to give specifics, just tell them he’s been pestering you, but that you are trying to handle it on your own. If they demand specifics, a vague one-sentence answer referencing inappropriate comments/touching is more than enough. Emphasize that you are NOT asking them to intervene YET. You should say something like,”I’m trying to sort this out on my own, but if he keeps this up, one day I’m going to go ballistic on him, and I don’t want you guys to be caught by surprise.” Also make clear that you have no problems with any of the other men there, that you love the place, and that all your unhappiness stems from this one person.

    If you have any friends at that gym, you should quietly have the same conversation with them. If they urge direct action, dissuade them, saying you have a plan. If you don’t have any friends, you should make some, pronto. Stick to your regular gym schedule, both to not signal weakness, and to help insure familiar faces are around. With all these people on alert, they will start noticing and listening when he speaks to you.

    Once this is done, you can confront him. Next time he approaches you, cut him off immediately and tell him that he really pissed you off that day when he grabbed your arm at the doctor’s office, and he’s been pissing you off ever since. You should speak quietly but firmly, with the best Medea hiss you can muster up. If he’s unrepentant, tell him to never speak to you again, and then walk away, even if this means interrupting your exercise routine. If he follows you, people will notice.

    If he apologizes, shrug it off with a scowl. He is NOT SINCERE, he is just moving on to another phase of his game. Under no circumstances accept any attempt by him to “make it up to you” by buying you a drink or who knows what. Tell him if he’s really sincere, he’ll just leave you, a married woman, alone.

    If he keeps bugging you, keep stonewalling him. You need to master your feelings, so that around him you are relentlessly tense and cold, but around everyone else you are warm and friendly. He’s trying to trick you into acting like the “crazy bitch” he wants everyone to think you are. Don’t do it, except when he’s in your face.

    Once you’ve put the word out, time is on your side. You should wait several days or weeks before you finally explode (on purpose, when there is a maximum number of friendly witnesses) and “make a scene” (Heaven forfend!) that attracts the attention of everyone in the building. Heck, maybe you should act weak on purpose, just to mess with him and drag things out. The longer you wait, the better reinforced is the narrative that you’re a patient, reasonable person who tries to solve problems diplomatically. The key is that people must be informed in advance; if you surprise everyone, you will only look like the crazy fool he says you are.

    (5) Of course, all this may turn out to be not the end, but just the beginning of the conflict. In that case, you’ll need tons of professional/legal advice. Write down everything. Keep a positive attitude and think of all this as fodder for your next anthropology book. Make him the rat in your maze.

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  8. 8. abrashtx 10:38 pm 06/9/2013

    So infuriating. Men, every woman has at least one story like this–just ask! I agree with the earlier commenter who advised letting the gym staff know that this creep is making you uncomfortable and has touched you without your permission. For liability reasons, they should have procedures in place to deal with such clients. He is deliberately testing your boundaries and knows what he’s doing. No telling how many other women he’s doing the same thing to!

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  9. 9. Melanie Tannenbaum 11:27 pm 06/9/2013

    Kate: I know we don’t often go at the same time of day, but if you’re speaking about the gym that I assume you’re speaking about, know that you can count me among your (many) allies there. I’m not on the floor staff there, but I am on staff as an instructor – and I have your back.

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  10. 10. MateoTimateo 9:32 am 06/10/2013

    I know that that dynamic between two males is different, but if a man I had never met grabbed my arm I would be totally uncomfortable around him after that. Unless he was straight up aggressive I wouldn’t really know what to make of it, but that feeling in and of itself is uncomfortable.

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  11. 11. DrRachaelF 12:10 pm 06/10/2013

    Also, the “you’re always so serious” is another example of this bizarre entitlement certain types of men seem to have. They think they’re entitled to have women be pleasant to them. “Smile, what’s wrong, don’t you like me?”


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  12. 12. yalmac 6:22 pm 06/10/2013

    I’ve often wondered about the “freezing up” effect. I think it’s probably common to most women. I’ve certainly experienced it. From the very first sketchy comment, inappropriate touch, whatever, your brain just goes out the window – you’re trapped in a sort of stasis where you’re struggling to understand and interpret what’s just happened.

    Are we just socialized so thoroughly to never give offense to a man that it’s a conditioned reaction, or is it one of those things that makes it to your nervous system way before it reaches your reasoning brain? It seems similar to the instinctive reaction of a prey animal to the appearance of a predator. Or maybe it’s like the programmed reaction of female animals who live in social situations where they are dominated by a male…?

    Gavin de Becker, among many others, has pointed out that women must live at all times with the awareness that any man is a potential assailant. This is something I think is very hard for men to understand because it sounds like “paranoia.” But the truth is that a man making *one* sketchy remark to you, or otherwise starting to “test” you, immediately puts you on guard and changes the entire atmosphere for you to one of threat, where you have to very quickly assess risk, and you suddenly find yourself checking the exits, counting the other people on the subway car, looking to see if the verbal harasser is part of a group, etc. It’s probably hard to understand for someone who hasn’t experienced it. Maybe it occurs in men who have been at war, or been assaulted themselves, or otherwise with a past trauma.

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  13. 13. larkalt 8:55 am 06/12/2013

    It sounds like you have abuse-survivor reactions – from being a child where your father or someone with power over you, was invading your boundaries and if you did anything to get them away, you would be punished. [KBHC edited to say: to be clear, yes, these reactions are stemming from past issues, but this is nothing special or new, since I am female and it's par for the course when identifying as this gender. But they are unrelated to my very feminist father, who did a great job raising me.]

    So now when someone does that, you are afraid of punishment in the form of social disapproval.
    Actually I don’t think anyone would disapprove of you if you pulled away from a guy laying hands on you. They would be disapproving of the guy. Almost any adult is aware of this problem with men sexually harassing women. Women have experienced it hundreds of times.
    Except possibly the perpetrator :) Once I brought up an issue with the manager of a deli bar. He put his arm around my waist. I pulled away and made some kind of retort, and frowned. He told me (paraphrasing) that I was silly for not wanting his arm around my waist. The perpetrator will almost always try to make you feel wrong or “too sensitive”.
    I experienced this only yesterday on a social site … I told a guy that women or abuse survivors might be alienated by a comment he made, where he turned beating the hell out of someone’s wife, into a joke. He first told me that most people took it as funning – insinuating that there’s something wrong with me. I explained that all too often after a man marries, he does proceed to beat his wife into a pulp – that’s why his advocating doing this in a metaphorical way, would alienate some people. Then he replied that I was “wearing my feelings on my sleeve” and I should “get real”. I told him it WAS all too real.
    And, I’ve worked out, I’m always intense about it, and I don’t feel at all apologetic. It sounds like you showed insecurity in “explaining” to the guy. The women who don’t want to build big muscles, to me seem like they’re acquiescing to a silly culturally-conditioned stereotype of weakness for women. I (and my sister too!) tend to WANT big muscles to seem less vulnerable – just like men in prison.
    A lot of the time it isn’t necessary to act angry or hostile about pushing people away. If you just say in a friendly way “get your hand off me” he would either have to obey, or if he doesn’t you are in a situation where you need to physically get him off you, start fighting if necessary.
    You and many of us, need to “work through” how to defend ourselves, in therapy, or in a support group – if we were raised in a way that taught us that we couldn’t defend ourselves. I doubt Sciam blogs is a good support group.
    And it’s OK to act in a way that some people might think inappropriate.

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  14. 14. larkalt 12:54 pm 06/12/2013

    OK, I don’t understand then, if it was OK to have those boundaries as a child, why it becomes not OK to have them as an adult?
    Children who are raised with rights to their own space, do react when other people invade.
    For one thing, the sexual harassment is something that starts suddenly when one becomes sexually attractive. Nobody warned me that this would happen, I was taught only a little what to do about it – “if a man puts his hand on you while you’re watching a movie, it’s OK to move away” and for most women it’s much more intense than any sexual harassment they experienced as children.
    I associate my difficulties in dealing with sexual harassment with my father, who WAS domineering, did invade my boundaries, did terrorize me.
    So if you don’t have that kind of training from a powerful man, whence the frozen state, difficulty moving away or somehow repelling the person? One wouldn’t want to get into a physical battle in a medical office unless it’s absolutely necessary – but usually it wouldn’t be necessary.
    Maybe to some extent, it’s easier for an abuse survivor to deal with this kind of thing – I’m used to the idea of brutality and just plain jerks in everyday life.

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  15. 15. lwallman 4:01 pm 06/12/2013

    A slightly different twist: also consider that perhaps may be more of an oafish or generically-manipulative thing, rather than a gender or sexual-harassment thing. I (as a man) have had one or two guys do this to me. Creepy sense of powerlessness and “regret” afterward.

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  16. 16. dgjohnsonstein 12:36 pm 06/13/2013

    Most animals detect weakness in others. It may be a necessary survival mechanism in mammals. It certainly is a subject of sociology. The problem I see is when weak persons cannot put a stop to a problem such as any type of perceived attack that they go to a higher authority or to a group. When a human will not tell a person to knock it off, and then goes to such a higher authority, it is a disservice to society. One should always tell the person before going to a higher authority. I remember working with a woman everyone called ‘the mouse’ because she was so frightened by men. Universally, when asked, people reported that they would like to ‘harm? attack? hurt? her. Of course, we all recognized how antisocial that is, but many of us felt the urge to do something to her. She was not well liked by men or women. This illustrates a universal need to have strong organisms in mammals.

    So now, we have a pseudo-liberal society that seems to be destroying itself over this issue. We study ways in which to protect the weak ( a good thing) but we need to study ways for the weak to protect themselves and for them to overcome their weaknesses. I realize this is a generalization however, at least some attention comes to the weak in the form of psychotherapy.

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  17. 17. Kate Clancy in reply to Kate Clancy 1:05 pm 06/13/2013

    dgjohnonstein, I can tell you’re a fly by commenter, not a regular reader, or else you would not make the mistake of characterizing me as weak, or missing the point of the piece that very strong people can be silenced by gendered cultural conditioning.

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  18. 18. pallas 4:25 pm 06/15/2013

    I once read an article comment by a woman in similar circumstances who became frustrated and shouted “don’t touch me” at a guy at work- and the guy became embarrassed by people looking at him or whatever and backed off… not sure if that helps.

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  19. 19. davidbofinger 9:49 pm 06/15/2013

    Lots of women do find situations like this very stressful. I’ve had other people grab my arm – sometimes nutters, sometimes people trying to sell me something, occasionally flirtatious women – but it never really bothered me and I suspect doesn’t generally bother most men.

    Perhaps the main difference is that women tend to socialise much more thoroughly than men. They have stronger empathy, etc., so they find it more unpleasant to be rude.

    A line I’m fond of, originally delivered I think by Dustin Hoffman, is “Excuse me Sir, you seem to have inadvertently laid your hand on my arm.” Modify tone to taste.

    The effect on women and men is huge because it makes it so much harder for men and women to communicate. I try to talk to women and if I have my girlfriend with me it’s easy but if I’m on my own I see the anti-proposition defences go up in a flash. Many women are so stressed out by having to refuse propositions that they’ll avoid conversations just in case. We all suffer from this, it impoverishes our social discourse.

    I think we’d all be a lot better off if we could get around this. Unfortunately this isn’t really something that can be fixed from the male side because even if most men behave well there will always be some arsehole manchildren making inappropriate approaches and that’s enough to create stress. A more promising approach, I think, is training women to be resilient against the stress of refusing such approaches. There’s some of that in self-defence classes but maybe we need more in purely social contexts, where refusal is kept polite.

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  20. 20. RalphD 4:30 am 06/16/2013

    Such disgusting and actually criminal behavior is, more than anything else, an example of bullying and intimidation, of the worst kind. Abuse like this can certainly be done to a man, but unfortunately women are by far the most common target.

    Something similar, but not nearly as bad, and not sexual in nature, happened to me several years ago. I did not deal with it particularly well, but I did get myself out of danger quickly. Ever since then it makes me feel slightly sick just to think about it.

    I think theAlternaprof’s advice is excellent — about being emotionally prepared, turning the wrist and alerting others in the gym in advance. But even good advice like that will not always work without practice. Do you know anyone who might be willing to role-play this with you? You could act out several scenarios of what this perp/bully/thug says or does, and what you do back. You could practice over and over until it is just routine to break free, turn around and say, “Why are you touching my arm?” or whatever makes sense during the role playing. Calling the police might not be a bad idea, either.

    Even if you decide you prefer to remain inconspicuous when being assaulted — which is your right too — having practiced exposing this guy until it feels routine will be a big help.

    The man you are describing is a criminal. He very likely belongs behind bars. He has done this over and over, probably thousands of times, since childhood. Please do the world a favor by isolating and exposing him for the defective, dangerous, unacceptable caricature of a man he really is.

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  21. 21. davidbofinger 9:37 am 06/16/2013

    RalphD, what particular action would you imprison this man for? It seems extreme.

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  22. 22. bucketofsquid 11:53 am 06/27/2013

    If I recall correctly, in the state of Nebraska, this guy is guilty of third degree sexual assault. The penalty isn’t much but he would be listed as a sex offender if convicted.

    I’ve had a lot of people, both men and women behave similarly toward me. I’ve never know how to react. Most recently I’ve been responding with a slightly louder than normal “Dude! I don’t know where that hand has been!” and edging away. People with innocent intentions are embarrassed but the evil people have always completely backed off so far. For the ones who don’t there is ghost pepper oil. If you can hit their eyes it has a good chance of causing permanent blindness.

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  23. 23. rkipling 11:29 am 07/1/2013

    Dr. Clancy,
    Your most recent post caught my attention, so I read some of these older posts. It would probably become quickly apparent to you, but I would qualify as a drive-by commenter. Had I been in line and paying attention, your discomfort would have been shortened. At the risk of making a scene, I would very likely have told the guy to keep his hands to himself. To her occasional discomfort, my wife would tell you that I pretty much don’t care what other people think.

    I already had the impression that you didn’t take crap from anybody before you wrote it. So, the acculturated gender role comment took me by surprise. All of a sudden it seemed a different person was writing. To affect someone as accomplished and self-confident as you seem to be, acculturation must be a much more powerful effect than I imagined. How do you think this acculturation could be negated?

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  24. 24. vadulak 12:16 pm 07/4/2013

    I read your article the day after I finished a book by Jason Starr entitled “Follower,” a work of fiction that unexpectedly turned out to be a stalker story. The plot involves a guy who gets a job at a health club to locate the girl of his dreams and delusions. It becomes a violent ride of assault and murder. I was expecting a mystery/thriller and ended up in this psychotic story. Not usually my genre, but I was captivated by the evolution of an innocent meeting to violence. Simply reading it made me uncomfortable.

    The relevant point is that health clubs are prime stalking areas, the next-gen of bars, for pick-ups and hook-ups. There are rules at most clubs that preclude inappropriate behavior and harassment by members and guests. I would be interested to see if your study includes this venue as an area of research.

    Personally, in this situation, I would have told the guy, “Back off, dude,” with that look in my eye that meant my 95 lbs of toned little old lady would have a piece of him the next time he touched me.

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