How I Learned to be Afraid of Men

It starts with the warnings. I’m told that it’s dangerous at night. Don’t walk alone at night, don’t be on the sketchy side of town at night, don’t wear revealing clothing at night. Don’t talk on your cell phone when you’re walking home from the bus stop in the dark. It’ll distract you from potential attackers. No, wait. Do talk on your cell phone. It’ll make potential attackers think you have a boyfriend.

After the warnings, it’s the stories. Women I love slip frightening, barely disguised hints into stories about their pasts. Stories that happen at night. I never know the details, but I know I’m not allowed to tell anyone.

When I’m nineteen, I move to Vancouver. It seems gigantic and bustling compared to my little home town. My dad buys me a small canister of dog spray, makes me promise to keep it with me in the city.

First Year. In the dorms, the RAs tell us how to stay safe at UBC. They talk about party culture and date rape. They warn us never to go alone into the Endowment Lands, a large, sprawling forest that separates the campus from the rest of the city. A woman was murdered in there a few years ago, some girls who were raised in the city tell me. They never found the man who killed her.

I make friends quickly with a group of girls. We go out to bars on the Granville Strip. It’s one of the last weekends of summer, and the street is packed. Neon signs overhead paint the street bright red, orange, and pink. Men come up to us. They try to talk to us but the street is too loud. “No thanks!” We all call to each one. We don’t even know which one of us they want to talk to.

More men approach us and they get in between us. We link arms in order to stay together. More men come. They take us by the shoulders and pull us apart. We shake them off, spin away from them, regroup. At first, we were laughing, but not anymore. We link arms tighter.

A man is sitting on the sidewalk across the street from us. I make eye contact with him. A mistake.

“Hey blondie!” He calls out to me.

I put my head down, make no response.

“Hey, you! Blondie!” He yells again.

Still, I ignore him, looking at the ground. My friends glance in his direction and look away.

“I’m talking to you, girl!” He yells, and stands up.

I strain against my friends’ arms, trying to walk faster. I don’t take my eyes off the sidewalk.

“Hey! I’m fucking talking to you, bitch!” He screams at me, and starts walking towards us.

We make a beeline for the nearest open door, scurrying as fast as our heels allow us. As we step inside, I look back. He is standing in the middle of the street, watching me. His friends are laughing. The street seethes with people, flowing around him, but no one else looks in his direction.

A boy asks for my number in a bar. I feel bad refusing him outright, so I tell him I have a boyfriend.

“Aw, come on. Don’t be like that,” He wheedles.

He won’t stop pestering me and eventually I give in. I take his phone and type in the wrong number.

“‘Sara,'” He reads, sarcastic, “unique name.” He presses the call button on his phone and watches me, waiting.

The phone in my hand doesn’t make a sound. He waits until he reaches someone else’s answering machine, then hangs up. He doesn’t take his eyes off my face.

“I must have typed the wrong number by accident,” I lie feebly.

He snorts. “I guess so. Why don’t you put the right one in this time?”

He presses the phone back into my hand.

One of the guys down the hall from me is too friendly. He stops me to talk every time he sees me leave my dorm room. He texts me every weekend about frat parties. He wanders into my room unexpectedly, and stays long after I’ve hinted at him to leave. I’m not sure how to handle his advances, so each time I laugh awkwardly, make some excuse, and wait for him to leave me alone.

I’ve just gotten out of the shower, and I step back into my room wrapped only in my towel. He’s there.

“Woah, dude!” I say, a little too loudly.

“What’s up?” He is leaning against my bed frame.

“Um, nothing.” I hike the towel up higher around my torso. “Just took a shower.”

He grins. “I noticed.”

He takes a step towards me, and I step back instinctively.

“I was thinking we could hang,” He says, stepping forward again.

“I’ve got a lot of homework,” I say, stepping back in turn.

This awkward two-step continues, until I’ve backed up into the washroom that joins my roommate’s room with mine. He continues to follow me.

Gripping my towel, I step away from him once more, and now my back is pressed against the far bathroom wall. He comes in closer, looks down at the towel covering my body. He fingers the edge of it.

My heart is pounding. I don’t know what to do.

On the other side of the wall, I hear a door open as my roommate comes home.

I call out a greeting to her, and my voice cracks, panicked. She calls out a greeting in return.

He leans back, stepping away from me.

“My roommate’s home,” I tell him, stating the obvious. I can’t keep my voice from shaking.

He blows out a big breath and rakes a hand through his hair. “I should probably get back to work,” He says.

I nod, and continue standing in the bathroom, huddled against the far wall until I hear my bedroom door close behind him.

Second year. After a summer spent at home in Alberta, I come back to school in September. Over the summer months, there’s been a rash of sexual assaults at UBC.

We all receive the same email: these assaults are believed to be linked, the victims are all young women, the perpetrator hasn’t been caught. UBC tells its female students never to walk alone on campus, not to come home late, to be careful how much we drink and what we wear. Police sketches of the predator’s face are plastered everywhere on campus.

Every few weeks, we get a new update. Another assault.

In my creative writing lecture, my professor shows us the memoir she published. It’s about her missing sister, Sarah. She tries hard not to cry when she tells us that Sarah’s remains were found on the Pickton farm, alongside the remains of over twenty other women.

Third Year. My roommate and I live in a small basement suite off campus, near the edge of the Endowment Lands. I ride past the forest on the bus on my way to school every day, and I see an intricate network of trails spreading deep into it. I see people running, biking, walking their dogs in the forest. The murder stories I heard in first-year seem far away now, and I’ve been dying for a good trail run.

I stuff my little canister of dog spray, now two years old, into the back pocket of my running tights. I lace up my runners, and jog off towards the Endowment Lands. At the entrance to the trails, there is a wooden map of the forest. Taped over the map is a poster with a large, coloured photo of Wendy Ladner-Beaudry. Below her picture are the details of her murder. Those with any information are urged to come forward.

At the sight of the poster, I shy away from the trailhead, but soon a large group of middle-aged men and women come jogging up the street and disappear into the trails. They pay no mind to the poster. Emboldened, I run in after them.

I fall in love with the trails. No other place in Vancouver feels as much like home to me. They wind for miles into the forest. Some are wide and straight, brightly-lit and lined with trees, with small families with dogs and strollers ambling along them. Others are narrow and twisting, carved out by mountain bike tracks. These are my favourites. Rocks and roots cut steps into these trails, and they’re so densely forested on either side that the light filters through green. These trails are far emptier than their wider, straighter counterparts.

I grow bolder with every trail run. Each time, I go deeper and deeper into the forest, ignoring the picture of Wendy Ladner-Beaudry at the trailhead. Her face is now covered in water stains, obscured by the Vancouver rain.

I’m running along my favourite path, banking around each sharp corner. Up ahead, a man in a black shirt trudges slowly towards me. I keep my eyes straight ahead until we pass, then give him a quick, cursory nod, meeting his eyes briefly. Something about him raises the hair on my arms. I run straight for several metres after I pass him, then turn my head around quickly as I jog, checking his progress. He’s stopped moving. He is standing still in the middle of the path, watching me. As soon as I’ve seen him, he turns around quickly and begins walking down the path again.

My stomach tightens. I whip my head back and pick up my pace. Another few metres, and I glance behind me again. Just as before, he is standing still, watching me. I’m sprinting now. I can see the place where this trail joins one of the larger, busier ones; it’s only half a kilometre away. I check behind me several more times as I race towards the intersection of the trails. Each time, he is motionless, staring at me, and each time, he turns around quickly as soon as he catches me looking at him. With shaking fingers, I unzip my back pocket and clutch my dog spray.

Out on the wider trail, I breathe a sigh of relief and slow my pace. I pass young families and couples, the dog spray hidden in my fist. My route has looped back around now, and I’m headed for home. I try to convince myself that there’s no way he’s taking the same circuit that I am—there are too many trails in here for that. Still, my heart pounds nervously.

At last, I reach the home stretch. Only a kilometre or so of twisting trail left, and then I’ll be back out in the open. I run past a group of walkers, men and women all around my parents’ age, and they smile as I pass them. I smile back, feeling calmer now that I know the forest’s edge is so close.

The voices of the walkers have faded into the distance when I see him again. I can make out his black t-shirt through the trees, just on the other side of a bend in the trail. I slow to a walk. At that sound of my footsteps, he stops and turns in my direction. I hold my breath, but it’s no use. My bright clothing stands out like a neon sign in this forest. He pauses for a second and then slowly, deliberately steps off the trail and into the bushes, until he is concealed by the foliage.

I turn and bolt back towards the group of walkers I passed minutes ago. They recognize me as I come running up to them.

“Mind if I join you for a bit?” I ask. I try to keep my voice steady, but it doesn’t work.

They agree, and one particularly kind woman makes one-sided small talk with me. As we approach the end of the trail, I see him again, walking slowly. He turns around at the sound of our approach, and I stay close to the woman who’s still telling me about her daughter in Toronto. He seems disappointed, but I don’t look his way again until we’re on the street.

As soon I leave the kind walking group, I begin sprinting once more, up the hill to my house. Paranoid, I check over my shoulder every few feet, but I’ve lost him.

Fourth Year. I’m standing in the centre of Waterfront Station, waiting for a Tinder date. It’s our first date, and I made certain to choose a busy meeting place. It’s hard to get busier than the SkyTrain station downtown.

I scan the crowd, searching for him, but I can’t find anyone who looks remotely like the guy in the pictures. After a while, I see an unfamiliar man approach me, smiling. I smile back politely, and then continue looking around. He can’t be the right guy.

He walks up to me and holds out a hand.

“Sara?” He asks.

Disappointed, I nod and shake his hand. This guy looks nothing like I thought he would. He’s tall, nearly a foot taller than I am, and bulky with muscle. He towers over me.

He knows the area better than I do, so he suggests that we grab coffee at a nearby Starbucks a couple blocks away from the main drag. I agree, and follow him to a quieter residential area.

It’s a bad date. We sit out on the freezing Starbucks patio—God only knows why this patio is open in January—and I shiver while he complains about all the places he’s travelled to. It takes me less than twenty minutes to decide that I can’t stand this guy. By this point, the street has almost completely emptied. I escape to the washroom briefly and text my roommate.

“Help, please,” I beg her. She agrees to call me with a pretend emergency in fifteen minutes.

By the time I come back from the washroom, he’s finished his coffee.

“Let’s go for a walk,” He suggests.

I nod emphatically, and throw away the cold remains of my tea. The neighbourhood is entirely deserted at this point, and I can’t wait to get back to the bustle of Granville Street.

We begin walking back in the direction we came from. I keep to myself, my arms folded tight around my body as he looms over me. He moves to put his arm around me, but instead of draping his arm across my shoulders, he places his hand at the base of my neck, gripping tightly. I shiver and my entire body tenses. I could not look more uneasy—arms crossed, shoulders hunched, putting as much space between us as his arm will allow. But he doesn’t let go. I dart my eyes around the street, looking for anyone else whose presence might reassure me. There’s no one.

“Let’s go this way,” He says, slowing to a stop and pointing into a dark alleyway.

I shake my head nervously.

“No,” I say slowly, “let’s go back to Granville Street.” I start to move in that direction, but his hand, tight around my neck, stops me.

“Nah,” He says, “I hate how busy Granville is. Let’s go in here.” He pulls slightly, turning my head towards the alley.

I can distantly hear the bustle of all the people on Granville street, only two blocks away.

“No, I really want to be where the people are.” It comes out shrilly. To hide my panic, I add lamely, “I like people watching.”

He scowls and pulls me once more towards the alley. I plant my feet and strain against his grasp, protesting again.

Finally, he lets up.

“Fine,” He mutters and stops pulling me. He doesn’t let go of my neck.

We walk slowly, wordlessly back toward Granville Street. His fingers are still digging into the back of my neck. In my pocket, I clutch my cell phone.

At last, my phone rings and his grip loosens. I jump away from him. On the phone, my roommate makes up some story about breaking her ankle. I play along, promising to come home immediately. I hear him snort derisively as he listens to our conversation.

“Listen,” I tell him after I hang up, “my roommate is in trouble. I need to go home.”

He rolls his eyes and turns away.

“Bitch,” He mutters under his breath.

I don’t care. I spin away from him and take off, speed walking up the street towards the SkyTrain station. I’m too scared to check if he’s behind me.

On the train, I shrink down in my seat, scanning the faces around me. Every time a new passenger comes on, I look for him. I can still feel his fingers around my neck.

At home I lock the door behind me. I’m shaking and I can’t get warm, and I feel stupid for being this afraid, miles away from the guy and locked inside my own house. My roommate is gone for the evening, and I spend the rest of the night curled up in an armchair, shivering in my blankets, waiting for her to come home so I won’t be alone.

I meet my date at a bar in Kits. Our conversation isn’t anything special, but he’s cute and my roommate has been pressuring me to get laid before finals season hits. We go back to his place, drunk.

When I ask if he has a condom, he searches his room briefly and comes up empty handed. I pull the last condom out of my purse.

We’ve been in bed for a while when I realize the condom is gone. I sit up straight, knocking my head against his.

“What the fuck?” I stammer.

“What?” He asks.

“Did you take it off?” I accuse.

He tilts his head. “You said I could.”

No I didn’t. Did I? In the dim light, I can’t make out his expression.

“I didn’t,” I insist. “We’re done now.”

He pleads with me, but I keep saying “No,” I keep shaking my head. He doesn’t listen. He’s too heavy for me to push off, and each time I make him stop, he just starts again.

Afterwards, I can’t shake the feeling that it was my fault. Did I really tell him he could take the condom off? When my roommate asks me how my night was, raising her eyebrows suggestively, I lie.

“It was great,” I say.

When I get sick half a week later, I’m convinced that I have an STI. Panicked, I call my stepmom, a nurse practitioner.

“Did you use protection?” She asks.

“No,” I whisper.

She sounds disappointed. “Sara, you know better than that.”

She begins listing off symptoms and treatment options. I cover my mouthpiece so she won’t hear me cry.

Two months later. I’m back in my home town, spending the summer here between my undergraduate degree and my master’s.

I go out to the only country bar in town with my friends. I hate country music. It doesn’t take long for my friends to pair off dancing with a couple guys, and their friend looks over at me and holds out his hand. He’s good at two-stepping, and more importantly, he doesn’t care how bad I am at two-stepping. He laughs at all my jokes. I have no interest in going home with him, but I’m having fun.

After a while, he offers to buy me a drink. I walk over to the bar with him, craning my neck to spot my friends on the dance floor. I’m not really paying attention when he leans over me and places his hand on the small of my back.

“Consider this a down payment,” He whispers. His breath smells like beer and tequila and hot dogs. His fingers crawl up my back, under my t-shirt.

I feel the blood drain from my face. (How many ways are there to describe what fear feels like?)

I grab my gin and tonic and slip into the crowd, disappearing while he pays the bartender.

Two weeks ago. My partner’s friend and I are arguing about why a woman would give a man her phone number and then never respond.

“Why don’t they just say ‘No’ instead of leading the guy on?” He asks.

“Because that’s not really an option.”

“Why not?” He presses.

I give him a list of reasons: maybe she changed her mind, maybe the man wouldn’t stop asking, maybe she knew he would check to see if she typed in the right number, maybe she didn’t feel safe saying “No.”

“You’re really saying a girl wouldn’t feel safe, surrounded by people in a bar?” He sounds doubtful.

“Yeah. That’s exactly what I’m saying,” I snap.

He scoffs. “I find that hard to believe.”

My face goes red. I lean forward, mouth open, ready to list off every single shitty, terrifying experience I’ve had with a man, regardless of the place.

But I see his face—set and dismissive—and I deflate.

I’m done. I’m too tired for this, and I’m too fucking angry.

I didn’t learn to fear men because of one singular, catastrophic event. This fear grows gradually. Every day, it compounds.


Image via StockSnap

51 Comments Add yours

  1. BlondiePwnz says:

    Reblogged this on blondiepwnz and commented:
    Great read. Midway through I realized I can relate to a lot of these situations. I didn’t grow up with a 5 star father. He broke my trust and gave me the worst view on men. I tried to think it was “just him” but was later proven wrong. This post put what this woman and many others feels when you push yourself on someone. Nag for a phone number or simply being to handsy.


    1. Sara Dueck says:

      Thank you for the reblog! I’m so sorry that you’ve been disappointed by many of the men in your life. Sending love.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. BlondiePwnz says:

        No problem! Thanks ❤ I hope people will take your blog as an eye opener.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Al says:

    Who are these men? I’m disgusted. Never have I acted like this toward any woman. Thank you for sharing this- I can only say I believe you but am shocked

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sara Dueck says:

      Thank you for believing us Al, it means a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Sara says:

      Thanks Al.

      And to answer the question of ‘who are these men?’ They are your brothers, your sons, your friends, and your coworkers. They are not easily identified by their black hats and horns. They are your neighbours.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Luke says:

        A friend shared this on Facebook and I just reposted it with the following comments. I hadn’t started to read the comments here when I posted, but they fit right in:

        “My first thought was “who does that kind of thing?” in an abstract sense. Like “what kind of person would do that?” But the more I think about it, my thought turns to *literally* “who does that kind of thing?” Who do *I* know that does those things? I haven’t witnessed that kind of behavior, but going by the numbers it seems like I have to know people that engage in it, and it seems likely that at least some are friends of some capacity.

        And that’s disconcerting. Not as disconcerting as it is for women having to deal with this shit, but disconcerting nevertheless.”


  3. Elena King says:

    Thanks for your honesty… the story is hard breaking. Maybe church, volunteer or military event is a better place to meet a boyfriend than a bar. Just thinking 🙂


    1. Jenny says:

      You have got to be f*ing kidding me. Read this back to yourself and please understand that what you wrote is victim-blaming, textbook-rape-culture BS. Shame on you.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Georgann says:

        What this woman wrote is true and it just made me realize I am not the problem. This happens constantly, the pressure, the nagging, the persistence, just try saying no and get the guy to accept it, you get called a bitch for doing the right thing. My first experience with this behavior from strange men was when I was five years old. Yep, five years old and I remember it like it was yesterday. The guy tried to snatch me by promising me candy and then asked me to look inside his car and what I saw scared me to death, he was jacking off. My mother had told me to beware of strangers and believe me I backed off and ran. No means no and if you’re on the street or in a public place or in a bar or a dance club saying no leads to frustration on the guys part because he can’t accept it and it becomes dangerous for the woman because now she’s a target. As a young adult I said no over and over again one night to three different men, those guys ended up raping me beating me and they actually thought they had killed me so they threw me out of the car that they dragged me into and I’m sure they hope nothing happened but I hope that their lives have been miserable for the past 40 years because they think they killed me. The story goes on but since you don’t believe this happens I won’t waste your time.


      2. hitheremikihere says:

        OH SHUT. THE. FUCK. UP. This isn’t rape culture persisting or victim blaming. This is an honest account of someone’s life experiences and you’re being a dismissive cuntbucket because you have your head up your ass. Get a fucking clue! Words can not describe how INFURIATED I am at your bullshit.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. kmac says:

        umm heya hitheremikihere – Jenny’s comment is in response to Elena King’s BS comment. yes this blog post is about a triggering shitty topic but take a sec to sort it out before flying off the handle at someone maybe, someone who is in alignment with your thoughts on this


    2. Christine says:

      Religious men rape people too. And the military has a huge rape problem. It’s almost as if the location isn’t the problem!

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Jennifer says:

      Elena, you might want to look into the #ChurchToo hashtag, or learn about sexual assault in the military, before you again make such a comment.


  4. Steve says:

    I believe you so much that it makes me sick. Thank you for writing this I will share it. I am so sorry you and many other women have to go through this, it’s absolutely appalling. Since a young age I have felt ashamed to be a man at times, because of stories like this. Just know you do have many allies who are men out there that don’t want to harm or try to have sex with you. and it’s disgusting how much it has been integrated in our culture. I rally hope all of the conversation around this lately will actually inspire change.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ross Steed says:

    excellent writing. my daughter is at UBC, she runs. Does defense training help? you mention not. I am utterly shocked by this. If I had a son who behaved as you tell I would be outraged and fuming.
    The imprints of fear from repeated events like these grow into a quickly activated response, and you become hyper vigilant, your brain on alert. It is tiring to say the least.
    Find a qualified trainer to teach street fight style defense. Repetive training in this will offer another neural and memory response when needed. The kind of fierceness built up that you know can and will actually tear out a mans eyes will be yours and ‘they’ will feel it.
    One woman with a history like yours after this training was confronted by two young men. She was not highjacked by the fear response anymore, with the accompanying weak legs, shaking, racing mind and panic. No, she calmly turned to them and said, ” I’ve been waiting for a moment like this, which one of you wants to go first.” they fled.
    It is critical that all young women learn and develop this potential in themselves, the real capacity to access inside the energy and the focus to actually be able to rip out a mans eyes and have her fingers and hands bloody if that is what it takes. This is inner power tied to nueral memory that can and will overide the panic patterns when called upon. But it has to be practiced and grown as a living element inside.
    lastly, this is not about sex – that is for sure.
    I hope you will continue to write and publish. I hope you will get trained and encourage your peers to do the same. do it now..

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wade says:

    Thank you for digging deep into your store of courage and bravery so that you could post this. It’s eye opening. As a man, I’ve seen or heard of these types of situations from afar. I’ve had female friends tell me about one creepy guy or one particular instance. But to read about just one woman’s life experience, and how these situations accumulate in your psyche and compound on each other is, well… eye opening – as I said.
    It makes me reflect on ways that maybe I’ve made women feel like this in the past… things I’ve done or said that I didn’t think were a big deal but perhaps were with this as perspective. It makes me want to do better. I’m also a father of two wonderful little girls and it saddens me that this is the world they will grow up in and these are the things they will have to struggle with. I will help them as much as I can.
    Men can do better and I will do my best to teach my girls’ 2 brothers to be better men than these. I promise you that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sara Dueck says:

      Thank you, Wade. It means so much to be listened to.


  7. Donna says:

    I could not compile this in my mind to write it out like this is, so clearly stated. Thanks for sharing and making my brain as aware as my body vibrations.


  8. Tales of a Female Human says:

    Reblogged this on Tales of a Female Human and commented:
    Please read. Please.


    1. Sara Dueck says:

      Thanks for reblogging! ❤


      1. Tales of a Female Human says:

        You are very welcome and thank you for sharing! I wish everyone could and would read it!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. When I went to grad school in England, every time I asked one of my Chinese women friends out for the evening they would be happy to agree. I thought it was because I’d spent so much time in China that I knew how to connect with them, but with all these recent MeToo revelations I’m beginning to wonder if it was just because they were happy to have a bodyguard at night. One of them had actually told me she was glad to be walking back from campus with me because this university town in England had a lot fewer lights and a lot more drunks on the streets than her big Chinese hometown. (Chinese men do drink a lot but then take a taxi home.)


  10. Diana says:

    I was walking on an isolated road a few years ago. A group of 4 men in a large white van stopped and talked to me ( they were looking for work.) I got a bad feeling but I felt I had better be polite of they might get hostile. We had a short discussion which ended when they got insistent about where I lived. I stated walking away. They followed in the van yelling out the window. One of them tried to grab my arm through the window. So I ran off the road and walked back through the woods.

    Later when I told my friend ( male) about it he said he felt bad for them because ” they were probably trying to be friendly.”

    They have no idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. So many years of my life were spent blaming myself for the things men subjected me to. Maybe I should stop wearing pretty clothes, stop wearing makeup, stop smiling and making eye contact. I came to hate myself so much for what men did to me that I hid in baggy jumpers, made myself as plain as possible and learned to keep my eyes firmly on the ground. It was only as I grew older that I realised I was not the problem; these men were taking advantage of my youth, innocence and naievety – I wasn’t the tease, the flirt, the blue-baller, that they always insisted I was.

    I’m a confident, middle-aged woman with a wonderful husband now; a woman who isn’t scared to throw a punch or a kick if a man is bothering me; a woman who will shout at the top of her singer’s lungs until she gets passers-by to realise that something is very wrong.

    Thank you for writing this. I hope that women the age that you and I once were will read this, and know it isn’t them who has the problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Janelle says:

    All I have is, “YES!”

    Liked by 1 person

  13. hitheremikihere says:

    Your experiences made you fear, this article made me rage. I made me want to rage at every creep who’s ever approached me. At every sleaze bag who can’t accept the word no. At the fucker who dared laid his hands on me.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Victoria Simmons says:

    I don’t usually provide trigger warnings when the title itself should make the subject matter clear. However, I did when I shared this piece. It is the fear of violence that is most crippling to a woman’s autonomy. Almost as bad (and I identify with this) is how often we do stupid things–how often we give our name or number, how often we don’t act on our instincts, how often we don’t shout “NO!”, how often we let ourselves be persuaded that we are wrong about what happened or is happening, how often we let ourselves be pressured into what we don’t want to do, how often we let ourselves be led into places away from other people, how often we get raped, how often we get beaten and robbed, how often we die–because of fear of embarrassment. At least one of the occasions I was attacked on the street (never sexually, although one incident might have ended up at that) was because I didn’t follow my instincts that something was wrong. Because of fear of embarrassment.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Milton says:

    This is a cold and terrible world. It is also kind and forgiving. Reading this saddened me. I’ve had a woman tell me I raped her. That hurt me to the core. I thought of myself as one with virtue but I was just as bad as that bad boy. Maybe because I had a conscience that I told myself I would never put myself in the position of doing that again. I have 3 wonderful daughters, Lord knows I pray that that fate never befall them. Any guy who reads this, No absolutely means that. Doesn’t matter if you are almost there. A real man thinks with his brain and not with his pea brain. Don’t get drunk and try to have sex ever. When sober, don’t push up on a woman. Don’t be afraid to say am I making you uncomfortable? Or do you want to go back with your friends? Live with integrity. Don’t be associated with being a rapist, even when you don’t carry the police blotted title. Thank you young lady and I pray you get your confidence but cautious in this world back.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Jody says:

    Yikes! Your stories are horrible to read. As a guy, I can sit here and say that I would never do those things, but that is not the point. The point is that you have experienced them, and those experiences have had a profound and lasting (and bad) effect on you. I feel absolutely terrible that you and other women like you have experienced this kind of abuse and fear in your lives. Please know that you have had an effect. Not only will I carefully think about how i interact with women in my life, but I will make sure my teenage sons know how your life has been impacted by these kinds of behaviors. I wish only the best for you from here on.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Brad says:

    Sara… I wish I could say I am in shock. I can’t believe (figure of speech – I do believe you) just how many examples you provided. They just kept coming. And all within only a few years.

    I’m the kind of person who plays devils advocate, and/or wants to know the “why”. My thoughts, and there is never an excuse, is that these men, perhaps most men, feel… Hmmm… Inadequate, uncomfortable, low self esteem… I can’t find the word, but if we look at the “good guys”, they are more patient, less pushy, not arrogant but they are comfortable with themselves, and just seem happier. Maybe? I’ve never dated a dude, but I’ve been third wheel, I’ve had young single female friends, etc. Again, I don’t want to twist this as reasoning behind a guys mental state, but it can’t be that they are just horny, right? Are not most of these men compensating by having large muscles? Or they belittle through name calling. I just feel like it’s something mental. And if there was some sort of way to get dudes more in touch with themselves, maybe that’s the solution. Somehow humble them.

    The last thing I wanted to bring up. The entire time, I was thinking self-defense. But not how the main stream portrays it. Actual stuff that works – jiu jitsu, Muay Thai, etc. There are 130 pound girls who could destroy 200 pound men. It’s a friendly environment, brings confidence, and awareness. And the guys at the BJJ gyms, are usually humbled. I love that my daughter and wife are both involved. Reading your article puts me in dad mode, but I am far less stressed as I used to be. I trust her judgement and her abilities. I seriously wish all women would give jiu jitsu a shot.

    Best of luck to you, as I am sure these are life altering situations. I wish you comfort and peace, and for everyone to PLEASE remember not all guys are like that. But, sadly perhaps most are.


    1. Sarah C says:

      Yes! What you are doing is turning the mirror back on your own gender and asking “what is going on with men?” Please share this notion with your fellow males! Violence against women is men’s violence, and men’s violence is a *men’s issue*. I believe that men are hurt by the conditioning they recieve from our patriarchal society and men’s violence is a result. Men are overdue for a feminist movement of their own, not like the fringe ones that pose as being “pro-men” but are really “anti-women”, but a real men’s movement that smashes the expectations on men and boys to be dominating, aggressive, controlling and instead embraces men as the fully formed, kind, loving, protecting and emotive human beings that they are capable of being. I think that would go a long way to ending male violence. But it takes introspective males like you to be open enough to turning the spotlight onto men’s issues from women’s victimization.


  18. Marty Mascarin says:

    As a middle-aged male, all I can say is that I’m sorry that you have had such fearful, repellant experiences with men. I’m ashamed of my gender. I only hope that someday, unless you’ve done so already, you find a male that is deserving of your love and trust.


  19. Sally Tran says:

    Thank you for having the courage to write your experiences. This relates to so many women and how messed up our society is. No one has the right to invade our privacy and make us feel unsafe. You belong to yourself. And for men to assume that they can do whatever they want as if they own you is an outrage. We shouldn’t have to constantly think of ways to stay safe at every corner and action we do.


  20. Wow. That actually made me sick to my stomach, but I am glad I read it all. I am so sorry all of this happened; a fear of men was inevitable under the circumstances. Thank you for sharing, it has been most enlightening.


  21. Amity says:

    As a woman, I know that your experiences are definitely not unique – in fact, they’re probably universal. I am almost 50 years old and I still come across the too-friendly man but over time I have learned not to care what he or other people think when I use any means possible to shut them down. If he asks “what’s your name” I’ll literally answer “I’d rather not say.” If he’s enough of an asshole to insist and it’s not possible to walk away (ie, trapped in the elevator or something) I would probably ask “What’s your name?” and maybe get his phone number for any potential police report. I would not give away any of my details and I would not even bother with a fake number. My husband says I’m crazy when I do this but I don’t care. These guys defy social norms and I think young women need to be taught that there is no need to be polite or worried that they are hurting someone’s feelings when they are dealing with someone who is not concerned with their safety or well-being.


  22. Jeremy says:

    I wish I could say this surprises me, but it doesn’t, not even a little. I’ve heard so many similar stories from my girlfriend, and seen so many similar things in public it makes me sick. All too familiar with that creepy Granville St. bar scene.

    Thanks for sharing. I’ll be posting the link and hope that even one friend will read it and reflect how he can do better.


  23. Liz says:

    It took me awhile to figure out that if I see a group of men walking towards me, and they’re black, I get nervous and concerned. I don’t want to be obviously racist so I don’t cross the street. Same with Mexicans.
    One day I realized it is the same with white guys. It’s not the race I fear, it’s the gender. What an absolute shame.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Dan says:

    This story makes me sad. As a man who was always raised to be a gentleman, a true gentleman. I was always way too passive and shy, a big part of that driven by a HUGE distaste for the aggressive alpha types. It is just so undignified and animalistic to try in every way possible to pick up women. Always respectful, never to take advantage, and certainly not one to just have sex with women without some emotional intimacy established first. This passivity and kindness, caused me to attract the wrong type of women, and I could only take so much, and thus chose to escape from them, as I was simply tired of being emotional fuel and not actually cared for anymore than the man in the moon. The moral of my comment, is that while I may finish my life alone and perhaps lonely, I would not choose to be any less of a gentleman if I had a do over. I hope for those who come after me, that those values, and attributes are someday appreciated again, and rewarded with the attention of a true ladies, vs what I seem to have observed in terms of the “Bad boys” always seem to be garner the attention of the really great gals. So sorry for your negative experiences.


  25. Boris Ekner says:

    Reblogged this on With remorse there's only regrets and commented:
    Men are possessive assholes. Period.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sarah C says:

      I hope you don’t really feel that way Boris! I’m always alarmed when people who hear stories like this come to that conclusion: because the fact is that reducing men’s violence and aggression to simply “men are assholes/pigs/dogs” only makes things worse. It essentially frees men of the responsibility to change or tell their friends to change. Give your gender more credit! Men are not born this way; all human beings regardless of gender are capable of being kind, strong, loving, respectful and responsible people. Men can do better.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Doug says:

    Thanks for sharing. This is a great reminder to me of the impact men have on women and how I need to be super aware of what my impacts are so I can make them positive and how I need to stand up to and teach other men that it is not right to act in this way.


  27. Andrea says:

    Thank you for this, I am sharing it immediately to show my male friends what it feels like to be a young woman nowadays. I was on the verge of tears when I finished reading it because it does remind me of the many sleazy guys and uncomfortable situations that my friends and I encountered, no matter how cautious we were. Thankfully there are good men too, I married one with whom I have always felt safe and I have male friends who would never ever behave like that. But most days I feel like they are an endangered minority 😦 .


  28. Andres says:

    First of all, thank you so much for sharing. None of these events were very surprising on their own (as you mentioned), but when you group these events like you did, I’m sure anyone can feel the pain and fear and futility you’ve so eloquently described.

    I’ve been sitting here digesting all this information and reflecting on my (I’m a man) experiences with women. More than blaming anyone, I’m trying to understand why this could happen, and so often. I’m not American (or Canadian) but I did go to college in the US, and certain things did baffle me. I could never understand how it was so normal to have sex with people you barely knew. It never made sense to me that people intertwined their genitals before they even held each other’s hands. Maybe I’m too old school, or too emotional, but it seems kind of backwards to me.

    Anyway, sex or no sex, “getting” chicks was the mission for everyone’s weekend. Every party, every event. Hooking up with someone was like an achievement you would boast to your friends about proudly. Conversely, a weekend or a party without getting a girl’s number or hooking up, was a failure. Even if you didn’t feel like a failure because perhaps you didn’t meet anyone you were truly interested in or were not in the mood to socialize with new people, friends sometimes (unconsciously) can make you feel like you did fail; like you missed out on something crucial. I think it creates this weird need to “get” girls. It becomes a measure of manliness and social success. And since we’ve been trained to work tirelessly and restlessly to achieve our goals, it turns into a mission.

    We become so focused on achieving the mission, that we lose sight of the effects on the other people involved. Add to that the physical and chemical aspect; the natural and animalistic instinct that makes people want to have sex with each other. The woman stops being another human intellectual to interact with. She becomes a target; an objective. I don’t think all of the men you mentioned meant to scare you or disrespect you. I think most of them didn’t even recognize that they did do that. It obviously does not absolve them either. The root of the problem lies in what led them to become so obsessed with getting your number, your attention, your body, that they forgot how to treat another human being with respect and understanding. These men were already set on their mission before you even decided what you would wear, how much you would drink, or how you’d respond to their advances.

    SIDENOTE: Something jumped out at me when I was reading your story. You mentioned your friend pressuring you to sleep with someone before finals. Why? What does anyone gain from that? My ex-girlfriend (who’s American btw) had an experience exactly like that. It didn’t end up as awful as your experience, but she did regret it a lot. That pressure by friends (who I’m sure actually want to help) seems pretty destructive.

    I could easily ramble on for days, since I’m very interested in this topic and I know it is definitely a problem in our societies, but I’ll try to conclude.

    As men, we can ameliorate this issue by being more conscious and attentive of women’s reactions to our actions. We should stop seeing sex as the primordial goal of every weekend. We should be more discrete about intimate experiences with women, instead of parading them around like a trophy.

    For women, there’s a few things that come to mind. Keep sharing stories like this one. Hopefully, this whole problem will be shared in so many different ways that men everywhere will be able to understand that there actually is a problem. And, more importantly, that they can do something to stop it.

    This next thing I’m sure will be controversial. But the fact is, most girls are attracted to boys who do not give them the respect they deserve. I say “girls” because it usually happens at younger ages (before they learn to really value respect). I get it (at least I think I do). Confidence is pretty much anyone’s turn on, whether they know it or not. But too much confidence can lead one to believe that they deserve whatever they want, and lead to the situations you’ve unfortunately had to face. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure most terrible situations actually arise from lack of confidence. What I’m trying to say is how can we start making respect sexier? Instead of guys thinking, “how can I exude confidence so I can get girls?”, have them thinking, “how can I exude respect so I’m worthy of women’s attention and trust?”


  29. Mike Brown says:

    I honestly am disgusted by how true this is. Honestly, as a guy, it’s super easy to be attracted to an awesome girl! I just would like to point out that females can be very aggressive as well. I was recently at a party and was really uncomfortable with the way I was being treated by the women there.
    In America, we have created a hookup culture that will never get better unless people like you and me speak out. The only way to stop this issue is to stop objectifying all people. Destroying companies like Playboy and Victoria Secret would be a good place to start. Objectification of humans is taught. It is acquired. Instinctively, we are attracted to other people, but it is our education and training that makes us act a certain way. We must educate young people, starting in middle school, that people are to be viewed as people, not sexual objects. Making a more moral culture will help solve this problem. Saying men (or women) are the problem is not fair and not true. The problem is years and years of inadequate behavior being accepted, promoted, and trained to youth who know no other way to approach other genders with respect.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s