Tw: Sexual harassment, rape mention
When I am walking out of a bar at 1am, and a stranger shouts at me across the street, I am upset. They may be saying I am beautiful, or I have a nice face, but that doesn’t change how I feel. But when I get home, and my boyfriend says the exact same thing, I have a different reaction to it, though – I am flattered.
What is the difference here? The same thing is said in both cases – but in different ways, by different people, and I have a different relationship with both people involved.
When I am cat-called or things are shouted at me by strangers, I feel objectified, embarrassed, and terrified. Despite being “complimented”, I in no way regard such comments positively. Yes, I am happy with the way I look and I am flattered when my significant other comments on my appearance, but when a stranger does this I am in a very different situation.
I do not know this person. They do not know me. When I am cat-called by a stranger who comments on my appearance I am degraded to the status of an object – I am objectified. I am only the pretty face, or breasts, or body they comment on. I acknowledge that yes, those characteristics may make up who I am, but I am much more than that. My boyfriend knows and acknowledges it – I have a much different relationship with him and he knows me very well in most respects. In my relationship, I feel comfortable when he comments on such things, and we’ve communicated what actions we’re comfortable and uncomfortable with in our relationship; in our relationship, we are equal contributing partners.
I have no relationship with the stranger. Like I said, they do not know me, and subsequently we have never had any conversation about who I am and what I am comfortable with, or about what I am comfortable being addressed as. When an unknown person non-consensually comments on your appearance, or makes some comment in regard to your body, the intention behind their words are unknown. They are commenting on some aspect of you in a way you have no control over – they are in a position of power. It is this power dynamic that makes cat-calling humiliating and terrifying; someone is using your body as a means without your permission.
This verbal assault of cat-calling objectifies women’s bodies, glamorizes sexual violence, and often entails misogynistic language. This is what rape-culture is. It creates a society that disregards women’s rights and safety. “Take it as a compliment” …I have not and never will take cat-calling as a compliment. It makes me uncomfortable for a reason and this reason is a serious one – it perpetuates rape culture.