Dear Men: Please Stop Saying That Women Are “Asking For It”

Alexandra Tsuneta

A note on digital commentary and rape culture

About a year ago I wrote an article about being a tattooed woman and how irritating it is to be objectified on a daily basis when I am out doing normal things like eating breakfast with my family or walking my dog. Ever since then, on an almost daily basis, I get comments from countless men telling me that I am “asking for it,” because making a choice about my body means that I must be okay with being catcalled when I am simply trying to go about my day. Truly, it’s baffling how many grown men think that a. behavior like this is okay, and b. that women shouldn’t be able to simply go about their days without being spoken to by countless men.

Recently, a grown man named Scott decided that it would be appropriate to comment this piece of literary genius on that article (cut for clarity sake because this man truly wrote a book): “You desperately want to be noticed by getting tattoos and you desperately want to be noticed by writing ‘confessional blogging’ on Medium.” He went on to tell me how much I am asking for attention by being a tattooed woman, over and over and over again, truly making my point because why on earth does this grown man care so much about what I do with my body?

Honestly, judging by his photo he is years older than me so I’m genuinely confused, because never in my life would I think that speaking like this to another human being is okay. I would also never scream at somebody out of a car, touch somebody without their permission, or actively take up space and be emotionally abusive to a stranger I have never met on the internet. Which, brings me to my point: why do men think it is okay to act like this and what is it that drives them to do it?

Playing devil’s advocate for a minute, I would like to bring up the other countless (now deleted) comments calling me a whore and telling me I am “dressing as provocatively as possible” in order to “draw this much attention to myself”. I was wearing this dress the day that I finally got fed up after being spoken to and bothered 12 times while eating breakfast with my family:

Except, this dress on me falls under my knees (I’m very short) and a bit closer to my elbows. That being said you could only see the bottoms of my legs and that still warranted this much-unwanted attention and objectification of my body. Thus, even when we are dressed “modestly” showing just our shins, men still find it necessary to talk to us, touch us, and catcall us. I mean, at some point, we’ve got to put our foot down, and thus, call out this abhorrent behavior because who in their right mind thinks that this is okay?

Clearly, a ton of men — judging by the countless comments I have received and deleted and men that I have blocked because of this one article. Arguably, one of my more tame feminist pieces on rape culture.

Even if I was stark naked, jiggling my butt and breasts to Lizzo on the street, I’m still not “asking for it”.

So, I must ask, not rhetorically, what makes men think that this kind of behavior is okay? Is it toxic masculinity, rape culture, patriarchy, or a combination of all three + some outside sources I have yet to think of? First, they tell us that we are “asking for it” and then they insult our intelligence when we simply ask not to be spoken to. I don’t know any woman that would go out of their way to speak to another person like this. I also, for the sake of argument, do not know any men that would speak to another person like this, because the men I associate with do not feel the need to take up as much space as possible and make women as uncomfortable as possible.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, perhaps Scott and his gaggle of men’s rights activist friends, but here’s the rundown: even if I was stark naked, jiggling my butt and breasts to Lizzo on the street, I’m still not “asking for it”. None of us are. We don’t want your unwarranted attention, we just want to live and feel comfortable in our skin. In fact, that’s why a lot of people get tattooed, we get tattooed to feel more comfortable and more at home in our bodies; and yet you still do not give us the space to feel that, you still must interject your body and your opinion onto us.

I’m so exhausted by digital commentary and rape culture that oftentimes as soon as I see an email from a man who has commented on my article I have a burst of anxiety because I know, nine times out of ten, it will be the same Scott making sure that I know that my body is public property. To so many men, a woman walking down the street alone or with other women, we are still seen as public property. I’ll never understand this train of thought because never in my wildest dreams would I act like this.

To the men, if you are reading this I want to offer you some very simple advice, please read this book by Kate Harding. You’ll love it, it is titled “Asking For It” — I believe every single man should read this book and learn a little bit about what we go through on a daily basis as women in this world. It’s even available as an audiobook if you prefer not to read. It is a necessary piece of literature for every single man, worldwide.

To the women, nonbinary people, and anybody else who deals with this kind f behavior, I’m so sorry. I know how exhausting it is, how anxiety-inducing it is, and I know that you simply want to go about your day and live in your body peacefully. I believe that you are deserving of that space and I can only hope that someday things change for the better and that someday we are not concerned that we may be raped, killed, or assaulted for simply existing and walking down the street.

I wish I could say more, do more, or be more of a light in times like these but I’m at a loss. I’m at a loss for what to do about fully grown men thinking it is okay to act like this. I’m at a loss for how to educate these men because clearly by writing an article about the rape culture that they are participating in, they simply do not listen or they are enraged by my words. They are enraged by a woman writing about her experience, her body, and her autonomy, just as they are enraged by a woman walking down the street and living in that body.

Life is hard enough and at the end of the day don’t we all just want the freedom to exist freely in this world? I know I do, so why is it so hard for so many to comprehend this feeling? We all deserve to live happily, freely, and openly, let’s all do our part to make things a little easier upon one another. You can start by simply allowing a human being to exist in an open space without feeling threatened by your presence. Just allow us to live.

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digital nomad | queer, Jewish, she/they | ☕️ | degrees in sociology and women’s studies

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