Story of a reformed sexual harasser




This story is about a few months old. Sat in my drafts, so some references may not be current.

I had met a few friends recently. I spoke briefly about sexual harassment and its prevalence and attitudes toward it as telling them what I am up to. Described Violence Against Women Awareness Month and my support for it.

The day after the gathering, the husband of one of the friends called me up and said he felt compelled to speak with me on the subject of “eve teasing”. He agreed with me that eve teasing was sexual harassment and that it is a big evil in society (his words).

Then he proceeded to share with me his own story.

When he hit college, he often bunked classes to fool around with friends, watching films, smoking on the street, passing comments at girls. He didn’t really intend it as an insult or aggression. In his eyes, it was playfulness. Friendliness even, though with a complete stranger. Slowly, he started getting more creative with it. He often brushed against women when he was walking or mingling. He even brushed against his cousin’s bride during their wedding.

Not because he found them attractive or even because he wanted to feel a woman’s body, but simply to see them jump in surprise/shock and react. He found their “Over Reaction” bizarre, and thought that such hyperactive women deserved to learn to get used to not making such big deals. It became such a habit, that he often brushed against women without even doing it on purpose – reflexively.

He insists that there was hardly anything sexual about it for him beyond the gender of his victim. It was more a game of skill. Of a teasing that they couldn’t prevent. He knew it was wrong, but it didn’t “feel” wrong. It felt as innocently mischievous as going “boo” and surprising someone.

A few things happened to change it.

Once, on the street, a girl was sharp enough and made a scene. It was embarrassing and he blustered his way through it, insisting that she had misunderstood and that she was over reacting to an innocent touch. But the incident got him wary.

Then, a girl once hit him when he touched her. It was fast and fleeting like his own touch. There was no scene made, but he caught the anger in her expression and the hate in the way she hit him. It was the first time he probably seriously considered that maybe, just maybe it REALLY wasn’t funny for the girls and that it probably made them feel bad.

But he didn’t see what he did as wrong. He blames part of this on the normal social upbringing, where growing up, a girl is told to be careful, but no one bothers to tell a guy to keep his distance and be respectful. He knew what he did was wrong, but he felt it as a thing of young blood, hormones and maybe just a little bit bad, like his room being a mess.

Later, he met a girl he liked (my friend) and they were to meet near a cafe where he usually was after she finished college. By some quirk of luck, she arrived when he wasn’t there, and got teased by his own friends, though both didn’t know that. Upset, she left, but later spoke with him while apologizing for standing him up. She told him about what happened and that she felt too upset and unsafe to wait while he wasn’t there and that she was sorry if he waited for her, etc. (the guy is now 45 – this wasn’t the era of mobile phones)

Reeling in shock, he realized that it was very likely that it was his own friends who had “teased” her. He didn’t really know what to do. He wanted to say that they didn’t mean any harm, but found that he didn’t have the guts to let her know that they were his friends. He avoided going to that place with her. He felt ashamed to confront his friends, because that was what he himself did too. He felt ashamed to tell the girl because he really liked her, and didn’t want to lose her. So he avoided the place. She, with the earlier experience was happy to avoid too.

They got more interested in each other and had a three year affair after which they married. He had started avoiding those friends completely and they too did not suspect anything thinking that his falling in love was the reason he had no time for them.

In the meanwhile, spending time with the girl, he was on the other side of the game. Escorting her, he saw how she was alert to people harassing her. Knowing the “kinds of things” men can do, and think, etc… he started pro actively watching out for her. He noticed other women have the same defensive attitudes too, and they no longer seemed funny when they startled helplessly at being harassed.

Their relationship got into trouble because of his over protectiveness. Knowing how men think, and knowing how it hurt her, he wanted to protect her, but ended up suffocating her with rules about everything. On the verge of a break off, they attended counselling, during which he told his wife about that incident. He was astonished that she barely remembered it. And why would she remember – it was just another day of tangling with creeps. He also told his friends, who were aghast.

For the first time since that day, he invited them home and let them meet her. He got acidity from how tense he was about that meeting. Two of them recognized her, but most didn’t, but his story, and his insights, and his guilt and the impact on his marriage left a mark on them too, and they started being more sensitive. Most of them became vocal against sexual harassment, which was an embarrassing transition for the neighborhood bad boys.

They moved abroad, but he says men are the same everywhere.

After his daughter was born, was the time when he really knew fear because people like him were in the world. That day, in the hospital, he vowed that if he could speak with a man harassing a woman on the street, he would spend time and speak with them, in the hope that like his friends, they too would see in him someone who had lived their life and seen another side of it.

~*~*~*~*~*

Two days after the date of this draft, Keenan Santos was stabbed in Amboli.

I was going to write up this draft better because it is still quite abrupt, but too much time has passed, and chose to publish it as it is rather than change details I didn’t remember clearly anymore.

I think this is one story that many more men should read.

Related Post

About the Author

Vidyut
Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

18 Comments on "Story of a reformed sexual harasser"

  1. This guy is an exception. Most men harass women knowing fully well that it causes them a lot of suffering and trauma. 

  2. This guy is an exception. Most men harass women knowing fully well that it causes them a lot of suffering and trauma. 

  3. Have always had this belief, more mixed gender the bunch of friends one hangs out with, less likely one is likely to behave as mentioned in the narration. reason largely being one sees the other side and tends to be mindful of one’s own friends and their experiences. Chances are men still be naughty/flirty but would rarely do something hurtful or make the woman unsafe as he has been used to being around women and is comfortable in their presence. (the reason i mention comfortable is – more often then not in a cinema – when physical intimacy is shown – one hears cat calls – my interpretation to that is – they feel so uncomfortable that they react by belittling or trivializing the act). For what happened to this person after he fell in love will have happened long before if his friends circle had a fair share of women…. one does not have to wait until falling in love. Have a huge allergy to segregation in general more so on gender – and this being the moot point…

    Well written……

  4. Have always had this belief, more mixed gender the bunch of friends one hangs out with, less likely one is likely to behave as mentioned in the narration. reason largely being one sees the other side and tends to be mindful of one’s own friends and their experiences. Chances are men still be naughty/flirty but would rarely do something hurtful or make the woman unsafe as he has been used to being around women and is comfortable in their presence. (the reason i mention comfortable is – more often then not in a cinema – when physical intimacy is shown – one hears cat calls – my interpretation to that is – they feel so uncomfortable that they react by belittling or trivializing the act). For what happened to this person after he fell in love will have happened long before if his friends circle had a fair share of women…. one does not have to wait until falling in love. Have a huge allergy to segregation in general more so on gender – and this being the moot point…

    Well written……

  5. prashanth kagali | December 26, 2011 at 9:13 am | Reply

    Hi, came across your blog via PatleeKamar who shared your link on twitter. This is the first blog I read of yours and as you have mentioned in the last sentence that many more men should read, I completely agree with you. If only we could explain how girls feel about the eve teasing thing to men, I am sure many would change their attitude and be responsible….:) I am glad I read it.

  6. prashanth kagali | December 26, 2011 at 9:13 am | Reply

    Hi, came across your blog via PatleeKamar who shared your link on twitter. This is the first blog I read of yours and as you have mentioned in the last sentence that many more men should read, I completely agree with you. If only we could explain how girls feel about the eve teasing thing to men, I am sure many would change their attitude and be responsible….:) I am glad I read it.

  7. Vidyut, your writing is as amazing as ever. You didnt need to improve on this. I wonder though if most men who are harassers change just because they have a gf, a wife, a daughter. They are female objects after all…. But I hope they do.

    • This is pretty much what he said. At the same time, I don’t think any person can describe the story of his own change without looking a bit of the hero. The fact doesn’t change that even without harassment, he and his wife came to the point of a divorce, for example.

      Many others. For example, I am not certain I believe the claim of innocence. Or the claim that it wasn’t sexual. Or that it took him that long to realize that women get really angry.

      Also, I doubt that even if he claims innocence, most sexual harassers are like that. There is stalking, harassment, crimes… beyond stray touching, that is.

      But I still think it is important, because it is one narrative, and seeing as how there is an abundance of harassers and very little honest talk, important that it registers…

      • Well said. It’s highly unlikely there wasn’t an element of sexual satisfaction from seeing them scared or offended. It’s all a power play. Just like rape is often not about sex but power. It also says something that after falling in love with this woman, he became over-protective and almost “suffocating her with rules” about everything. These are classic symptoms of psychological abuse, which stems from a mysoginistic view that the woman is his property and he doesn’t want anyone else touching her as it is an aaffront to his ‘masculinity’. I too doubt the claims of innocence.

  8. Vidyut, your writing is as amazing as ever. You didnt need to improve on this. I wonder though if most men who are harassers change just because they have a gf, a wife, a daughter. They are female objects after all…. But I hope they do.

    • This is pretty much what he said. At the same time, I don’t think any person can describe the story of his own change without looking a bit of the hero. The fact doesn’t change that even without harassment, he and his wife came to the point of a divorce, for example.

      Many others. For example, I am not certain I believe the claim of innocence. Or the claim that it wasn’t sexual. Or that it took him that long to realize that women get really angry.

      Also, I doubt that even if he claims innocence, most sexual harassers are like that. There is stalking, harassment, crimes… beyond stray touching, that is.

      But I still think it is important, because it is one narrative, and seeing as how there is an abundance of harassers and very little honest talk, important that it registers…

      • Well said. It’s highly unlikely there wasn’t an element of sexual satisfaction from seeing them scared or offended. It’s all a power play. Just like rape is often not about sex but power. It also says something that after falling in love with this woman, he became over-protective and almost “suffocating her with rules” about everything. These are classic symptoms of psychological abuse, which stems from a mysoginistic view that the woman is his property and he doesn’t want anyone else touching her as it is an aaffront to his ‘masculinity’. I too doubt the claims of innocence.

  9. What was really amazing about this story is its ordinariness. Even as I heard the story, I kept waiting for something dramatic to happen. It didn’t. Just a chain of events. Even his lies and hiding from his wife worked. It wasn’t like he got caught in the lie by his wife or got beaten by someone for harassment. In the end, it was his own paranoia that almost destroyed him.

    Was truly honored by how freely he trusted me.

    I met him exactly once with my friend – no particular interaction – just friend come home from abroad and this is her husband. That was it. This conversation was on phone. We didn’t speak again. The only time when he hesitated was when I asked if I could publish his story. He hesitated. I offered to keep him anonymous and he agreed. But other than that, amazing trust.

  10. What was really amazing about this story is its ordinariness. Even as I heard the story, I kept waiting for something dramatic to happen. It didn’t. Just a chain of events. Even his lies and hiding from his wife worked. It wasn’t like he got caught in the lie by his wife or got beaten by someone for harassment. In the end, it was his own paranoia that almost destroyed him.

    Was truly honored by how freely he trusted me.

    I met him exactly once with my friend – no particular interaction – just friend come home from abroad and this is her husband. That was it. This conversation was on phone. We didn’t speak again. The only time when he hesitated was when I asked if I could publish his story. He hesitated. I offered to keep him anonymous and he agreed. But other than that, amazing trust.

  11. A must read for young men who have no close women friends to make them understand the meaning of mutual respect from their young days. In schools debates should be organised to discuss such issued openly between the teen aged children with appropriate guidance and counseling.
    Parents also shall play a big role in guiding them with how offensive they would feel if such things happened to their mother, sister or wife.

  12. A must read for young men who have no close women friends to make them understand the meaning of mutual respect from their young days. In schools debates should be organised to discuss such issued openly between the teen aged children with appropriate guidance and counseling.
    Parents also shall play a big role in guiding them with how offensive they would feel if such things happened to their mother, sister or wife.

  13. This is a wonderful insight into the mind of and eve teaser. It’s less a question of being evil, than of being unaware of how offensive, unpleasant, and disrespectful it is to a woman. If it were possible to ask this gentleman what exactly changed in his thought process, it might help us understand the situation better.

    We know that his behavior changed abruptly once his own girlfriend was subjected to the same. But why did it require that at all? Did he never have female friends before who used to tell them that it was unacceptable, rude and creepy? Perhaps that is the genesis of the problem – not enough interaction with women at a young age and as friends while growing up. By the time instincts impel men to to contact women, it’s too late and the woman is viewed as an object and not a person.

    Perhaps this should be the biggest take away. Schools segregating children based on their gender and not allowing them to mix only adds to the problem. Colleges exclusively for men and exclusively for women widen this gap. We need to get rid of this culture of segregation.

  14. This is a wonderful insight into the mind of and eve teaser. It’s less a question of being evil, than of being unaware of how offensive, unpleasant, and disrespectful it is to a woman. If it were possible to ask this gentleman what exactly changed in his thought process, it might help us understand the situation better.

    We know that his behavior changed abruptly once his own girlfriend was subjected to the same. But why did it require that at all? Did he never have female friends before who used to tell them that it was unacceptable, rude and creepy? Perhaps that is the genesis of the problem – not enough interaction with women at a young age and as friends while growing up. By the time instincts impel men to to contact women, it’s too late and the woman is viewed as an object and not a person.

    Perhaps this should be the biggest take away. Schools segregating children based on their gender and not allowing them to mix only adds to the problem. Colleges exclusively for men and exclusively for women widen this gap. We need to get rid of this culture of segregation.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*


Share
Contact information || Privacy information || Archives