When the "Me Too" movement exploded a few years ago, the ubiquitousness of women's sexual harassment and assault experiences became painfully clear. What hasn't always been as clear is role that less overt, more subtle creepiness plays in making women feel uncomfortable or unsafe as they move through the world, often starting from a young age.
Thankfully—and unfortunately—a viral video from a teen TikToker illustrates exactly what that looks like in real-time when a man came and sat down with her while she was doing a live video. He asked if the chair at her table was taken, and she said no, thinking he wanted to take it to another table. Instead, he sat down and started talking to her. You can see in her face and in her responses that she's weirded out, though she's trying not to appear rude or paranoid.
The teen said in a separate TikTok video that the man appeared to be in his 30s. Definitely too old to be pulling up a chair with someone so young who is sitting by herself, and definitely old enough to recognize that she was uncomfortable with the situation.
Creep approaches teenage girl while she’s live streaming 😐😖 https://t.co/tJa1ZI7Nan— chris evans (@chris evans) 1619701955.0
The 18-year-old, who goes by @maasassin_ on TikTok, shared the video in two parts on TikTok. The initial video has received more than 11 million views, and though she has comments turned off on her TikTok channel, the commentary on Twitter shows why it resonated with so many women.
@VABVOX @chris_notcapn Yup. Since I was 12. It's only recently stopped now that I'm a crone.— Lisa B, Determined (@Lisa B, Determined) 1619746803.0
Women shared that the "creepy guy" thing happens to many of us starting in childhood and that we have to learn how to navigate such situations from a ridiculously young age.
"I don't know a single woman who didn't see themselves in this video," wrote one woman, "and it's heartbreaking."
@VABVOX @chris_notcapn This was my exact reaction. We learn how to tactfully deal with these situations to avoid po… https://t.co/X2UDDbsCkR— Just Your Average Mel (@Just Your Average Mel) 1619780305.0
In fact, the response to the video was visceral for many of us. We've been in that exact situation, not sure if we're overreacting, feeling like something's off or weird but unsure of how to respond to it on the spot, having to balance our own safety with our desire to give people the benefit of the doubt, etc.
@mscarasco_live @chris_notcapn I didn't realize I was until I exhaled at the end of the clip.— Oxtail Empanadas & Sauerkraut (@Oxtail Empanadas & Sauerkraut) 1619704460.0
Some guys have responded that the man was just being friendly and making small talk and that everyone is overreacting, but no. A man over 30 years old approaching a girl who is clearly in her teens and sticking around when she's obviously uncomfortable is not being friendly. He's being creepy, full stop.
@chris_notcapn Any guy responding to this video with "He was just being friendly" is not a safe person. There is no… https://t.co/xHhTnVEcDa— The Lamityville Horror: Awake at 5AM!! (@The Lamityville Horror: Awake at 5AM!!) 1619782241.0
Some have said that she needed to be more forceful about not wanting him there, setting a clear boundary. But when you're young and have never had someone act this way with you, it's an awkward position to be in. And as the guys who said he was just being friendly condescendingly point out, it's not like he was saying anything directly problematic. His words weren't inappropriate—his imposed, insistent presence was. And that's a hard thing to convey to a man who is older and presumably bigger than you are, in a public place in broad daylight where you know he's not likely to do something to you then and there, but you still feel creeped out and uncomfortable.
He's the one who should know better. He's the one who should be given a lecture about setting boundaries.
The teen said in another video that she spoke to the person at the front desk of the hotel who said they know who he is and that they would have a talk with him, so hopefully, he'll rethink.
In the meantime, a lesson we can all take from this is to be on the lookout for one another. The young woman's friend who called down from the balcony was so helpful—you could see the relief flood her body as soon as she heard and saw him. We can all keep our eyes open for someone being approached by a stranger when they're alone and pay attention to their facial expressions and body language. We can intervene in some way if they appear uncomfortable, from slipping them a note to ask if they're okay to acting like we know them to scare off a creeper who's clearly bothering them.
No one of any gender should have to feel afraid to just sit someplace by themselves. While we can't rid the world of all the creepos, we can pay attention to what's happening around us, watch out for one another, and do what we can to create a safer environment for all.
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