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Your take: What's behind street harassment?

By Emily Smith, CNN
updated 1:10 PM EDT, Wed October 10, 2012
CNN commenters weigh in on why men catcall, what women can do about it and whether it's worth discussing at all.
CNN commenters weigh in on why men catcall, what women can do about it and whether it's worth discussing at all.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN commenters had strong opinions on why catcallers target women
  • Some readers said men should address this problem among themselves
  • Others said women play into harassment by responding favorably to "bad boys"
  • Many agreed that greater respect for others in all spheres of public life is necessary

(CNN) -- CNN asked readers to share their experiences with sexual harassment on the street in the comments section of a recent article titled 'Hey baby! Women speak out against street harassment.'

There was passionate debate about the causes and effects of catcalls, vulgar rants and even physical assault aimed at women. A few themes stood out: Who's to blame? Are women complicit in street harassment? Is it even worth talking about?

Commenter Frank Montgomery saw the issue of street harassment as cultural: "Instead of blaming men, I would suggest that our larger culture might be more responsible for this. Many people rely on instilling fear for advantage. Popular gangster culture is widely accepted by American youth, and fear is a powerful intoxicant for predators. Ladies, consider yourself fortunate that many such comments are camouflaged in sexual context. These same men are often abusive to everyone, their family members and even other men. Violence, manipulation, deceit and controlling behaviors are often their modus operandi. Also, remember women are not exempt from these trait, they are just manifest different."

Lovehope agreed: "Much of rap music encourages this behavior. The songs are incredibly degrading to women. They are full of profanity and explicit sexual lyrics. There needs to be a public outcry against singers who promote this type of behavior and attitude. I urge people to read the lyrics of the music they listen to and not buy or support music with irresponsible messages.

Those of you with daughters, remember that every woman used to be somebody's little girl. How would you feel if your little girl was treated this way."

Yet some commenters said women condone street harassment with their response to it.

BourneBlogger: "I never catcall a girl, honk a horn, or whistle at a woman. ... The rejection is too overwhelming to take that risk. ... But what's ironic about all of this is that the type of men who do catcall are the EXACT type of men that women flock to when they're at the club. ... I can't tell you how many times I've seen a woman hypnotized by the biggest d0uch3bag on the dance floor. ..."

Guest98989: "It's also interesting to see that some guy can literally be a stalker but it's cool if the girl is into him but then you can have some poor, somewhat less attractive guy simply say hello to a girl, get viciously rejected and then hear the girls talking trash about the creepy freak stalker who dared to say hello to one of them (despite the fact that the poor dude never bothered them before or again). Give me a break. ... You are NOT helping your cause for the very, very few guys who are actually dangerous (which is very few, even 99.9% of jerks are not). ..."

Truthofdare7 wrote in response to Guest98999: "He nailed it 100%. Don't lie to us. Girls talk a good game and then they go out with the worst of the catcallers and call it 'manly', brutish', 'alpha male' 'he is not that bad really'. I don't mind it if that is how things are and adjust accordingly but lets not lie about it. ..."

Then there were the men who were shocked that so many other men condoned catcalling in the comment thread.

SurfingSumo: "As a Man, I never realized there were so many other men that actually think it is ok to catcall and harass women. Didn't the rest of you men have mothers that taught you this was wrong?

What is wrong with you guys. I thought this was only a small segment of men out there but it looks like from the comments it is at least half.

This is wrong and you men that do this are COWARDS. Get it? COWARDS!

Wake up and start treating women the way you would want men to treat your daughter if she was walking on the street or in a subway."

Globaldecay seemed to agree: "This isn't a women's problem. This is a men's problem. We as men must be willing to stand up and speak up for our daughters, sisters and mothers."

As did Bill93848: "If a woman dresses in provocative clothes and literally wears a sign reading 'Please harass me,' it is still the man's responsibility to exercise self-restraint. A man is just that -- a man, not an impulsive child."

There were also some readers who thought the issue was being exaggerated:

Gregkells: "Many of us aren't condoning the behavior, we just find the response to it overblown. I don't condone bullying either, but I'm sick to death of the media latching on to it and creating an atmosphere of hypersensitivity. Kids will ALWAYS pick on each other, it isn't a national crisis. There will always be men who say crude things, it isn't terrorism or rape. Some of us are just getting sick of extreme cases being presented as if they are indicative of the norm. Kids aren't lining up like lemmings to commit suicide because some other kid gave them a wedgie, and people aren't getting raped and groped en masse on public transit because we let construction workers get away with whistling at pretty women. This type of sensationalism will produce a backlash, hence the crude jokes people are making here. Most of us aren't defending the behavior, we're ridiculing the response."

Badger85 didn't agree: "Greg, I agree the media over sensationalizes things, but cases like this -- unwanted touching on the bus, graphic threats to rape, following someone home etc? It's happened to every girl. I'm glad we ARE discussing it, because it seems like guys have no idea that this is so frequent and don't realize *why* we're responding to them with distrust and fear."

Mrsczs had some advice for women: "You mean men are still carrying on like that? I thought they'd stopped years ago. When did I grow old enough to fly beneath the radar? Take it from me, ladies, 'This, too, shall pass.' Enjoy every minute of being young and beautiful and don't waste your precious moments getting hung up on the small stuff. Wolf whistles are small stuff. Life is short."

Guylpanema also said women should just suck it up: "This behavior is genetic, and all of you people who are arguing against it simply lack a grasp of human nature. Men will forever be trying to get some, and women will forever be the object of that desire. It is inherent in our nature. While I agree that sometimes it goes too far, trying to regulate human chemistry is a short trip down the road to fascism.

I'm sorry if it bothers you when men recognize that you look great in ways that you don't approve of. Get over it. Stop trying to control things you have no right to control. Woman up. If you want to be equals, then start growing a pair instead of whining about what you don't like."

Others didn't take so kindly to that response.

Stubby: "We have control over our own bodies. You have control over YOUR actions. Making lame excuses and saying that men are just animals who can't control themselves is pathetic and insulting to men. You can recognize a pretty girl without grabbing or harassing them, millions of men are capable of this."

Commenter Cathi Cari Shudde summed up her history with street harassment: "I've had multiple experiences during the years of this and similar experiences. Whether walking down the street, riding public transit, walking in a park with my dog, being in a public space (i.e. store, library, etc) - and here's my take on it at 56 years old.

Why do people think its ok to say something to another person that you wouldn't want said to your mother, your sister, your daughter or your friend?

Why must we accommodate your inability to keep your thoughts from flowing freely and without consideration, from your mouths? ...

Sadly its all too common that other women and men will not intervene or step up to assist others. They don't want to get involved.

I'm frankly tired of accommodating other's poor behavior and inability to control themselves in public."

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