Freedom of speech is one thing, but when it comes to comments from strangers there’s a fine line to be walked.
When I say comments from strangers, I’m talking about people approaching you in person, people you do not know, but who feel the need to express their opinion to you, often about you. I’m talking about interactions with strangers that perhaps not intentionally, manage to become uncomfortable.
Verbal sexual assault is an example when an interaction with a stranger crosses the line. Having someone come up to you and tell you you’re sexy, or you have nice tits, or would you like to fuck them may seem harmless, but it is completely unnecessary and uncalled for. I’m not saying this to be a prude, I’m saying it because it really is unnecessary. One may argue, ‘What? Can’t I tell a person I think she looks nice?”
Ah, there you go! There’s a difference between giving a compliment and making someone uncomfortable. For example, ‘that dress looks nice on you’ is very different to ‘nice boobies! ‘
Me telling the girl who was making me a coffee that I loved her hair color isn’t quite the same as a guy yelling across the pub at me, ‘you wanna suck my dick?’
Beyond verbal sexual assault, there are other instances where comments to strangers can be hurtful.
When I was a kid, I often got mistook for a boy. I think it was because I wasn’t very girly. I hated skirts and dresses, I wore t-shirts and jeans all the time with my sneakers and hoodies. When I was little it didn’t really matter, but as I started to grow up, that’s when it became hurtful.
One particular incident stands out, when as a self conscious and moody thirteen year old, the driver of the school bus mistook me for a guy. And my thirteen year old self conscious and moody reaction to this was to stop in my tracks, point at my chest and yell “what the hell do you think these are?”
Not the best reaction to have I don’t think, but I was upset, and in front of all my peers being mistaken for a boy was embarrassing. It was humiliating.
It’s been a long time since that’s happened again, but even though it seems silly to get upset about it now, looking back it did hurt my feelings and make me feel bad.
Often, when we say things to people, even perfect strangers in passing, we don’t intend it in a malicious manner. I’m not saying by any means that getting harassed and made out to be a sexual object is the same as being mistook for a boy when I was a child, but I guess it’s like mistakenly thinking someone is pregnant because they’re curvy, or that someone is anorexic, because they are thin.
Having an opinion about someone or something is fine, but maybe it’s best just to keep it to yourself. A comment in passing may not be so harmless as you may think.