Whenever we take walks in the park every afternoon, my Chinese husband John takes on what he considers an incredibly important responsibility.
He “guards” my butt from the wandering eyes of other men.
I always used to think John was going a little overboard when, not long after we moved to Hangzhou, he chose to start walking behind me. At some point, I know there was a conversation between the two of us that went something like this:
Me: “Why are you walking behind me?”
John: “To protect your butt.”
Me: “My butt needs to be protected?”
I never thought I had the kind of butt – like, say, Kim Kardashian – that could go viral or inspire butt-envy. Why would anyone need to guard it?
But then there was this one day where, while strolling through the park (yes, with John behind me guarding my own behind) we came upon a group of men. There were at least three of these guys and they were loitering on this bridge we had to cross. I happened to be wearing a light pink shirt over a hot pink sports bra, and a pair of navy blue spandex exercise pants that fell just below my knees.
Most days, I try not to stare too much at the people around me – especially men – because, chances are, they’re already looking at me. I’m a foreigner, after all.
On this day, I wasn’t looking directly at any of these men, yet I felt their dirty stares all over my body. This wasn’t foreigner curiosity in China, but something perverted.
Behind me, my husband whispered in my ear, “Move, get away from them. Fast!” We both hurried past them across the bridge and jogged until they were far away and out of sight. Even though not one of those men had laid a hand on me, I still remember feeling disturbed by the whole experience. I wondered, How could someone look at me like that? Why had I never noticed this before?
The thing, once this happened, I started noticing shades of the same behavior while walking through the park. Like glancing back at some guys we just passed, only to catch them stealing a look at my behind. Or passing a group of men, ogling me in a decidedly uncomfortable way.
I don’t think it’s fair to simply blame the attention on my spandex pants or how my butt happened to appear while wearing them. Still, as ridiculous as it sounded for my husband to “guard my butt,” I understood he did it for love.
(Well, love and the fact that he likes to stare at my butt while we walk.) 😉
So why am I writing about this experience? Something that, frankly, I push from my mind more than I want to admit?
I was reminded of it a few months ago when I came across this blog post from the Shandongxifu, describing how she was sexually assaulted by three men in Shenzhen (and, by the looks of it, in danger of being raped):
There were 3 men. They were middle aged and obviously transients to the city from their country-side, labor-worn appearances.
“She speaks Chinese!” one of the men exclaimed. Now I had really sparked their interest. They got closer and started to critique my appearance more. They told me how I didn’t look American because I wasn’t fat. They said they loved my blond hair. I kept walking assuring myself that I was in public in broad daylight, but I felt awkward.
They started talking about my pale skin. Then as one of men pointed out I was slighted tanned on my chest, he literally used his hand to point it out by brushing his finger above the opening of my button down dress.
I reactively swatted his hand away and looked the man in horror. The men smiled. I was feisty.
I started forward but was detained. The other men had grabbed my arms and my attempts to get away only brought them forward with me. Panic rushed through me. I momentarily looked around at the passersby who watched me with curiosity and pity. I had been in China before and I knew that no one would ever help a stranger; They would simply stop and watch. I had been in Shenzhen long enough to know that the police wouldn’t help, even if I had happened to see one in that very second. I was scared.
I fought against the three men as they started to pull me away out the crowds, move their hands towards forbidden places, and start to tear at buttons on my dress.
I am not a passive person. I have dealt with sticky situations before but never 3 men at the same time. I fought and struggled and squirmed some more. I finally got an arm free. It was enough freedom to physically assault one of my assailants. In all of the times I had been harassed in China, I had never physically punched anyone for fear of legal ramifications as a foreigner. I wasn’t thinking about that right then.
I could see the shock on the hit man’s face. Did Chinese women not fight back? Did he still think I was a prostitute and would take it as long as I was paid? I don’t know, and I didn’t stay to find out.
While the 3 men were momentarily stunned, I freed my other appendages and ran. I took off in my heels running through the busy crowd. I can run distance so I knew I would out run them. I ran as fast as I could and went a round about way back to my apartment in case they somehow kept up. I ran into my building and up the 9 flights of stairs. No one was following so I opened the door, went inside, and locked it. A million thoughts rushed through my mind, but I couldn’t sort through them and I couldn’t breathe.
The worst thing, though, is that I can relate to her experience. I was once sexually assaulted in China myself. And like the Shandongxifu, I’ve not wanted to share it for a long time – believing, as she did, that somehow it was all my fault.
It happened in Beijing when a driver a friend arranged to send me to the airport ended up touching one of my breasts. He did it just before I was about to leave his car – as if he had wanted to touch me the entire time and held out for the right moment. It was creepy and despicable and the kind of thing I hope will never happen again.
I honestly thought nothing like this could ever happen to me in China. I always used to feel so safe and even protected in China. Years ago, I often told friends how I would walk through Shanghai late into the evenings and never feel worried about getting raped or jumped by anyone.
But now I wonder if I really had it right or not. Was I safe in Shanghai because we lived in the center of the city, where lots of people streamed through the streets day and night? Or was I simply naïve?
But then again, I never thought I would be sexually assaulted in the US either – and that also happened to me. Back in the Spring of 2001, while riding in the passenger side of a fifty-something man’s car, he suddenly laid his hand on my thigh and caressed it in a creepy and even disgusting way (I don’t suppose there is any other way when you’re touching a woman who doesn’t want you to touch her that way). This silver-haired fellow was the president of a professional organization I belonged to (I never went to another meeting again after that). There I was, utterly trapped in this man’s car (with no cell phone, mind you), with the frightening thoughts flashing through my mind. Is this it or will he do more? Will he do worse?
Thankfully, that’s all he did.
One night, while John and I were traversing the park beside our community in Hangzhou with our Chinese friend Caroline, she said she was feeling a little nervous. When I questioned her about it, she told us she was worried about running into bad people in the park. John naturally reassured her that, with the three of us together, that was unlikely to happen. It did reassure her, in a way. But then she admitted she wouldn’t dare to walk through the park at night on her own. “I’d be worried about rape or assault.”
It’s the kind of thing I always used to think to myself in the US. And now that I’m in China – and understand that the same dangers exist here too – I realize it’s my worry too.
What do you think about this subject? Have you ever experienced sexual assault?
84 Replies to “On sexual assault in China (and how my husband “guards my butt”)”
And they think it only happens in America and minority men are solely to blame…
I don’t think people believe minorities are solely to blame–that is an unfair accusation. As a woman, I can tell you that in my experience black and hispanic men (in the US) are much more obvious/vocal with their come-ons than white men. There was a really good article that discussed this on Slate recently. I wish I could find the link.
I found the link. Maybe you’ll find it interesting: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/10/31/catcalling_what_hollaback_s_viral_video_reveals_about_white_men_and_street.html
White men edited out of the documentary…however, Asian men I spoke to interpret it from their cultural viewpoint…after Ferguson one would think black men will not be harrassing any white people let alone white women…but as some Asians say black men have no sense of “shame.” If what happened to a black person in Salt Lake City or Ferguson happened to an Asian it would be loosing face….a sense of shame…and at least for a bit you will see Asians not associating with whites too much. May be that is why the media and the country is talking about Ferguson and Salt Lake City and not Cerritos, Milbrae, San Marino or Milipitas….in fact not many people outside California have heard of these towns.
What bothers me even more is that it helped elect racist crazies to the US congress from Georgia and North Carolina.
And one more thing…it changed the course of the US midterm elections in two states, Georgia and North Carolina and very nearly did in Virginia.
Lately a lot of women are blogging about this topic and I’m glad. I think more attention needs to be brought to this issue. Your friend’s story is absolutely terrifying. Things like that have happened to me as well. I once got a massage in Xi’an, I was with friends and it was supposedly a “reputable place.” The masseuse started to finger me and I didn’t know what to do. I was so surprised by it (we were in a large open room full of people, for God’s sake) and I thought maybe I was imagining it, so I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. Again, like most women, I thought it was my fault, so I didn’t want to make a scene. Looking back on it, I had every right to start yelling and kick him in the face or something. I wish I’d done that.
I posted about this subject not too long ago as well.
Wow!! What a very scary experience for both you and the other blogger. Nothing like this has ever happened to me in Taiwan but there was a month of living here that I did feel unsafe in 2001 (a couple of months before I started dating my husband). There was a guy who just kept popping up everywhere I was and he seemed to know my schedule. He would always try to chat and get my phone number. One day, I got on the bus and he followed me on it. I was so mad about the fact that he was basically stalking me that I took him by the tie and told him on the crowded bus that if I ever see him again, he would spend the rest of his life in jail. He got off the bus as fast as he could at the next stop and I never saw him again.
Fortunately I haven’t had any bad experiences of sexual assault… I haven’t even been to China yet, but I still will be on the look out for myself when I go over there. I appreciate these stories I hear as it makes me want to feel safer and try to prepare myself before I go abroad.
P.S. Jocelyn, Selfie is most likely cancelled. 🙁
It became a good show towards the end, but in a big State University town America which elects people like this….
it is not surprising that a AM-WW couple show will have much of a following…probably these shows should be produced specifically for an Asian audience.
“I was so mad about the fact that he was basically stalking me that I took him by the tie and told him on the crowded bus that if I ever see him again, he would spend the rest of his life in jail. He got off the bus as fast as he could at the next stop and I never saw him again.”
He lost face being “fixed” by a foreign white woman.
Yes..selfie is history.
I also felt safer in China than in Austria (which is already deemed quite safe) in the past. I always felt uneasy walking home alone at night in Austria. Usually, I didn’t feel uneasy walking home at night in China (but oftentimes, I took a cab and arrived home faster – fortunately, I never had any incident like the one you mentioned). Just like you, I’ve come to realise that China’s not as safe as I always thought it was – especially for women.
I have been assaulted in the US, China, Indonesia, and India. As the recent Catcalling video (I think David posted a link to an article about this) calls to attention that harassment happens to young women all the time.
I still feel quite safe where I live in China though. I can go out at night, but I couldn’t do that in my hometown. I think the scary thing, which you point out in your article (through Shandong Xifu’s post), is that no one may come to my aid if something happens. At least in the US, if someone is around, they will usually intervene.
Another issue, which laowhynot mentions, is that sometimes you don’t even realize what is happening. It can be so subtle or happen incredibly fast. I faced this problem in India when I was fondled by men in passing. People say, “Why didn’t you do something? What didn’t you say something?” But it happened so fast I wondered if I imagined it. And then once I realized that yes, indeed, someone just deliberately grabbed my boob, the person was long gone. . . .
I haven’t been sexually assaulted, at least not that I remember. Come to think of it, I do vaguely remember being touched inappropriately in public a time or two, but since nothing came of it, I didn’t think of it again. If I’d been grabbed like the blogger you quoted, I definitely would have remembered that.
Whether at home or abroad, I’ve always had a car. I think being locked inside a car makes a difference in a woman’s safety. On the other hand, my cousin was raped when she came back to her car in a mall parking lot (in the United States).
Wherever we are, it can be dangerous to be so impressed with a place that we can’t imagine anything bad happening there. That happened to me in Fiji. The people seemed so friendly and nice that I let down my guard and got badly scammed by a “sword seller.” An embarrassing and expensive lesson.
So glad you’ve posted this article. I lived in China for three years and faced a few similarly bad situations. I’m glad you’ve brought this up, because although I would still consider Shanghai to be a safe place, bad things happen everywhere and I often felt my problems were dismissed because ‘China is a safe place!’
The first thing that happened back in 2008 was a young man followed me into the stairwell of my apartment complex and jumped on me from behind, pulling me into his chest. This was after midnight and I jammed by umbrella into his eye. Thankfully I was heading up the stairs and this gave me a bit more weight when I turned around. He kept saying ‘I’m sorry’ in Chinese, but this was terrible for me as 1. he knew where I lived and 2. I had no idea if he was a neighbour. My friends advised me to forget it happened.
The second thing was not an assault, but it was incredibly unsettling. Shortly after registering (for the millionth time) at my local police department, I got a text from an unknown number saying ‘Hello Amanda, are you still in Shanghai?’ I thought it was a friend who had recently lost his phone. Then more texts came and I realized it wasn’t my friend – it was some unknown person who wanted to show me Shanghai and said ‘you don’t know me, but I know you.’ I had no idea if this was somebody I worked with or what, which made me incredibly paranoid. My Chinese friends thought it was romantic. Finally it turns out a man had copied down all my personal information while I was giving it to the local police in the incredibly busy, not-private station, and was using it to uh, ‘flirt.’ For awhile I was afraid he was a policeman! I ended up telling him I had a boyfriend and was moving away in a few months and he backed off, but I found it really scary that my personal information was taken like that. I lived alone and for some time I either had the taxi bring me right to my door, or had a friend go home with me.
I’ve never had any direct problems, but my husband does warn me to be careful and I try to dress quite modestly to avoid extra attention. I don’t do the mini skirts or short shorts with stilettos like many of the other moms (and honestly I don’t have the body for it!).
My husband does have a colleague that I avoid at all costs due to the comments and questions he asks my husband about me and our physical relationship. It’s kind of odd for a guy–one whom you never see face to face–notices that you’ve lost weight and comments on how good you look to your husband. Apparently he watched me from his office window, which I used to go by on a daily basis, since it was the most direct route to the market. Didn’t take long for that to change! When I do run in to him, I keep the conversation short and focused on the kids. And pray that his kid and mine don’t get put in the same class next year!
I wouldn’t be surprised at all if sexual assault and rape were more common or even much more common in China than in the western countries. Even as a Chinese American, I keep telling people that people in mainland China are of lower moral quality than people in advanced countries. They simply rarely think about anyone but themselves. Sometimes they will think of people they know but they have no respect for strangers. If they could kill or injure strangers for a profit, they would. It’s no wonder to me how disasters like the great famine and the cultural revolution could happen in China. Modern China has millions and millions of very defective people. The culture is a blend of egotism and save-face-at-all-cost. People don’t report serious violations because they are afraid they will lose face for being a victim or the perps and their families will lose face. So they bury it and it is allowed to continue unchecked. There is something very rotten about modern China.
“Even as a Chinese American, I keep telling people that people in mainland China are of lower moral quality than people in advanced countries.”
Really? Did you see the New York video I posted…last I saw New York was in an advanced country.
“Really? Did you see the New York video I posted…last I saw New York was in an advanced country.”
No one knows what you are talking about. New York video? There are millions of “videos” from or about New York.
Are you reading the same blog that I am or are you living in your own protected world somewhere in the San Marino or Mibrae CA or China?…did you read the first response?
Are you a moron? That’s a rhetorical question. I read this post. I don’t read every comment by every idiot poster such as your self. So don’t assume I’ve read everything you posted. I don’t care about all your references. If you respond to me it’s your responsibility to state clearly the relevance.
BTW, that video has nothing to do with what I said. Because you lack basic reading skills, you don’t even understand what I have said and responded with an irrelevant video. Catcalling isn’t the only thing when it comes to moral character and you can’t generalize the behavior of some men in NY to all or the average man in western countries.
Men are same everywhere…you are obviously deluded and whitewashed.
Only a fool believes that people are the same “everywhere”. Crimes differ by country. That is a fact. Crimes differ by region within countries. Only an idiot would say that Detroit has the same level of crime as Tokyo. Cultures are also different. Laws are also different. You are clearly brainwashed.
“Men are same everywhere…you are obviously deluded and whitewashed.”
BTW, if you had actually understood what I said, you’d see that this actually supports what I said (at least as it relates to China). I said in my view that incidents of sexual assault and rape were probably just as high in China as in the west. They are very under reported in China. It’s a shame that you are basically illiterate and can’t understand that.
Painting every Chinese with a pretty broad brush, dont you think? Not very different from David crucifying white southerners.
@Lee…hopelessmisanthrope needs to read Marta’s post on Spain. If Jocelyn and rest of them had the attitude this woman (or is she really a white female troll?) has, they would have never dated or married a Chinese guy…bet hopelessmisanthrope does not date anyone other than white be she an Asian or a white female.
The whole “I know nobody will help strangers on the street / the police won’t do anything either” is one major reason why I live in Taiwan, not China.
Although there is a “stop and gawk at the incident” vibe at times, generally speaking if there’s a real problem strangers will stop to help. A few months ago some guy started screaming at a bus driver for no good reason (well, the driver probably did skip his stop – we’ll never know, either way, one does not scream at bus drivers) and a whole cadre of old people came up to shoo him away. The killer on the MRT was taken down by a guy with an umbrella. I’ve slipped and sprained my ankle and whole groups of people stop to help. I once left my passport in the back of a taxi and started crying on the street and, like, 8 people stopped to ask if they could help. I once saw a scooter/car accident and pedestrians stopped traffic so as to not endanger the injured scooter driver’s life, called emergency services etc.. And the police would definitely do something. The idea that they wouldn’t even if they saw it happen is unthinkable.
I can’t really accept the idea that a place where strangers will watch other strangers get sexually assaulted or even dragged off to get raped is a good place to be. It’s an indictment of…well it’s just an indictment.
NOT OKAY. And there is no “cultural differences”/”cultural understanding” phrasing that can make it okay. It’s just wrong.
I would move.
In fact, I did move.
In fact, the idea of even living in a place where someone else would have to ‘guard my butt’ because catcalling and sexual harassment (which is what this is) are that common is also not okay, and I also could not and would not live there. At the risk of whipping a dead horse, it would not go down like that in Taiwan. Maybe 15 years ago, but not now.
As would be evident from the New York video, welcome to all over the world….perhaps may be not Singapore, where the government is constantly watching you…in Taiwan, when I was there for a week in 2008, I saw three western white women during the entire time.
…and I’m a white woman who’s been here for 8 years and neither I nor any of the other white women we know here have ever been catcalled. I explained catcalling to Taiwanese female friends and they all said that happened in the past but doesn’t happen now, or at least, it’s vanishingly rare.
I do generally feel safer in Japan than in other places I’ve lived, at least when walking home in the evening. I’m still very wary and alert thoughーI’ve been followed home once (ran up to my apartment door before the guy could catch up and figure out which place was mine), and a couple of other instances; one in Osaka, one in Korea. Although what I experienced wasn’t as horrible as Shandongxifu experienced, the incidents have put me on edge. I know friends (here in Japan) who have dealt with much worseーbut what was worse than the assault was the lack of support (both medical and legal) they received after. Japan has already gained notoriety for its chikans (molesters, usually on trains) and has a long way to go when it comes to dealing with assault and rape cases.
But back to feeling saferーor at least feeling the illusion of safety, one of the reasons I definitely do feel more comfortable is there is no gawking, cat calling, whistling or otherwise disgusting behavior when I walk past construction sites in Japan. And I walk past *so many*, especially in my local neighborhood. They are either busy working, or chatting amongst themselves, and there is usually a designated “waver” to wave pedestrians past the site, apologizing for the trouble and ensuring our safety. That is a completely unimaginable scenario anywhere else I’ve lived.
I guess nowhere is 100% safe, but hopefully by talking and writing about it people will become more aware. (Your timing with this post was interesting by the wayーhave you been following the blow-up regarding the pick up artist Julien Blanc? He was kicked out of Australia for spouting misogynistic “dating advice” (read: how to assault women) and there’s a petition going around in Japan to make sure he doesn’t come here either.)
In Shanghai, I once went on a date with a very attractive local guy. I thought the date was going great until he suggested we pick up his out-of-town male friend at his hotel, before going for late supper. My sixth sense told me something was off and I insisted on staying right outside the hotel room. I picked up from their faces that things were not going according to plans. I made up some excuse and took off. Never heard from my date again. I think I narrowly escaped but who knows. I thought about this a lot. Maybe they were just hoping I would be true to stereotypes aka the “open-minded foreigner”.
Otherwise, I’ve always felt safe in China but I was probably naive. I’ve had quite a few guys make weird offers but I thought they were almost comical and non-threatening. Like when a date texted me “Wanna go hotel?” WHILE he was walking me to the subway station after our afternoon coffee date. True story.
I would like to make a point. I went up to the room because I didn’t want to appear impolite. That was stupid of me. I drew the line at entering the room but already I put myself at too great a risk. Never agree to anything out of wanting to avoid social embarrassment. Don’t give the benefit of a doubt if the situation feels weird.
Really interesting read. For what it’s worth, I’ve lived in Shenzhen for more than five years and never had anything like this happen to me or my girlfriends, and we also all live well outside the foreigner enclaves. I live in Xili, which is a pretty middle-class/poor area and ride the bus everyday.
Like Ri, I actually had a couple incidents back when I lived in Japan, including a guy following me around a mall and people refusing to help me. So, I really appreciate telling her story, but I don’t think hating Shenzhen (I have a website called Love, Shenzhen, so know that a lot of us love living here) or Mainland China is really helpful. Rape culture exists in every corner of the Earth, and it’s great that we are connecting through the internet to talk about it and fight it.
Well I’ve lived in Shanghai for almost two years now.
I’d like to start off by saying – people have helped me here. Every time I’ve gotten into some dispute strangers have come to my aid. I once had a young woman try and bump me with her car… and a complete stranger (an older man) came over and told her to move away before our argument got too heated.
Also, a couple of weeks ago I saw a woman fall – immediately a stranger ran over and helped her up.
So – I can truthfully say that people DO help each other out here. It does happen.
As for safety – I am sure there are bad people everywhere. But, I feel so much safer here in China than back in the USA where I’m from. I can walk around at night here and I don’t ever feel unsafe.
However, I have been assaulted twice in Shanghai. BOTH by foreign men (I’d say from the USA) in the broad daylight. An old white male in Ikea touched my butt and a young drunk guy (with his buddies) on Nanjing Pedestrian Street tried to grab my breasts. I didn’t feel like my life was in danger or that I was going to be raped… but, it was unpleasant. Both were only seconds and if I had more time to even process what had happened I would have yelled at them. The older man in Ikea literally touched my butt then ran out the building… and the young drunk guy was so drunk it wasn’t worth it.
I’ve had locals stare at me.. and some guys make eyes and calls at me. But, I’ve yet to be afraid. I hope that day never comes and my heart goes out to any woman who has been assaulted on any level. It’s wrong and it should NEVER happen to anyone.
We should respect all men and women no matter where you live on Earth! I truly believe that those men should be punished if they’ve sexually assaulted any women. We must have respects in us before people show us any respects!
I was also pretty naive when I first arrived in China, but I think as you grow up you grow less and less naive, especially after repeated close-calls and assaults (it’s fortunately only happened to me once).
I too have learned to walk head down or at least avoiding any eye-contact and sadly I do think this means I miss out on some interesting conversations and encounters – just yesterday an old man at the market started talking to me in English and it would have been nice to stick around and find out where he learned it, but I already felt I should just get myself back home after too many talking about me (and my baby bump).
I really hope China can improve in this respect but if they can’t even acknowledge it then it doesn’t seem possible.
I still think China is safer than, say, Spain. I have never had incidents of any kind happening in China, or maybe I have been lucky.
Regarding sexual harassment in the way of catcalling, pervert staring, etc, after reading your article I’m starting to think maybe these things are so common in Spain that we don’t even think about them anymore… For example, if you pass by a construction site, normally the guys working there will say something to you (it even happened to a GUY I know, he had long, blond hair and the construction worker saw him from behind and thought he was a girl!). I also clearly remember the first time I went to the city in south Spain where I was to attend university, I stepped out of the hotel and on the street passed by some men who stared directly at my boobs without trying to hide it at all…
It is not ok, though. This kind of things shouldn’t happen. Lately I have read so many similar stories happening in China that I’m trying to be more alert when I go out. Just in case.
This topic seems to have really gained some fire since the New York video went viral and I am glad you posted about it. On my trip to China I felt that it was super safe, safer than cities in the west even. But that might be because there was no overt form of sexual aggression like cat calling, following, staring openly in a dirty way? In other places I have experienced this sort of unwanted attention, and from men of all races. The only time I experienced some form of strange behavior that related back to China is this one chinese guy, who seemed pretty normal, was a medical student at Cornell and was talking to my (chinese) boyfriend. When he realized I was dating my boyfriend (we were in a group) he acted normal, then suddenly bent towards me, indicating that he wanted to ask something private, and asked if I had any sisters or cousins as he is looking to have some fun while in the US (in a tone that still sends shivers down my spine). I could not believe he had the gall to take that tone with me, with my boyfriend merely an arms length away, and we were surrounded by ivy league students in one of the best neighborhoods in NYC!
It taught me that creeps exist everywhere! That and the fact that I once passed an attractive ish hipster looking white guy in Kings Cross and the moment he passed me, he looks at me and makes disgusting kissing sounds (this has happened several times but this struck me because I actually SAW this person and it did not look like the type of guys who are usually shown engaging in such behavior).
So although there ARE cultural issues affecting this, the biggest issue with sexual harrassment I have is that it happens everywhere, and to such an extent that women have simply learnt to put up with it. Like, you can pass comments, stare, make obscene sounds and horrible assumptions, as long as you dont touch/rape me. Because thats how helpless we feel!
Which Kings Cross? London Kings Cross Station or the Kings Cross on the other side of the world, a redlight district in Sydney? I have been to both. Let me tell you of an incident in Singapore…three Bangladeshi construction workers catcalled white female tourists from the US thinking that the government will not take it seriously because they were not Chinese Singaporean women…worng! three days later…they heard a knock on the door and in twenty four hours deportation proceedings were under way and the rest was history. As long as I know no Chinese Singaporeans have been detained for catcalling in Singapore and it is not for a lack of Singapore government trying.
London Kings Cross. Usually I wear headphones so if I pass my construction sites or such or generally drunk guys on Friday evening, I can tune out whatever they will say/ noises they will make. This just happened to be one time I wasnt in a rush, was walking to catch a train I was early for, looking around and suddenly this happened.
This whole “it happens everywhere in the world” stuff…
…yeah, it does happen in a lot, even most, places.
But truly, I have never been catcalled or aggressively leered at in Taiwan. Neither have the foreign women I’ve asked (it is possible foreign women I haven’t asked have had that experience). Talking about catcalling and leering with Taiwanese female friends, they say it used to happen often but is now vanishingly rare.
So no, it’s not just something you have to put up with ‘everywhere’.
The point I am trying to make is that there is a certain attitude of entitlement, which men around the world exhibit. And it is unfair to label an entire culture as debauched because of it. There are several forms of sexual harrassment, some passive and some aggressive. Catcalling, rabid staring, uncalled for touching and worse are aggressive. However making assumptions about a woman based on her race/attire/whatever else that can be remotely used to justify lewd behavior, lying to get laid, entangling romantic interests in professional interactions (i.e. showing interest in a low power female who obviously wants your help, hence making her think she has to date you to get what she wants) are more passive kinds of harrassment.
The fact of the matter is, women encounter this every day, in some shape or form, almost everywhere. I believed there to be places where women would be safer and it is true that aggressive sexual harrassment DOES differ in terms of degree in countries (mostly because in some places it has become a norm while in other places it might lead to loss of face or get you stares, as it is unnatural). And it is true that some governments have tried to clamp down on it harder (which offers women some relief AT LEAST in terms of men they DONT have to deal with). BUT the point is:
1. This happens everywhere and no, its NOT OK.
2. Of course it has to do with culture. However there is a universal gender bias (just look at salary differences for same jobs among men and women if you believe gender differences only exist in developing countries.)
On that point, also note that the areas we typically inhabit, walk in, move around also matter a lot. I never experienced harrassment ANYWHERE when I was living close to school/work, all in nice neighborhoods and barely had to use public transportation (and this includes countries like India). However travelling, commuting, wandering even accidentally in dodgy neighborhoods is a different story. So those impact our experiences too.
3. Both cultures that believe it doesnt happen in their country/city and people who overlook these behaviors are sometimes worse than the offenders and thats what makes the life of someone experiencing this much harder.
Thank you SBC, this is so well said. I think claiming that this stuff doesn’t happen is like putting our fingers in our ears and closing our eyes. It does happen, in either subtle or obvious ways, everywhere, at varying frequency. And claiming that is doesn’t hurts the very women we should want to empower and protect.
Moreover, many of us do not have the ability to up and move to the safest or most women friendly countries. Please consider yourself lucky if you live in such a place but please have a little compassion (instead of being condescending) to us that can’t. . . or maybe even don’t want to. Some people choose to stay where they are and fight for better treatment and rights. I think that’s noble.
Yes, but I could say the same thing about Shenzhen. In regards to me and everyone I’ve talked to about this, we’ve never had anyone catcall or leer or make any problems for us. But I wouldn’t go and make general statements about Shenzhen being 100% safe for women.
For instance, did you know that Taiwan has a very serious problem with both domestic violence and child rape? Yes, it’s super awesome that the government is open and addressing these issues. But the main fact is that women have to face this problem everywhere in the world. And saying “well, Mainland Chinese are savages”….
“Like, you can…make horrible assumptions..”
Most Asian American men I know assume that every white American female is a racist until proven otherwise and let me assure you that I think the same way about one sub group called southern white women…there is precedence for this…called dual intent…the state department will deny US visas to Indians or Chinese who have relatives in the US, or in the past have dated American women, particularly white American women…but the Brits have been implementing this policy with a great deal of enthusiasm!
“But truly, I have never been catcalled or aggressively leered at in Taiwan.”
When I was there for a week in Taipei I saw a lot of white men, but no white women until the last day and one of family members was looking out and pointed it out…yes, on the last day…this was in 2008, but it might have changed. There are places in the world where you have plenty of white men, but no white women…try Georgetown, Guyana….went an entire year a few years ago where I saw white women only on TV.
“they say it used to happen often but is now vanishingly rare.”
Used to happen in Singapore until the early 1990s but after that the government instead of cracking down on spitting or littering began cracking down on leering, catcalling and whistling at women…so may be the government is doing something right.
Its pretty sad to hear many westen women complained about the some Chinese men’s bad behaviors in mainland, I think women on here should join in the hey-ai.com a huge community to dicuss with youth there. then issues will be clearly addressed. as you realized there are always few creeps there, no matter in real life or online. so women should be alert there are couple of places in China should not visit or pass by.. 1. street market, 2. narrow street in the night time 3. bars and night clubs 4. massage massage pillars and spas. also avoid going anywhere crowded expecially with migrant workers..(most of them are uneducated farmers)
China most of part still not that civilized, people still lack manners, so how you dressed, and how you look, even you walk alone in quiet palces would make you a easy targets for criminals. also no any single country is 100% safe, hereby I would like to quote the stentance from the walking dead ” you are not safe….”
We never learn…exactly same incidents targeting women by white men on two ends of the country, fourteen years apart….
If the lady likes the man, sexual attention is sweet. If not, it is harrasment.
@IC…in most cases, yes…and if an black man makes a move on a white woman, and she accuses him of harassment he will pull out the race card…google Aberdeen Proving Grounds Scandal 1996-97…dont know what the Asian man will do under those circumstances though…he will probably run and hide. However, the following is plain and simple mean….
White women keep telling that he is being put in his place…but my question is will an Asian man go around doing the same thing to white women in Athens, Georgia….with a guy like this representing them?
Forget dating white Georgia women…if I had business in his area, I will close it and outsource all jobs.
Sorry, IC, but no. That kind of attention is never sweet and rarely welcome. It’s a myth that women generally like it, or like it from good looking or charming guys. We mostly just want to be left alone and, if you like us, talked to like real human beings.
If no guy gives attention to ladies dress like photos below, it is greatest disrespect.
But you need to be right man to give attention to those ladies in sexy dress.
No body can claim respresenting others belief unless you are elected official who only represent only a fraction of constituency.
Like taste for food, people are different in their belief and taste. Thus generalization is simple way to look at world and appealing to simple mind.
Yes, Ive met very many good people in China and still have always felt safe. But, there was a time on Guangzhou Metro that a man kept licking his lip and winking at me. I was with a male friend, this didn’t deter him. He wasn’t Han Chinese but I think he was still Chinese, possibly Muslim minority. Another time, I was looking at the MTR map and a weedy, pathetic little Chinese man in his late 30s touched my boob and made out it was an accident. He looked right down my top. It wasn’t a very revealing top but I never wore toe on the MTR that showed me shoulders again! A friend visited me for two days from the UK whilst passing through, a guy cornered her in a lift and grabbed her boob. She ran away but the experience was pretty dreadful. We told the security in the building what had happened, they didn’t really bother themselves with it. I was also assaulted on an Emirates flight to Dubai from GZ by an asian man. The female arab flight attendant did not give a crap but the British girl told me it happens all the time and was far more sympathetic.
SBC – I wasn’t commenting specifically to you, there were a lot of “this happens everywhere!” comments. And of course I know it’s not relegated to China or that there is anything about China or Chinese culture that makes it more prevalent thee (if anything it’s most prevalent in the USA, and I also got a lot of it in Latin America but being there for just a month I’m not sure how typical my experience was).
I’m also not trying to say it never happens in Taiwan – just that as a woman you can be reasonably sure that you can walk down the street in Taiwan without getting harassed, be you local or foreign (if you are foreign, you may get ‘look, a foreigner’ stares and “hello!” comments but we can all agree that’s not the same as harassment/catcalling). I’m sure it does happen here, sometimes, my point is just that it is quite rare.
If anything I feel that saying “oh but it happens around the world” dismisses its happening in any one specific country. Just because it happens everywhere doesn’t mean it’s OK to ignore the fact that it happens in China. Just because it happens everywhere does not mean it’s OK to pretend it’s just as bad in the rest of the world, or even East Asia, as it is in China (it’s not – China’s probably the worst country in East Asia for harassment, although I’ve heard some horror stories about Japan).
Because, as much as “it happens around the world” makes people in places where it happens often feel better, perhaps like they don’t need to worry about it as much because it’s a worldwide issue and therefore can be deemed “unfixable” (when it’s not – it’s quite fixable), it also implies that you’ll have about the same experience anywhere.
And you won’t. You just won’t. You won’t have nearly the same issues walking the streets of Taipei as you would Shenzhen.
I don’t know why you’re trying to imply that I think it’s a problem umique to China or that it’s somehow the fault of Chinese culture (I never said that and don’t believe it) or trying to excuse it in Taiwan or dismiss it as never happening (I didn’t say that either – only that it’s never happened to me or anyone I know whom I’ve asked here).
IC (another poster) – sorry, no. Catcalling is not okay even if the woman is dressed in a sexy way. You’re completely wrong.
What size of bicycle helmet do you wear?
I once talked to a fellow Chinese female cousin of mine in 2006. She said that she and another fellow Chinese girlfriend of hers went to Europe for a vacation. They were young, slim and pretty. They were there during the summer months when the weather was very warm necessitating less clothing and thus they were wearing shorts and low cut skirts. She told me that she and her female friend were in Spain and there they were whistled at, yelled at and gawked at. They had never experienced such attention while in North America. They were a little scared when they were at a town square one time near a fountain when they were admiring the beauty of the architecture and then a group of men were howling at them and approached them utterings many words in Spanish. Because my cousin and her friend did know Spanish, they did not understand and just walked away. She said that the men in Spain are not like the men in North America. The men in North America are mild and calm, unlike the Spanish men who are very loud and boisterous when they see pretty girls on the streets. She said that she was a little scared.
Soshana Roberts disagrees about men in America!
I also forgot to tell another story. I know a female attorney acquaintance who said that years ago she was a student in college and she went to Italy for a summer exchange. She is blond with blue eyes and beautiful. She said that one time she and her fellow American girls were out in the town touring. There was a large group of Italian men just hanging around and then when she and her small group of girls walked by, these men went crazy. They gawked, whistled, yelled, made hand gestures and leered at them. These girls tried to walk away in a quick pace but she somehow became isolated from her group of girls when running in haste. She was alone and was cornered by 8 Italian men. She was so freightened that she did not know what to do. She thought that she was going to be gang raped by them. But somehow the men let her pass through to rejoin her group of girls. She said that she was so scared that she became pale. She supposed that these men saw the freight in her eyes and did not want to hurt her and they just simply let her go.
I don’t recall saying Taiwan was “100% safe for women”. What I did say – and what is true – is that it is nearly 100% safe to walk down the street at any time of day or night, almost anywhere (if not anywhere), without fear.
But my informal survey does speak truth to power: catcalling really isn’t a problem here. It clearly is in Shenzhen – you hear stories about it all the time. In Taipei, you never do. Not so much in other cities, either. I’m specifically talking about catcalling – you’re trying to make it sound like Taiwan has a problem with something that I’m ignoring, and I’m sorry, it just doesn’t. Shenzhen is objectively worse for catcalling than Taipei (or really the rest of Taiwan).
I know that Taiwan has issues with domestic abuse and marital rape (and yes, child rape)…although I would argue that even in that regard it’s doing better than China, just because you can be quite sure that the vast majority of cases in China are not reported. In Taiwan many are not – that’s a worldwide problem – but I’d wager good money that the rate of reporting in Taiwan is higher, just because the government is working to make it safer and less stigmatized for women to report.
When I lived in China, I knew of at least 2 cases of abused women leaving their husbands. In each case, the women faced major social stigma: “a man never beats a good wife” or “that’s just what men do, she should have accepted it, every man will do it”. Although I am sure some people in Taiwan have this mentality, too – as this is also a worldwide problem – this is not something you’d hear nearly as much in Taiwan. It would be a minority opinion rather than a majority one, as it was in these 2 women’s cases.
Basically, you’re trying to make it sound like Taipei (I’m going to compare city-to-city rather than city-to-country) is just as dangerous for women on the street as Shenzhen, and it. is. emphatically. not. Perhaps it makes residents of Shenzhen feel better about their city’s problems to imagine otherwise, but it’s false.
As I said above, it’s easy to pretend that your city doesn’t have a problem if you console yourself with “it happens everywhere”. It makes it easier to pretend a particular problem – in this case, catcalling – is not “worse” in your city than in others.
If it makes you feel better, fine. But when you come to Taipei and don’t face any threats as a woman on the street, don’t pretend to be surprised.
Also, I never said anything about the Chinese being ‘savages’. I don’t think the problem has anything to do with Chinese culture – it has more to do with endemic sexism. All I ever said was that catcalling and sexual harassment on the street is not the problem in Taiwan that it is in China.
And, considering the high rates of domestic abuse in China, too (especially considering the unreported cases), I would also venture that Taiwan is safer for women overall than China, even considering the issues it – like every other country – faces.
I mean, you can retort if you’d like, but at the end of the day, y’all get catcalled and harassed on the streets in Chinese cities, and that doesn’t happen to me in Taiwan. So.
I live in Shanghai and just like most other foreigners I have been told it is very safe, something which I happily accepted. I relished in the feeling of fearlessly walking around in the evenings after supper. However, I was walking home after dinner alone, wearing a big baggy jersey (nothing at all provocative), when a Chinese man on a bicycle suddenly slowed down next to me, grabbed me around the neck and tried to kiss me. I struggled and managed to push him away, as he only had one arm on me, and he simply rode away as I screamed and started to cry. I never saw his face and even if I did there would be no way to get a decent response from anyone about this. I told a friend who actually laughed and thought it was amusing, but I felt intensely violated and to be so suddenly and unexpectedly grabbed around the neck is not something to view lightly. It just proves to me that I can never let my guard down.
Two months ago in the metro a man was checking me all the time. Up, down up down..very very disgusting.
I am the kind of person who will not shut up, so I said in Chinese: What´s wrong with you?
He said: I dont speak English
I said: You dont speak Chinese either. Anyway, stop it and get out of this metro now.
Before getting into the metro I met two Chinese twin-brothers, very tall, they talked to me in perfect English. They were also there so t hey inmediatly jumped when they saw the man wanted to come to discuss and told him to just get out and shut up if he didnt want further problems.
Sometimes looks really can be disgusting.
Oh, I totally forgot to mention that my first Chinese message involved a man trying to give a happy ending! I did not expect that at all and learnt a lesson not to just go to anyone dishing out massages. I didn’t ask for it, not sure what was really going on in his mind. I tied my shoe laces, paid and left ASAP, felt violated!! My friends thought it was funny but I was upset. There are certainly perverts everywhere but i did not let this deter me from branding everyone with the same brush as I’ve had plenty of none sexual massages since!
When I used to do QQ, there were a lot of men who were very disrespectful and conversations became uncomfortable, some even on the first chat! (not kidding…)
I also use QQ for communication purposes in China as it is a reliable way to keep in contact with colleagues and friends.
I NEVER accept a contact who I don’t know – if I give my number to anyone, I tell them to identify themselves and how they know me before I connect.
Like you, initially I was contacted by local – what I can only describe as ‘perverts’ who thought I was ‘open’ because I am foreign.
One idiot made the mistake of using his work QQ number which identified his work place, so I got a local friend to contact his boss.
Obnoxious behavior cuts in all different directions….
Creeps are everywhere, women have to be on constant alert. China, too has a good side and bad side, culture that values “face” is certainly further complicated the issue.
I’ve never had a problem in China, but I’ve never gone anywhere without at least my husband with me, if not a group of friends or family, so I can’t speak to what experiences a foreigner walking alone in China might have.
But I was harassed but a guy when I was studying abroad in Japan. I was in a used book store and had signed up for a membership. He had heard me speaking in Japanese to the clerk and followed me out. He asked me if he could take my picture, and I was like… that’s kind of strange. I started walking but he put his arm around my neck and pointed his phone at us and started asking stuff like how old I was, where I was from, how I learned Japanese, and telling me how pretty I was. I shrugged him off and started walking away faster, but he followed me, kept asking for pictures, kept grabbing my arm or shoulders. I started yelling at him loudly in Japanese – but he wasn’t deterred until a middle aged Japanese man on the street ahead of us started toward us. Then he took off. Really creepy.
In Korea, where I lived for three years, I was never physically harassed but I have friends and coworkers who were – by taxi drivers, by drunken guys on the street, and a couple instances of young, seriously creepy stalker type situations where guys followed them home, tried to keep looking in their windows, groping, stuff like that. 🙁
Other than Korea, Japan, and China, I’ve only lived in the US, and I’ve never had anything happen to me here, but then, I live and went to college in pretty small towns and I never walked alone at night. I walked and took cabs in Asia because I didn’t have a car, and I suppose that exposed me more than in the US where I do have one. Although — my husband and I were staying in my small hometown (like, 12,000 people) with my dad for a couple months when we first got back to the states, and I would go jogging around 5 pm. Being winter, it was already dark by then, and my dad continually told me I shouldn’t go at dark because it was dangerous. We lived in a small subdivision and I just ran up and down the street our house was on, staying on the sidewalk, and I was not at all worried about anyone jumping out and grabbing me, but he was. So to echo many people’s posts – it happens everywhere, and people are concerned about it everywhere. People are concerned to different degrees based on their experiences and what they’ve heard, and it’s mostly subjective.
There’s some major sexual perversion going on in Japan, I can’t even imagine how difficult it is for Japanese women to walk out the door knowing that there’s vending machines selling kinky sicko bleh
I thought i was just one unlucky woman..when i arrived in China in 2014 i got sexually assaulted (but it wasn’t a Chinese man) by a foreigner the university i was going to was told to be one of the best of the country but in fact one of the worst! Case of women being raped and assaulted was not uncommon and thanks God I fought back the guy!
I never had to go through experience like this in
London despite the fact that the city isn’t that safe. It’s awful… I also used to think that China was a safe country but it isn’t…someone can stab you in front of everybody in the middle of the day people will just take their mobile phone out and start filming..that’s how messed up the mentality is here when it comes to danger…
Thank you for courageously sharing your experiences.
I noticed my butt got a lot of attention in China, but since my boyfriend looks like a giant angry Chinese no man dares to come near… They only dare to take sneaky pics…
But I got the impression that as a woman you were quite safe in China and HK, appearently it’s everywhere the same…
Being able to fight off is always a big plus, but it’s sad you need it in this world… :/
If we finally have our doughter born, we both agreed on training her in his traditional Kung Fu like his father did with him so she can kick every boys ass…
Heleen, thanks for the comment. Nice your boyfriend looks intimidating — that’s definitely a deterrent for oglers and wandering eyes. Kung Fu training would be great if you have a girl.
Hey gals of China,
It’s been great (but obviously not-so-great) to read and hear that I’m not alone. I’ve lived in China for over a year now, and two days ago I was assaulted by a foreign guy. I was wondering if anyone had ever taken anything to the police or if there was anything that can be done about it?
It’s the 2nd time I’ve experienced violence in my life and the first time, I didn’t report my rape. I really would like to take this further so I can at least say that I tried and did all that I could to get justice. I understand that the Chinese police probably won’t be of much help. Has anyone been to an embassy before?
Would love to hear more about what happened after your incidents. Let me know 🙂
Love and peace to you all x