“Cute Lines for Cute Girls”: Street Harassment Framed as Fun

With her permission, here is a reader’s email I recently received. While I don’t usually post things that aren’t specifically Korea-related, I thought I’d make an exception this time!

Dear Mr. Turnbull,

I thought you might be interested in this video since your blog is about gender studies (Apologies for the long e-mail, but I want to explain myself thoroughly).

I was just curious about your and others’ thoughts on it. I remember watching the Korean street harassment video with the bikkis (nightclub workers?) and thought this was an interesting contrast. It’s not often that you can see a compilation quite like this.

One of my subscriptions posted a video called “Cute lines for Cute Girls” with the description “Everyone dreams of using corny but sweet pickup lines on random unsuspecting women. My friend and I show you the reactions we got :)” (My emphasis added)

I watched it and instead of making me smile, it just made me cringe. The video consists of him and his friend approaching random women in the street and in buildings with corny pickup lines. What made me uneasy is that I couldn’t help but see that some of the women did not seem to enjoy it. Sure, the background music makes it seem light-hearted and fun, but mute it and look at their body language. Some did have fun with it and laughed, but to me most 1) couldn’t walk away fast enough, 2) gave an uncomfortable laugh and smile (that “what the hell just happened” smile).

Korea Slutwalk(Source)

I think most people can see that whistling and making lewd comments are wrong. What complicates things and divides opinions is that these are “nice guys.” They are not your typical catcallers lurking in a doorway, but “regular, non-threatening” guys on the street. But does this make it ok? I would say not.

Perhaps I was wrong about the video, but his replies really disturbed me. Even if you do not agree with me about the video, the conversation we had was really telling about attitudes about street harassment today.

I don’t know if he’ll remove my comments or not, so I’ll paste the conversation here (my emphases throughout):

NSAM08 17x11_txt rep_v2.inddMe: I don’t know about this. I mean, you’re going after women you have no interest in other than to make a video so people can laugh at them. Most of them just laugh uncomfortably and walk away. This is like one step above cat-calling.

Him: Hey waterlily6782001, this is an exercise in overcoming false constraints that many individuals place on themselves. Also, many of these girls played along when they heard these lines because they were cool and fun girls who knew how to banter back. If anything, this is a great profile on the decent quality of women at University of Pennsylvania.

(Almost feels like he’s saying I’m not cool or fun or of decent quality because I do not like his “exercise”)

Me: Yes, I understand and I do like your other videos, but this one… From your videos, I don’t think you’re a mean person and I don’t think you ever intend to hurt anyone, so I wasn’t too upset. Yes, some of them bantered back, but can’t you see that some were also clearly uncomfortable? It’s just that when you have to deal with totally insincere guys chatting you up all the time as a dare or just to get a reaction, it goes from flattering to tiring.

Him: They could’ve been having a bad day; school could’ve been stressing them out. Even if our lines caused the discomfort, my friend and I were simply giving them compliments. If they can’t take a compliment, then their frame of mind needs work. For example, I love your constructive criticism. But I could easily have said, “This person is a hater. I should delete the comment.” But if I did that, we wouldn’t be having a great discussion. Frame life positively. You’ll be much happier =)

Me: Please read this, it explains it better than I ever could ^_^

I think what we have here is just that you, as a man, will never experience life as a woman. So it’s difficult to grasp that what you see as “compliments” can mean different things to different women. There’s just no way for me to make you fully understand, but I appreciate your replies and wish you the best. ^_^ (end)

Street Harassment Korea(Source: leftycartoons)

He implies that I’m 1) a hater 2) pessimistic and 3) unhappy because I do not like his video. I’ve read hater comments before and I thought my commentary was pretty tame. I’m also pretty sure haters don’t promote your videos on their blogs as I’ve done with his in the past (He did a student documentary on Asian male and white female relationships).

It was clear that I couldn’t make him understand, and he implies that he made no one uncomfortable (“Even if our lines caused the discomfort”). But you can’t tell me that the girl at 0:53 is not uncomfortable while she’s speeding past, head down, eyes averted, walking around him, and not even stopping. The girl at 2:10 is also clearly not amused even though you can’t see her face. Listen to her voice! I also wonder if the girl at 2:30 was really having fun having a guy 1) corner her at work and 2) continue to talk to her even after she emphasizes TWICE that she has a boyfriend.

This in particular really disturbed me: Even if our lines caused the discomfort, my friend and I were simply giving them compliments. If they can’t take a compliment, then their frame of mind needs work.

…which is probably the #1 argument guys have for when girls don’t like their advances. It’s a COMPLIMENT and if you’re uncomfortable YOU need to change. So if I don’t like a guy following me along the sidewalk giving me an insincere “compliment” I need to change my attitude.

Korea Slutwalk Newspaper(Source)

Do I hate compliments? No. I appreciate heart-felt compliments.

Do I hate jokes? No. I make them all the time.

Do I hate corny pick-up lines? No. In fact, they can be cute and are good ice-breakers.

What I do hate is a stranger who has absolutely no genuine or honest interest in me, and:

  • 1) cutting in front of me
  • 2) following me
  • 3) giving me a completely fake compliment just to see my reaction,
  • 4) walking away,
  • 5) laughing
  • 6) recording the whole thing, and
  • 7) posting it on the internet.

So what do you think? Do these guys get a free pass because they aren’t dirty old men hanging on the street corner?

Thanks for reading this long e-mail and have a good day!

James: What do readers think? I’m in complete agreement myself!

Update 1, Feb. 3: Just for everyone’s interest, here’s something I stumbled across in a review of a book on the history of online dating:

Of course, single people have always had means to boost their odds. You can move to a city, where the population of as-yet-unclaimed hearts will be larger. You can lower your standards to broaden the radius of your dating pool. You can also just toss out game 24-7 with utter indiscretion. One acquaintance likes to tell random women on the street that he thinks they’re beautiful. “Like 1 in 5 will slow their roll a little and give me a smile,” he says. “And like 1 in 5 of those stop and talk to me and let me hand them my business card. And like 1 in 5 of those actually call me.” I would assume that at least 2 in 5 women he approaches think him a frightening skeezball. And I think, for better or worse, he’s OK with that ratio.

Update 2, Feb. 5: See some related reading in “Korean Girls Be Scared of Me (And Every Other Dude)” at Gyopo Keith.

Update 3, Feb. 7: And some more in “How to Talk to a Woman Without Being a Creep” at Jezebel.

Update 4, Feb 14: Jerry Liu, the maker of the video, has asked me to ask what readers’ reactions to this one by “Simple Pickup” are.

Related Posts:

38 thoughts on ““Cute Lines for Cute Girls”: Street Harassment Framed as Fun

  1. Total agreement here as well! I think the part where she points out that the men have no genuine interest in the “cute girls” is key. That’s how come I can get so insulted after being hit on by a stranger. You know nothing about me, so I have to assume the only thing you’re responding to is my physical appearance which makes me uncomfortable because there isn’t some sort of consensual prelude where we agree we’re attracted to each other. I should get to pick who views me as sexual. Men on the whole don’t understand how incredible frequent unwanted sexual attention is for women, and it certainly doesn’t feel complimentary.

    Oh, and: “Frame life positively. You’ll be much happier.” Can men seriously stop telling women that if they stifle their opinions they’ll be happier?

    • “That’s how come I can get so insulted after being hit on by a stranger.”

      Does this include a guy who doesn’t know you but randomly wants to start a conversation with you because he thinks you’re attractive? “Hitting” on women is a subjective and broad term, so I’m not sure what you mean here.

      “I should get to pick who views me as sexual.”

      “Can men seriously stop telling women that if they stifle their opinions they’ll be happier?”

      People are free to have their own opinions, obviously, just like I’m free to own my thoughts. Just because it’s a man telling a woman to change her opinion on something, it doesn’t automatically mean, “Shut up because you’re a dumb woman and I’m a superior man.” Sometimes, maybe, you’re being illogical and/or irrational.

      In the context presented in the e-mail, I don’t disagree that he shouldn’t tell her what to do (deal with it, is basically what he’s saying), but I’ll gladly tell you that you should change your opinion on owning my thoughts like it’s your property.

  2. Outside of workplaces and universities and so on, where men and women do get opportunities to establish — good term! — that consensual prelude with people they don’t know but find sexually attractive, I don’t think it’s necessarily evil to be attracted to a stranger, then somehow try to get their attention and establish that prelude before the opportunity is lost forever. But of course, I can definitely see how it can make people uncomfortable (one reason I’ve never ever done it; the other is lack of confidence!) when it happens, and of course catcalls, leering, and spontaneous invitations for sex aren’t quite a genuine effort. And, hmmm…I can also see how there’s so little opportunities to be genuine about it too (it’s very rare that a complete stranger doesn’t already have something to do or somewhere to go), and it’s not unreasonable for women to expect to able to just walk to the damn store or something without being propositioned…Hell, now that writing this reply has made me think about it more, then I guess unless some stranger is just standing there waiting or something (which is what I was thinking of when I said the above), in which case it is okay to politely strike up a conversation etc. and see how they respond before inviting them to coffee etc. (like you say, the prelude), then no matter how much of a nice guy you are, it would be pretty damn difficult to hit on someone without being very very annoying to them, and that you would definitely not be a nice guy if you thought your getting her attention was more important than whatever she was doing. Thanks for helping me realize that (although again, that’s why I’ve never done it!).

    Just one quibble though. I wouldn’t say “I should get to pick who views me as sexual,” because technically, surely nobody does? But how someone chooses to act on viewing you as sexual/being attracted to you (or, more to the point, not act) is something completely different!

    • I assume she doesn’t mean people “hitting” on her in a respectful way, because if walking up to a stranger and saying “hi” to introduce yourself constitutes violating them, then I’m not sure how one is supposed to make human contact with either sex, much less develop meaningful relationships.

      • I’m not sure what you mean here. I’ve developed lots and lots of meaningful relationships with people in my many years, and not one of them has started with a random dude I don’t know coming up to me in public to say “hi.” Never once have I had any interest in getting to know that guy better. There are plenty of opportunities to get to know someone that don’t involve this kind of thing.

        Many women–including every woman I know–would really really like it if we could go about our lives without having strange men come up to us and try to start conversations with us.

        It’s one thing if you and the guy have been exchanging glances or something that in some way indicates to him that you actually might want to talk to him. And sometimes you might be say, standing in line at a coffee shop or some place, and something happens that serves as a natural ice breaker and opens you up to conversation. But you just minding your own business, running errands or whatever, and some random guy starts trying to chat you up? No thanks. I’m not sure why his “right” to talk to me should trump my right to not have to deal with an unwanted intrusion into my life, but many men seem to think that’s fair. I don’t happen to agree. And I won’t even get into all the societal pressures/norms that call on us women to be “polite” and “nice” and make it difficult for us to tell the guy where to go if he’s bothering us, making each of these encounters more stressful than they should have to be.

    • Hi James
      Yes, you’re right, that’s not the right wording. I guess I meant something more along the lines of I should get to choose who expresses that they view me in a sexual way? Who gets to act on the fact that they see me as sexual? Obviously thinking someone is sexy isn’t a crime.

      And to Asian Junkie: I guess what I mean by “hitting on” that is “insulting” is a cold calling sort of thing, just walking up to a stranger. Not a single time have I ever gone out on a night out and not been made uncomfortable by a man. Seriously. This can range from small stuff on my part when someone stares at my legs, to being bothered by someone who wants to talk to me, to someone grabbing me as I walk by (not at all uncommon). This sort of thing also happens when I run, when I get a coffee, and basically anytime. I’m sure it’s not because I’m unbelievably attractive because when does this sort of thing ever end in a date? So in this context, almost all attention from men who are strangers becomes a bit threatening, and someone I’ve never met coming up to me and saying “hi” does piss me off most of the time, yes. How are people supposed to develop meaningful relationships? I’m sure it’s not impossible but personally I find sexism makes it very hard.

      I stand by my stance that this guy telling her that if they were to “frame life differently” they would be “happier” seems very much like he is discounting her opinion because if he were to explore it and find some reason in it he would then have to change his behaviour. In other words, if he listened to her he might find that, yes, it is very possible some of the women were uncomfortable. I further find that when I am arguing with men about this precise sort of thing (not wanting to be approached by strangers in bars, etc) I am told to not complain so much, or to accept things as they are, ie stop having somewhat “radical” opinions and desire change. Telling someone they’d be happier if they didn’t have these upsetting thoughts shifts the focus from real, shitty behaviours in the world to imagined problems with the woman who is expressing these thoughts.

      Finally, you really shouldn’t use the word “irrational” while getting into a discussion on the internet with a feminist. We’ll all just point you to the nearest tumblr post on mansplaining:

      http://julianabritto.com/mansplaining-2/

      • Right, and I said that I think him justifying it in that way is a problematic attitude. We’re not in disagreement there.

        In your reply, you admit that due to sexism people saying “hi” to you makes you feel uncomfortable and that you’re not sure how people are supposed to develop meaningful relationships. People are free to hold whatever world view they wish, but you’ve just told me that there’s no way another person can approach you without making you feel terrible, therefore the action of talking to other men or women I don’t already know is offensive behavior to you.

        Irrational thought is a subjective definition, but surely a world where walking up to a stranger and saying “hi” is unacceptable social behavior is a bit depressing?

        As far as mansplaining goes, the inference there is that I’m patronizing you because I’m a man and you’re a woman, so I’m belittling you because I allegedly think you’re an ignorant dumb woman and not because, in itself, your point (on merit) is irrational. Yet, you haven’t offered a rebuttal of my argument with anything but a link to a definition, which is a logical fallacy in itself. It’s about as asinine an argument as replying with a picture of a meme. I suppose I could save time and just as well link you to the logical fallacy entry in Wikipedia and leave it at that, but I choose to explain positions in words because I’m communicating with a human. You may see man/woman dynamic, I’m just seeing arguments and trying to take them on their merits.

        It’s ironic, really, because you’re the one patronizing me, assuming I don’t already understand that dynamic. I do, fully, I just think your argument was poor. Women can craft poor arguments, correct?

        What’s funny is that I essentially hold the exact same position as James on your desire to control the thoughts of other people, yet you’re basically calling me a sexist.

        If I wanted this level of discourse, I could go to OMTD and get linked to memes as arguments just as well. My fault.

        • I did offer a rebuttal to your argument: “Telling someone they’d be happier if they didn’t have these upsetting thoughts shifts the focus from real, shitty behaviours in the world to imagined problems with the woman who is expressing these thoughts.” Essentially, since many women (the comments here are evidence enough), feel uncomfortable with men who are strangers approaching them, you could tell me I’m irrational, or you could just, um, not do it? Calling someone irrational is a great way to discount their feelings. Even if you think my desire to not have random men coming up to me is “irrational,” couldn’t you (or whatever theoretical man we’re talking about) not come up to me out of respect?

          Also, I don’t think you’re an idiot, but I do find it impossible to believe you “understand this dynamic” when you are not a woman. It’s as ridiculous as someone saying they understand what it’s like to be a POC of colour if they’re white. This is why I think you’re “mansplaining.” Since you can’t really understand what it’s like to be a woman and catcalled at, approached by strangers, etc., you can’t say much on this matter with any authority.

          Oh, and as I mentioned above, I did thoughtlessly word my first comment. I don’t have any control on who views me as sexual but I should be able to control who acts on that view.

    • ‘Just one quibble though. I wouldn’t say “I should get to pick who views me as sexual,” because technically, surely nobody does? But how someone chooses to act on viewing you as sexual/being attracted to you (or, more to the point, not act) is something completely different!”

      The implication of this is that men should only make advances when they are wanted, and by extension, that they should be able to tell when they are wanted and when they aren’t.
      Certainly, this would make the world a better place for everyone, but surely you must realize that men are absolutely terrible at this!

  3. “Do these guys get a free pass because they aren’t dirty old men hanging on the street corner?”

    Putting it in this context really helps too. Whenever I see random creeps muttering “compliments” to unsuspecting girls, I always wonder if these guys think they’re flattering the ladies. Definitely not flattering and it’s not because they’re old or scruffy. If you’re commenting at someone about them and not cognizant of how they might feel about it, you’re just objectifying them. I’d mind less if the compliment was prefaced with, “Sorry to bother you, I don’t mean to be creepy,” etc. Or as James says, if the compliment was offered after getting the girl’s response/permission. But what the guys are doing in the video is neither of these things. Admittedly when I watched the video I wasn’t sure whether it could be called street harassment or not, but just imagine “dirty old men” doing the same thing. They may as well be cat-calling, even if their intentions were good.

    • You big ageist you!
      But seriously, a lot of people find 20-somethings dating 50-somethings creepy in some way. I think you have to either conclude that there is nothing wrong with this, or that there is something intrinsic about the age difference that is objectionable in some way.
      (that, or that there is something wrong with 20-somethings dating 20-somethings).

  4. I’m not sure it’s really fair to use the images you have, or for your contributor to link this to the kind of street harrassment talked about on Hollaback. The men in the video weren’t groping or shouting across the street, or hurling insults or vague sexual threats. I wouldn’t really call them compliments, I suppose, but the lines they were using were non-sexual if cheesy. And they weren’t following the women down the street or refusing to take no for an answer.
    In the context of the video, was it worse than candid camera? The humor in the clip is all from the men making fools of themselves, rather than the women being embarrassed. It doesn’t have the humiliating aspect of Beadle’s About or Trigger Happy TV etc. I assume they didn’t ask the women’s permission before uploading, but (and I may be wrong) it doesn’t appear to be the opinion of its detractors that the video would have been OK if their identities had been hidden.

    • I disagree that the cartoon and the Korean Slutwalk images are inappropriate. Partially, because one side-intention of the post is intended to get people thinking about street harassment in general, rather than the video specifically; and mainly because, even though the people in this specific video aren’t groping the women or shouting at them across the street, the experience of many — most — women after refusing offers or ignoring lines, however innocent and/or cheesy — are insults and/or justifications, often based on what they’re wearing.

      Granted, the maker of this video or the guys in it didn’t do that, but based on his replies to the original emailer then the former at least does seem completely incapable of acknowledging why normal, fun women “with the right frame of mind” (sic) might still resent what he’s doing based on what usually happens to them after being approached by male strangers. So yes, although his original intentions may have been sincere, that’s why I personally am one of those detractors, regardless of if he sought the women’s permission or not.

      • I don’t think his response was unreasonable, for two reaons. Firstly, his actions are not street harrassment according to the Hollaback link given:

        “if a man approaches a woman in public politely, strikes up a conversation with her, receives a clear rejection and respects her wishes, that’s not harassment.”

        Secondly, he’s being told that women find this unpleasant. But his own evidence, as shown in the video, indicated that that this is unrepresentative. Even the worst example at 0:53 shows her no more bothered than the average person ignoring a Big Issue seller. Since the evidence available shows what he’s doing is a reasonable thing to do, I think it’s perfectly understandable for him to maintain the position he has.

        And yes, some men object to women’s right to walk on by, and insult them or stop them or whatever, and that’s a problem. But it’s the insults that are the problem, not the preceding behaviour.

        • I would say these actions are exactly street harassment according to the link given. The majority of these interactions are NOT conversations. They are talking AT the women not WITH them. She doesn’t even get the chance to reject them because by the time he’s done with his one-liner, he’s walking away. So what was the point of approaching her in the first place? Aren’t pickup lines supposed to be used to start a conversation?

          As for your second reason, women are conditioned to be friendly and polite even when they are receiving unwanted attention. In order to avoid conflict, we usually go along with it even though it makes us uncomfortable.

          • “They are talking AT the women not WITH them. She doesn’t even get the chance to reject them because by the time he’s done with his one-liner, he’s walking away.”
            This just isn’t true. All but two of the examples end with a conversation beginning or with the woman rejecting him. The exceptions are the opening one (which is terrible) and the one where she doesn’t understand what he said.
            And it’s not just women that are conditioned to be friendly. People are. What do you think happens when the guy sitting next to me on the subway asks me to define all words in the novel he’s reading that are longer than two syllables? I promise I don’t punch him in the face. I usually just humor him for a bit, even though I don’t want to. I don’t think this makes me a rare type of man.

  5. There’s been a lot of good discussion here, so I’m not sure how much I can say that hasn’t already been said. With that in mind, I’ll try to be brief.

    I don’t think that the video, (or the behavior it shows,) is rude or constitutes harrassment. At the very least, it doesn’t constitute harassment solely because the intentions (as stated) weren’t to show ‘sincere’ love or appreciation for the women in the video. On balance, I do think they should have hidden the women’s identities–assuming they didn’t get permission. My argument for the former stems in part from the things that Paul Kerry mentions above; after all, if strangers can’t talk to you, then how will you meet new people? Lastly, the response from Jerry was a bit flippant, but could be interpreted several different ways (not all of them demeaning,) and the following reply from Waterlily is at least as bad.

    @AC & AsianJunkie

    I’d love for you both to prove me wrong, but it seems like you’re both talking past each other at this point. (Not that I haven’t been there myself.) Don’t stop trying to convince each other on my behalf (of course!) but I would also caution that sometimes people’s beliefs are too strong to have a meaningful debate. To AC, I will add that the “mansplaining” argument is to gender/feminist issues as the “liberal media conspiracy” argument is to criticism of G.W. Bush. (i.e. Even with the noblest of intentions it tends to drown out meaningful discourse.)

  6. This post is so timely- I just got street harassed walking home to my apartment, not an hour ago, by a bunch of men in a car. At first all I heard was a honking horn, so I moved over to the side of the road, not thinking anything of it. Then a car pulled over alongside me and I heard some guys start yelling for me to turn so they could see my face “at least” while I tried to ignore them- how complimentary of them to pay me attention like that! How cute of them to brighten up my day with their charm and wit! Except it’s not cute and it wasn’t charming or witty, it was just annoying and creepy to have a group of strange men following me in their car at nighttime, when all I wanted was to get home. Sorry, but that shit is not welcome, and I don’t care how different a guy thinks he is being, or how much he thinks the woman will “like” it- please pay attention: young street harasser or old street harasser, you are just another creep giving me stress. :( Thinking about it some more: if I found out one of those jerks had not only bothered me like he was entitled to my time and recorded the whole thing but also posted it on the internet for all to see… I would probably want to stab the POS.

  7. To the person who doesn’t like being approached by strangers: That’s your prerogative, obviously, and I can’t tell you start liking it. But the reality is that plenty of women DO want want to be approached by men (respectfully of course). For better of worse, men do 90 percent of the legwork in starting sexual/romantic relationships. If men stopped approaching women they were attracted to, that’d pretty much be the end of civilization. You have to get out there as a guy and make opportunities for yourself; they rarely land in your lap.

    The idea that a man should wait for some sort of approval is just needlessly restrictive and completely unnatural. Practically all of the women I have had romantic encounters with had not signaled interest first; I approached them, put my best foot forward, and they liked me for whatever reason. Most men would say the same. That a man should be vilified for striking up conversations with women strikes me as ridiculous (and of course I mean conversations, not out of line behavior). The women will be interested or not, and most of the time the man will get the message, and the world keeps turning.

    I have to agree with the other poster that “mansplaining” is not an argument and is pretty dismissive. So often it is used to end conversations, rather than add anything constructive. Just because a man and woman disagree doesn’t make the man guilty of sexism, for God’s sake.

  8. I cringed as well… he seems to be an intelligent man. But incredibly close-minded, too. His “advice-giving” and holier than thou attitude is really cringe-worthy and off-putting. I totally agree with you, when you say that just because the two men looked “friendly and not intimidating,” does not make it okay for them to catcall. I think he thinks that it is ”okay” because his intentions are not to harass women, nevertheless, he (and his friend) did harass a lot of those women. They were obviously uncomfortable with those catcalls. I really don’t think that their “frame of mind needs work.” Those men made them uncomfortable, plain and simple.

  9. I actually stumbled upon this post from the video maker’s personal Facebook. He mentioned the controversy and ended with “Seriously people, lighten the heck up :).”I have personally only met him a few times and have found him to be a kind and intelligent man, but as I read his responses to waterlily’s completely valid points I just felt thoroughly disgusted. I agree completely with Marley on this issue. I actually noticed that the commenters on the original Facebook post all shared his opinion on the issue, but all were male (at the time I looked). Once again I think this truly emphasizes the point that they have never experienced this from a woman’s perspective.
    I am sorry to say that I have unfriended him because of this issue, but I cannot agree with his views or his advice to lighten up and work on my frame of mind.

  10. Hi there!

    I am a girl and I personally know the person who made this video. All I can say is that he really is a great guy and meant he never means any harm in his videos. He does like to push the social envelope every now and then, but he has never done it to be disrespectful to anyone! In fact, I met him when he once decided to randomly speak to my friend and I while we were having dinner and we both felt a bit odd because he was just some random guy that started to chat with us. He did it a couple of times more and we actually ended up being great friends. Point is, he is very social and just wants to meet as many people as he can and he has no qualms about talking to strangers.

    So he tells some corny pick up lines to girls, big deal. If that happened to me, it’d probably just think about it for all of 10 seconds and then forget about it… or it might even become one of those “Remember that one guy..” stories, but it is definitely not something that should be posted under a “Rape and Sexual Harassment” section of anything! Jerry doesn’t deserve that.

    P.S: Correct me if I am wrong, but most of these girls took it in a good, light-hearted manner.

  11. The thing that men don’t understand when they throw out that whole, “Yeah, but I’m not a creep!” line is that 1. women don’t know if you’re a creep or not, and most of us would rather not be faced with having to deal with even the possibility and 2. creepy behavior makes you a creep for that moment, whether or not you have creepy intentions. Their “exercise” in hitting on women is actually them hitting on women. The fact that they have some other hidden agenda, which the woman is totally unaware of, doesn’t change that. But it just goes to show how their perspective is the priority in the situation — they know it’s a joke, so therefore it’s a joke.

    • It seems like you’re saying that intentions as moot–if you are perceived to be acting in a “creepy” manner, then ipso facto you *are* acting in a creepy manner. Assuming this is correct that would mean a person is a creep if that if a person:
      1) says “hello”
      2) doesn’t say “hello”
      3) bows in greeting
      4) doesn’t bow in greeting
      5) apologizes for bumping into a stranger
      6) doesn’t apologize for bumping into a stranger
      etc.

      All of which, personally, begs the question: why bother to try acting “nice” or “normal”? Afterall, neither your actions nor intentions have any correlation to being a horrible person.

      • It seems like you are (wilfully?) misunderstanding the point: a stranger cannot read your mind to tell if you are a nice guy deep down or not, and until telepathy gets invented, we can only judge other people’s characters by the actions that they choose to show us.

        So, YES, intentions don’t count for much at all, and if someone acts creepy they will certainly be taken that way no matter how nice they think they are at the bottom of their hearts. Please don’t act thick by posting a list of obviously benign or simply polite actions that no one would object to. Apologizing for knocking into someone, really???!

        A real list of actions that get people labeled as creepy would be more like
        1) Yell out unprompted sexual comment about a stranger’s appearance,
        2) Infringe on a stranger’s personal space and interrupt their movement, 3) Follow a stranger down the street while they are alone and vulnerable,
        4) Keep trying to force an interaction with a stranger who has rejected your overtures and is trying to get away, and so on.

        Pretty sure that these actions don’t just SEEM creepy, they ARE creepy. They all involve a kind of selfish disregard of other people’s feelings and rights, and no one could doubt it.

        As for “why bother trying to act nice or normal”…Hmm… Yes, I definitely think you’re misunderstanding the point. It’s not a relationship of “act nice to be more successful hitting on people, put in X to get Y reward, otherwise give the whole thing up as a waste of time”, it’s just “treat other people nicely”, period. Because.

        Anyway, people rarely get cookies just for meeting the very low bar of “not obviously being a raging toolbag”…

        • To begin with, my question about intentions wasn’t merely rhetorical; I wanted to understand the position better. As a feminist, I find that many discussions surrounding gender issues get bogged down in defining The Official Stance, as if there’s only one way to understand the issue, and whoever isn’t towing the line “isn’t a *real* feminist.” It’s clear to me now that intentions are viewed as irrelevant.

          However, I’m confused by the purpose of your list; are you saying that your four activities are the only actions which are creepy, or that these are the best archetypes available?

          I’ll assume that you mean the latter. Let’s take a look at your assertions:

          1) [Yelling] out unprompted sexual comment about a stranger’s appearance [is creepy.]

          Were there sexual comments in the video? I noticed a few lines (out of several dozen) that used adjectives like “pretty” or “beautiful” but nothing that I thought was directly, explicitly sexual.

          I don’t think merely saying that someone is “cute” or “gorgeous” is inherently sexual. I think people of both genders can be attracted to “cute” behavior or a “cute” personality. “Gorgeous” or “beautiful” generally refer to physical appearance, but that doesn’t make them necessarily sexual. If I say to my friend “I prefer to date tall people” there are several different ways to understand that statement, even though we’d all agree “tall” refers to a physical attribute. It’s overly selective to claim that sexual inference is the only way those words are used.

          2) [Infringing] on a stranger’s personal space and [interrupting] their movement [is creepy.]

          If that isn’t a vague, subjective statement, I don’t know what is. As I mentioned in the above post, bumping into a stranger fits your (rather inclusive) list as creepy behavior. I find it inconsistent that you flippantly call the behavior “benign” at the beginning of your post, and then indict the same behavior a few sentences later. Digression aside, the behavior as described could be a whole range of actions, and much like the (supposedly helpful, but actually hostile) post on Jezebel when expanded upon leads to all kinds of messy contradictions and equivocal “well, wait to see what he/she does” type prescriptions.

          3) Follow a stranger down the street while they are alone and vulnerable

          Again, try to define the distinction between “follow” from “walk nearby” without talking about intentions. I think this is impossible. If my apartment happens to be in a neighborhood where women live–not hypothetical, by the way–how do they know if I’m going home, or following them? Answer: they don’t. Frankly, I think you intended this as a straw man anyway.

          4) [Continuously] trying to force an interaction with a stranger who has rejected your overtures…

          OK, we’re in agreement here: this is rude, maybe even harassing behavior. However, most people know that this is bad behavior and I don’t see anyone here or in the video comments arguing against it. The problem is that, once more, much of the language above is subjective. In the entirety of the video I only saw two instances (01:37 & 2:40) where the guys say more than two things**, and in both cases the women laughed at first–hardly an act that screams “fuck off asshole!” Maybe they didn’t see that laugh as “rejection,” they saw it as an expression of humor–nervous or otherwise. That said, I do think that approaching the employee was tacky, but I would say that *regardless* of what he asked because I make it a point not bother employees with anything other than work related questions.

          **Many, many of the pick-up lines were two parters, and I think it’s pedantic to argue they constitute two attempts to start a conversation.

          (James: Just for the record, comment reformatted by me for the sake of readability)

  12. A few (very late!) reactions to the video and the conversation:

    1. They are not giving compliments, as he claims. A compliment is a specific and positive comment on some aspect of an individual. “I like your sweater” is a compliment. “You found an elegant solution to that math problem” is a compliment. “What did heaven look like when you fell down from it?” isn’t a compliment, it’s a non sequitur. As a pick up line, it’s main “virtue” is that it’s a question that not only lacks meaning itself, but can solicit no logical or meaningful answer. Those women aren’t laughing because it’s cute, they’re doing it to stall while they try to figure out how to get away.

    2. While the maker seems to find the women’s responses to mean that they’re ok with it, I don’t see most of the women expressing signs of comfort. There is hesitation, alarm, and annoyance. They are polite, but nobody seems eager to engage. The only ones who even make complete stops are the women approached for directions. The women, in fact, behave exactly as I do when I’m confronted by complete strangers on the street – most of them keep moving, offer a polite response, and split as soon as they can. The ones who are stationary when approached give their answers in a flat voice, and are not doing anything to prolong the conversations. These are not people who are ok with the interaction, these are people trying to end the interaction as quickly and safely as possible.

    3. Despite some people’s assertions above, most initial human interactions in most cultures don’t actually take place out of the blue. Introductions, where someone who already both knows both parties mediates the initial meeting, are much more common. While we all like “meet cute” stories about how people fall in love in line at the local coffee shop, we’re more likely to meet people through friends. On other occasions, there is a pre-established context for meeting people (conferences, lectures, concerts, etc.) where people can assume some level of shared background or interests. The only venues I can think of where complete strangers regularly approach each other is dance clubs and bars. People go to these with the expectation that unsolicited conversation is probable and perhaps even desirable. But people usually go to the bus stop when they are planning to take the bus, to the library when they are going to read, and to the coffee shop when they will drink coffee. Walking down the street, most people actually have fairly narrow circumstances when it is acceptable for people they don’t know to interrupt them (you need directions, they’ve dropped something). So no, the human race won’t come to an end if men can’t use corny lines on women they don’t know. Instead, it will continue on primarily as it always has, with people meeting through mutual interests and mediated introductions, except better because we won’t have to hear stupid pickup lines on the street.

  13. um…really? This isn’t street harassment. Calling this harassment is really dangerous and it shifts away from real crime. I’m heavily disappointed from this post, since I always found this site very valuable. Stop supporting this exaggerated post-feminism.

  14. I thank you all for your comments. I’ve learn a lot from the discussion. In our most recent video, my friend and I serenaded beautiful women with the power of song. The reactions we got is proof that swooning with class will always beat swooning with crass ;) Enjoy!

  15. My God! This is going in circles…
    Most of women doesn’t like being catcalled or being approached in a disrespectful manner.

    [Ok, in the video you can see they have a big microphone…. I think that’s why women didn’t react too negatilvely. You see a microphone and a cameraman and can guess is a joke for TV.]

    I wonder, if a man would stand to being catcalled, stalked or groped by ANY women, of ANY age???
    Most of them still get angry if a gay guy approached them and say some pick up lines…

    You can approach a stranger to say hi. But you can’t be disrespectful or cross the line of urban etiquete and decency.

    And in the REAL wolrd (not the ARGUMENT we are having)… what kind of women LIKE to be approached by a total stranger and go out in a DATE with him?? Not a very bright one…seriously, doesn’t she read the newspaper??

  16. Pingback: Do cheesy pick up lines work? | DirtyandThirty

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s