Last Friday, I had a double whammy of unsavoury experiences, both involving street harassment. Maybe this is an unfortunate rite of passage, seeing as I’ll be 18 by the time you read this (happy birthday to me!!!). I heard my first whistle at 13, and I’ve had enough car honks to last a lifetime, but those were harmless in comparison to this.

One thing men will never truly understand is the constant threat of unwanted attention that women have to deal with. My fellow Rookies and I had a discussion about this, and it made me realise that if you ask any women on this planet, she’s likely to have had at least one experience, possibly multiple, with street harassment (if not worse). It seems to be something that we have to prepare for every time we leave the house.

When I left the house this time, I didn’t prepare—I was more concerned with whether it was going to rain. I walked to the lake, which was quiet as usual. I decided to take the long way home, the one where the only people I encounter are usually dog walkers.

There were two boys at the park entrance, and I thought nothing of it. I had my headphones on but could tell one of them had addressed me. I can’t remember exactly what he said, something about “love at first sight” and my “pussy” and “behind.” I put my headphones back on and walked by, without music this time, so that I could stay aware. I thought that would be the end of it, but they kept following me. They were tormenting me, and I didn’t know what else they would do or when they would stop. They discussed my iPod and I wondered whether they would rob me, but no, I “must be poor” because I had an “old one.” I felt so completely bare, in an empty park, like I had no protection. When I got to the road again, they thankfully gave up, and when I was far enough away to feel rid of them, I just wanted to sit down and recover. And my gosh, I really needed a hug.

I found a bench on the green, surrounded by shops. I had just sat down when I was approached by a man who asked if I was OK. I thought maybe he was a concerned stranger? But that wasn’t the vibe I was getting. He asked for my name and number. I refused. He asked how old I was. I said 18, and he sounded mildly (but not that convincingly) surprised and said he was 30. He asked if I wanted to take his number “just in case.” No. Then he asked if I would like to come back to his flat. No! I was creeped out. I didn’t want to be there any longer, I just wanted to be home. Luckily he got the message, and I walked away, past the leering men smoking outside the pub. Everyone I saw made me flinch. I don’t know how he had the nerve! Mum said I might have looked vulnerable, which make me feel even more icky.

Honestly, I felt like shit. I hoped writing it all out would help me get over it, but I keep on thinking “ew.” Ew that males both older and younger thought it was perfectly all right to treat me like that. Ew that as a women I have to deal with a society within where people will treat me like some kind of object. Ew that my friends and I will probably have to deal with this in one form or another for the rest of our lives. It was the life sentence that bothered me the most. My daughter will probably have to endure this as well.

Now please, tell me feminism doesn’t need to exist. Tell me that I shouldn’t believe that future generations will look back and say, “That shit used to happen?” Tell me I shouldn’t be fucking angry. ♦