A MUST-READ Male Perspective On How Women Deal With Street Harassment


By Tony Rinna

Several months ago I descended to the subway platform for the train to Seoul’s Gangnam district. There was almost nobody around except for a young lady around my age. I sat down on a bench near where she was. I didn’t say anything to her and didn’t even look directly at her, yet she immediately got up and moved closer to the platform edge. When the train came we ended up getting into the same car, and as soon as she saw this she proceeded to move to another car.

Later that evening I told my Korean friend about it, and I told him I was sure it was because I’m a foreigner. “No, it’s not because you’re a foreigner. It’s because you’re a guy. The same thing happens to me all the time” he said. He then told me how prevalent street harassment and other instances of unwanted attention were in South Korea, and how so many women in the country have been made to feel insecure in public.

As soon as he said that, I began to remember that the exact same thing happened to me a lot in the United States. Women obviously going out of their way to avoid me in public, when 99.9% of the time I’m lost in my own thoughts, only looking around to be aware of my surroundings for my own safety reasons.

When I first started to notice it, I used to find the fact that women would do this around me incredibly hurtful, as if they were avoiding me because of something to do with me. I always took it personally and always became upset about it.

It wasn’t until much later that I really became aware of such phenomena as street harassment and the amount of times many, if not most women, face unwanted attention from men in public. I’d seen it myself on rare occasion, and female friends would casually mention it, but, I confess, I dismissed these as a few isolated instances. I had no idea just how much women face these issues constantly.


As I became more and more aware of the issue, I began to realize why women were behaving this way. How was any woman around me supposed to know that I was more concerned with something other than with making some remark to her about her pulchritude?

The same sort of public avoidance continues to happen a lot in Korea, because street harassment and other forms of sexual harassment are particularly prevalent here. Women will avoid sitting near me on the subway, even when there are plenty of available seats near me. Of course it still stings a little bit, but honestly, if I were a woman, I’d probably do the same thing. Why risk having some guy drooling all over you, as has probably happened at least once to every woman reading this post?

Men have an advantage we almost always take for granted- we can walk out of our homes and carry on our daily lives and not have to worry about random women constantly making comments on our appearance, or even worse, making forward and downright lewd sexual comments to us.

Even in situations that may actually warrant attention, this generally isn’t a problem. When I’m out playing my saxophone on the street in my hometown, women will walk past, smile and give me a thumbs-up, and will sometimes stand or sit on a bench and respectfully listen to me play for a few moments. But women have practically never disturbed me or bothered me while playing my sax. I can’t believe that a female standing there drawing attention to herself would get the same treatment from many guys.


Because we men have made it our “right” to approach women wherever and whenever we want, and say whatever we want to them, we have created a culture of fear and insecurity for women in public. I cannot I blame the ladies for feeling that way.

Ladies should understand, though, that there are also many men out there who will respect your space and your right to carry on with your daily life without unwanted attention. Yes, we will notice that you are beautiful, but we are also aware of the fact that you probably don’t want to be reminded of this by random men. The number of men who feel this way, I’d venture to say, far outnumber the amount of men who feel entitled to make comments like that.

So I want to make a bold request. Ladies- please don’t feel afraid in public! I feel like perhaps I have no real right to ask that, and I beg your pardon for doing so. Simply know, however, that even with the prevalent fear of culture and entitlement, there is also a counterculture of both women and men who are trying to raise awareness of this issue, and want to promote, through word and deed, a society where women can move freely in public and enjoy the same privileges men do, too.

No woman should ever have to worry about her safety or being respected in public. Ladies, you should know, however, that there are many men who respect and support you and your right to live a public life undisturbed. As a man, I want you all to know this, and that there are many guys out there who want you to feel safe. You may not be able to tell us apart from others, but please know that we are here.



Tony Rinna is a writer and a freelance saxophone player. He is the creator of ‘Saxaphone for Women’, a one-man movement using his saxaphone to promote respect for women and their rights. He has used his sax to raise money for various women’s organizations, including Girls on the Run and Women at Risk, International. You can follow him on Twitter @FeministSax.

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