NOTE: There is a HUGE VARIETY of street harassment. There is also a HUGE VARIETY of people who are harassed. And a HUGE VARIETY of people who harass. Therefore, there is no single solution or response that works. In fact, there is a HUGE VARIETY to what can be considered “working”.
The “Not interested!” response is suggested as a boundary setting method to deal with street harassment that is unlikely to escalate into violence. The most common response to street harassment is to ignore it. Due to the wide spread use of the ignoring response, it is a time tested and useful method. “Not interested!” is suggested as an OPTION for those who have deemed that they want to respond in some manner, but are unsure of what to do.
There is no failsafe response option to street harassment. Therefore, I will begin by providing some reasons for why you should NOT use “Not interested!”.
1. You don’t like the phrase, or the phrase is not natural for you to use.
2. You like some other phrase better.
3. You don’t want to use a phrase at all.
4. Using the phrase could be seen as engaging the catcaller and you don’t want to engage him.
9. You think that this phrase response is inherently better than any other phrase response for all situations or in any situation.
11. Saying the phrase doesn’t make you feel like you have communicated a boundary.
12. You want to do something else.
The above a just a few of the reasons you should NOT use “Not interested!” as your Go-To-Response to catcalling.
The majority of street harassment that is either visual or verbal and comes from men whose intentions range from seeking your attention, provoking a reaction from you, involving you in a visual fantasy, intimidating you, to testing your suitability for predatory behavior.
The problem with this type of harassment is that it makes you feel powerless and not in control of the situation. The problem with a knee jerk angry reaction such as “Fuck you, asshole”, is that it has the potential to escalate the harassment further. It also requires you to be angry in order to say it. In addition, “Fuck you asshole”, would seem out of place in response to the commonly used comment of “Hey, smile baby!” and is not appropriate around children.
Therefore, it is helpful to have a few phrases handy for the variety of situations that may be encountered. Phrases that provide you with more control and power. Sometimes, it helps if it is a rehearsed response that you can say quickly without having to formulate a sentence. A response that lets the harasser and any bystanders know that you are:
Not interested in talking to him.
Not interested in what he thinks.
Not interested in what he does.
Not interested in how he feels.
Not interested in seeing his actions.
Not interested in what he has to say.
Not interested in being victimized by him.
Not interested in explaining why you are not interested.
Not interested in becoming upset by him.
Not interested in feeling violated by him.
The response of “Not interested” is natural to say because it is most likely how you feel. Therefore, you are assertively communicating your feelings. “Not interested” is an unambiguous rejection of whatever the harasser has to offer or communicate. Therefore, you reject his “compliment” in the same manner that you reject his insult. You reject the harasser and his ability to have power and control over you. You let him and everyone else in the immediate vincinity know it.
Your statement of “Not interested” informs potentially helpful bystanders of the true nature of the situation and creates an opening for their intervention. Your statement allows you to refute the harasser and continue moving away from him. There is no need to stop and confront unless you choose to. You can simply look at the harasser coldly, say “Not interested” and continue on your way. “Not interested” is the first step of physical assertiveness.
Let’s see how “Not Interested” stacks up to commonly used harassing phrases and situations:
“Hey mama!” – “Not interested.”
“Do you need a ride?” – “Not interested.”
“Why don’t you smile baby?” – “Not interested.”
“I like the way you walk.” – “Not interested.”
“I’d like to hit that!” – “Not interested!”
For added dramatic effect, you can add a dismissive wave of your hand.
Kissing noises, hooting, hissing – “Not interested.” (dismissive wave)
A car honking next to you as you walk – “Not interested.” (dismissive wave)
Feeling witty? You can add a second sentence.
“Going my way?” – “Not interested. You’re not going anywhere.”
“Can I be your boyfriend?” – “Not interested. Not in this lifetime anyway.”
“I just want to say hi.” – “Not interested. I just want to say – bye.”
“Why don’t you smile, beautiful?” – “Not interested. It’s because of people like you.”
Masturbating in public. – “Not interested. But the police will be.” (as you take his picture)
“Hey honey, come suck my dick!”
Feeling angry and aggressive and want to throw caution to the wind? You could always add an insult qualifier such as:
“Not interested. You piece of shit.”
“Not interested. Dickhead.”
“Not interested. You low life creepy fool.”
(NOTE: Using an insult is NOT the suggested response. These are examples that demonstrate the flexiblity of the “Not interested” response. Safety must always be your first priority.)
“Not interested” can always be followed by a verbal warning such as “Back off!”
“Come here and let me touch your sweet ass!” – “Not interested. NOW BACK OFF!!”
“Ah, come on over here, baby.” – “Not interested. I SAID I WAS NOT INTERESTED!!”
Find yourself in a work related or social situation and don’t want to come off too strong?
“Boy, you are beautiful.” – “Not interested. Let’s focus on the getting the job done.”
“Wow! You look fine.” – “Not interested. I don’t need compliments.”
“Not interested” also works for non-street harassment situations.
Annoying phone calls. – “Not interested.”
Aggressive sales people. – “Not interested.”
Pesky men at a bar. – “Not interested.”
Unwanted invitations – “Not interested.”
“Not interested” is intended to put you in control. Because it takes no conscious thought to say, you can say it quickly and while under stress. With a little practice, “Not interested” can become your automatic assertive response to many forms of street harassment.
Try it today and then pass it on!