In my first year of teaching in Oman, I was in a collaborative planning meeting with my teaching team. We got off topic, as we usually did, and started talking about life in Muscat. One of my colleagues told this story about a man who openly masturbated while watching her walk to her car in a parking garage.
I was horrified. She was not. Horror escalated.
Her explanation was a list of excuses and sympathy. The men from that particular culture are sexually restricted. It’s hard for them. Maybe he’s away from his family, his wife. He wasn’t hurting me or assaulting me. I was dumbfounded. How could an intelligent, confident woman talk like this? How could she excuse this behavior as harmless?
As with most scenarios, I lost my words in a fit of confused incredulity, managing only to say something about feminism and how it is unacceptable to objectify anyone that aggressively for any reason.
We need to set the tone for others, especially for those that continue to see women as less than…as objects. We need to make sure to take a stand to make the world safer and fairer for the women who will come after us. Unfortunately, my words didn’t land quite so expansively.
What I should have said was that behaviors like public masturbation could escalate to more serious, potentially fatal, forms of assault.
Men in particular who reach this stage of open sexual harassment could potentially be on their way to serial raping and/or murdering if those behaviors are left unchecked.
Though sexual gratification coupled with a form of aggression is not the only factor that leads some to become serial rapists or murderers ( New York Post Article ), public sexual acts can be a warning sign of one’s potential to follow paths leading to these types of crimes: “From a young age, many serial killers are interested in voyeurism, sadomasochistic pornography, and fetishism” (Crime Museum Website ). This, to me, correlates fairly significantly to the man my friend described. His actions indicated his intention. He wanted to masturbate. He wanted to wait for a woman that he could exert this fantasy on.
There is a chance that his actions were a one off. There is also a chance that they weren’t. One thing we all must remain vigilant about is not taking that chance, not rolling that particular dice. If not for our own personal or immediate benefit, then for the benefit of other women who may find themselves in a similar situation, with a much different outcome.