hand in paintGroping women is in the news right now, so I thought I’d share my experience.
It was around 1968/69; I was 18 or so, living in London, working in an office, travelling by tube every day. Getting touched up on those crowded commuter trains was a fairly routine experience for women in those times. It was what some men did, and we women put up with it. So, when I felt a hand on my buttock whicle I was standing on the one of the up escalators at Earls Court, I didn’t think much of it. Just hurried away when I got to the top, not looking back. The next afternoon, same time, same place, it happened again – somebody’s right hand, on top of my skirt, getting way too friendly with my right buttock. And the same creeping hand performance the next afternoon.
I could put up with the occasional random groping, but this was different – I was being targeted. This was personal.
The afternoon after that, I was ready. I stood on the escalator; the Hand went through its same old repertoire, circling around my buttock, creeping into my crack, attempting entry into my most private part. I feigned ignorance of this assault, staying stock-still right up to the top of the escalator.
Taking two strides forward, I suddenly spun round on my heel – really fast – with my right arm straight out and my fist balled. My fist connected with a crunch. By sheer luck, I had hit my groper bang on the nose.
He just stood there, in shock, not moving. Looking vastly surprised. Snot and blood bubbling from an out-of-shape nose. His jaw hanging open. Trying to process what had just happened to him.
He was just an ordinary-looking bloke, anoymous in a suit and tie like so many others. Didn’t look like a perv. Undoubtedly never thought of himself as a perv. What was wrong with just a bit of touching of a grown woman? That wasn’t anything violent, like hitting her; it wasn’t like rape! He wasn’t some dirty old man hanging around in a dark alley!

Meanwhile, all around us, the crowd was re-enacting a scene from one of those old Bateman cartoons where somebody commits a terrible social faux pas and everybody reels back in horror. For what seemed like ages – but was probably no more than five or maybe ten seconds – nobody spoke or moved.
Having seen what I wanted to see, I turned back on my heel and walked away fast to my connecting train. Really, I wanted to dance, to sing, to shout aloud my joy, my triumph at finally striking back. But I’d already caused enough of a scene, I felt. So I just walked. I did allow myself a big smile, though, as I melted back into the crowd.