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 masterbated while watching her walk to her car in a parking garage. I was horrified. She was not. My 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 rage, managing only to say something about feminism and how it is unacceptable to objectify others, in this case a woman, in any context. We need to set the tone for women. 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 eloquently.
What I should have said, or rather, what I should have added to this argument was the fact that behavior like that 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 there is no be all, end all formula for what leads someone to become a serial rapist/murderer (New York Post Article), voyeurism 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, sado-masochistic 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 masterbate. 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 women must remain vigilant about is not taking that chance, not rolling that particular dice. If not for our own personal and/or immediate benefit, then for the benefit of other women who may find themselves in a similar situation, with a different outcome.