This originally appeared on The Sex Positive Parent. Republished here with permission.
The social order requires silence and looking away and not interfering, but when I see creepy men coming on to teenage girls, I say: Screw the social order.
I just got home from my daily BART ride. I should be cooking dinner, but there’s no way that’s gonna happen until I write down what happened. You ever get like that? Have to write something down so that you can get on with your day? Just me? Damn, OK.
On today’s episode of “what happens when Airial rides public transit” (there really should be a whole webseries based on this, I swear) a child predator almost got his ass handed to him by one very pissed off mama bear.
So the BART was delayed today, making the early afternoon cars more crowded than usual. Normally at this time of day it’s teenagers riding home from school or parents on their way to pick up their kids from school—like me. Plus there is an A’s game, so baseball fans in green and yellow filled the cars too.
I get on the train, a man pushes past me. I notice that he’s in a hurry to get the interior doors. Maybe he really really wants to find a less crowded car, I think. Then at the next stop more people get on and I end up shuffling toward the back and who do I see, man-in-a-hurry. Except now, he’s not in a hurry. Now he’s adopted the slouchy stance of a teenager. Why? Because he is chatting up a girl. A girl who is obviously the same age as my kids—13 or 14. She’s tiny. She’s young. And this grown ass man is coming on to her. He’s older than me. Well, maybe he’s the same age as me and just not aging well.
Fucking Hell. I’m watching their interaction. She’s got that smile going. The one where you hope that if you’re nice enough the creepy guy will like you enough to leave you alone. The smile of look I’m playing along, please don’t hurt me. The smile of I’m not threatening in any way can you please see me as a person. Yeah. That smile. He’s complimenting her on her clothes, her hair, her shoes. She’s wearing sneakers and pajama pants. Her hair is “I’ve been in school all day” untidy. She’s a fucking kid.
I step closer to them. Closer than necessary. I’m staring at him. This is where I love, love, love being a tall, thick-as-a-tank woman. I’m in flip flops and we’re eye level. I’m sizing him up. My shoulders are stronger than his. If I stand just a ‘lil straighter he’ll be looking up at me. For now, I know the look I’ve got on my face. I know exactly what my expression is saying. I see you. You’ve been made. He’s stopped turning his head in my direction but he’s staring at me from the corner of his eye. I know that because she follows his gaze and looks up at me. I swear she’s barely 5 feet tall.
I’ve done this before. I soften my expression and make eye contact with her. She gives me the look. I step closer. He’s telling her to text him. He’s asking if her mom is waiting for her at the station she’s getting off at. He’s acting like he doesn’t care. He’s acting like it’s all so super casual. She’s smiling that smile.
I shift my position so that my bag is between them. She immediately steps around me, like a bunny hopping over barbed wire. I stay put. Wait to see if he tries to push past me. Wait to see if he says excuse me. Wait to see if he’s gonna tap me on the shoulder. Part of me wishing he would. I’m loud. Loudest person I know actually. The sonic boom that would have resulted from him tapping my shoulder would have shook the train off it’s tracks. He doesn’t.
Adults who target children hate being seen by other adults who know what they are.
I walk to the middle of the car where she is standing, my face perfectly blank.
I ask her, “Do you know that guy?”
“No!” she says her eyes widening, voice lowered, “I was like, ‘Can you stop talking to me?’ the whole time!”
“He shouldn’t have been talking to you. I’m sorry he did that. It’s not your fault.”
“He just asked me if I knew someone who could braid his hair, out of nowhere.”
“You sure don’t know anyone,” I say raising my voice, looking back over my shoulder to where he’s watching us.
We get off the train at the same stop. I turn to see if he’s getting off. He’s not. I stand and watch him from the platform as the train slides away. I see you.
I learned to do this from my mother. My mom gives no fucks about the social order when it comes to protecting children from creepy ass motherfuckers. The social order requires silence and looking away and not interfering. The etiquette of our culture demands we not presume bad things are happening when in fact they’re happening right in front of our fucking faces. Not one other person in the packed train car lifted an eyebrow at that grown man chatting up a very young teenager.
And man that pisses me off.
Airial Clark is a San Francisco Bay Area based parenting expert and sexologist.