New York Cliché of the Day: Picture Perfect Street Harassment

On a late summer afternoon, I went for a New York City wander. It’s one of my favorite things to do: pick a neighborhood I know has street art, good coffee shops, and plentiful people watching. With my camera in hand, I’ll be content to walk around New York for hours. This is my preferred fitness routine.

I started my wander at First Street Green Art Park, at the corner of 1st Ave and 1st Street. On the boarder of the Lower East Side and the East Village, two perfect neighborhoods for wandering, this tiny “park” always features awesome street art. (It’s worth visiting even in a blizzard!) This park is full of color, never crowded.

I thought this would be a perfect place to set up a self timer and get some photos of myself for blog/Instagram purposes.
Totally blogger cliché.

So I set up my camera, took a photo with a giant, cheerful heart in the background by street artist Hektad! Immediately following, I looked at the photo to see if it was Insta-worthy. Ehh…why was I doing a weird thing with my leg? Why does my posture suck!? Starring at my camera, I decided to retake the photo. I looked up saw two men were approaching me. 

“You need help taking that picture,” one of them said. A statement not a question. I replied, laughing, friendly, I actually like using the self timer! I’ve gotten good at it! It’s totally fine! 

I didn’t exactly feel threatened being approached by two men in the middle of the afternoon in a well populated area of New York City.

But there wasn’t anyone else in the park…and I’d had my cell phone snatched out of my hand one too many times…There was something aggressive about the vibe of these two guys and I tried to diffuse it with an easy-breezy attitude.

A very common tactic women have learned to use with men. Don’t do anything to make him mad if you can avoid it. Angry men are fucking dangerous.

“You’re pretty. Take the picture with me.”


I have no idea what I said but I know I tried to giggle my way out of it, “Hahaha what a funny joke!” He was insistent. He wanted this picture. He wanted me. I was here, he’d found me alone, he deserved this. Fuck my wishes. Fuck me in general. I was just a smiley, giggly, uncomfortable-as-fuck-but-hiding-it goddamn photo op. A prop.

It wasn’t worth it to say FUCK NO, FUCK YOU, WE ARE NOT TAKING THIS PICTURE. There were two of them. I felt cornered and threatened. All I wanted to do was get out of this situation with as little conflict as possible.

“Ok, take a picture.” I said. Inside, I felt more like this:


Of course without asking, he put his arms around me, pressed his face against mine. 

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck! 


His friend took the photo. I was released from his clutches…this awfully intimate touch from a stranger. He insisted I give him my number. I gave him my real one because I just had a hunch he would check it. Trust your gut. He did check it, “Cool. I’ll text you, baby.”

They walked off one way, and I walked off in the opposite direction, feeling dazed and disgusting.

 I have the photo to remember him by. I’ve thought about deleting it from my phone so many times…But how often do you have a capture of the exact moment you were harassed on the street? I have photographic evidence!

Except it’s not really evidence, at all. Do I look like I’m being harassed in this photo? No. I know I don’t. A picture’s worth a thousand words. Looking at this photo, you’d never guess it’s story. Unless I told you. I think that’s why I’ve been saving it. Yes, #metoo. But hesitating to tell this story because there are so many who would hear it, look at this photo, and call me a liar. LIAR- you look like you’re having fun! You’re not being harassed!

Or maybe they would believe me. Because me and my harasser fit the goddamn racial profile in just the way the system likes it.


It all just sucks. Can you relate to this story? What would you have done in my situation? Have you used the giggle-diffuse technique? I’d love to hear any thoughts you have in the comments.




About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

15 thoughts on “New York Cliché of the Day: Picture Perfect Street Harassment

  1. Yes the giggle and diffuse is my go to, being stand offish always feels like a non option when they’re aggressive, I hate myself after but I know it came from a gut intuition and I trust that. I’m sorry it happened to you!

  2. Ugh, so sorry dear. What those guys (blame is on BOTH of them) did is so wrong, and I bet they have never felt one ounce of shame or regret over it. THIS type of thing illustrates one of the myriad ways it is dangerous and difficult to be a woman. You did the exactly correct thing, because in this case standing up for yourself and your boundaries could have been INSANELY dangerous. I know all humans can be victims of sexual harrassment, assault and violence. This very particular kind of aggression is most often directed at a woman from a man, however, and it is something I wish more dudes could comprehend. This stuff comes at us DAILY. It’s sad and it’s INFURIATING.

  3. Absolutely have used this so many times and usually it means they go away, don’t carry on with their inappropriate behaviour. I would have been giggly and smiley while refusing to give my number, it’s horrible you had to go through this and felt threatened enough to give your number. And he checked it. Creepy as hell.

  4. Sorry you had to experience this Cliche, I think sometimes men have a feeling that we want them to be aggresive, that we admire that trait in them. For me, I try to avoid being giggly when I feel cornered. I’m more the “keep on moving Im too boring and smug, you dont really want me” approach. I normally feel very safe in Manhattan. Recently I took a photo from this same spot and had an erie feeling about it being an isolated corner. Was glad my hubby was just around the corner. – Jam of TipandJaminwornderland

  5. I deal with this a lot as a photographer outdoors. I’ve started firmly saying “No.” and making direct eye contact. If they persist I’ve been saying, “When a woman says no it means no.” If they persist, “Do I need to call someone?” Or “I have a rape culture blog, leave or I’ll put your photo on it.”

  6. So.. why didn’t you just say no?

    How was he supposed to understand your discomfort if you just stand there giggling and agreeing?

    1. Did you not read her words? She says it more than once: she was afraid to make them angry, and sometimes an outright “no” makes certain men angry.

      Standing up for yourself is easy when you’re not alone, not physically weaker, and feel safe.

  7. I know you very well, so I can say that even without reading the article I could tell that you were uncomfortable…I can see it in your eyes and your smile. I wish that there was a better way for you to have diffused this. I wish it would have been safe for you to say “Fuck off! I am not taking a photo with you, get the fuck away from me before I kick you in the nuts”. But as you say, there were two of them and it looks like they were bigger than you. I wish we had magic like in Harry Potter, you could have just zapped his muggle ass with the cruciatus curse. Or levicorpus, or wingardium leviosa. Something that would have made him back the hell up and leave you alone. Why do some men think it is okay to do this? I just do not understand

  8. Mary, you’ve got #metoo. You have his picture. Inform the police. They should know these predators are stalking young women on the streets. Your body language says “frightened, nervous”. See Something, Say something may prevent some young lady from being raped or worse. To hell with Marie. Her attitude only enables these creeps to continue terrorizing. And P Pinto? A bigoted racist. Just totally disregard that shit! Be strong and stay strong!
    Tip recently posted…Some DaysMy Profile

  9. I’m coming here to comment after I not only read your post last night, but saw the idiot (ahem, male) troll on FB you quoted your tweet. Unless you’ve been in this position and you’re a woman who has felt vulnerable and scared, no one understands. The other night I was in Jamaica station around 9pm waiting for my transfer train, and I had on headphones while I sat in the waiting area. A young guy approached me and sat down DIRECTLY next to me, and no one was around. My heart started beating 200 beats per second and I took my headphone out and listened to him politely ask for money. I was scared shitless and super nice, explaining I didn’t have cash. But the thing is? Men should realize how threatening an encounter like that can be. Being aggressive, forceful and all up in a stranger’s face is NOT OK. Sorry this happened to you.

  10. I saw your pic flashing by on Twitter and hadn’t read the text yet, sorry for being rude, but I thought, that’s kind of an awkward picture, she looks as if the guy just farted.. Then I read the text and now I see why you looked so uncomfortable. It’s clear to see that you are NOT having fun. You are strong, lady. Men don’t get to treat you like that! I feel like saying: next time, kick ’em ass! But I wouldn’t dare to do so if I were you either, since the guy is so big… I got in real trouble one time because a guy (I didn’t know him) attacked me when I pushed him off me (everything ended well because my male friends were around and paying good attention).
    So in general this advice would be very unwise of me to give… It really depends on the situation. But one thing counts: THEY are wrong. You probably believe this by now, but you also need to feel it and remember it.
    Deepest love and respect all the people like you who share their story, I think all of you don’t even realize how much you help other people as well as themselves.
    Oh, and let the losers talk, they got nothing better to do.

  11. I just don’t get why men don’t understand when they are told “no”. Two letter, not so hard to understand. I know it goes back far away with this patriarcal society but it is super tiring. I am sorry you had to go through that. that a stranger lays his hands on you… really no… xx corinne

  12. This made me so angry! Angry you had to go through this situation! People say that sexual harassement doesn’t happen but it does! Look at your situation, you already had a plan and not make them angry! Its wrong and I’m so angry you had this happen to you. My go to plan is always run if I can help it and fast as I can. Thank you for sharing your story and the picture, hopefully women will see this and know that if he approaches to be cautious. I hope this doesn’t stop you going around and taking your photos anymore x

  13. Wow, i’m so sorry you were uncomfortable. I would have just said no, even if I may appear rude or stuck up. I don’t care, people can’t violate your rights or space. It sucks he inserted himself into an area he was clearly not invited to do so. I like the fact you were brave and kind. Please don’t sop your street adventures, I was really getting into the New York street art until I begin reading the post. Thanks for sharing and I’m so happy you are ok.

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