Sunday 25 August 2019

Jason Kennedy: Why did someone think it was okay to record my friend kissing her girlfriend?

Would you stand up to your friends' catcallers?

Two women holding hands on the street
Two women holding hands on the street

Jason Kennedy

I'd go out of my way to avoid heated confrontation and tension.

I'm that friend that immediately tries to defuse a situation when things get a bit hairy, lest things get out of hand. Up until recently, I've never really had to face any particularly trying social situations where moral fibre is really put to the test.

For years, I've read these horrendous stories of women being catcalled, abused and followed by leery creeps while they try get on with their day-to-day lives. I've wondered if I were put in that position, would I have the gumption to actually do anything about it? Realistically, I thought I'd take the admittedly gutless approach of comforting with a hollow "don't mind them" or "they're not worth your anger".

That was always the approach I thought I would take, until one night a female friend of mine was abused by two creeps and I had, what I like to call, my Scrappy Doo moment.

After a quiet midweek pint, I met my friend as I left a popular Dublin City centre pub. She was angry and upset after the aforementioned men filmed her kissing her girlfriend. They had followed that by making crude gestures and stating they should do more for the camera. I saw red.

I whipped out my phone, set to camera to video mode and gave them a taste of their own medicine.

"How do you like it now lads?" I said, squaring up to two of them who were, unsurprisingly, more than a few inches taller than five-foot-four me.

"You like creeping on women now, do ye?"

"Yes, we like to watch," was the surprising and unashamed response.

"Well now I have a video of you pestering my friends here and I'm going to put the video on YouTube and your mothers will know you're sex pests."

This seemed to put the fear of God into the young lads, who I'd put at college-going age and old enough to know better. They put their phones away and began to walk away. This wasn't good enough.

"Ye know I have legs too lads, right?"

I followed them for the grand total of around 20 metres and told them that I wouldn't leave them alone until they deleted the video the took and apologised to the women.

They said they already had it deleted, but I told them to show me the phone to prove it, which was greeted with a middle finger from one of them.

They walked away into the darkness quietly and without the bravado they had shown a few minutes earlier.

My friends were left shaken, bullied and, frankly, violated by their experience. Whatever you may think about public displays of affection, it never deserves to be greeted with abuse.

I often think about how I could have easily got home with a shiner if the situation had gone south and, bizarrely, I was embarrassed at how angry I got, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Now I'm not trying to portray myself as some kind of knight in shining armour, but I'd like to think having a friend vocally stand up for them at least eased the situation for my friends after those fools decided to target them.

It's clear from the #MeToo campaign that we all know women who have, at the very least, been made feel incredibly uncomfortable by men. For every story that victims make public, there are surely dozens from those who aren't up to reveal their ordeals.

While these stories vary from creepy encounters to serious offences, they should all be met with an open ear and respect.

Furthermore, manners need to be put on any men who think the above behaviour is acceptable. I've no doubt that those two yobs are their mothers' golden boys, but their behaviour towards my friends made my stomach churn.

Your actions towards women don't have to be of Harvey Weinstein proportions for you to be labelled a predator.

Since that incident, I do wonder if those young men have reassessed their actions and have any remorse for the level of upset they caused that night. I'd like to think, they wouldn't do it again, but, judging by their immediate response when criticised, I doubt that's the case.

I still have that video and I bet their mammies would not be pleased.

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