So this was two Saturdays ago now, and i was still feeling good about how L and I had ignored the talkative protester until he went away. I walk another couple of women up the sidewalk. As I come back down, I see L and R, both female, who are half-surrounded by the group of male newbie protesters.
I hear R say, “NO! NO!! NO ~ we DON’T have to talk to you! We were having a private conversation ~ WE were,” and she points from herself to L and back again, “and you rudely jumped in…”
And one young guy protester says, “You’re the one being rude, you won’t listen to us.”
I think that R might explode with anger, but she just says, “NO! WE were talking. WE were having a conversation. YOU interrupted.”
Another young protester guy says, “Well, but there’s no reason we can’t talk to each other,” and I realize he’s the same one who wouldn’t leave me alone a couple of weeks ago. “I mean, we’re both out here on the sidewalk…”
“NO,” says R, and L chimes in, “WE’RE having a private conversation, we don’t have to talk to you…”
and he continues, as if they haven’t said anything, “We’d LOVE to talk to you about the gospel of Christ,”
and I just shake my head. Good grief.
“We’ve tried moving away from you,” says L, “and you’re following us. That’s harassment. If you keep it up, we’re going to call the police.”
Several other escorts are close by now, and T, who is a young male escort, gets out his phone. I was going to call, but it would have taken me five minutes to peel off my layers of gloves and mittens to use the touch screen. T hands me his energy drink to hold, and quickly calls. He calls the police department directly, not 911.
As T talks, or tries to talk, the protesters continue, loudly insistent that we need to talk to them, need to listen to them, need to not be rude to them.
L and R move away again. The protesters follow.
Another couple who actually have an appointment at the clinic come around the corner; D and I break away to walk with them. I realize I have T’s energy drink with me, but it’s too late to give it back.
We walk up, and make it back to our corner pretty quickly. T is off the phone, and I give him back his energy drink, which he he takes from me like it was his long lost lover. “I just looked up,” he says, “and it was gone!” He adds reproachfully, “I thought, ‘damn, can’t trust anybody these days!'” I have to laugh.
The anti’s have stepped away a little bit, and I join L and R, ’cause now I want to hear the conversation they were having.
But R’s still in mid-story when the police show up. Two police cars, and the officers get out right away.
R and L explain what had happened, and the one guy, the one who’d been the pushiest, is right there ready to argue. But one of the officers moves away with him, and steps around the corner to talk to him and the other new protesters.
The other officer stays to remind us that they’re limited in what they can do, although they agree, the protesters can’t follow us around trying to talk to us. If we say no and move away once, they’re supposed to leave us alone.
Which we already knew, although we don’t mind hearing it again. We point out that these guys are new, and don’t know the rules yet – and for sure, won’t listen to us!
I don’t hear what the police say to the protesters, and don’t need to. Whatever they say, it’s enough. This group of anti’s leave us alone the rest of the morning. Which was all we wanted in the first place.
So I’ll say what I was thinking that first week, when new guy insisted on talking to me. This is a good example of rape culture.
No, it’s not rape, and I’m not suggesting it’s like being raped, because it’s not. But clearly it reflects rape culture.
The protesters believe that what they want carries more weight than the fact that we don’t want it. That their urge to talk to us is more important, that it takes precedence over us saying ‘no, leave us alone.’
They believe that they’re entitled to insist on getting their way no matter how many times we say no.
That’s how rape culture works ~ consent is not a factor, and my “no” doesn’t mean “no” to them.
So, here’s the thing about escorting ~ one of the things about escorting. Just when I’m feeling comfortably self-righteous, something busts my bubble. If I had only published this before last week, it would have been great.
But last week, i watched one of us, an escort, someone I like and respect, get so angry that they buttonholed a protester ~ it was A, the seminarian ~ and insist he answer a question. My friend kept talking to him, ignoring his relatively polite efforts to end the conversation.
It’s what I love and hate about escorting. It constantly calls me to check myself. ‘Cause it could just as easily have been me transgressing the points of unity, there on the corner. Trying to talk to a protester isn’t my style, but I’ve been known to yell at them ~ not lately, thank goodness, but it could happen again.
More often, I’ll make a really snarky comment about them while they’re close by. Yeah. Intended for them to hear. It’s not helpful. Feels real good in the moment, but not helpful in the long run at all.
Maybe I’ll give that up for Lent…