Running-Rape Culture. ~ Melissa Prax

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His eyes did not blink as I ran by. They were pitch black, yet almost lifeless.

He did not hide the fact that his body shifted and his head swiveled to catch the full motion of my legs throttle forward and my feet hit the ground.

Naïve, I turned up the music on my iPod shuffle and kept my pace.

I have been running for nearly seven years, but when I moved to an urban environment for college I began to face “Running-Rape Culture.”

Initially I did not have a name for it. Now I have come to loathe the lingering eyes and catcalls I had once found somewhat flattering.

I recently read an article about another woman facing the same reactions from men.

I love my bright colored running tights and sweat wicking tanks; they make me feel the most comfortable while running. I don’t want to give that up.

However, my slim figure shows through the baggiest of t-shirts and sweat pants: regardless, the stares do not stop.

This is running-rape culture.

In my hometown it is uncommon to find runners, but throughout high school cross-country and track I found my one true love.

There, I would run on gravel trails with only a pair of shorts and a sports bra on, but I would never dream of wearing that on the sidewalks of my current city.

Running in the morning or past 11 p.m. is my favorite time. I see the city wake up or go to sleep, and I usually have the same path on a road that is colored with streetlights.

The men wandering around bus stops around 6 a.m. can be less harmless than those during the day.

I was on a 10-miler, basking in the last two miles of run around 5 p.m. on a spring evening.

There was a decent crowd on the streets as the sun shined down warmly on bare shoulders. I sported a tank top and shorts combo.

I sped along over the un-even sidewalk past a newly opened donut shop and that’s when I saw him.

He was with two of his presumed friends, camouflage-shorts clad. He began hip thrusting at me.

His friends chuckled and I picked up my pace a bit while making eye contact with a Starbuck’s sign, shunning him with my poker face.

The sidewalk narrowed to allow an opening for a planted tree.

As I whizzed by he grabbed my arm. My body was forced to turn towards him as he smiled, but let me pull away. I sprinted, feeling my five-foot-eight body turn into an instinctual animal in danger.

The thing about running-rape culture is that often harm is not done to the “victims.” I rarely think about the guy who grabbed my arm or valets that catcalled me as I passed by their work place.

It is accepted in our culture to gawk at runners and maybe even give them a butt-grabbing boost, as in my case.

Part of it pokes fun at my fitness, part of it makes me lose focus while training for races, and part of it depreciates my woman-hood.

I enjoy the motivational high fives I sometimes receive from dog walkers, or a fellow runner smiling at me.

There are opposite expressions of different motivations when it comes to appreciating me instead of gawking.

This is not meant to be a feminist rant, but a taste into something so common for me and other runners that it has become accepted.

So common that is glossed over or scoffed at when mentioned. It has become seemingly harmless.

This is the reality of any harmful behavior going unchecked for too long.

As I ponder what to do and how to solve this problem, I feel helpless. There are countless races in my city and runners of all speeds are common.

It is not just running, rape culture is found in everyday life. I am not a victim or a feminist, just someone who has found what I love and do not know how to stop these common actions against it.

I am not sure if a campaign, or a hash tag, or celebrity talking about it will help the problem. The problem is rooted deep within a society of self-disrespect and disrespect towards others.

Maybe the answer is found in running. Everyone should just blow off a little steam.

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Apprentice Editor: Guenevere Neufeld / Editor: Renée Picard

Photo:  via author

 

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

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Melissa Prax

Melissa Prax is a yogi, elephant lover, runner, and video geek. A Cleveland native, she loves documentaries, bicycles, her school Ohio State, and international news. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @melprax.