True Gripes: It's a jungle out there: Sexist animals roam the streets in packs

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It was a hot afternoon and I was loping to the shops when I spotted them. A bunch of bored homeboys in shorts, laughing and being cocky. My stomach knotted. I knew I was in for grief. As I drew level, it came.

'Big set of lungs. They were all smiling. Waiting. My mind scrambled for a comeback.

'Small brain,' was the limp response. Miraculously, it worked. Any retort at all - from a woman - was enough. The mobcollapsed in laughter.

I bounced away, proud of my minor feminist victory. I'd been sexually harassed in the street and dealt with it. I hadn't turned purple with confusion, embarrassment and anger. The truth is most women know that being sexually harassed in the street is more or less impossible to counter-attack.

First, the kind of men who shout at women in the street come at you in surreptitious - usually group - commando attacks. You'll be doing something provocative like standing still, when from a speeding truck you'll get three tattooed men shouting, 'Get yer pants off. In a blink of an eye they vanish, mission complete.

The second thing is the remarks themselves. Typical examples defy definition as spoken English. Whole sentences are rare. Usually, sexual harassment on the street takes the form of a wildebeest-like grunt of approval combined with weird arm movements. Punching the air, pulling the air, whirling the arm around the head. It's hard to respond in a comprehensible way to a male who zooms past yelling 'Fwwaaooorr'.

And what is this waggling thing? Not only arms but tongues. Show me a woman who has been tongue-waggled and I'll show you a woman who has thought about buying a gun. The only other success story I can boast of involves a tongue waggler.

I was at a bus stop eating a Toffee Crisp when a car pulled up and a man wound down the window and started waggling his tongue. Shocked, repulsed, I simply opened my mouth and exposed the contents. It was intended to be offensive - and it worked. The car sped away.

Sadly, there really isn't much women can do. Fighting fire with fire usually doesn't work. It's more or less impossible to intimidate that kind of man.

In the meantime, we can console ourselves with the fact that for every tongue-waggling primitive male there's the man that picks up the other end of a toddler's buggy and helps a mother down some steps. If this thought still fails to comfort, why not buy that gun. . .

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