How do you respond to harassment? Image from Wikimedia Commons.

It was a spontaneous weekend filled with saying “yes” to last-minute road trips and never-ending festivities. It was a weekend of good people, belly laughs, and a thousand new inside jokes.

But there was one blip on the record, an occurrence I’m so familiar with that I almost forget that it surprises those around me: A stranger slapped my ass at a club, and I turned around to tell him off.

Let me pause to say that I’m really enjoying the third place I’ve called home over the last three years (after this one and this one). So far the Czech Republic has welcomed me with enthusiastic arms. 

However, I’d like to comment on this unwanted ass slap because it’s the second such incident in three weeks.

The Ubiquitous Sexual Harassment of Women

Harassment isn’t a new topic, and thanks to the viral video by Rob Bliss Creative, Hollaback, and Shoshana B. Roberts, women’s often unseen experiences have entered the spotlight.

The video highlights an experience that most men are not privy to simply because it doesn’t usually happen when other men are around.

It’s the same reason why the response “I have a boyfriend” is more respected by catcallers and creeps than “I don’t like when you talk to me like that.” Men respect other men.

What was so shocking about this particular incident of mine, then, was that it happened when I was in the company of male colleagues.

Though I don’t believe most of them (if any) even realized what had happened until after they saw me turn around, march over to the slapper, and yell, in English, that such behavior was not acceptable.

Even after I returned, I’m sure I looked unprovoked to those who didn’t see the slap.


My body is not for strangers to touch freely; keep your hands to yourself. Image from

My flatmate joked that the same thing had happened at Oktoberfest (only three weeks earlier) and that then I had also turned around to stop the entitled bloke and tell him that I didn’t like it and that he couldn’t do that again.

The difference was that my flatmate and I attended Oktoberfest sans men, and the ass-slapper was walking by solo. He also apologized after being called out.

Responding to an Unwanted Ass Slap

The dude at the Czech club was showing off for his friends and doing so blatantly in front of mine. Despite our language difference, when I approached him, wagged my finger, and yelled that you can’t do that to strangers, he just looked me in the eye and said in English, “Why not?”

The truth is that my response on both occasions has been honed over years of this type of thing.

I haven’t always responded this way. I’ve been the girl who spends the whole night thinking of what she could have said or worrying that she should have said it in the local language.

I’ve been embarrassed and intimidated. It’s happened everywhere from Paris to Los Angeles, in four different countries, and at countless sorts of locations.

How unfortunate that I’m now ready to respond only because I’ve had enough practice.

Dealing with Street Harassment

At the same time, I need to clarify that even as someone who prides herself on independence, assertiveness, and self-respect, I’m not this assertive when alone on the street.

In every city I’ve lived, I am prey to just as many worries as the next girl.

I keep my eyes focused when I walk, I ignore catcalls, and I endure repeated insistence that I say “Thank you” when strangers compliment my heinie.

Similarly, I still sometimes use my sexuality as an excuse when a strange man is being inappropriate.


I love affection, just not in the form of a bum slap by a stranger. Image courtesy of Samantha Marangell.

Yet, I felt comfortable asserting myself in both of these recent incidents primarily because these two men had made a slap and walked off, not waiting for any sexual advance or expecting me to respond at all.

There’s no blurry line here between compliment and assault.

Also, I was surrounded by my people, in a closed environment, and I was going to stay there to keep enjoying my night with my friends. I wasn’t going to spend it regretting not standing up for myself.

It’s not a secret that I am quite proud of my derriere; it’s my favorite feature. But it’s mine. And a slap itself is simultaneously sexual, playful, intimate, and aggressive. If you don’t even know my name, I guarantee that I haven’t given you the “playful” green light.

So keep your hands to yourself.

Would you have said something in my situation? How do you respond to unwanted advances?

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Samantha Marangell
Blogger As a former Peace Corps Volunteer (Moldova ‘07-’09) Samantha appreciates seeing a new country through the host community and, when traveling, she looks forward to learning key phrases in the respective languages. She has just moved to the Australia after a year in the Czech Republic. She will reflect on making friends abroad and figuring out whether she'll finally stay in one place.

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    1. If someone slaps your ass, slap their face. A slap for a slap.

    2. that happened to me BT at school 2 bous shaped me but there was more boys and people so I wasn’t sure who it was when I asked they said it wasn’t me and then they showed who it was it was a small idiot boy and he was running away the other boy came inside the school and I wanted to slap him in the face but he holds my hand and I said he was disgusting about 5 or 6 times I am thinking about what to do if it happens again because I dint like it and I am still a teen and my mind doesn’t know

    3. Is it normal to be really upset after that. Something similar happened to me and i called up my boyfriend crying. It was the first time anything like this has happened. Was i overrecting or is this normal?

    4. I’m only 13 and my mums friends came over today – her husband who is 56 was chasing me in the field next door and he caught me, threw me on the ground and proceeded to slap my bum in front of my little brother. I just laughed it off as my brother tried to push him away. He just laughed and then let me get away so he could chase me again. I called up my mom and he immediately stopped. Is this harassment or him just being playful as my mums friend. I don’t know what to do

      1. It’s harrasment and not normal. Tell your Mum and your Dad about the experience – and how it made you and your brother feel uncomfortable.

      2. Oh no! We are so sorry to hear about this. This is absolutely not ok. You did the right thing by calling your mom. This is not normal.

      3. Tell your mother it made you uncomfortable. You’ll feel better when you do?

    5. I was having a great time with my friends we were all drinking and enjoying the night . Some how I was left alone in the living room with one of my friends boyfriend, he came around me and slapped my butt. I was so shocked and confused, he turn around and asked me to take a shot with him as if what he did was normal.
      I don’t feel like making this a big deal but I know it is,…

    6. how do you respond if a guy you’ve known for years asks to slap your butt you say no and they ask why. and you don’t know how to respond because you like them oh yeah i;m thirteen

      1. I have the same situation. There is this boy at my middle school and we’re in the same classrooms for PD. 1-7. He slapped my butt 11 times and I told him off. But he won’t stop. But now that I think I’m used to it, I think I want to just leave it be and let my day not be ruined.

    7. So… I might’ve found this while looking to the answer to this question. Why does this happen? Is it okay? How should I take it? Except, you see, I’m a guy. And the butt-smacks keep coming from a co-worker. Kind of glad to see this answered in a way that makes sense. Was beginning to think I was crazy or something, or that I might have my ‘is this okay or not’ bingo-board less figured out than I thought I did.

      I for one did not appreciate the butt slap. For a guy that might seem unusual, but what can I say… I’m no swinger.
      Kind of a goodie-two-shoes over here, so it just left me nervous and very confused, since this isn’t someone I interact with often.

      So thanks for giving such a complete and earnest answer.

    8. When I was eleven, I was at a water amusement park in my black, one-piece bathing suit ready to slide down the biggest slide. I had climbed almost 1000 steps and was waiting on a couple of people ahead of me to take their turn. I was almost to the top of the stairs when I feel a slap on my right butt cheek from the guy behind me who appeared to be at least a junior in high school. I turn around and look at him with a scowled look on my face, saying nothing, and all of the people that (looked like they) were with him started to laugh. He was with his guy friends and his parents (at least I think they were). I am mixed and he was white. At the time, I didn’t understand what had happened so I kept it to myself and now that I am older I am aware of these types of things. My question is, why did he laugh? Was it a dare or some messed up racial thing? Or something else? I know no one will be able to give a definite answer to those questions but maybe someone can give an answer to this one: What should I have done in this situation?

    9. What if it’s a child that slaps your butt? I was in the supermarket in Oahu last night. I was with my husband looking at the eggs and cheese and suddenly someone slapped me HARD on the butt. I was in shock for a split second (because it also hurt). I turned around and it was a little boy, no older than 5 staring straight up at one else around. I looked up and his mother was within view walking down the aisle but she said nothing. I scolded him and said, “no you don’t do that!” and gave him a sturn look. He walked slowly away not saying a word, then looked back at me again and I gave him another nasty look. I couldn’t believe it. I was expecting his mother to say something to me or tobher kid who literally just slapped a stranger but she didn’t and they all continued to go around into another aisle. For one of the first times I really didn’t know how to react. If it was a man I would have slapped the s- out of him. It was just odd to have a child come up from behind me and slap me hard…completely unprovoked. His response was also strange. He didn’t look shocked like he had mistaken me for someone else. He simply looked straight at me and walked away.

    10. […] simply want to discuss the experience of harassment as a traveler and give some advice as to how women can travel with less of it in their […]

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