Reading the British press over the past week and the news of Sarah Everard’s disappearance and now confirmed murder, I have been shocked by the hundreds of stories women have shared about living in fear of walking home at night and harassment.
Jenny Jones for the UK’s Green Party suggested a possible “amendment to create a curfew for men on the streets after 6 pm” adding “I feel this would make women a lot safer, and discrimination of all kinds would be lessened.”
In Monaco, the question of security has come up in every conversation I’ve had with single women – who between 25 and 64 make up 7.7% of the population, see chart at end – and the idea of being able to walk home in safety at night was the biggest incentive in moving to the Principality, outweighing the exorbitant rent.
Having lived in Nice for nearly two decades, the deteriorating sense of safety during the last five years is what drove me to move. Even in the Carré d’Or, a block from the Negresco, I would not go out by myself after 10 pm. But I have never been harassed. Or have I? Looking back over my years in France, I can recall four times men have exposed themselves to me:
1/ walking home from the bus in Bois Fleuri in Biot a pantless man confronted me and started masturbating.
2/ after seeing Radiohead at the Frejus amphitheater, waiting for the train home a man in très short shorts whipped out his penis and started yanking on the stairway.
3/ my personal favourite, stopped at a red light on the southbound outside lane at blvd Gambetta and rue de la Buffa in Nice, a drunk came up to the passenger side, unzipped his beige cords and smudged his penis in a slow windshield-wiper motion against the window. My car was wedged in, I had to wait for the light.
4/ Walking the dog on the Prom in Nice, some guy called out for help and when I turned he starting jerking off and laughing.
Then of course there are the countless zizis I’ve unwillingly come across as men in France deem fit to urinate anywhere in public, which is still a culture shock having grown up in Canada.
It brings to mind an interview with Ricardo Antonio Chavira, who was at the 2005 Monte-Carlo TV Festival when I attended for People Magazine. Discussing his character Carlos Solis on the then new series Desperate Housewives, he said when the show first aired in the US, men would stop him on the street to berate him for bringing such a macho character back on TV between because it made their wives angry. in Europe, he said men offered him a congratulatory slap on the back for bringing back a macho character to TV.
But is being a macho European a green light for men to cause offense? I am no snowflake but when I read a headline like “Convincing Win For G-Spot” in reference to the Monaco team who won at the Primo Cup sailing regatta last Sunday, I can only sigh. This is not National Lampoon.
This type of hyper-sexualised culture feeds into the bigger picture of why young girls and women, regardless of their relationship status, feel unsafe. From inappropriate body references to catcalling, objectification sends a detrimental message. Even in my own case, I have somehow normalised public flashers.
I doubt a 6 pm curfew for all men is the answer but simply wishing a “Happy International Women’s Day” does not cut it. Maybe the headline “Convincing Win For Ball Sac” would help open the dialogue.
IMSEE’s most recent census statistics (2016) on women living in Monaco.
Age Monégasque Non-Monégasque
25-34 384 1,393
35-44 486 1,832
45-54 705 2,305
55-64 675 1,995
Age Living w/partner Not living w/partner
25-34 1,078 699
35-44 1,750 567
45-54 2,162 848
55-64 1,785 885