Thursday 18 March 2021

Harassment down the pub

The Old Ship today - closed down
This is a slightly unusual story of sexual harassment that I witnessed at least 30 years ago in my local at the time, the Old Ship in Southport, now closed.

The pub was quiet. I was at one table with two or three friends, on another table was a bunch of noisy lads, and at the far end of the room were three young women, who I thought were about 16, dressed up to the nines for a night out. The lads began cat calling down the pub and I remember hearing terms such as 'jail bait' being bandied around. They didn't just call out once, which would have been bad enough, but went on and on until I noticed that the young women were beginning to look rather intimidated.

The staff should have stopped the verbal harassment, but as they hadn't, I decided to go and have a word with the women myself. I told them that we weren't all like those idiots and I hoped that their behaviour hadn't put them off returning, although in reality I didn't expect they'd ever come back after what had gone on. When I'd chatted to them for a few minutes, I stood up and said I'd leave them in peace and return to my own group, at which point one of them said, "Can we join you?" I was surprised but said yes. I strolled down the pub, past the table with the sexist idiots, followed by the three young women.

They sat with us until the pub closed, were very pleasant company and left with us to go to a late bar we were heading for. I've sometimes wondered how the idiots interpreted what they had witnessed: me walking over to a table, chatting to three very young women, walking back with them all in tow and finally leaving the pub with them.

Unfortunately at the late bar, the bouncer refused to admit them because of their age. In vain I argued that they were part of our group, and so I ended up apologising to the women that they weren't allowed to go in with us; they took the disappointment in their stride - perhaps it had happened before. We didn't see them again, but I hadn't expected to anyway.

It would be good to be able to say that such bad behaviour is much less likely to happen nowadays, but I really doubt there has been significant change in the intervening decades.