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An Uber uncomfortable situation

By no standard or measurement would I ever fall into the category of small, petite or be anywhere close to portable, but even with my broad shoulders and chubby self, I found myself in the back of an Uber feeling vulnerable like never before.

When my girl-friends tell me how men make passes, actively pursue them and become overly imposing, I’m always glad that they made it out of the situation okay. It’s easier when you’re in a place surrounded by other people but what happens when someone you’ve never met picks you up outside your house and can change the route or direction you’re traveling in at any moment?

On a Saturday afternoon I had requested an Uber and was on my way to a braai, which was also a briefing for a project I’d be working on. The driver arrived, and it was nothing out of the ordinary till the questions developed from ‘Do you live alone’ to ‘when can I come and visit?’

I’m a 27-year-old gay man sitting at the back of an Uber while a 61-year-old man actively, and uncomfortably so, made his advances and I felt trapped like a rat. I can handle myself, but I’ve never felt what women go through on a daily basis until now.

Every ‘what-if’ crossed my mind. He tried to tap into my head and convince me that my committed relationship shouldn’t be a factor in the fun we could have because my boyfriend is probably cheating anyway.

He commented on how nice his penis was and asked if I wanted to feel it. He passed his other phone to me and asked if I could add my number to his phonebook – and every ‘no’ seemed to be an opportunity for him to dig deeper, ask more questions and even though I didn’t have to explain myself it was surreal sitting there monitoring the trip on my phone, wondering ‘what happens if he turns this car into a place I can’t escape from’.

I thought about sharing my trip info with my boyfriend, who I was chatting to, but what if he gets a notification – I wouldn’t want to provoke a sexual predator after all. I can’t report him because he knows where I live – does that not place me in danger? I don’t know how many guys he does this to, but I have to consider my safety.

When we got to the complex I needed to get to, I was relieved. Unfortunately, I couldn’t change the route on the map and have him take main roads as Uber encourages drivers to follow their GPS. I gave him 5 stars because they require a reason for a low rating, and I was not about to make him aware that I’d alerted them to his misconduct – my life is worth more to me than anything else.

So, I’m sharing this to make you aware that sitting at the back is not a bad thing, not being engaging or wearing your earphones might affect your rating, but it’s better than feeling like there’s a possibility of being raped. I had a bottle of wine in the back I could have used to defend myself, but that feeling I had has stuck with me, it’ll be a while before I don’t feel like his gaze alone had made me dirty.

Martin Headger is a contributing writer for the Anova Health Institute and these are his views, which may or may not reflect those of Anova and its affiliates.

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