Note: When reading observations on San Francisco’s worst-behaved people, please keep in mind that my total of thirty-four years living here have been spent on one edge of the Tenderloin or another. I don’t know how it reflects on the city as a whole, although I have sometimes encountered those personalities outside of my own neighborhood.
I have lived in San Francisco since 1982. I’ve been in the Bay Area all my life, though, and since moving to the city I haven’t seriously considered living in other parts of the region.
I was twenty-two when I moved into a low rent building located just barely above the Tenderloin. I was (and still am) agoraphobic, so moving was a major trauma. I expected the best, though, and after moving into the city there were more disappointments than I could keep track of. I stayed, though, partly because I don’t like change and partly because I could see that I really was getting a pretty good deal in spite of everything. Besides, those same bad things could happen someplace else.
For years, I was approached by men who wouldn’t leave young women alone. Although I showed no interest in any of them, one creep who knew my address kept after me for six years (He found out where my parents lived, too, so if I had moved he might have confronted them). Another, who fortunately never learned where I lived, approached me in public places for more than twenty years. I never told him my name, so he addressed me as “Honey”. I always walked away briskly or ran as soon as one of those freak shows started.
People who behave that way might or might not be more common in San Francisco than in other places. I’m inclined to think incidents are more frequent here because sex offenders regard S.F. as a “liberated” refuge where anything goes (often, they are the same people who claim they’ve “liberated” some object they’ve stolen. Consider the metaphor only if you like to cringe). Those men — most of them heterosexual — ignore boundaries and inexplicably use our enlightened attitude toward the LGBT population as justification for harassing and assaulting women. It’s a safe bet some of them are committing anti-LGBT hate crimes, too.
Most of these people aren’t very bright. However, being dense and aggressive works in their favor. A man who tries to intervene will likely lose the argument because it’s easy for a criminal to hit someone or use the old verbal standby, “Mind your own business, asshole. If you can’t get laid every night like I do, go fuck yourself.” A woman who speaks up will hear a wider range of insults, whether she’s a concerned bystander or the target of the harassment. I don’t know if she’s any more or less likely to be hit.
That specific brand of creep feels absolutely brilliant after degrading others. If he’s arrested, expect him to yell at the arresting officer that he’s the real victim. He believes it, too. If the officer is professional, he or she may say something like, “If you think I’m doing something wrong, you have a right to talk to my supervisor.” Even the most grandiose sex offender should know that won’t get anywhere.
I don’t have accurate figures, but it’s a safe bet that most asshats who are arrested for filthy behavior with women aren’t kept locked up for very long. The court system is clogged, so plea bargains put the asshats in question back on the streets. They probably have orders to stay away from certain people or places, and if they have judgment they’ll obey those orders. They don’t have judgment, though.
I’m fifty-six now, and don’t receive the amount of uninvited attention I did when I first moved to S.F. I’m too old to attract the average creep, but occasionally I get the same abuse any woman will get. If I don’t give money to an aggressive panhandler, he might say, “If you give me a dollar, I won’t need your pussy.”
There’s that “P” word again. The Donald Trump news is bringing all of this back, and I’m getting angry.
This blog post is supposed to be about San Francisco, though. It isn’t all creepiness. There are plenty of things here to like.
We have an excellent climate, even if we aren’t exempt from global warming that’s destroying the planet. Our libraries are well-funded, and there’s still an interesting “Art Scene” in spite of the fact that many artists have been priced out of the city. Even if you just want to ride buses and streetcars for days during a visit, you’ll see distinct villages you won’t find anywhere else. San Francisco is still an original.
Some people are disappointed after living here awhile, though. It’s expensive, and after you’ve seen the interesting sights so many times you don’t notice them anymore you may get disenchanted.
This is when perspective becomes vital. Before you pack up and return to your hometown (or move to the next city you’ve idealized), try to put it all together in your head. Consider whether you still benefit from things you don’t notice anymore.
If you’re healthier in the mild climate, that should be persuasive. If living here has given you the means to broaden your horizons because you’ve made interesting friends or you keep discovering great books you hadn’t heard of before, you’re getting an education. If you’re not a very skilled motorist and you’ve been getting around town on foot or on public transit, you and the general public may be safer because of it. Just look both ways before crossing the street, and stay alert for as long as you’re in the crosswalk. Pedestrian conditions are a bit iffy around here.
San Francisco still has plenty to offer. We have the same problems as a lot of other places, though. Besides the expense, creepy people and red light runners, our local politics can be stomach-turning. The political situation has caused beautiful neighborhoods to lose some of their character, too. Older architecture has been demolished so developers can build sterile condos, and not all of those units are real living spaces. Investors are making money on short-term rentals, while the current rents are outrageous and housing doesn’t meet the public’s needs. It’s a strong market for developers and landlords, and vulnerable people can go to hell.
In some ways, you have to be fairly self-sufficient and desensitized to live in this so-called paradise.
Please forgive me if I’ve discouraged anyone. There are excellent reasons to visit San Francisco, and even now there are good reasons to live here. Just between us, I’m hoping there aren’t too many people from out-of-town who continue moving here. It’s getting crowded.
Here’s a slideshow which should convey a balanced, but not terribly thought-provoking, message: