"Hello, Potion Seller, I am going into battle and I want your strongest potions." "My potions are too strong for you, traveller." "Potion Seller, I tell you I am going into battle, and I want only your strongest potions." "You can’t handle my potions. They’re too strong for you." "Potion Seller, listen to me; I want only your strongest potions." "My potions would kill you, traveller. You cannot handle my potions." "Potion Seller, enough of these games. I’m going into battle and I need your strongest potions." "My strongest potions would kill you, traveller. You can’t handle my strongest potions. You’d better go to a seller that sells weaker potions." "Potion Seller, I’m telling you right now; I’m going into battle and I need only your strongest potions." "You don’t know what you ask, traveller. My strongest potions will kill a dragon let alone a man. You need a seller that sells weaker potions, because my potions are too strong." "Potion Seller, I’m telling you I need your strongest potions. I’m going into battle! I’m going to battle and I need your strongest potions!" "You can’t handle my strongest potions! No one can! My strongest potions aren’t fit for a beast let alone a man." "Potion Seller, what do I have to tell you to get your potions? Why won’t you trust me with your strongest potions, Potion Seller? I need them if I’m to be successful in the battle!" "I can’t give you my strongest potions because my strongest potions are only for the strongest beings and you are of the weakest." "Well then that’s it, Potion Seller. I’ll go elsewhere. I’ll go elsewhere for my potions." "That’s what you’d better do." "I’ll go elsewhere for my potions and I’ll never come back!" "Good. You’re not welcome here! My potions are only for the strongest and you clearly are not of the strongest; you’re clearly the weakest." "You’ve had your say, Potion Seller, but I’ll have mine. You’re a rascal, you’re a rascal with no respect for knights. No respect for anything…except your potions!" "Why respect knights…when my potions can do anything that you can…"
These are forms of male aggression that only women see. But even when men are afforded a front seat to harassment, they don’t always have the correct vantage point for recognizing the subtlety of its operation. Four years before the murders, I was sitting in a bar in Washington, D.C. with a male friend. Another young woman was alone at the bar when an older man scooted next to her. He was aggressive, wasted, and sitting too close, but she smiled curtly at his ramblings and laughed softly at his jokes as she patiently downed her drink. ‘Why is she humoring him?’ my friend asked me. ‘You would never do that.’ I was too embarrassed to say: ‘Because he looks scary’ and ‘I do it all the time.’
Women who have experienced this can recognize that placating these men is a rational choice, a form of self-defense to protect against setting off an aggressor. But to male bystanders, it often looks like a warm welcome, and that helps to shift blame in the public eye from the harasser and onto his target, who’s failed to respond with the type of masculine bravado that men more easily recognize.