What I should have said
Edited so the forum won't bleep it out; change the @ to an a.
The very next day, which was yesterday, I attended an RP event, Sholaad's Revola party in Shattrath. Great event, I had a lot of fun. I arrived late, rode in to stand with the rest of my guild, and immediately had a whisper from the person sitting right in front of me.
Sadly I failed to screenshot it and my WIM addon did not store the conversation for some reason. But the gist of it was a sudden, crass message, in ((OOC brackets)), to the effect that I was "hawt" and it was too bad his character wasn't ogling mine the way he was. The specific words "daaaaaamn baby" were used. I replied in one word: "Creepy." To this he posted LOL and that everyone was so uptight, "must be Alliance."
Name has been omitted to protect the guilty. The truly surreal thing is that there is nothing about Azhaar that invites flirtation. She was wearing the transmog set you can view by clicking my portrait; black armor with a skulls-and-bones motif. Anyone who bothered to read her MRP would find she resembles nothing so much as a steroid abuser: large, muscular, and perpetually angry. I can only conclude that this was a Pavlovian reaction. The sudden presence of a female in his vicinity triggered the textual equivalent of a wolf whistle.
What really unsettles me, and caused me to flash back to the article I linked above, is that this guy wasn't some random creeper, wasn't a PvPer trolling the server, wasn't a putative outsider such as we like to blame for the various troubles in any community. He had a literate, lore abiding MRP written, was attending an RP event and not causing a disruption (except to me in whispers). This was a member of the roleplaying community, acting like a frat boy who thinks he's entitled to do or say whatever he likes to a girl because she's a girl.
And that made me realize that I handled this badly. Confronted with the living evidence that exactly the kind of dangerous culture I was just reading about was present on our own beloved realm, I simply had a laugh about it with my guild and ceased responding to the guy, as I'm pretty well conditioned just not to engage with repellent people. In that, I missed an opportunity. I should have replied in detail. Well, you know who you are if you happen to be reading this, and I'm saying it now.
"Look, I don't appreciate that. Your attitude shows a complete lack of respect for women and that bothers me, especially when you dismiss it as 'uptight' not to enjoy your crude advances. It's possible to pay someone a compliment without being crass, aggressive or clearly implying that she exists for your viewing pleasure. I really hope you don't treat people that way in person."
Would it have done any good? Maybe, maybe not. It's words, just like what the guy said to me. But nothing is ever just words; the words we choose indicate much about our mindset and the kind of culture in which we live, and culture does a lot to influence what people will do in their own lives. This attitude is a real problem, and leads to a lot more than feelings being hurt. It is worth rebutting and speaking up against wherever it arises, and I really regret that I didn't take the opportunity to do so.
I know things like this have happened to others on this forum; I've seen it mentioned in other posts. Many times, we walk away from these situations because in this online venue, we can, and fighting that battle seems like a pointless difficulty. I'd like this thread to be a place where you can say what you wish you'd said then.
Maybe you were too busy, or too intimidated, or just wanted the nonsense to stop. Whatever the reason, your answer was worth hearing and should be heard. The culture and attitude things like this indicate are dangerous, and should be spoken out against. Every time this is tolerated, the people doing it grow a little more confident in their behavior. We owe it to ourselves, to our community, and even to them to talk back. Peaceably and respectfully if you can, but it should be said.
People are not objects or targets. Speaking to them as such is not harmless. This is not acceptable.