There’s been a lot in the media lately about what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate when it comes to touching women. I recognize that a lot of people out there will be saying “but what about men and inappropriate touch?” Yes, that’s a problem too, but for this article, I want to focus on the inappropriate touching of girls and women, and what it does to them psychologically. I promise I’ll address the issue of men and sexual assault/rape at another time.
With all the talk in the media lately of how touching is “not a big deal,” I had to turn away and avoid the news reports, blog posts, and comments from the less educated that claim that women who complain about unwanted sexual touching are feminists. It all just makes me angry, and sick. I can’t turn my head away any longer. If the male response to a woman expressing and exercising her desire NOT to be touched sexually by others is that she’s a “feminist” or she’s “overreacting” then there is something incredibly wrong with our society.
I’ve seen it all; I’ve had my ass grabbed, my breasts “accidentally” brushed, and I’ve even had men try to kiss me when we weren’t even in a relationship. I’ve literally crawled across a pool table in a formal ball gown when a man of great social stature tried to put his face between my breasts after pinning me against the table. Don’t tell me that a slap on the ass is innocent—if I say I don’t like it and I don’t want it, that’s the end of it. You don’t get to start calling me a feminist for exercising my own rights to what happens to my body, and you don’t know what I’ve been through. Maybe I was sexually assaulted for years as a child. Maybe I was raped as a teenager. Maybe I was JUST raped a few months ago. Maybe nothing ever happened to me, and your need to exercise control over my body makes me uncomfortable, because anyone who feels that they have the right to decide that I should accept that brush across my breasts or that ass-grab is a creep, and I wonder, if he’s willing to do that, then how far is he willing to go? Is this guy testing my limits?
If a guy who’s been notorious for ass-slapping or other inappropriate touchy-feely behavior ever rapes one of the women he’s been doing this to, don’t you think the first question his lawyer will ask of her is “Why didn’t you ever report his behavior? Is it because you liked it?” What happens when she gets sick of it, and turns and slaps, punches, or knees him after repeatedly telling him to stop? Is that her fault? Flip the situation and her lawyer could ask him, “She told you repeatedly not to touch her, so didn’t you want her attention?”
To all men who say that it’s perfectly innocent and that those of us who don’t like it are feminists (as if that were a bad thing) or even better, feminazis (let’s think about that term and what the word “Nazi” really represents), I have something to say to you. Close your eyes. You’re at work. An older woman slaps you on the ass one day. You’re surprised. Maybe a little pissed off, because you don’t like her. Maybe she’s ugly. Is that “innocent” touching? Keep those eyes closed. Now imagine that every day at work, women randomly grab your penis through your pants and laugh as they walk away. Or they grab your package, squeezing it, and say, “Nice job on that project, Joe,” as they walk away. Is that innocent touching? What about a female co-worker who is at a Christmas party that you’re attending, who bends over while you’re sitting alone at your table nursing a drink, grabs your head, and plants a nice wet one on your lips. Is that “inappropriate” touching? For those of you who are thinking “woo-hoo!” to any of these scenarios, let’s pretend this is an unattractive, older woman in a position of authority. Now is it inappropriate? Most of you probably still don’t get it, because women don’t typically behave that way, while men do. If it’s hard for you to imagine, it’s because it’s never happened to you. What many men would like to call “innocent” touching is anything but. It’s uninvited, unnerving, and for some, who’ve been through sexual assaults or rape, it’s damned terrifying.
That didn’t convince you? Okay I have one better for you.
Close your eyes again. Instead of a female co-worker slapping you on the ass at work, it’s a guy. Instead of a female co-worker grabbing your package, it’s a guy. Instead of a female kissing you at the Christmas party, it’s a guy. Regardless of your orientation, is that inappropriate touching? I can feel most of you cringing as you imagine the situation, so I ask you this: why does it seem so much worse for a guy to do those things to you than a woman? Now put yourself in the position of a female who goes through all of that at work. Do you still think that kind of touching is so innocent? To put things in perspective for you, let’s talk about touching that doesn’t involve what are considered sexual body parts. Pretty much every pregnant woman has had their growing belly touched or grabbed by men and women without being asked, and pretty much all of us either hate it, or get sick of it pretty fast. Someone was even bright enough to make up a maternity shirt featuring the Pillsbury Dough Boy bearing an angry expression, saying “Poke me and die.” Surely, touching a pregnant belly is not inappropriate, is it? Wrong. My body, my say. Can I walk up to a man and grab his belly and jiggle it? Would that be appropriate? Why should I demean myself by allowing you to “accidentally” brush your hand against my breast at work, or grab my ass, or slap it? A better question might be, what is gained by it? Certainly those of us on the receiving end gain nothing by it—if you want to congratulate us on a job well done, try a handshake, some kind words, or, hey, a promotion or a raise!
I can tell you that I don’t know many females, (maybe one or two) who haven’t had some kind of sexual assault experience or rape experience in their lifetime. When you start going around pounding your chest and saying, “oh, but it was just an innocent pat on the ass,” be aware that those who have been through sexual assault or rape may react quite negatively to your unwanted “praise.” It can bring back the memories, flashbacks, nightmares, and more. Rape is a life sentence for some women. So is sexual assault. Never again will we trust our instincts when it comes to men, and never will we forget what we went through. When unwanted touching causes so many problems, why, oh, why, would anyone advocate for it?
Respect women. Respect the bodies of others, all others. Respect their life experiences, and the way it makes them feel when they are subjected to unwanted touching. If it’s really not that big a deal, as many are saying, then why insist upon continuing to do it? If men aren’t getting anything out of it, and it’s “just a love pat,” then why in the world would you keep doing it when there’s public outcry against it? Ask yourself: are you asking women to bend to your will and accept all unwanted touching to empower yourself? Or are you doing it because you get a rise out of it? Either way, if there’s nothing to be gained, and everything to be lost by it, why do it at all? And what does it teach our young girls when they hear the mantra “it’s just innocent touching” over and over again? How will they learn where it’s OK for them to draw the line? Sometimes the best things we learned in life, we learned in Kindergarten – in this case, keep your hands to yourself.
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