Let’s Have a Frank Conversation About Touching People

Let’s Have a Frank Conversation About Touching People

I really dislike the word “prude.” I dislike it when it’s used to describe a person who doesn’t react to sexual advances, or sexual comments, the way that the commenter would have wanted them too.

However, what I really don’t like is when those comments are followed by unwarranted touching. I don’t care if it’s the hand, the back, or the shoulder—don’t touch someone when they don’t want you to. Not everything that is thought to be a compliment is actually a compliment.

One of my friends—I’ll call her Majesty—was driving home from school. She had been practicing for the driving test for a while and this was her time to drive on the actual road. Not the subtle turns and soft stops of a neighborhood. Big deal. Actual humans. Real risks. Majesty was at a stop light and this man was at a stop light too. They’re in separate vehicles. She’s wearing a sweatshirt—not that what she’s wearing matters; it should never matter—and he’s just over that making obscene gestures and yelling about her “fantastic tits.” Majesty felt genuinely frightened.

Excuse me? Excuse me?

Is a little respect so much to as for?

I have another friend—I’ll call her Lady—who was at a restaurant. Some people are touchier than others—it’s just a fact of life. What is not (should not) be a fact of life is that one should just expect to be touched. Even if they don’t want to be. Even if it surprises them. Even if it is only on the shoulder, even if it’s only on the back. Even if the upper back gradually continues to the lower back. Lady shouldn’t be telling herself that the waiter was just trying to get her attention– even if there were four people at the table and they hadn’t been talking at the moment. She shouldn’t feel embarrassed that she didn’t say anything because she convinced herself that it wasn’t a big deal. Even if it felt like an invasion of the personal space she shouldn’t have to ask for.

She was wearing a sweater but she felt like his fingertips had been imprinted where her back starts to curve.

Do I—do we—really have to ask for something that I thought was a given? Don’t touch me without my permission. I don’t know you. We have literally never ever met before this moment in time. I thought that this was a basic part of giving someone respect. Apparently not. Not wanting this kind of attention doesn’t make me frigid, it doesn’t mean I’m a virgin. And if I am- how in the world is that any of your concern? Why are you making it yours to think about? To talk about? How is that relevant? Why is something wrong with me if I take offense? Why can’t you look at yourself—at your words?

Personally, I really don’t enjoy being touched; I especially don’t by people I don’t know. I’m getting used to it just because people I’m close to are so affectionate; all my friends are affectionate, come to think of it. However, just because I hug them doesn’t mean that someone should automatically assume that I’m—or anyone—acts like that with everyone.

That’s the problem. Right there is the problem. We are in a society where we assume things based on our own experiences and what we believe to be true. What is nice and comfortable for one person may be completely fear-soaked for another.

Can we try to work on that issue like we work on all the others? Try to not assume, to ask, and to respect boundaries? Boundaries that shouldn’t have to be said on every occasion? Our ailing society has to get better at some point; ignorance is an illness that can be cured. We can try to make that change—we can.

Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.