Something’s been bothering me lately.
Until now, I didn’t do anything about it – and I’m not proud of that either.
On three separate occasions over the past few weeks, I – someone who thinks of herself as a strong, independent, and confident female – have found myself caught off-guard, slightly confused, pretty offended, and fully disgusted by a few men who have gotten a little too “handsy.”
Meaning, out of nowhere, I have been groped and grabbed, despite absolutely zero invitation that it was wanted in any way. That is, unless simply hanging out with a man one-on-one in public and engaging in friendly banter is considered an open invitation for a few cheap grabs at my body.
If anything, my body language should have suggested the opposite (AKA don’t even try it) to anyone with half a brain.
But apparently, these men were too oblivious, too daft, or too horny to give a shit. That’s why, out of absolutely nowhere, I felt an arm around my waist at a concert despite absolutely zero romantic undertones, two unwanted hands on my hips as I waited at the bar at an event, and perpetually touching hands on my thighs while sitting with another individual at a recent gathering.
The common denominator here was that I knew all these men to a degree, but behaved in no way, shape, or form in a manner that would suggest that I was into any sort of physical exchange with any of them. There was zero flirting and zero suggestive banter.
Yet, they went for it anyway.
It isn’t my intention to vilify anyone, be dramatic, or to call sexual assault – these men viewed their actions as harmless.
That’s the thing.
Either way, in each case, I immediately stiffened, winced away, and made it as clear as I could via my body language that I wasn’t cool with it. But – as vocal as I am normally – I didn’t say anything. Just – don’t touch me, my brain said. Get your goddamned hands off of me, it persisted. Finally, I am going to punch you in the face it screamed loudly. The thing is – for once – the voice remained contained inside my head.
And no, there’s nothing overly empowering about that.
In each situation, I thought these guys would clearly get the clue that I wasn’t into it (especially when I told them I was dating someone), and that being vocal would lead to awkward future encounters. After all, it wasn’t like they were being forceful or aggressive.
After it happened again this weekend, I discussed the matter with a guy friend over a beer. “The thing is, any guy could have been that guy at some point, especially if he was too drunk to pick up on the fact you weren’t feeling it,” he said. His advice – not surprisingly – was that I should have said something. “Guys can be totally clueless. They literally may not get the picture unless you spell it out for them,” he continued.
And he’s right.
So, I’ll spell it out now.
Pay attention to body language. You wouldn’t just go in for a kiss with someone without the inevitable locking of eyes and lead-up to it – why would you touch? If you’re not sure how to read the other, ask if your touch is ok – you don’t have to be awkward about it either. Furthermore, don’t assume that someone is unattached in the first place just because she (or he) doesn’t broadcast her personal life on social media the way others may.
For those on the receiving end – be vocal.
Stiffening like a board, wincing, or playfully pushing someone’s hands away are apparently not always strong enough indications that the other person’s touch is making you uncomfortable (or physically ill). As “awkward” as it may be to vocalize your thoughts, it’s in everyone’s best interest you do.
After all, being known as the “handsy guy” isn’t going to help anyone’s game.