It has been long told that a woman’s dress does not reflect her desire or consent to engage in physical touch or anything beyond this point. Much has been said about the foul and rotten individuals that violate, trample on, and extort consent to touch. These people attempt to conjure connection despite the obvious unpleasant and uncomfortable reaction that is clearly etched upon the victim’s face.
Though at times, even to the trained viewer and purposeful observer, the desire of the victim in question can be elusive. For women, as well as men, have been trained to be polite and socially agreeable. As an example, being polite means smiling when someone says something stupid or not funny, or even, uncomfortable. The programing for this has long been developed in early childhood. However in childhood we are simultaneously taught not to talk to strangers. When one becomes an adult and more comfortable with engaging and meeting strangers, without parental consent, the latter becomes null and void, and politeness is carried over and precariously offered to strangers.
I say this as a woman who learned the ‘hard way’ when I politely engaged with strangers who said hello, and was left uncomfortably finding an escape, an excuse to end the interaction. I see this type of behavior of ‘politeness’ amongst my friends, but without fail this can be seen anytime I go out to a bar, a party, or event, if I pay attention.
Years ago, I was offered a ride by a gentleman in one of my courses. Everything about the interaction screamed “no,” this would go against what I was taught by my mother. Frankly, the gentleman was odd, yet, I felt ‘bad.’ He insisted “you sure, I’m going that way anyway?” Thereafter I agreed to get into the car with him, I felt as if I could not say no.
Though the reader may tense and suspect that something bad happened, nothing actually did. However, this incident helped me to understand how vulnerable I am to danger, to violating my own will, in order to follow a code of kindness. Easily this rule book I followed could have resulted in violation to any degree. Although, even the fact that I would rather have taken the train, if not solely to avoid discomfort, I could not grant this to myself. I couldn’t allow myself the luxury of being comfortable in my travels, because of a social standard of conduct.
However, it is through these experiences that I have changed tones completely. For instance, when I am dancing with my friends, if a ‘gentleman’ grabbed my hand to bring me to dance with him. I firmly say “what is your problem? Don’t you grab me!” and quickly I pull away. When I am outside of a bar and a ‘gentleman’ asks me if I am ‘okay’ and tries touching my arm to console my apparent frazzled state, which did not exist, “Personal space, don’t touch me,” is my response.
You may think this attitude is “feisty,” a deviation from the norm. You may think that I get an ego boost or sense of triumph from people telling me so. On the contrary, I long for the day that I would not be called this, that one day this attitude would be more prevalent amongst my gender. These incidents should not be regarded as an oddity, or a spectacle for that matter; clearly, I am not “feisty,” I merely establish the rules of how I will be interacted with and treated.
What inspired me to write this down, finally, was not my own experiences, of which there are many of my “feisty,” and regrettably, “polite” reactions. In fact it is a specific altercation I had with one ‘gentleman,’ last night on New Year’s.
It all started with a random comment towards me, “you do not understand, I’m such a good guy it hurts.” My reaction was nodding and inching away. I ignore this “good guy,” and assume the interaction with this fine gentleman would be over, but I was wrong.
Later that evening, or earlier that morning, I see this gentleman etching closer while conversing with another young woman. I took notice over the course of ten minutes that there might be something to investigate. This took time because at first, I could not tell if she resented the interaction or not, and I did not want to stand in the way of social interaction. Thus I resorted to standing nearby and observing, waiting for a possible sign, an accidental break of the facade of politeness, that my suspicions were correct.
Finally, I see that he touches her on the arm again, and again, and she steps back. He now fully is encroaching in her space; though oddly, I notice the look on her face does not immediately convey the discomfort she must have felt. Nonetheless confirming my suspicions I lean over to him and say “dude, give her personal space, she’s clearly not interested.”
Immediately, something possesses this ‘fine’ gentlemen, and obscenities are heard and alarms begin to ring within me. I back away looking at him in fear; he begins to match my backward steps away from him while he screams at me, something to the degree of how I’m a horrible bitch. I exclaim firmly “walk away,” which he does, but to my horror, he returns. He leaves, and then returns once again, this time clearly attempting to assault me. As he marches toward me I yell “get the fuck away from me,” and stand behind some gentlemen. Again, he yells to my friend, but finally leaves.
This is what is out there, this is what we have to fight against. They come to you pretending to be a “good guy,” they may even exclaim clearly their character, but it can all be lies. Being polite in these cases could cause harm to you, my fellow women. Being polite could create a situation in which the most grotesque can be acted upon you. Being polite can cause damage, you must not be polite for just it’s sake.
Be a ‘bitch,’ and let him call you one. He does not earn your interaction simply by wanting it. And no one is entitled to conversation from you, or to your space, or a slight touch on your arm, that is not authorized. You are not a bitch for making these rules clear, you are a human who stands up for their rights, however harsh you may come across.
Finally, the stranger framed, is the most important message to communicate to my fellow women. Someone who approaches you, understands that he is a stranger, and understands that he must be careful of your discomfort. Indeed, people who approach you are violating a social standard, touching as the second violation, and as such, the gentlemen are in the wrong in the case in which these social violations are undesired. You can scream, you can ask another stranger for help, you can say “get the fuck off me,” “don’t touch me,” and most importantly, “no.”Consider the type of person that will violate this societal rule; many are inconsiderate, while few are genuinely worthwhile to get to know.
To all the friends and those who passer by, be vigilant, be the voice and exclamation of declined consent to those who feel unable to offer it. Let’s fight this battle together, this overlooked aspect of assault, that represents an enormous problem for our women. Let us join together, let us help each other, let us protect each other.
Stay safe, Be prepared, Be vigilant,
Fighting For You
Another great article on this topic, click here.
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