Seldom do people learn something the first time they are taught it. Clearly, this is the case with men and their ability to grasp the concept of non-consensual touch.

I was at a party on Thursday where the subject came up between me and two men. One lightly touched me to get my attention so he could pass by. Then he put his hands up in an exaggerated way, saying something to the affect he wasn’t sure an innocent touch like that was allowed anymore.

Keeping your hands to yourself is a good start. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

His behavior was annoying and essentially made a mockery of the bigger problem.

He turned the conversation immediately to Joe Biden. However, his initial comment had me wondering if we were suddenly talking about Biden or Donald Trump. So, I asked. Biden, he said.

The guys (I’m guessing they are in their 60s) wanted to know why something from the 1970s was relevant today. They asked if it was really unwanted then or if it’s just unwanted now because of the #metoo movement. As calmly as I could I told them it was unwanted then just as it would be today. In many ways women had more to lose by speaking up then. They could more easily be fired with no recourse, the threat of being subjected to more or worse abuse was real (and still is today), people may not have believed them, and they could have even been chided by other women for disturbing the status quo.

Fear is one emotion why women have been silent for so long about unwanted touching or more sever abuse. Fear to even say “please don’t hug me” let alone “get the fuck off of me asshole.”

For too long women have gone along to get along. It was what was expected. It was easier. Finally, that code of silence has been broken.

An ultra-liberal female acquaintance of mine on Facebook is now posting photos of Lucy Flores, the woman accusing Biden of unwanted touching, doing what she doesn’t want – hugging and touching others. I posted this comment on her page, “Why does it have to be all or nothing? Can’t you hug some people and not want to be touched by others? Even a hug should be consensual.”

In other words, it’s not that hugging or other touching is bad. It’s that you need to know the recipient wants it. It’s also imperative those who don’t want to be touched say so without being ridiculed or other negative repercussions.

It’s doubtful, even today, that standing on a stage someone is going to brush away the unwanted hands of someone behind them. It would be distracting. They become the story. Why, though, is there this type of touching? Beyond unwanted, certain gestures are condescending.

I asked the guys I was talking to if they thought Biden would have placed his hands on the shoulders of a man the way he did to Flores. They admitted, probably not. Let that sink in. Think about that men. Do some introspection about why it’s OK to treat a woman one way and a man another.

The photo looks like Biden is treating her as less than an equal, almost like this grown woman is a child.

One of the guys said how things have changed. I said we have a pussy grabber at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and people support him. Things have not changed enough. Anyone who can defend Trump’s actions toward women is a Neanderthal at best and equally part of the problem.

As a certified massage therapist I understand the concept of healthy touch. Hugs can be healthy. A hand or two on a shoulder can be a great comfort. But for the person who doesn’t want to be touched, it’s an invasion. It could be a trigger about something horrible from their past. It could be nothing more than just not wanting to be touched.

One of the guys at the party said he is a hugger. I said not everyone wants to be hugged. He said he still wants to hug. Again, I said not everyone wants his hug.

People have a right to say who touches them, how they are touched, when they are touched and where they are touched. There are some people I just don’t want to touch me. There are circumstances where I’d rather not be hugged.

No means no – even to a hug. The person not wanting to be touched doesn’t have to explain why. They don’t have to say you creep them out, that they are allergic to the soap on your clothes, can’t handle your breath or simply don’t want you to invade their space. The reasons are endless. More important, they don’t matter. What matters is we respect other people’s boundaries.

Just keep your hands to yourself, then the problem goes away.

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