Don’t Touch Me, Asshole!

A young woman who is new to the scene complained that no fewer than three different men touched her nonconsensually at a recent party at our local playspace, and says this is a common happening for her in life in general.  A lengthy discussion ensued.  Here’s one of my posts in the thread about maintaining boundaries.

I’m so sorry you had this experience, and I agree with most of the very good advice you’ve been given.

That said, it saddens me to hear that anyone comes through the doors expecting that they do not need to maintain their own boundaries the same as they do anywhere else, and that they don’t have to be on guard for their own needs the same as they are anywhere else.

Unfortunately, it is a reality of life that clueless people who ignore boundaries and rules exist everywhere. There is no vetting process for entrance to the Citadel or any other venue or organization that I know of around here that can keep the clueless out.

While I certainly do not condone what happened to you, you really need to realize that in the end, you are the one most responsible for communicating and reinforcing your own boundaries, whatever they may be. We can tell Phil and August about transgressions until the cows come home, but to expect that they will never happen isn’t realistic. Yes, it’s much safer at the Citadel than in most places, by far – but safer does not mean perfect and that shit won’t still occasionally happen. It’s just unrealistic to think that you don’t have to still look out for your own self.

Also, truthfully, no one can know what everyone else’s triggers may be. I knew someone who freaked if anyone tried to shake her hand. Was everyone else on the planet she came into contact with supposed to somehow divine that? In a culture where handshaking is a usual way of greeting people? Things get more grey with hugs and other casual touches, as they are more personal, but it’s also not uncommon in our culture at large to greet even casual acquaintances with a hug, or to casually touch an arm or shoulder in the course of conversation, and over time, that has found its way into the kink subculture as well. We cannot entirely separate out our overall cultural ways when we step through the dungeon doors.

Honey, if you get sexually harassed everywhere you go, as you mentioned, you really might want to seriously look at what you are putting out that might be inviting that, because that is definitely screaming that you are the common denominator somehow, some way. This isn’t to blame you, truly, but the reality is that you cannot change what others do; all you can do is evaluate what about you might be telling so many people that it is open season on you, and to take steps to change that, if you discover it is appropriate.

And maybe it’s not something you want to change, or can change. That’s fine; it’s up to you, but you need to recognize when and how you yourself might be inviting these problems, since they happen to you so often. It is the only way you are going to be able to control what happens to you – or how you react to it, if it continues.

If it’s something you cannot change, then perhaps learning a different way to react and respond when it does happen will be helpful. No one can make any of us uncomfortable without our consent. You are in charge of how you react, even when the behavior of others is deplorable.

Personally, I learned how to just ignore some things others did that used to drive me mad (for example, cat calls and verbal sexual harassment from contractors), and guess what? They almost never happen any more, and on the rare occasions when they do, I barely even notice them, and just refuse to even react at all if I do.

This applies no matter what country you are from or living in, no matter what group or subculture you decide to inhabit. Part of fitting in in a new culture, and enjoying it, is learning to understand the differences from what you are accustomed to, and to adjust your expectations. Perhaps some relevant cultural clues where you are from are different from what they are here. If that’s the case, you will find it helpful to better learn the local ways and adjust. If you need help with the translation, as it were, ask around to find someone from your country, or who at least has some other kind of international experience or background, and I’m sure someone will be happy to help you sort this out.

Saying “fuck you” to people who offer suggestions you don’t like isn’t going to help, either. Sometimes the truth is hard to look at, and sometimes, the best support for a person with a problem is to tell them what not what they want to hear, but what they most need to hear. This used to be much more the norm in our subculture than it is now.

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No one disagrees that being touched without permission is wrong.

When it happens *repeatedly* to a person in one evening, and in their entire lifetime, though, then they really do still *also* need to look at what they themselves *may* be contributing to the issue.

I was at the exact same party, around all the same people, and no one touched me nonconsensually.  I’m no model, but I’ve always been attractive enough to get plenty of male attention, to this day, often more than I want, so it’s not that.

So what’s the difference between people who are repeatedly finding themselves in this kind of situation and me?

It ain’t the venue or the people, folks – not entirely – or even more folks would have experienced the same issues with the same jerks.

It’s at least in part how we put ourselves out into the world, what we project, what we do, how we do it, what we subtly encourage or discourage, which specific individuals we choose to get near or allow near us, and a lot more.

Nowhere was it written in feminism that there’s no need to take personal responsibility for whatever one *can* take responsibility for.  Feminism was built on a foundation of doing exactly that – in fact of having the right to do exactly that.  You don’t get the rights we fought for without accepting responsibility for what you do and how you are in the world, and how that impacts your experience of it, whatever that experience may be.

If a person is going to wave a flag saying this kind of thing happens to her repeatedly, then the simple fact of the matter is that she’s got some work to do *on herself* to find out what she’s putting out there that attracts it.  Part of it is likely due to youth, and with time she will learn how to handle it, but she still needs to look at it.

None of this means that her being touched without permission was right – but the thing is, we simply cannot control what the boors of the world do, only ourselves.  They are never, ever going to go away, no matter how much bitching and moaning we do, no matter how much educating.  All we can do is learn to handle it more effectively – and that includes understanding where and how we *might* have been making a contribution to the problem ourselves, in order to help prevent it from happening again.

Should we *have* to learn to deal with them to ward them off?  No, not in an ideal world.  But that is not what we live in, and we have to deal with reality as it presents itself to us.

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