I was prompted to write this post by a comment I read on Facebook about a woman who punched a guy in a bar because he touched her without her permission. Now the comment did not elaborate about exactly where she was touched or even how many times he touched her before she punched him. I think it is reasonable to assume it wasn’t a tap on the shoulder to get her attention and it is likely he was told to stop touching her that way and he ignored that instruction. In which case his touching was neither warranted nor reasonable. I want to make it clear right at the start that this post is not going to be a feminist rant about men who think they have the right to touch women whenever, wherever and however they like. There is plenty of stuff on the net about that. What sprang to mind when I read this comment was a situation I came accross in a club a couple of years ago.
I met a woman who was very flirtatious. She was at the event with a man who was very touchy-feely and had to put in his place a couple of times that night but interestingly his girlfriend was acting in a very similar way. Somehow she got the idea that I like being randomly slapped on the ass as she walked past me. I am not saying that I was entirely against the idea but it was a little bit more than I was used to. What made me sit up and take notice was that when I returned the favour she rounded on me with a tirade about how that kind of thing made her uncomfortable because of her history of being physically abused.
Her story may very well have been true but in my mind you should not put out what you are not prepared to recieve. Particularly without explicit agreement. The other aspect of this whole scenario that Mr Jones was very keen to point out to me was that she was “getting away” with giving physical attention in a way that was not usually acceptable for men to give simply because she is a woman. He was right of course. Women do get away with giving a whole bunch of physical attention to both men and women that simply would not be acceptable for a man to give. It is no surprise that men become frustrated and resentful when they see clearly demonstrated a double standard.
What makes it even harder for men is that a lot of women will accept behaviour from a guy they find attractive that they will not accept from a guy that they don’t. Attractive guys don’t ask for permission before they touch any more than guys who aren’t attractive. Mostly they don’t have to deal with a slap accross the face as a rejection and so men who are less attractive but still perfectly nice find themselves wondering if it is worth daring to cross the minefield. The ones who are not so nice end up giving physical attention whenever and wherever they like because they are working on the premise that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to seek permission.
And we wonder where all the nice guys went?
The swing scene is a little more clear with the touching with permission thing. All respectable clubs and parties have very clearly stated rules indicating that touching without permission is a no-no. But still people are people and the rules get bent. Especially with women. Since the incident with the arse slapping I have been more conscious of my tendency to get touchy freely with people and I take care to make sure I have consent before I touch anyone. It feels a bit weird to actually verbalise this but once you get used to it is not so bad. Most people appreciate the respect. It hasn’t changed other people’s idea of what is acceptable and what is not and I still find myself having to tell both men and women that my nipples are not there to be tweaked painfully even if they are on display. Some people just have no self control.
I guess the reality is that we all have difficulty giving a clear and honest indication to others about what we do and don’t want and as a result a whole culture of game playing has evolved. Unfortunately because no one wants to explain the rules clearly there are no rules.