It’s Your Body

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post called Tickling, about how tickling can be a form of aggression, and how it can often be very unwelcome and inappropriate. That blog post resonated with a lot of people. It’s short and to the point, so I hope you’ll read it.

I thought of that post recently. I was really impressed to discover that one of my nieces is teaching her two-year-old daughter that no one should get to touch her in any way, shape, form, or fashion, without her permission. Forget about good touch, bad touch. It’s her body. She gets to say who touches it, good or otherwise. We all have that right, but we often forget that.

Just because Uncle Fred is a touchy-feely guy does not mean that he gets a free pass just so you can avoid ruffling family feathers. If he’s making you uncomfortable, that’s never okay. Not ever. Even if you love Uncle Fred to pieces. And that applies to recipients of those touches of any age, not just children.

Also, just because someone is in a position of authority, such as a doctor or a dentist or a teacher or a boss or a politician, or even an older relative or a spouse, that does not mean they get to decide how you are touched. Absolutely not.

I’m not saying that every person who is touching you inappropriately is automatically a sex offender who is grooming you. Some people are just clueless. But it doesn’t really matter. If you aren’t comfortable in a tactile situation, regardless of your age, orientation, or relationship, it’s your body, not theirs, and you get to dictate what happens to it.

Your body is truly the only thing in life that you will always have all to yourself. That’s why it’s such an extreme violation when someone abuses it. I love knowing that there are children out there who are being taught their own agency practically from birth. That’s how it should be. I wish it had been taught to me.

Always establish your own boundaries and make them crystal clear. That’s not being rude. It’s appropriate. And I think that you’ll find that most people are a lot more comfortable, knowing the rules in any given scenario.

Never forget that your body belongs to you and you alone. Always.

Inappropriate Touch

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Wildly Inappropriate

Once, I met an employee who worked in another department, and learned she had just had a baby. I congratulated her, as one does. I barely knew her, and doubted I’d have the opportunity to know her better. We traveled in very different circles. This was a random encounter, and I sort of figured that was that.

Later that day, I received an e-mail from her entitled “baby pictures”. I thought that was sweet, that she wanted to show me her baby. So I clicked on the e-mail.

And I let out this shriek that I’m sure made all my coworkers jump out of their skins.

Because what she sent me was pictures of her in the process of giving birth. And by that I mean close ups of all her most hairy private places, with a gooey, bloody baby’s head trying to burst therefrom. It was like a scene from Alien. That image is imprinted on my brain, despite all efforts on my part to exorcise it. Why? Just… why?

Believe me when I tell you that this is a vision that I would never voluntarily see. At the very least it should have come with a warning label. I am not interested in gazing at the nexus of any mammal, clothed or unclothed if I’m honest, and certainly not when it’s in the midst of doing… that. And most especially when it’s someone I’ve only just met.

I mean, seriously, who sends pictures like that? Who takes pictures like that? “Yes, dear, that’s your mother, in the most pain she’s ever been in in her entire life, and look! There’s your mushy little head!”

Every once in a while, someone will do something that’s so wildly inappropriate that I’m rendered speechless. Do they just not care at all about societal norms, or do they enjoy the shock value? Are they completely detached from reality, or are they testing the waters to see what they can get away with? Who knows.

And no, I can’t remember what I said to that woman. I can’t even remember what most of her looks like. Sorry. I just had to vent.

Shocked.

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Oddly Inappropriate

Isn’t it strange to watch a movie that you absolutely adored at another time in your life, only to discover that now you find it creepy? Sadly, I’ve had that experience on more than one occasion. It makes me wonder who I used to be, and why I used to think the way I did.

For example, as a kid, I absolutely adored Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But now there are a couple scenes that give me the willies. The first is Chu Chi Face, in which the Baroness Bomburst is clad in a bustier, and strikes sexy poses as she and the Baron pretend to be all lovey-dovey, when they actually despise each other. In fact, while she seems to be sexually wooing him, he’s attempting to kill her. Soft porn, anyone? The second is the Child Catcher number, in which he baits children with candy only to then abduct them.

And then, of course, there’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Three words: The Tunnel Scene. It’s a combination of a sick acid trip and a disturbing poem. It’s downright twisted. Willy Wonka was clearly a warped individual overall. I would not leave my child in a room alone with him. Factory inheritance be damned.

Later, when I was older and should have known better, I got taken in by the movie Grease. In which Sandy, a sweet, clean-cut girl, is groomed into thinking that the only way she can get her guy (who, incidentally, is a not-very-bright thug wannabe, as played by cult member John Travolta), is by transforming herself into a frizzy-haired, spandex-wearing, overly-made-up, cigarette-smoking, high-heeled temptress. “You’re the One that I Want.” Great message for the girls of the world. “Feel your way,” indeed.

I know that my earlier acceptance of certain scenes were a product of the times in which I was living, but jeez…

chuchi2

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Boundary Disputes Made Easy

If Jerusalem has taught us nothing else, it’s that people take their boundaries very seriously. We like there to be a clear-cut distinction between what’s ours and what’s yours. Make no mistake: We don’t really forgive you your trespasses. History bears this out.

Because of this, it should come as no shock that we also have boundary issues on a personal level. Actually, no, man, I do NOT want you touching me without permission. Don’t act so surprised.

In fact, I don’t want to be “accidentally” elbowed in the elevator. I don’t want to be patted on the shoulder. I don’t want any unsolicited hugs. I don’t want to be forced into inappropriate conversations any more than I want to be forced into inappropriate corners. I don’t want to be followed or harassed or intimidated or taken advantage of or hooted at or tooted at. I don’t want to see your private bits, either digitally or in person. I don’t want to be called honey or sweetie or darling or dear. And my eyes? They’re up here.

Here’s an idea: if you want to do something with me, just ask. I’ll let you know. Is that so hard? And in the meantime, keep your freakin’ hands to yourself. It’s just that simple.

So, pay attention. There will be a test later. And I don’t grade on a curve. This is a Pass/Fail proposition.

Proxemics

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A Few Thoughts on International Women’s Day

First of all, happy International Women’s Day! It’s nice to be recognized and celebrated. I’m glad that organizations throughout the world will be using this as an opportunity to speak out about equal rights. I’m thrilled that this will open up dialogues that many people wouldn’t otherwise have thought to have.

But at the same time, it frustrates me that we still need a day like this. Aren’t we women every day of the year? Don’t we deserve basic human rights all year round?

Recently I was sitting at a table with 15 other women, so I took an informal survey.

  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever been touched inappropriately without your permission.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever been cat called.
  • Raise your hand if anyone has ever discussed your breasts, behind, or legs without your initiating that conversation.
  • Raise your hand if your opinion has been dismissed as trivial.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve heard a man singing the words “bitch” “slut” or “ho” along with the radio.
  • Raise your hand if you yourself have been called a bitch, slut, or ho.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve seen nude women calendars in public places.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been interrupted by a man who insists on explaining something to you that you already know.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been treated like an idiot by a mechanic.
  • Raise your hand if men have assumed that you’re not intelligent.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been rejected based on your weight, age, or shape.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized because of something you were wearing.
  • Raise your hand if people have assumed you need to ask a man’s permission to do something or go somewhere.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been accused of not being feminine enough.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been accused of being too girly.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been told you do something good, “for a girl.”
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for not having children.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for having children.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for working.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for not working.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to drive behind a truck with naked women mud flaps.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been paid less than a male counterpart.
  • Raise your hand if men that you’ve trained have been promoted above you.
  • Raise your hand if a man assumed you needed his protection when you didn’t.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been told something was women’s work.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been accused of being emotional or hysterical.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused.

Try giving this survey the next time you’re with female friends. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone reading this that in the vast majority of cases, every woman at the table raised her hand. And that’s probably the most outrageous part of all – that it comes as no surprise.

The only reason that this happens is that we are not in the exclusive group of humans who sports a penis. That simple fact makes “us” not “them”. As far as I can tell, that appendage does not endow people with superior abilities of any kind. It just means we get to be easily identified as being on the other team. And society has arbitrarily decided that our team gets to be the losing team. It’s not rational. It’s not just. And it’s not acceptable.

I for one am sick and tired of being treated to micro-aggressions every single day. Case in point, I looked at my supply of Graphicstock pictures to see which one to use for this blog entry. This, below, is their idea of a good image for Women’s Day. Because we all should be depicted as naked, sexy, thin, with long flowing hair and luscious lips, arching our backs while floating with our heads in a flowery cloud.

Happy Women’s Day, indeed.

happy-womens-day-greeting-card_m1nzs5do_l

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Sphallolalia

I learned a new word today. I enjoy enriching my word power. But I fear that in this case my opportunity to use this term is rapidly diminishing.

sphallolalia     “sfa-lO-‘la-lE-a

Noun

  1. Flirtatious talk that leads nowhere.

Origin

From the Ancient Greek σφάλλω (sphallō, “to stumble”) and λαλιά (lalia, “talking”).

I do love to flirt. There was a time when I couldn’t get through the day without at least one good flirt. But I was younger then. Thinner. And the range of flirt-worthy men seemed much wider.

But I have always made an effort to avoid being inappropriate with my flirting. It’s all about context. I would never flirt at work. I never flirt with someone who is subordinate to me in any way. I never want to intimidate anyone or give them the creeps. I only flirt if I’m certain that at the very least it would be taken as a compliment.  If I knew you were in a relationship, I’d give you a wide berth. Unlike Trump, I’d never grab anyone. That’s not acceptable. Ever.

Flirting was fun. But I’m starting to feel that the older I get, the more awkward it becomes. That, and I’m getting pretty gun shy after years of rejection.

So I’m entering a new life stage. Henceforth I won’t be initiating sphallolalia. That’s probably for the best. In retrospect it kind of sounds like a disease. But if you hit me with some sphallolalia, I’ll most likely respond in kind. Fair’s fair.

flirt

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On Being Let Down

I’ve been cranky lately. Grumpy. Impatient. Out of sorts.

It all started when it finally dawned on me, at the age of 51, that my sexually abusive stepfather had started grooming me for his pedophilia at the age of 7. The hard core abuse didn’t start until I was 11. Not that that’s an excuse. And I had been dealing with that for most of my life. But I had been operating under the illusion that I had had a few years there before the dark shadow truly descended.

On the contrary. Looking back on certain incidents from an adult perspective, there was a whole host of inappropriate behaviors from almost the day he married my mother.

As a child, I didn’t know any better. I just knew that the man made me uncomfortable, and I tried to avoid him. But looking back now, I can see that several things would have been nearly impossible for an adult to miss. And yet my mother chose to look the other way.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my mother very much. But I know that if I had been in her shoes, I would have made different choices. For starters, I’d have never married the pig in the first place. I’d have put my child’s safety ahead of my desire to get out of the projects and be supported by the first available scumbag that happened to come my way. And the first hinky thing that happened would have been the last thing he ever did. I know this as sure as I know the earth revolves around the sun. But that’s just me, I guess.

Over the years, a lot of people have let me down. Teachers. Counselors. Adult relatives. No one heard me. No one wanted to see. I was 21 before I independently arrived at the concept that none of this had been my fault. I should have been told that by every person who crossed my path.

From that, I suppose I could have learned to distrust the world and lash out like a wounded animal at anyone who came close. But I have always been someone who zigged when the rest of the world was zagging, so instead, I put a lot of pressure on myself to not be like those people.

As a result, I am probably the most dependable person on the face of the earth. I listen. I act. I speak out, even when it might be uncomfortable. If I say I am going to do something for you or with you, only hospitalization or death will keep me from doing so. I can be counted on. I keep my promises. I don’t look the other way. I stick my neck out, even though I often risk getting it chopped.

You’d think I’d have acquired a healthy dose of cynicism after a lifetime of being let down by people. But because I’m capable of doing all of the above, I expect it from others, and I’m always rather stunned when they fall short. And good God, do they ever fall short.

The fact is, people are going to disappoint you. It’s part of life. Perhaps part of my anger should be directed at myself, for having set such high expectations for the people I care about. They aren’t me.

Maybe when people don’t return phone calls, ignore messages, don’t follow through, or stand me up, I shouldn’t take it as the abuse that it feels like. Maybe I need to develop a thicker skin. Because the fact of the matter is, I can’t control when other people screw me over.

There’s really no point in wasting energy on an existential tantrum because I can’t force everyone to live up to my standards. I can only learn to set up healthier boundaries and try to make better choices moving forward. Emotional distance. That’s what’s called for here.

disappointment

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Tickling

I don’t like to be tickled. That should be all I have to say on the subject. But unfortunately there’s this weird tickling dynamic out there.

Some people actually think that there’s some get out of jail free card for tickling. It’s as if this form of space invasion is somehow more acceptable than any other inappropriate touch. Many people, who otherwise understand that no really means no, will cross that line when it comes to a tickle.

If you tickle me, I will laugh. It’s a natural reaction. But it doesn’t mean I’m having fun.

Here are two scenarios which will explain my stance on the subject:

First, there were a few times when I was a child when an adult tickled me and it got all creepy. And it’s a fact that pedophiles will sometimes use tickling as an inroad to even more abusive acts. Tickling should not be a socially acceptable way to cop a feel.

Second, tickling can be a form of aggression. One time a boyfriend tickled me so much it became painful and I cried. And he was kneeling on my hair so I couldn’t get away. And even though I was screaming for him to stop, he didn’t. And he had this glazed look in his eyes that chilled me to the bone. It was bad.

So, yeah, if you’re one of those people who thinks tickling can be fun, make sure the other person is genuinely on the same page. Otherwise, take the hint. And keep your freakin’ hands to yourself.

tickleajfli-

Surviving Predation

When I think of the many times as a child and young adult that I was preyed upon by some sick person, it makes me wonder how anyone survives to adulthood. If I weren’t touched inappropriately, then inappropriate things were said to me, or someone tried to talk me into doing something that I didn’t want to do. Every woman I know has some story like that from childhood. It really is like being a baby animal on the African plains. Wearing a steak around your neck.

And I appreciate that parents and schools try to teach children to avoid these situations, but the whole “stranger danger” concept doesn’t help at all, because these predators are usually not strangers. They’re relatives, “friends”, or professionals/authority figures whom you are taught to respect. I was once groped by the family physician.

We have to figure out some way to teach children to listen to their inner voices. If something feels wrong, we have to teach them that that instinct is more important than respect or trust. We have to teach them that there are boundaries that no one, NO ONE can cross, and that they have rights. We have to give them permission to say, “No, I’m not doing that.” We have to make sure they understand that if someone says, “Don’t tell,” that’s the very moment in time when they have to tell.

And parents need to be taught, too, that the world is a whole lot less safe than they’d care to believe. Unfortunately, predators can come in many forms. And your child is out there alone on the plains a lot more often than you realize.

[Image credit: Youtube.com]
[Image credit: Youtube.com]

Black and Blue, Literally and Figuratively

I have a black bruise on my knee the size of a fist, and I’m angry. Really, really angry.

The reason for my ire is quite simple. Sexual harassment.

Yesterday I had to squeeze past a guy I know to reach for something. He was sitting in a swivel chair. When I turned back to go the way I had come, he had spun the chair sideways and I found myself stuck between his knees and a cabinet. I had to push past his knees to get out of my predicament. And to do that, his knees rubbed against my backside, which made me jump, and I slammed my knee into the handle of the cabinet. Hence the bruise.

Here’s the thing. He said not a word. Did I imagine it? Was I making too much of it? It felt awful, and inappropriate, and confusing, and not the least bit casual. He left shortly after that and I got to watch my bruise grow and change colors, and with it went my mood.

If I give him the benefit of a doubt, it was an unfortunate and humiliating coincidence which could have been handled much better, but he was probably too embarrassed to say anything, and I was taken by surprise.

It disgusts me to have to second guess myself like this.

But if it was what I think it was, a cheap way to cop a feel without having to take responsibility for it, then I am furious. And the worst part about it is that he’d have known darned well that I wouldn’t be able to be certain, so he basically gets an out of jail free card, so to speak.

And what do I get? The sick, creepy, slimy feeling of being taken advantage of, and the knowledge that I’ve got no recourse, because he knows me well enough to know that I wouldn’t want to go accusing him of anything so serious unless I was completely certain. I’m not going to threaten someone’s family life and livelihood without being positive.  And I can’t be.

What leaves me fuming is that this isn’t the first time this has happened to me, and it probably won’t be the last. I’ve been groped on a subway, elbowed in elevators, and one time a doctor told me, in the midst of a breast exam, that I reminded him of his girlfriend from college. Shudder.

That last incident was blatant, but I was too young to know what to do. Nowadays I’d have had his medical license. The subway incident was in a foreign country, where women’s rights are fragile at best, in a car so crowded I couldn’t even turn around to identify the culprit. The elbow thing happens quite a bit, and it’s a grey area. Could be an accident, could be on purpose. It makes me avoid elevators whenever possible.

I’m not trying to say all men are dogs. Far from it. For every scummy groper, I can think of a hundred gentlemen. The thing is, the slimeballs are out there and no woman should have to put up with them. I don’t care what culture you’re in or how well you know the guy. It’s not acceptable.

I resent it that there are people in the world who think it’s okay, or funny, to touch me without my permission. I think some of them get a feeling of power from the act. They want you to get that gross, squicky feeling in the pit of your stomach. They want you to feel violated and confused and outraged. And it works.

You’d think I’d have grown past this treatment. I’m a fat middle-aged woman. But even if I were a young supermodel it wouldn’t be justified. I’m infuriated for all women, because it happens to us all.

And I’m disgusted that if we speak up, we’re cast in the light of being hysterical or paranoid or silly, or nothing changes.

In college I had a job working in the cafeteria. The 50 year old cook asked me out, and when I politely declined, he made my life a living hell until the day I threw an ice cream scoop at his head and walked out. When I reported the incident, I was then placed in a job in the secretary’s office, but the cook remained employed. I was treated to his scowls three meals a day.

On my first job after graduating, I offered to give my boss’ 70 year old friend a ride home. When we pulled up to his house, he put his hand on my upper thigh. I kicked him out of the car and drove away in tears of fury. When I told my boss, he thought it was funny, and his friendship with the man changed not one bit.

I am sick and tired of it all.

I’ve stewed over this situation long enough. I’ve decided what to do. I have to give him the benefit of the doubt this time, but if it happens again I’m going to file a report because  it definitely won’t be a coincidence. If it happens while I still have this bruise, though, I’ll still be pretty angry and will be hard pressed not to “accidentally” knee or elbow him in the nearest sensitive area in addition to filing the report. Either way I can’t stay quiet. Not again.

I HATE being placed in this position. Hate, hate, hate it! I don’t deserve this. No one does.

The bruise on my knee isn’t nearly as painful as the bruise to my spirit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(Nope. Not my actual knee. Image credit: yanowhatimean.com}