A (positive) story regarding the opposite sex and personal space that I feel is worth sharing:
Last weekend, I met up with two friends at a bar, to catch up and unwind after work. It was a Saturday afternoon.
We were enjoying our time together, when a few fellas came over to chat with us. One, in particular, struck up a conversation with me – his name was Jake, and he was in town from Australia.
Everything was perfectly fine, everyone was just chatting, when he leaned past me to hear what my friend had said.
In the process, he very lightly, but purposefully, placed his hand on my lower back. When he leaned back out, he kept it there.
The move was subtle, and would have been fine, if I was interested, or flirting with him, etc. It wasn’t creepy. Just not desired.
During the brief time he leaned in to hear my friend, my body tensed and I did that thing that we do…the rushing thoughts – what to do, what to say, how to get out of the situation without it escalating. After all, he was a stranger, and he had been drinking. You never know what the response will be. I flashed through all of the lines, all of the reasons, all of the things I could say, quickly, while trying to lean away physically, which didn’t do the trick.
So I turned to him.
“You seem very sweet, and I know you mean no harm, but please remove your hand from my lower back.”
He did immediately, and apologized.
I told him it was okay, we were all good.
A few minutes later, he came back up to me and apologized again, stating that he didn’t mean to make me uncomfortable, or to upset me.
I told him that he hadn’t upset me, that it was okay, I was just letting him know where I stood.
What was beautiful about this exchange, for me, was that he heard what I said, and responded accordingly. He didn’t get defensive. I didn’t have to give reasons.
I didn’t have to state that I had a boyfriend – I didn’t need to be claimed or owned by another man in order for him to think it was worth respecting my wishes.
That is, so often, the case.
When I was single, I kept a photo album of my ex-MMA fighter ex-boyfriend on my phone, as “proof,” and “protection.”
But I didn’t have to be owned by anyone but my own self and my own wishes.
And that is 100% how it ought to be, 100% of the time, with 100% of anything concerning MY body.
I’ve written before about the ripple effects of small indiscretions and large ones – the way they effect us individually and as a whole, for the rest of our lives. And I believe the ripple effect can happen in the opposite way, in every small, and large positive interaction we have. (Read “Sexual Harassment in the Daylight“)
I know these men are out there. I am friends with them. I am in partnership with them. I am colleagues with them.
But it was nice to come across it from a stranger, and it gave me hope for the spreading of that good in the world.
We need it. We need men to listen, to keep showing up and doing their part and setting examples and speaking out and living by the things they believe in.
So thank you to Jake, from Australia, and all of the men who are listening, who are showing up, doing their part, setting examples, speaking out and living by the things they believe in.
We are all in this together.