Stop! Reassess. Back Up!

Dion M. Harris

Keep your hands to yourself.

And your arms and lips, too. Unless, of course, an invitation has been extended. Or permission obviously granted.

It sounds so strict, so buttoned-up and joyless to have to have this conversation, but it has finally sunk into my consciousness that men folk want to touch me. And think it’s okay to just grab me! And other women, too. This is not okay. It is not enjoyable and never encouraged. Furthermore, such boorish behavior is an insidious encroachment, clearly demonstrating a perpetrator’s flouting all basic boundary lines: Our bodies are our own.

Here in southeast Louisiana, we enjoy a culture of hugging and kissing, much like our French, Italian, Spanish and Mediterranean compatriots. But in my large, Creole family, we’ve always reserved such intimacies for family and close friends. Going around hugging and kissing strangers is unthinkable; having strangers hugging and kissing us is repugnant, no matter how well-intended the gesture.

We don’t know where you’ve been, who you’ve been with – or what you might have.

I’ve noticed this blurring of the lines between acceptable and unacceptable affections spreading in recent years. Fifty years ago, respectful – and respectable – men wouldn’t even expect to shake a strange woman’s gloved hand, for fear of offending her moral sensibilities – or sullying his good name. But today, after Free Love and always-accessible pornography, men, in general, have become much more grabby. And insistent. Usually under the guise of beneficence. This is the most offensive thing about these profligate assaults on personhood: they’re deployed to manipulate and deceive. These controlling, sometimes violent-fueled, behaviors must stop.

Our bodies are our own, and I am under no obligation to share my body, in any way, with you. Whoever you are.

*Please read the rest at  and talk back.

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