Saturday, October 26, 2013

Take your hands off that pregnant woman's belly...

It has come to my attention that Pennsylvania has passed legislation making it illegal to touch a pregnant woman's belly without her permission.

All I can say to that is, "Right on, Pennsylvania lawmakers!"

No, really. I've never been pregnant, but I've seen this happen to enough women and heard enough women complain about it that I know what a sore point it is with them. I've also been on the receiving end of another case of people feeling entitled to touch because I have very long hair.

I can't count the number of times complete strangers have walked up to me and started petting and caressing my hair. And while I understand that they are (mostly - I also get the odd hair fetishist) doing this because the like my hair, I hate...let me repeat this, I HATE...having my hair touched. And I also hate the people who have told me that I should just get over it.

Both are symptoms of the fact that here in the United States, we live in a culture where all boundaries are dissolving. Random people touching others intimately without permission. And make no mistake, touching a pregnant woman's belly is intimate touching. Random strangers asking people questions I wouldn't ask a family member, much less a stranger. Complete strangers walking up and trying to instruct others about what they should or shouldn't be doing regarding things that they have no idea about in relation to those strangers' lives.

These things frustrate me and make me angry. And I don't know what to do about it because I don't know why it happens, why some individuals feel entitled to touch, to advise. To crowd me in line at the grocery store.

You know what I mean. There is a group - a very large group, if my experience is any barometer - of people who will walk right up behind someone in a line or a group of people waiting for something and stand so close that you can feel their breath on your neck. Sometimes they stand so close that they are actually touching the person in front of them. I used to put up with that. Now, if someone is standing too close to me, I will turn around and tell them they need to back off.

There are also the people who think they have to get right up in your face - and I mean that literally - in order to talk to you. In those cases, because I usually have some sort of casual relationship with them, even if it is just someone I'm doing business with in a store, I will start by taking a step back. If they step right up and get back in my face, though, I'll tell them to back off, too.

On the whole, though, these are minor violations of personal space. Most of the time, anyway. There was the time when I was at Disneyland, waiting for the "Fantasmic" water-and-light show to begin, when a became aware that a man was standing right up against my back. Yeah, there was a crowd, but no one else was standing that close. I moved forward. Almost immediately, he was standing right against me again. I moved forward again. Again, he was right up against me almost immediately. I turned around, said something like, "Hey, watch it!" in an unwelcoming voice and moved forward again. Again, he was right up against me in a matter of less than a second. I sighed. I caught my mother's attention (she was standing right in front of me, and had also been moving forward) and said, in a voice that was loud enough to be heard by the man and by the people standing around us, "If this guy behind me doesn't back off right now, I'm yelling 'rape' as loud as I can."

He disappeared immediately.

Now, I know that bringing up rape is not a light matter, and I kind of feel bad that I did so. On the other hand, the guy had not backed off after a warning and me moving away from him several times. It was obvious by then that he was doing what he was doing on purpose. And, yeah, I resorted to being passive-aggressive. But, short of actually calling for security - which in retrospect is what I should probably have done - I couldn't think of any other way to get rid of the guy. And what would I have told security if I had called them? I would have probably gotten the same thing I usually get when I complain about people violating my personal space - "get over it."

My contention is that I shouldn't have to get over it. It's my personal space, and I'm entitled to enough of it at least that I'm not being physically touched by someone I don't know. It's the same when random strangers touch my hair without asking. And it is most especially the same when people touch a pregnant woman's stomach without permission.

And so, I'm glad that Pennsylvania passed the law they did. Somehow, people are going to have to start realizing again that if they don't have permission, they shouldn't be touching a complete stranger. And pregnant women's bellies are a good place to start.

I should probably add a note here saying that I don't have any problem with people I know touching me, for the most part. I like a good hug. But, you know, people I don't know don't have any business touching me, or anyone else they don't know.

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