How do you belong to yourself in a society that doesn’t seem to care about consent?
Consent has gained some popularity in sexual situations–we’ll get to that later–but it goes beyond that.
COVID-19 has provided us with a great example. Requests to maintain a 6 foot distance are ignored. I don’t care if you’re not afraid, don’t impose on other people’s physical boundaries. People make an excuse not to wear masks because they don’t care about their own health, but the mask protects other people from you. It’s not the fearless thing to do, it’s the selfless thing to do.
In many small ways people have violated my physical boundaries. Sometimes, as someone who acts tough, but is kinda small, it scares me, even if just for a moment. I’ve had people block the doorway when I trying to leave. I’ve had people touch me without my consent. Grab me without my consent. Take clothes off me without my consent. Unless you’re someone I have expressed trust in or you’re saving my life, there’s no reason to do that. At the least I felt annoyed and at the most I felt violated and anxious.
You gotta think of Hitch. You go 90, you never go the full 100. While verbally asking is probably the best, at the very least don’t force yourself on people. Whether it’s a kiss, a hug, or a handshake, let them come to you. There have been times when I’ve appreciated a hug forced on me on a time of sadness, but you have to assume that’s the exception.
Maybe you feel dumb wearing a mask. Maybe you feel dumb asking before you touch someone. But it’s worth thinking about how the other person feels over how you feel. And turns out, a lot of times when you ask, the answer will be yes. But it’s about respect. Respect people’s boundaries. There are so few things we’re all entitled to in this life and our personal boundaries should be one those things.
Now there are more extreme examples. An estimated 1/5 women have been sexually assaulted and 1/6 men. Really. And 80% of women have been sexually harassed. I don’t have the words to express how this makes me feel. How are women supposed to feel empowered when time and time again we’re made to feel like our bodies are more for someone else than for ourselves? How is anyone supposed to feel like their body is their own when their boundaries have been violated?
There’s no easy solution to this. Abuse is a cycle that’s hard for people to break. Hurt people hurt people. It takes personal work by individuals who often don’t want to do the work.
But I think it’s important to remember how common it is so we can all do better to be mindful of people’s mental states. Don’t give them another opportunity to question if their body belongs to them or not.
I’m sure I’ve violated someone’s personal boundaries before and I’m sorry for it and always trying to improve. That’s all any of us can do.
To look at it positively, you get to give people the opportunity to say yes to you.
And if not, rejection is good for you. And at the end of the day, it’s just not about you at all. It’s about consideration for others.