Recently, my ladies and I ventured out on the town for some drinks and dancing. I put on a charming little backless number and headed out the door. Looking cute, feeling cute. Ready to go.
No sooner have we arrived at the bar than I immediately feel a hand that does not belong there, lingering on my lower back. Excuse me, a man’s voice whispers in my ear. We’ve all experienced it.
I slap his arm down and pivot my back to the bar. He’s smirking. I glare at him expectantly. “You better have a really good fucking reason,” I start.
“Sorry, I’m sorry,” he mumbles as he moves further down the bar. I get that involuntary shiver, you know the one. But I let it go and enjoy my evening.
A little while later, he comes up to me again.
“I just wanted to apologize.” Mmkay. I take him at his word.
“It’s fine. In the future, though, you should probably just say ‘Excuse me.’ Or tap my shoulder or something. It makes me really uncomfortable when I feel your hand on my back. If I don’t know you, you probably shouldn’t touch me.”
He seems confused for a second, looks me up and down, then delivers this gem:
“But I mean…look at what you’re wearing.”
For a brief moment, I’m crestfallen. Ashamed. But I bounce back, shouting “I could be standing here butt-fucking-naked. It doesn’t mean you get to put your hands on me.”
Bringing me to my point: Women do not have to be modest in order to be respected.
As a general PSA, I’ll say it again for the people in the back: Women do not have to dress any certain way to deserve your respect. We do not have to dress conservatively. We do not have to act it either. We are human beings. Each and every one of us, all colors, shapes, sizes and creeds, deserves respect. Drunk or sober. We. All. Deserve. Require. Demand. Respect.
My body is mine, and mine alone, and I have the only say in who is allowed to touch it. Full stop.
Women’s bodies are sacred sites. But they are also battlegrounds of harassment, fear, and trauma. And the larger implication here is the more dangerous one: What that man expressed to me at the bar is the cornerstone of rape culture. The notion that he had the right to put his hands on me, even though he didn’t know me and I made it clear I didn’t want him to, because I was wearing a skimpy outfit.
Another night, at another bar, a man touches my lower back to move past me. I push his arm away. He apologizes.
“Most women really don’t like to be touched by someone they don’t know. If you need to get by, tapping my shoulder is better,” I explain.
“Thanks. Sorry again,” he says. And I can tell he genuinely means it.
Maybe you think intent matters here. Maybe the first guy thought he was being slick and I’d turn around, bat my lashes and chat him up. Maybe the second guy really just needed to get by me. And maybe intent does matter to some extent. But it shouldn’t. Don’t you dare tell me I’m being irrational when I feel fear at a strange man’s touch. Don’t tell me it doesn’t matter. Don’t tell me it’s ‘not always sexual.’ Violence against women at the hands of men happens every day.
Cause really y’all, at the end of the day, we learned this shit in kindergarten: Keep your hands to yourself.