I can’t believe that I have to say this, but seriously, don’t touch people without asking. It’s a straightforward and simple concept: respect the personal space of others. I’m bringing this up because a couple of nights ago a fellow student walked up to me and started massaging my shoulders. I found it completely off-putting. As she rubbed she said, “Don’t forget some self-care. You’re tense.” (Maybe it’s because you came up from behind and started massaging me without warning? Just a thought.) I laughed uncomfortably and explained that I’m not tense, but have a muscular build.
Then things turned for the worse.
Dude Bro in class decided that he should follow her lead. Mr. Dude Bro proceeds to walk up, grab my arm with both of his hands, and massage me from my shoulder down to my elbow. He told me I have nice deltoids, and I almost told him to fuck off.
The guy is huge. Imagine every guy you’ve ever seen chugging a protein shake before hitting up your local Gold’s Gym and there you have it. This same guy also followed me to my car the first week of class, announced to the entire room that he is single during his final presentation, and I watched him follow another classmate to her car in our underground campus parking (I waited with another classmate to make sure she got home safe).
He’s an above average creep, and something tells me he’s not trying too hard.
My experience prompted this little reminder: STOP TOUCHING PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW. It is inappropriate. You don’t know if someone is a survivor of sexual or physical assault, and you risk triggering their experiences. Also keep in mind the power dynamics in a situation. Are you a large man putting your hands on a female? Are you a heterosexual man standing menacingly over a trans* woman of color?
We all need a reminder from time to time (I know I’ve touched one too many a shoulder thinking I’m being compassionate), so hopefully this serves as a reminder about personal space, and how you can respect it a little bit more.