Her way of putting it, was "I have a fetish for consent", actually. I like this as well.
Just before the holidays, someone I should have been able to trust, put his hands on me, not just without my consent, but in a surprising way, from BEHIND ME, where I could not see him or be warned in any way.
This is the fifth time he has done this over ten years, in the exact same kind of way. Always from behind. Always in my blind spot. Always silently and without warning, he plops his heavy hands down onto my shoulders. *shudder* I don't see him often thank the gods. But he will NEVER do this again. I was already angry and unhappy with him due to his prior history with me and stories I have heard from others about similar behavior towards other women, and I had been very cold towards him, shielded and painfully polite during the visit so far.
This last time he did this he did it in the crowded basement and came up behind me, directly in front of his sons: my husband and my brother in law. It felt like some combination of a horrible creepy crawlie landing on my skin and like ropes starting to be tying my arms to my upper body. I had a full-body shudder, moving forward in the crowded room while ducking and batting his hands and arms away from me, saying, "no, stop, I don't want this, don't touch me!"
ew ew ew ew ew.
I put Jeff between him and me for the remainder of the evening, and he didn't make eye contact for the rest of the evening either; he was holding his grandson at the far end of the table. And when it came time for parting and good byes, he strangely was not in the room.
He still is owed a long email. I'm working on how to say things that might get him to actually fucking CHANGE his behavior rather than totally just shred him, which I am perfectly capable of doing, mind you. But I've had about three weeks to think about things. He's in his sixties, stuck in his ways almost to the point of fossilization, basically a social pariah. I can't change him, but this is a HARD LIMIT and he will NOT touch me again. If I can introduce a fracture, I will. I plan to.
This was not actually the post I meant to be writing, but it is pertinent and related.
What I wanted to talk about is that it is fucking CRUCIAL to ensure enthusiastic consent with people you want to connect with.
Even for a handshake. *shrug* I forced an introductory handshake on someone once and realized after the fact that his culture did not DO that kind of thing. Awkward, but hopefully not wounding.
Even for a hug. My friend N used to have another friend who insisted on hugs, even when she wasn't wanting to hug them. N will hug me, usually... the first time though, I offered and she initially said NO.
and it's so goddam important to respect the NO.
I said NO a dozen times to the asshole who date raped me in college. He ran right over the top of my NO. I was barely 21 years old. I presumed basic respect, and did not have the tools to handle a situation beyond my assumption parameters. (I'm okay now, but I'm still ANGRY about him forcing unwanted sexual activity.)
Our culture does not respect the NO. Too many romance novels and comedies have the love interest "sweeping someone off their feet", saving them in some damsel in distress trope, "earning their love" through defeating or humiliating enemies or rivals or getting past obstacles. There's a deep stream that says "do what you can get away with", witness subway creepers, upskirt photographers, catcalling on urban streets, drugging drinks in fraternities and bars.
I REJECT THESE TROPES.
I want to see more people learning the delicate dance of exploring and respecting others. Of seeking the people who enthusiastically want you in their community, people who you want in yours. Enthusiastically taking someone into your life, or your bed or your body, and them being as enthusiastic to be there as you are enthusiastic about wanting them.
I *will* take lukewarm hugs, and lukewarm acquaintance if that's all I can get.
I think I can do better than that, though, honestly. I'm pretty awesome. =) If you're not into me, why spend the time? That's just dumb and kind of a waste for both of us. Find something that sets you on fire, inspires you.
I will not take lukewarm lovers, and I will not pressure someone into being with me unless they're actually, really into me. I'm willing to be patient though and let a good deep secure friendship make slow progress toward something else. I can gently express my enthusiasm about the person I am into, and let them gradually dig me more until maybe they are enthusiastic about me, too. Someone who is enthusiastic about me, who will treat me as I deserve to be treated: with attention, time, tenderness, touch, and sweetness.
And I have to understand that I need to enforce my own No, too. If spending time somewhere or with someone is unproductive, unrewarding, uncomfortable or unfulfilling for me, I need to say NO as often as possible. Sometimes you can't do that, life is complicated. But you can often make choices to do the things that feed you rather than the things that drain you or doing stupid stuff because it's a habit.
Make more CONSCIOUS choices. Cultivate the relationships you really want instead of settling.
If something doesn't work to feed you, prune it out of your life. It's deadwood anyway, why should it stay if you can make room for actual growth, more sunlight, more breathing room. It can be awkward, painful, uncomfortable to do.
Can we all speak up a little more?
"yeah, I really love spending time with you."
"no, I don't have the interest in doing that, thank you for asking."
"hey, could you scratch my back? (rub my feet, pet my hair, help me with task x)?"
Be specific. Address the individual person or persons at stake. Be honest. Be kind if you can spare the spoons, if you can't be kind at least be direct and clear.
That's what I want to see. That's what I want to try to do.