We were waiting for the band to start. I held onto a sticky plastic cup filled with Surly Furious and tapped my foot to the background music. I can’t remember what I was wearing. Something black. I kept my jacket on. No heels. Someone commented about how I wasn’t as tall as usual.
The bar wasn’t packed. A good crowd but still plenty of room to move. I stood between Tony and a friend. A stranger grabbed my ass.
It has happened before. Once, back when I was working retail, I was restocking a rack of socks and a teenage boy grabbed my ass so hard and so low that he actually dug his fingers into my vagina through my jeans. I went in the backroom and cried.
Some people shrug these things off, others are flattered, some chase down the assaulter and scream at him. I just stood there while 100 things ran through my head.
- Woah, what the fuck? It wasn’t Tony, I can see his hands.
- It was that guy, the one who is swiftly walking away, not making eye contact with me.
- Was it an accident? Maybe he thought I was someone else? No, he would’ve stuck around for a second, or hesitated, made eye contact if that were the case.
- Will he come back? I can’t lose sight of him now. He might quietly work his way behind me again.
- Maybe I’ll let him do it again, but I’ll know he’s going to. I’ll grab his hand before he can touch me and while I twist his fingers around I’ll say, “touch me again and I’ll break your fucking fingers.”
- I probably couldn’t break his fingers.
I watched the back of his head from the other side of the bar for the rest of the night and then we left.
At an event last weekend a man put his hand on the small of my back to scoot me over. There was plenty of room to get around without touching. Another stranger felt my hip as he walked by and muttered, “I like your look.” And another, an incoherently drunk man, clutched my arm in his hand as he tried to wrap his other arm around me.
Sometimes I manage to get out a “don’t touch me” before they disappear, but most of the time they get away and I get quiet. This is what I wish I could scream in those five seconds after being grabbed:
We do not ever want to be touched by strangers. Ever. Standing in my vicinity for 10 minutes does not give you permission to touch me. Do not touch my hair, my leg, my arm or my hand, and certainly do not touch any of my parts that require covering in order for me to be standing in this public space near you. This is my body and I am the only person who gets to decide when, where and how it is touched.
photo credit Activedia, Pixabay