I have a sticker on my laptop that says “Don’t Touch Me.”
It’s on the inside of my computer because it doesn’t really fit my personality. I love physical affection -- I’m always touching my friends, inching closer, wrapping arms around legs around hips around stomachs. I greet my people with hugs and arm scratches and I will happily cuddle with you for hours.
But I also don’t like people stepping into my space when I’m uninterested. Working out in the gym, typing away on my computer in the library, walking down the street, I don’t want your eyes on me. I don’t want you watching me walk. I don’t want you to touch me. I don’t want you to consider touching me.
But since I got this sticker, my guy friends have this incredible urge to do the opposite. I’ve been lightly touched by at least three different male friends once they’ve seen it. It’s a light touch, typically a gentle poke on my arm or shoulder like they want my attention for some task at hand. And when I look up, confused as to what they need from me, they immediately gesture to my sticker. The pink font stares up at me as my friends meet my eyes, expectant, a half smile playing around their lips, waiting for my quick response to their rule breaking.
I don’t do anything. I laugh, I roll my eyes, I brush them off. I don’t bother to explain the meaning behind this sticker and how it confuses me that they feel obligated to do the opposite of what I’m asking. And it bothers me.
Because my girlfriends don’t do it. The women in my life tell me they love the sticker, ask me where they can get one, how much it cost.
Because it feels like men think they’re entitled to my space. They can disobey what I ask, because it’s funny. Because it’s a joke. Because they mean well. Because they’re not bad people. Because they’re my friends and I trust them. It still bothers me.
I understand this is a minor occurance. I’m not permanently hurt in any way. My guy friends certainly don’t mean harm, and their light prodding doesn’t usually do much more than slightly annoy me. But what about when people take it up a notch? When it gets a little more physical, a little more intimate, a little more uncomfortable. When it switches from a light poke to grabbing someone’s breast, to grabbing their pussy. To pinning them down, ignoring how intoxicated they are, silencing their no. To sexually assaulting them. To raping them. When people feel entitled to your space and attention, even when you explicitly say you don’t want it, how are you supposed to deal with that?
This is only one small symptom of a larger problem that is the rape culture we live in. Our society revolves around the idea that women have to look out for themselves. We can’t dress too slutty or too reserved, we can’t walk around late at night, we can’t be too loud or bold, we can’t draw too much attention to ourselves, but we can’t be too quiet. We should always have a self-defense device on us or some self defense training. When we mess up no one has ever said girls will be girls.
But boys will be boys. If he hurts you on the playground, or chases you across the basketball court even when you ask him to stop, it’s because he likes you. If he begs you to go a little farther in the car behind the football field it’s because he can’t resist you, because you’re so hot, how could you expect him to not put his hands down your pants? If you reject his offer of a date you’re a bitch because you have to give him a chance. After all, he’s really really interested in you and that’s what matters.
My sticker and my friends are a little piece of this puzzle. Even though I wish it wasn’t true, we live in a world where men feel entitled to women and our time. And in this space, how do you get people to believe you when you say “Don’t Touch Me”?