The older I get, the more conscious I am about how we raise our females within our society. Female bodies are viewed as inherently public property, in a way. People, male and female, seem to feel that they have a right to touch the bodies of females that they do not know. How often do you see a man touch the hand of a woman he finds attractive? Watch how they interact with cashiers and other service people, people who are paid to smile at them and be friendly.
Almost daily I have (mostly male presenting) customers who feel that it is perfectly acceptable to touch my hand or arm or shoulder. And as I’ve gotten older I’ve fought my upbringing and subconsciously absorbed societal mores of not offending others, even at the expense of my own comfort. I now have male customers who imperiously hold out their hand to me, an expectant smile on their faces because they know that our society has taught me that the expectation is that I accommodate them, who become upset or offended if I decline.
I have also discovered that I don’t know how to decline, which just adds to my sense of discomfort. Not only do I have this perfect stranger who is offended that I don’t want to share the sense of touch with them but I’m feeling anxious because I don’t know how not to make them feel badly about it! It’s intensely frustrating that I’m still fighting with that subconscious urge.
I want my son to understand the very simple concept of consent. Our popular media portray the strong man kissing the woman without ever checking in to make sure that she’s ok with it. Grabbing her into his arms without a thought. Consent is such a simple and yet profound thing. I have been completely thrown on the few occasions where I’ve been *asked* if it’s ok to proceed. I’ve had to process the CONCEPT of being asked before I could even address the question at hand. So much of my youth was spent going where the wind blew, without a strong sense that I had the right to make sure that *I* was ok with what was happening.
I use the experiences I have at work as diving boards for conversations with him. I tell him about the various encounters I have as examples of how not to treat others. I point out that it’s an unacceptable way to treat anyone, not just women. I want him to grow up internalizing the outrageous idea that women are people too. That everyone is equal, regardless of gender, sexuality, race, religion, quirkiness, funky clothing choices, startling piercings, etc.