Saturday, October 18, 2008

My ass is not your stress-relief ball

Growing up in the big city teaches a girl from a young age to watch her back. Watch your purse, you never know when someone will try to snatch it from you. Watch your jewelry, don't wear expensive necklaces or earrings on the subway. Speaking of the subway, never take it alone at night, don't ever walk down the street alone, never count your money in public, avoid bad neighborhoods, don't leave anything in your car, and lock your doors. This is all excellent advice. In fact, if I had taken some of this advice more seriously, my car wouldn't have been broken into and I would have never gotten in the middle of a Blood-Crip war and shot that guy. (Just kidding.)

But for all the times someone warned me about getting raped or killed, no one ever said to me, "Watch your ass, it's gonna get grabbed." No one ever sat me down and warned me that riding the subway during rush hour meant dirty men with greasy hair pushing their crotches into my back and groping my nether regions. Now don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't enjoy the feel of a landscaper who's just gotten off a 12-hour shift in 90 degree weather rhythmically swinging his entire body into my back with every move of the train, the tantalizing mix of body odor and fertilizer mingling sensually in my nostrils, his heavy breathing caressing my ears... no, this is not the problem. The problem starts when he decides the perfect resting spot for his tired, overworked hands is my ass. And the problem continues when he feels the need to stretch his shovel-holding fingers and grab said ass. THAT, my friends, is where the problem begins. When did it become OK to put your hands on an unsuspecting woman for your own personal pleasure? When did it become commonplace to grab a stranger on the train, on the street, in a club, just because you feel like it? I'm sure the same guy who grabbed my crotch a few months ago would not appreciate a random dude grabbing his crotch. But I feel like these men who enjoy grabbing won't learn.

Last year, my cousin got to first base with a stranger on a crowded 7 train. It was not consensual. When the subway doors opened, she pushed him out and he hit his head. It was pretty awesome. But what did he do? Looked at her with this shocked look on his face, as if she was the crazy one. "I grabbed your ass and you have the NERVE to push me? Ugh, how dare you?!" Two weeks ago at a lounge in Queens, a guy came up behind my best friend, put his hands on her waist, and told her she was beautiful. When she politely said she was engaged and pointed to her fiance standing across from her, he pulled her closer and looked directly at her fiance and said, "Your girl is beautiful." When my friend's fiance went bat-shit crazy on the dude, he had the nerve to act offended. Like it was perfectly OK to manhandle someone's girl in front of them and expect them to laugh it off.

Well, dude (and all other gropers out there), let me tell you something: it's not OK. In fact, it's disgusting and disrespectful. Putting your hands on someone else's body is one of the most offensive violations of human dignity. It is a complete invasion of someone's personal space and sense of privacy, and in some cases punishable by law.

I realize that socetial norms are shifting in today's world. The more overpopulated a city, the less expectation of privacy. But that doesn't mean we should expect less human decency. I hate to use the slipperly slope argument (mainly because it's a diatribal excuse for some of the most ridiculous theories) but it seems to make sense here. Forty years ago, if someone so much as brushed past a woman the wrong way in a restaurant, he would've gotten a pocketbook over the head and a stern talking-to. Today, an ass-groping is usually met with a roll of the eyes and is looked at as a minor inconvenience. If it becomes OK to grab someone's ass without fear of reprecussion, then what's next? Strangers walking up to strangers and kissing them? Men unzipping the dresses of old women in the street?

So. I beg you: the next time a stranger puts their hands on your butt or brushes past your boobs in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable or sticks their tongue in your ear (yes, that's actually happened to someone I know), say something! Smack the idiot! Report him, curse him out, do something to make him realize that what he's doing is not OK. Because I don't know about you, but I don't really want to see an old lady get undressed in the street.


Liz said...

I always complain about San Diego's lack of good public transportation. Thanks for reminding me how much nicer it is to drive myself in my car :)

Anonymous said...

Ilove this post because this just happened to me last night. I was in Crownes casion in Melbourne Australia and I was walking up one of the stairs with my friends and 3 boys walked past me rather close. One of them, not sure which slapped and grabbed my ass on the way down. I stopped moving up the stairs in shock and the woman behind me gasped and looked at them as they ran off laughing. its not alright to touch someone if they dont want you too. Unfortunatley, like you've said, society is turning an eye to such issues and looking at it as a minor inconvience