Stay Six Feet Away, Please!
Maintain six feet of distance between strangers? No problem!
Limit non-essential touch? I'll take it!
Does this really sound like too much, or is it just reinforcing the boundaries and space that all humans deserve to have respected? Especially for those who identify as female. Is non-essential touch and unwanted touch possibly sometimes the same thing? Hmm.. really makes you put things into perspective. Touch doesn't necessarily have to be experienced in an intimate area for it to be invasive to another person. In fact, I don't consider a touch on the arm or back to be intimate, but that doesn't mean I am personally comfortable with it.
With the second wave of COVID-19 happening, many are being extra cautious about physical distancing and limiting contact in order to stop the transmission of the virus. This means that currently both handshakes and close contact are vigilantly being avoided to keep everyone safe. For those who identify as female, this can actually be a very comforting thing. I can't count on my hands the number of times I have experienced unwanted touch in public; whether it be a light hand on the back as a man passes by, being spotted at the gym without asking for it, a touch on the arm while someone is speaking to me, etc. And.......I've heard many individuals who also identify as female tell me the exact same thing, including the part specifying they did not want it. Perhaps this a good opportunity to highlight some of these things, as I think it's still imperative to limit non-essential touch once pandemic measures become more flexible as well.
"Along came the shutdown. Suddenly, people who used to reach for me found themselves spasmodically curling their arms back to bring their hands to their chests, and standing six feet away from me."
Another important thing that is important to keep in mind is that 1/3 of women experience sexual violence and 1/8 of men experience sexual violence. Having said that, individuals who have experienced unwanted touch before can find it particularly uncomfortable. Remember, just because uninvited touch may not be considered sexual, doesn't mean its not offensive and doesn't impede on someone's personal boundaries.
Sometimes, we tend to assume others may be comfortable with touch just because we are. The fact is, others' boundaries do not miraculously mirror are own. In order to better understand this, think of hugs. Not everyone is comfortable with hugging, yet it has always been such a common way to greet/say thank-you, etc. How often do you ask someone (maybe someone you do not know as well as close friends or family) if they are comfortable with hugs before wrapping your arms around them? If you are interested in another opinion on this topic, Carolita Johnson wrote a fantastic article in The Guardian named, "'I don't have to smile if I don't feel like it!': Covid freed me from politeness and unwanted touching".
For the remainder of the time being, as well as after COVID-19 policies have slackened, let's aim to practice these 5 rules for respecting boundaries that were given in a CNN article:
4) Remember that not all offensive touching is sexual --sometimes it's just hostile
5) Be sensitive to others' sensitivities towards touching