Have you ever been inappropriately touched by a man, or had to fend of gropers and grabbers, or even just been on a date that went really, really wrong?
What is inappropriate touch?
The issue of non-consensual touch — any kind of touching that you do not want or agree to — is particularly important in light of today’s political climate, and the confusion in our culture about what consent means….
Dear Claire, a couple of years ago I met this guy and we were attracted to each other, but he moved to another state and we lost contact. He still used to text me once in a blue moon. But recently he came back and asked me out on a date.
The date went great but one thing really turned me off. We were kissing and he touched me inappropriately. I didn’t tell him anything at the moment but I felt disrespected and violated. He also told me that he had thought I would go home with him that night.
I finally confronted him about it through text and he apologized. But I don’t know if I should keep talking to him. I do like him but I feel he won’t respect me or would do it again.” — Karey
You, Karey, are an amazing woman. You seem to have gotten through a pretty uncomfortable situation with your dignity and calm intact.
Just because you’re out on a date — and keep in mind that this is a FIRST date — does not give anyone permission to touch you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.
A date is NOT permission to expect or demand kissing, hugging, touching, or sex.
A date has a potentially sexual atmosphere; two people are going out to see if they want to build an intimate relationship together.
So any kind of touching on a date is very different from the kind of touching that happens when you give a co-worker a high-five over a completed project. Dates require special attention and awareness so that non-consensual or inappropriate touching doesn’t happen.
AND, just because the two of you kissed does NOT mean that he has open permission to touch you in any other way. Or expect you to go home with him, or anything.
What to do about inappropriate touching
There’s a LOT a man can do to make a woman feel respected and safe, and THOSE things are deeply attractive. But when a man makes you feel disrespected and fearful, something is very wrong…
You’ve already done several of the right things in response to this situation:
1. Know what your boundaries are.
Boundary violations like inappropriate touching are NOT acceptable. Don’t let anyone tell you that it was okay because it was a date. Or any other reason.
2. When someone does something you don’t like, let them know in a way that feels safe to you.
I’m totally impressed that you told him that he had violated a boundary with you with his inappropriate touching. This is maybe the single hardest thing to do.
Not only did you tell him, you even chose a way to communicate— a text message— that gave you a bit of safety margin and distance.
Like I said, you’re doing great. I know that doesn’t make what happened any less ugly or painful, but you definitely got some things going on that are healthy and positive.
Here’s the biggest and most important thing in this whole situation:
3. Trust your instincts.
Your gut is telling you that he can’t be trusted and that he would do it again, EVEN THOUGH you told him that his inappropriate touching was unwelcome.
Building trust does take time, but just because he apologized that does NOT mean you owe him ANYTHING.
So he apologized. Should you continue to see him?
You didn’t exactly ask this question — and I think it’s because you already know the answer — but you mused on whether you should continue to be in contact with him.
My initial response is to say no; because you don’t feel you can trust him.
Why put yourself in that situation? There are men who can and will behave appropriately and this guy ain’t it.
READ MORE: Take the “Can I Trust Him” Quiz
3 Ways to Keep Yourself Safe in an Uncertain Situation
However, IF you actually think you might want to see him again, you can do a few things to help ensure you do not get yourself into a dangerous situation.
1. Decide ahead of time exactly what’s okay with you, and what is not. I think you already have this down pretty well.
2. Talk to him in advance — tell him clearly:
“I really do want to go out with you again, but there are certain things I’m very uncomfortable with. I’d like to share some thoughts with you about that.”
Then be very clear (again) on your boundaries. If you don’t want to be touched at ALL you get to say that. And you deserve to be respected.
3. Make it a group outing.
Don’t go anywhere ALONE with this guy. He needs to prove he can be trusted.
That’s actually true for any man. Let them prove they can be trusted to make a woman feel safe and respected. Let them prove that they aren’t sexual predators or even just jerks.