Please don’t touch me.
It feels like a simple request. It feels like it shouldn’t have to be said. It feels, ridiculous. And I also feel I shouldn’t have to say please.
But even in 2019, because I am covered in tattoos, apparently, I am a petting zoo.
It doesn’t matter where I go: supermarket, bar, night club, my school. People react to my body by wanting to touch it.
And let me be clear: this is men and women, but I do feel a little less bullshit when a female touches me. And that’s a whole other can of worms regarding safety we can open at another time.
I can’t tell you how many times a man has come up to me and simply reached for my arm, some actually touching it before I could pull it away. The responses I get are incredible. I get called a “bitch” or a “whore” when I refuse to let them touch me. I have men immediately turn the tension around on me with them backtracking and demanding I read the situation incorrectly. Can you imagine that level of privilege? I don’t want to be touched, and because my response is not necessarily polite and/or matching their expectation, I am the one that is then shamed and blamed.
Now, there are people that will read this post and say, “You chose to get the tattoos. Obviously people are going to stare.” Great start. Nope. No, they don’t. They don’t have to look at me. And they definitely don’t have to touch me. And if they feel this way, then there is a level of entitlement they need to be knocked down from. (Quickly, to clarify, the tattoos are not a child’s sensation book. They are flat to my skin. THERE IS NOTHING TO TOUCH.) I’ve also received several, “Obviously you want the attention, or you wouldn’t have done that to your body,” remarks. Again, cool, but no. Not so much, little man. With this current narrative, my choice, my free will, is negated with their anger.
This is where the narrative needs revision. This concept of entitlement regarding a woman’s body. No, sir, you don’t get to stare because I look different. That’s rude. No, sir, you don’t have the right to ask or touch or even engage with me. Engagement is a two-way street, and both sides must consent. I do not owe anyone a conversation, an explanation, and especially, a physical encounter.
As I reflect on these moments, I begin to make connections to other subversive norms. It reminds me of the argument about women wearing scantily clad clothing. WHICH THEY HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO DO WITHOUT FEELING AS THOUGH THEY ARE AN OBJECT. I grew up with the idea that it is a woman’s fault if something happens to her based on her clothing choices. It is on her, not the other person who may be cat calling, touching, or far worse. But if we continue to allow this premise to be true, then it means everything from touching to sexual assault is a woman’s fault. And I sure as hell ain’t living in that reality.
Think about this objectively: a woman has cleavage, and that gives someone the right to judge or touch or take? A woman wears a dress that hugs her curves, and that gives someone permission to stare and cat call? HELL to the no.
I know this isn’t a new topic. I know many women before me have written and yelled and cried about it. But it’s still happening, so here I am. Now, the solution--how do we rewrite this? One word: accountability. It’s time to hold people accountable, and I am quite thankful for all the women that were brave enough to stand the fuck up and start every movement that brings women to an elevated platform of safety and respect. I am so thankful I have myriad role models, from my friends to celebrities that are showing me I can do the same. I can stand the fuck up and call someone out for their negative behaviors. And I don’t mean chastise them, although sometimes it does come to this. I simply mean pointing out the wrong and trying to help someone find their accountability. With love, peace, and grace. Unless they’re a dick, and my safety is threatened. Then the “bitch” will absolutely come out. Without apology.
What does this have to do with tattoos? It’s all the fucking same. Just because I have them does not give anyone the right to ask about them, touch them or simply judge my character/integrity. If I wear a short-ass skirt, it means the same damn thing. We don’t walk up to people and ask, why do you have that mole? Why is your hair brown? Why are you choosing to wear a collared shirt today? Those are asinine questions. As should be the ones directed at myself and other women on a daily basis. If you disagree, I ask that you dig deeper into WHY you think one behavior is okay and not the other.
People need to start taking responsibility for their actions and acknowledge that a woman’s body is sacred. And no one outside of that woman is owed shit. Leave the pregnant woman alone. Leave the confident-ass female with her amazing boobs alone. Leave the girl with pink hair and piercings and tattoos and fur coat alone. Smile at her, but realize she’s a doctor, soldier, a teacher, a lawyer, a mom, barista, a tattoo artist, a grad student, an addict. She just had a long-ass day at work. She just dealt with abuse at home. She just got a promotion. She just landed her dream job. She just got married. She just finalized her divorce. She is MORE THAN WHAT YOU SEE. And if you want to start a conversation with a woman, it’s easy. Start with “hey,” and ask about something beyond her physical appearance.
To all the women that have suffered this fate: stand the fuck up. If you feel uncomfortable, say it. You are in the right. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. That’s old programming.
To all the men reading this: I’m just asking you to take a look at your behaviors and become more cognizant of how you treat women. Maybe you’re a good dude. Cool. Maybe you’ve made some poor choices in the past—no worries; we all fuck up. But stop that shit. And if you’re the dude that isn’t doing this shit, you have the most important role of ALL—negating this perpetuation. If you see a friend/another man doing something like this, tell them to knock it off. If you do and say nothing, then are you not an ally. Remember that. Help us help you!
I’m not the feminist that says all men are bad. I am the feminist that simply wants to point shit out so we can start rewriting how women are perceived and treated. Because EVERYONE on this planet, no matter how you identify, no matter what you wear, should be treated with light, love, and deep-seeded respect.