Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bubbles!

by Franki Butler

I’m sure you are all familiar with the concept of the “personal bubble.” It is a space, unique to each person, inside of which another person should not venture without permission. Some people have very small personal bubbles (mine, for example, extends barely a centimeter past my own skin, unless in very special circumstances), while some people’s personal bubbles are very large. The universal factor in this equation, however, is that one should not intrude into another’s personal space without express or understood permission. Understood permission depends on the person and the relationship. Ex. My best friends can hug me whenever they so please, so long as I’m not in front of my boss or something equally awkward; Rando #5 from the dance floor cannot.

This is all fairly basic information, and I shouldn’t have to write it down. Except that some people are not in the least respectful of other people’s personal space. Many people become less respectful of this personal space when inebriated. And this needs to be examined.

Violators of the personal bubble can be men or women, and either gender can have their bubble invaded, though it becomes especially problematic when it is men deciding to get all up on women. Given the power dynamics of gender and male privilege within our society, a man choosing to put himself in a woman’s personal space means something much different than any other dynamic.

One aspect of male privilege is a feeling of entitlement to the female body. It doesn’t necessarily have to go as far as a man assuming that all women should sleep with him – though that is on the most extreme end – but can simply be the belief that he gets to touch a woman and that she shouldn’t object.

I have several male friends who take great joy in doing this. They will pick up smaller female friends unless given a loud and emphatic “No,” and even then the female objection is viewed as cute rather than serious. They touch and touch and touch because it is “fun,” and do not even consider how they would feel were someone to take such liberties upon their person. This is wrong. Unless you are on a level with someone where you can touch her/him and know it is okay, don’t.

To quote your kindergarten teacher, keep your hands to yourself.

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