Women at skeptical meetings are not there to be touched. They are there to learn, or to share, or to volunteer, or to brainstorm, or to check in registrants, or even just to meet people, but they are not there to be handled by strangers. Touching women you don’t know invades their physical and their privacy, and your desire to cop a feel or pat them reassuringly or hug them when you meet them is not a legitimate reason to override their boundaries. Don’t sputter that you’ve never copped a feel off some strange woman. It doesn’t really matter if you haven’t; they’ve been copped by more people than you realize. And they’ve had that thing where someone takes their arm and physically tries to lead them somewhere, or where someone passing by sort of starts by putting a hand on their shoulder and slides it across their back as they pass, or they’ve come up alongside them and circled their waist with an arm, or somebody has brushed their breast as they reach across for a drink, or bumped their groin against their leg in a crowded room, and they are tired of it.
Wanton and indiscriminate touching ranges from gross to patronizing. First of all, women aren’t goods on display for you to examine before deciding to pursue them. Second of all, women aren’t in the world so you can get your surreptitious jollies off of them when you think they won’t notice. Third of all, touching strange women in ways that ordinary friends might touch them (hugs, nudges, pats) presumes an intimacy you cannot claim and are not entitled to unless you earn it. Finally, you know who else gets touched a lot? Children. Adults always presume that they can touch children, even the ones they don’t know, and use their position of authority over them to do so. This idea that women’s bodies are similarly available for public consumption infantilizes them and lets them know they aren’t really your equal.
Have you ever gone up to a strange man you’ve just been introduced to and slid your arm around his waist? Would it make you seem friendlier to him? If you were curious about what his pectoral muscles felt like, would you bend your arm just so while reaching for the tab so you could brush against his nipples? Do you think he’d find it amusing if you played footsie under the table to lighten up the mood after a hard day’s work of skeptical business? Would you rise in his esteem? Or do you think he’d prefer if you left him alone?
Before you start going all Skinner’s Baby Monkeys Wire Frames on me and start complaining that primates wither away and die without physical contact, I’ll give you three instances when it is acceptable to touch strange women:
1. The woman is either short or in constrictive clothing or otherwise impeded, and needs help climbing up to or down from something like a city bus or speaker dais. You may offer your hand for balance.
2. You are introduced to a woman. You may shake her hand.
3. A strange woman indicates that she is a touchy person by touching you first. You may reciprocate the same kind of touch.