Sunday, June 24, 2012

Things not to do when waiting in line

[Content note: violation of personal boundaries, also foul language]

Dear denizens of the internet,

In light of an incident which happened to me when waiting for a table in a restaurant tonight, I'd like to give everyone who needs it a not so gentle reminder of waiting in line etiquette.

If you are waiting in line for something, and there is a woman, who is reading something on her phone while waiting in the same line as you, do not go put your arm around her and ask her if you can watch porn with her on her phone.

Now I know this might seem like common sense, but if you're unsure of why you shouldn't do that, it's because you come off as a creepy fuckwad who is invading her personal space. You will be setting off a million red flags in her brain which are there to help her avoid entitled assholes who are dangerous to be around. Even if you don't think you're dangerous, that's still what will be happening, because she can't read your mind. She gets to decide what sort of behaviour seems dangerous to her, not you. Also, even if you are "just trying to be friendly" by doing such a thing, and you can't see that you're being incredibly intrusive and rude, you're an idiot. If you can, and you don't care, then by gods you're a bigger jerkface than anyone could have predicted.

If you can't think of other things to do while you're waiting in line, try checking your own phone. Or talking to the group of friends you're with. Or staring at the ceiling. Or attempting to start a polite conversation that isn't about a sexually charged subject with a stranger. Or anything else that doesn't involve inserting yourself into somebody else's personal space without their permission.

If you do somehow find yourself in the embarrassing situation of having already put your arm around a woman who is a stranger to you, and she says "don't touch me", one thing you absolutely do not do is direct your apology to another man who happens to be standing near her. Most especially you do not apologise for "stepping on his toes".

I would have thought that this seems like common sense, but if somebody says to you "don't touch me", you generally apologise to the person you touched. There isn't anyone else to apologise to, since you are have invaded that person's boundaries, and nobody else's. A woman is not the property of her male partner or father, so you are not breaching any of their boundaries by touching her without their permission. A woman who goes out in public without her (male) partner or her father is not "free game to whatever to with impunity because she's out without an owner", because she owns herself. I really shouldn't have to remind anybody of this, but pre-school 101 still applies: keep your hands to yourself.

If somehow you're managed to invade a woman's personal space, and then apologise to the wrong person, and she and the group of people she's with get angry at you, you should know that "I was just trying to be friendly" and "I was just joking around" are not justifications for your behaviour. There is no justification. You don't get to touch people if they don't want it. That goes for everyone. If somehow you've got this far into the situation, and you're still trying to defend yourself, all I can say is "dig up, fool!". You've just perpetuated a nasty bit of retrograde sexism and rape culture which claims that women do not own their own bodies. You should be ashamed of yourself.

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