A reader asked:
One of my friends has recently begun touching me a lot, either by grabbing my hand or knee etc in situations that don’t necessarily feel they warrant such contact and don’t actually feel organic.
At best this is just a case of her being too physical and making me uncomf, at worst, knowing that I’m queer, it may be that she is trying to make me her “experiment,” despite also knowing I’m in a monog. relat.
I can’t tell exactly if I’m overreacting or not but either way, if this continues, I’m not at all sure I know how to handle the situation. It’s difficult for me to imagine navigating this type of conversation, esp if I want to keep the friendship (since I know what I would do if this was a situation with a man, or someone with whom I didn’t want to maintain a friendship).
Plus, being a survivor makes navigating all of this all the more difficult. I would appreciate your advice, thank you.
I don’t have a lot of experience defusing this kind of situation successfully, so I’m not sure my answer will be a good one.
This is my best guess:
First of all, I think you’re probably not overreacting:
- When people repeatedly touch others in invasive ways, it’s usually not an accident
- It’s really, really common for people to touch others in invasive ways that are just-barely-deniable
- People who think others are touching them in creepy ways are usually right
- This is especially true if the person who is touching you invasively *used* to only touch you in ways you were ok with
Second of all, regardless of why she’s touching you, it’s ok to want it to stop:
- There are all kinds of reasons that friends sometimes don’t want to be touched in various ways
- If you don’t want her touching your leg or holding your hand, it’s absolutely your right to have it stop
- If she’s doing this unintentionally, telling her in the moment to stop might solve the problem
- Friends do sometimes inadvertently violate the boundaries of friends, *and if they respect their friends, they stop when they find out it isn’t welcome*
Things you might say (possibly in combination with pulling away or pushing her hand away from where you don’t want it to be):
- “I don’t like that”
- “I don’t want to hold hands”
- “Please don’t touch my leg”
- And if it is repeated, you might add “I meant it”.
She might respond by angrily denying that she’s doing anything wrong. That’s a sign that something is seriously wrong:
- Telling her to stop touching you in ways you don’t like is not an accusation
- It just means telling her that you don’t like it and want it to stop
- It might hurt to hear that, because nobody likes hearing that they’ve done something wrong. But if she lashes out at you about it, that’s a sign that she feels entitled to your body
- And whether or not it’s sexually motivated, that’s a major problem
- I wrote this post and this post about that kind of reaction
Captain Awkward also has a post on unwanted and possibly-sexual touching from friends which might be helpful.