A recent post of mine addressed the momentum of accusations of sexual harassment and abuse. Daily we are learning of others, men so far, who have used their power to take advantage of women and men in a sexual manner. Once one person speaks up, then usually other victims chime in.
Overall this seems to me to be a good thing. As actress Emma Thompson told The Guardian, ““Does it only count if you have done it to loads and loads of women, or does it count if you have done it to one woman, once. I think the latter.” If our culture can reduce harassment and abuse, hurrah for us.
However . . . .
Physical touch has tremendous power for good, as well as for evil. Just think of times when a partner’s embrace comforted you in times of pain, or when a hug with a friend lifted your spirits. We can’t swing the pendulum entirely away from any physical touch between individuals.
Now that I’m widowed, I don’t touch anyone with regularity.
I miss it, so when the opportunity arises, I am grateful for the warmth given to me. One of my woman friends is struggling in her life, as I have been in mine. After a recent dinner together, we parted with a good long hug, bringing smiles to our troubled faces. There are two men in my life now who also have challenges and we are secure in sharing casual hugs of support when we meet. A final example are the hugs my stepdaughters give – making me feel cherished in their love for their father and now for me.
Years ago I conducted sexual harassment training for my employer. I was specific and strict in the organization’s expectations for proper behavior. A year or so later, an older manager told me how my training had affected his behavior. His young secretary’s husband was dying and when she could manage to come to work, she often broke down and sobbed. One time he wanted to give her a hug as she cried, but didn’t because of my admonitions. I felt badly – I do want people to touch one another in a positive way and I have to believe that can happen organically between/among people with good intent.
This past summer I attended a group’s national convention. On our name tags we had the choice of using green, yellow or red dots. A green dot meant we would accept a hug, yellow was a caution to ask for permission and red signaled no desire for physical contact. I think if we simply assumed that everyone wears a yellow dot and we ask permission before touching another, we’d make great strides in our culture.