A group of my friends and I went out one evening in Venice Beach recently, to celebrate one of my girlfriends' birthdays. After dinner we decided to hit up the bars, and had a fun night dancing. A few of my girlfriends with me that night are single, so my husband and I played "Wing-Team." It's always fun playing wing-woman, because there are no reservations about approaching anyone, but for the first time I had one of those moments where I thought, "I'm too old for this"--not so much the wing-womaning, but the scene. First of all, most people in the bar we ended up in looked like they were home for the holidays from uni. Secondly, it felt like for the first time I saw with my own eyes the lack of understanding and respect for boundaries and consent that some people have. Now, I'm sure it wasn't really the first time I had ever witnessed inappropriate and borderline behavior, but it was the first time I saw and comprehended certain behaviors to be inappropriate that I might not have at eighteen or twenty.
There were a couple guys giving me bad vibes, and I checked with a couple of my girlfriends to see if it was just me or not. The guys were Brazilian and one of my friends who is originally from Argentina felt like it was just Latin behavior--nothing out of the ordinary--and they're drunk and having a good time. She and I have actually discussed cultural differences like this, so I did wonder if maybe I was being too frigid. However, I have plenty of Latin friends, who despite how flirty they are, do not ever cross the line of being physically inappropriate. When you spend all evening trying to force your lips onto someone else's who is clearly trying to dodge your lips, that is crossing boundaries. That is sexual assault.
I tried to half jokingly tell one of the guys, "Hey, you've got to ask her if you want to kiss her," trying to suggest a more gentlemanly approach. He did not take that well and I did not have time for his crudeness. This night made me realize that we really do have a lot of work to do in teaching people about consent and boundaries. One thing I always tell the kids I teach in Children's Liturgy, is that at the end when we pray, we usually stand in a circle and hold hands; but some kids don't want to hold hands and I find it important to tell them that if they're really not comfortable holding hands, they don't have to--their body, their rules.
For some reason, we have also created a culture that allows alcohol to be an excuse for bad behavior, or even loosely bad behavior. This is an excuse I'm quite tired of. It's like, just because you're old, doesn't mean you have an excuse to be rude. So the combination of a lack of understanding and respect for consent and boundaries mixed with inebriation, is simply an unacceptable cocktail.
This is why the work I do, especially with teenagers, and university students is so important to me. The work we have to do on this front requires a culture change beyond borders. Brazilians and Latinos are not the only ones who get too handsy on a drunken night out. It's also not a gender-exclusive issue. Everyone needs to learn consent and boundaries. Understanding consent and boundaries starts when we're young. It starts when we're forced to go hug a creepy distant relative in order to be polite, or hold hands with someone when we're not comfortable holding their hand. There is an entire culture change that needs to occur to create a safer and freer world, and part of that comes down to understanding and respecting consent and boundaries.
What are your thoughts and/or experiences on this? Leave your thoughts and feedback in the comments or send me a message. I'd love to hear what you have to say.
BIG LOVE & HUGS