This morning, while running errands, I decided to stop off at a Starbucks for a lovely much needed caffeine infusion of the iced variety. It is after all Southern California and it is summer. And it’s hot. As I was waiting in line for the opportunity to order my sugary frosty treat, I noticed that a man in line ahead of me was staring at me. Now, I am not a vain person, however, I am aware that I am somewhat cute and pretty physically fit – and sometimes men look. That’s fine. Whatever. I gave the dude a half-smile and went back to scrolling through email inbox on my phone. The line moved. I looked up and took a step forward and there was the dude. Still staring. This time he asked me, “May I see your tattoo?” referring to the somewhat large piece of ink I have on my upper arm. It was dim in the Starbucks, and I was standing with my arm turned away from him, so I said sure and turned it towards him so he could see it more clearly. I am used to this. I have a number of tattoos. Sometimes you can see them. Sometimes you can’t. And today, in a tank top (I said it was hot), there they are – in all their colorful glory for all the world to see. But then….
He took a step forward to look at the ink in question and grabbed my arm. Just below the elbow and twisted it towards him. Like I was made of rubber. Not only did it hurt a little to have my arm shockingly turned sideways in an unnatural position, but my offer of letting him look at my tattoo more closely DID NOT give him permission to grab me. Or to touch me at all. As one of my friends said when I told them the story “Look with your eyes, not with your hands! Didn’t we learn that in kindergarten?” My point exactly. I asked him to let go of my arm. I did not make a snarky comment about his having had grabbed me in a rather agressive manner without my consent – which would have been easy to do (and honestly, is usually my first instinct). I, also, did not punch him in the nose (which is usually my second instinct). I did, however, pull my arm back a little to let him know it was NOT OKAY TO TOUCH ME and said “Sorry, but do you mind letting go of me?” His response was to let go of my arm while muttering under his breath, “You don’t have to be bitchy about it.”
I’m sorry – BUT WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK????
Dude, you just grabbed a girl without her permission and twisted her arm sideways. You do not know this woman, you have never seen her before, you do not know anything about her. What the fuck makes you think that by asking to see her artwork you now have her permission to grab her? Or for that matter to touch her at all? Not only is it a violation of my personal space and my right not to be touched by random dudes in coffee shops, but let’s put this in another situation – say you see a girl wearing a t-shirt with a logo on it that is printed clearly over her breasts. You say to her “What does that say?” She turns to you so can read the shirt. Does this brief interaction now give you the right to grab her boobs? Yeah, didn’t think so. In fact, you’d get arrested if you did that. So what makes you think that my body art is any different? It is my body. It is my space. You are not invited into it because you may be an admirer of how I present it to the world.
I would just like to put this out there – a tattoo is a piece of artwork. You wouldn’t grab a painting in a museum to get a better look, would you? No. You would not. So what makes you think that just because I carry my artwork around with me all the time, I want your unwashed hands touching it? It’s not scratch and sniff. You’re not going to get anything extra out of it if you get to touch it. It is, as most art, meant to be looked at, not touched. So keep your grubby hands off me.
The next time you see a girl or anyone with a tattoo you admire, and you ask them to see it more clearly, please respect their boundaries. Yes, tattoos can be beautiful artwork, but they are also part of PEOPLE. Do not assume that the art takes away from the fact that it is on someone’s body. Be respectful. Look, don’t touch. Ask questions if you’re interested in it. I, like most people who have tattoos, are happy to answer any questions you have about them. If you want to know if it feels any different, then ask me that. But, if you are, like I suspect this guy was, just interested in touching me – at least have the common decency to ask me out to dinner first.
And then don’t call me a bitch if I say no because you’re a creepy douchebag.