Yesterday I started writing up today’s post. It was inspired by something that happened to me, and I wanted to discuss it. But it is a subject I have a very hard time giving a voice to. So hard of a time, in fact, that when it occurs in my life, I am momentarily paralyzed and left speechless. This makes it very hard to write a blog post about it, and even harder to stop it from happening in my life.
The importance of boundaries
When we cannot be clear about our boundaries, they tend to get violated. Sometimes people honestly don’t know that they are crossing the line, and sometimes people want to see just how far they can push you. Either way, until I speak up about my boundaries, they will continue to be violated. In the moment, I am shocked into paralysis.
Afterward, once I have regained my composure and ability to think, I am too chicken to address the issue with the line-crosser. I don’t want to stir the pot, I just want the problem to go away all by itself. I want someone else to deal with it. So I complain to my husband about it. But it really isn’t his job to enforce my boundaries. I know where my boundaries are (at least in theory), and I am the only one who can properly articulate them. Quite honestly, expecting him to protect my boundaries is a form of objectifying myself, making myself his property.
I guess these boundary violations that I experience would be called micro-aggressions. Or maybe mini-aggressions. They are more aggressive than cat calling, or being told to smile, but they aren’t full out assaults. They are the inappropriate touch. My husband is the only person with permission to rest his hand on my knee or thigh. My husband and my gynecologist are the only people with permission to touch my boobs in any fashion for any reason. If you wouldn’t touch your daughter that way, don’t touch me that way.
They are the inappropriate remarks. It is inappropriate for anyone to remark that if his wife (of whom I am quite fond) were gone and I weren’t already married that he would marry me. Not that he would be interested in courting me, but that he would marry me, as if I had no say in the matter. I am completely not interested in him that way and never under any circumstances would I be. It is inappropriate to remark on the form of my legs while I am trying to help someone move a large piece of equipment while wearing a skirt over leggings. It is inappropriate to say that you enjoy working very closely with pretty young women when you are asking me for assistance with something.
So why haven’t I said anything about it yet? It is fear. I am afraid of damaging our relationship. As I write this, I realize that is nonsensical, since he is already damaging the relationship, even if he doesn’t know it. It is fear of retaliation. That also is nonsensical because I know that he does not mean me any harm. He probably thinks he is flattering me. It is also just a deep unnameable fear that is nurtured by our rape culture that teaches women that they should just shut up and not rock the boat. Boys will be boys, and all that disempowering nonsense.
Boundaries don’t have to be sexual in nature, either. Gossip is another form of boundary violation. I don’t think that most people think of it that way. Gossip is when you share someone else’s personal information without their permission. It doesn’t matter if they shared the information publicly before. Walking around in a bikini on the beach doesn’t mean that you can take off someone’s clothes in the mall. I really don’t need to know that someone I am considering doing a business transaction with suffered a personal loss several years ago. I don’t need to know the financial difficulties of your friends. That is their business, not mine. What information of mine is being shared? Just because I am sharing some news with one person, doesn’t mean I want the whole world to know.
Just like my body, my experiences are mine to share when and with whom I decide. And just because I shared something once doesn’t mean I want to discuss it again. I don’t necessarily want the world to know if I suffered a miscarriage, or am battling cancer, or was abandoned by my husband, or am being audited by the IRS. (None of these personally apply to me, I am trying to make a point.) These are all still violations of boundaries.
When it comes to gossip, women and men seem to be equally guilty. Gossip is usually considered a woman’s sin and lechery a man’s, but my experience is that both genders are guilty of both. I have met gossipy men and lecherous women. We all need to respect boundaries, and we all (myself included) need to enforce our boundaries, despite being taught by our society that we shouldn’t.
Have you experienced boundary violations that you would like to share? How did you handle it?