Back in the seminary, we had one Prof. Asuzu who could talk about human sexuality and sensuality like ‘no-man-business’. It was only in that man’s class that those who considered themselves above scandal, got scandalised. Jesuuu! This man would just ‘carry mouth’ and begin mentioning things that shouldn’t be mentioned. We would leave class ‘red-faced’ each time. But through it all, he gave us doses of raw truth, without mincing words. He taught us ‘stuffs’ we should have been told by our parents many years before. Above all, he made us realise the importance of boundaries.
So what’s the inappropriate touch? And how far is too far? I have had many young people (and even the ‘not so young’) tell me that they sometimes get groped. But many of them further add that they usually don’t do anything about it since ‘it’s not really a big deal.’ Well, let’s take a look at the meaning of ‘groping’. Then we can further try to determine whether or not it is inappropriate. Deal?
Wikipedia says that “when used in a sexual context, groping is touching or fondling another person in an unwelcome sexual way using the hands… though the term is sometimes used to include clumsy, selfish, or inappropriate sexual touching. Areas of the body most frequently groped include the buttocks, breasts, vulva and thighs on a woman, and the penis, testicles, and buttocks on a man. Gropers might use their hands, but pressing any part of their body against another person can be considered groping…” (please pardon wiki’s language, and for further reading cf. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groping).
To many ladies (and sometimes guys) living in the less privileged corners of their communities, groping is part of life. These folks get groped all the time, it’s no longer a big deal. Then there are ladies who work in male-dominated environments, like formal office settings, the armed forces, churches; not to mention hotels and bars. These latter groups complain about groping as well.
I believe that we very much have a right to determine who gets to touch us, when, and to what extent, even in marriages. So when someone (usually a superior) begins to touch us in areas we generally consider ‘private’, such a person should be summarily discouraged, either by a resounding slap or by politely expressing disapproval, depending on the context. In situations like these, ‘too far’ is as soon as it begins. There’s no point stalling, to see if the ‘groper’ will continue or stop of his/her own accord. This is an unnecessary risk.
Then there is the worrying scenario where minors get groped. It is worrying because these minors may not be able to fully understand what is happening, or have capacity to put an end to it. Here, parents have to be alert. It’s not about being the controlling dad or mom as soon as the ‘pretty daughter’ and the ‘handsome son’ come of age. Nah! It’s more about befriending that little child and telling him/her to come right to you the moment anyone (even close relatives) attempts touching them inappropriately. And be sure to explain clearly what inappropriateness means. Being the controlling parent later on in their lives is almost always pointless. By then, many of them would have been groped out of their innocence.
Finally, Prof. Asuzu always told us to set boundaries, as well as respect those set by others. He made us understand that we are rational human beings, and must always act as such. Above all, he told us that our values mean nothing if we do not see God in everyone.
Now tell me, how appropriate is groping?