Everyone’s seen the headlines by now. Grabby grandpa Joe Biden is in trouble for making a growing list of women feel uncomfortable with his unhinged displays of physical affection. A few months back it was Neil DeGrasse Tyson, excoriated in the social media-sphere for getting too goddamn handsy with colleagues and coworkers.
From my understanding, none of the offending events was sufficient to land Biden or Tyson a ticket to Cosby-Weinstein Island, a place populated by vile degenerates with no place in civil society. But neither does that make all this wild touching of strangers okay.
It’s a simple fact that there is a wide spectrum of human behavior, one dimension of which is introversion-extroversion. You could probably even chart it out on something like a normal curve. The fat middle bit would be populated by regular folks who like spending time with their fellow humans but also occasionally feel beset by social obligations.
Then you have the long tails.
Somewhere out there lives a haunted creature, trembling before the omnipresent threat of another human’s gaze. This is the consummate introvert, living alone on the far tip of the left tail of the distribution. Somewhere else strides a bloviating attention magnet that will crumple up and blow away if folks stop looking at it. Here we see the zenith of friendly, outgoing confidence. This cacophonous monstrosity stands proudly astride the very tip of the right tail, eager to ruin your day with a pat on the back.
In an ideal universe, these two creatures would be kept separate, never the twain shall meet. Alas, reality just isn’t that simple. Humans are social creatures—even the most dedicated introverts sometimes have to suffer the sights and sounds of their fellow primates.
But in this cruel reality, it should be recognized that introversion—though a strange and often debilitating curiosity—is rarely an imposition on others. Extroversion, however—particularly of the grabbier varieties—can be and often is.
Putting aside important questions about what is and is not appropriate when two people with different genitals interact (no one knows how these interactions should be carried out and probably no one ever will) it seems reasonable enough to suggest that it is never, ever appropriate for someone very comfortable with human touch to assume anyone else shares that proclivity.
Extreme extroverts need to pause in executing that friendly hug or encouraging shoulder rub and ask themselves a simple question: “Does this person actually want to be touched?” From there, it’s a simple step to recognize the answer is, always, eternally and universally, “no.”
Think of the progress that flows from this realization. All at once, we have a cultural norm that prohibits lecherous, orange-faced buffoons who somehow stumble into high political office from assaulting women. Meanwhile, the well-meaning gregarious—who maybe really just want to say “hello” or “thanks” or “go get em, tiger”—are sharply discouraged from putting their hands on politely smiling strangers.
All of which is to say:
If you aren’t a member of someone’s immediate family or loading them into the back of an ambulance, don’t fucking touch them.