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Casual reminder: Ask before touching

Kate Conway, @katchatters

Special contributor

7:00 PM CDT, June 5, 2014

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There's something about Pride Events -- and, honestly, queer-friendly spaces in general -- that turns otherwise rational, clear-headed adults into complete and total shitbags about sexual harassment.

To a point, I can see how someone might get confused. At Pride, for example, there tends to be a greater prevalence of nudity, day-drinking and glitter than on the average weekend afternoon. Attendees might be more relaxed about, say, kissing their girlfriends in public, or even inviting strangers to kiss them. And quite notably, the crowd will consist of a large mass of revelers whose sexual preferences are not at all compatible with each other.

Inevitably, all this seems to combine into people losing their damn minds about when it is OK to touch someone in a sexy way without their consent.

Most women I know who have been to gay bars have experienced this phenomenon: strange dudes, buoyed by a pitcher of Blue Drink and a stylized techno remix of "Let it Go," feel the need to grope them on the dance floor without asking.

"Um," the woman in question will say. "Knock it off, please."

"No, it's OK," the dude will reassure her. "I'm totally gay." As if not being attracted to someone gives you a pass to feel around under their bra for science.

This isn't limited to gay men assaulting women, of course. Just last week, a straight girl grabbed my guy friend's crotch at a Pride event in New Jersey, assuming that he was gay and therefore would find it hilarious or endearing. Naturally, said friend told her to stop, at which point she squealed with delight and kept doing it until he physically fled the scene.

And these are far from isolated incidents. All too often, in queer-friendly spaces like Pride, people casually disregard others' boundaries in the name of being "open-minded" or amusing their friends.

Worse: Because the apparently disparate sexual preferences of the parties involved mean that this interaction is unlikely to extend beyond the sidewalk or dance floor, those doing the groping usually don't even seem to think of their actions as assault. The person being touched identifies in a way that makes the very idea of genuinely pursuing them a joke to their gropers; the fact of their gender or sexual preference transforms touching them without their approval from an attack into a punchline. It's as if not wanting to bang someone, or knowing they don't want to bang you, renders all your interactions with them completely G-rated.

Which, of course, is not the case. I don't care if someone is walking around wearing nothing but a Borat-style banana hammock and "I <3 Cyberpunk Badger-boys" body paint; if they haven't given you permission to bite them on the ear, much less tug them back into your "Neuromancer"-themed sex burrow, don't do it. It doesn't matter how hot (or repulsive) they find you, or how hot (or repulsive) you find them. Consent shouldn't take a backseat just because there's a rainbow flag in plain view.

Kate Conway is a RedEye special contributor who also writes for xoJane.com. She plans on wearing that "Don't Fucking Touch Me" shirt to this year's Pride festivities.

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