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  1. #1
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    Physical boundary crossing

    I have a question I have been wondering aobut for a while...I guess it has to do with setting boundries with the opposite sex.? I am usually able to have really great friendships with males and there is usually not a problem with unwanted advances....they are usually pretty respectful and/or they see my husband glaring at them.? If I think that they are overly interested in a more-than-friends way, I am usually able to say in a round about way that I'm unavailabe and keep the whole thing pretty uneventful.

    However, the problem is that when a guy is physically forward I sort of blank out or freeze up and don't know how to stop them.? It's like if the boundry gets crossed far enough (which is pretty much anything physical) I feel powerless to do anything to stop it.?

    This reaction is problematic for me since it does seem like my fault, and definitely my husband gets mad (at least when he knows about it).

    So I was just wondering if anyone had any insight about this or similar feelings.

    Thanks guys?


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    Re: Physical boundary crossing

    Hey Toeless. I can certainly identify with your experience. One thing I've tried is to repeat to myself, "I am in control, this is my body and my life and I can do whatever I want". That means I can get up and leave, I can say, "stop" (or whatever) etc.

    I've had a number of situations when I am uncomfortable about what is happening, yet I freeze. This has happened during inappropriate times as well as within my consenting relationships. There were times in my past when i wasn't in control, but as an adult, I am in control now.

    Other times, my initial thoughts were, "Oh, but I don't want to make the other person feel uncomfortable". However, when I tell myself that, I am really telling myself that it's ok for me to feel uncomfortable but not for the other person to. That doesn't really make sense because chances are, the other person already knows I'm uncomfortable and is proceeding anyway. So, if they're only thinking about themselves, maybe I should only think about myself too.

    I don't know if that helps - but, I thought I'd respond to let you know that I've had similar feelings.

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    Re: Physical boundary crossing

    Other times, my initial thoughts were, "Oh, but I don't want to make the other person feel uncomfortable".
    That's exactly what I think when it happens to.? It's like I don't want to bring more attention to it and make it a bigger deal.? But then a lot of times it ends up being sort of a big deal anyway because it is so inappropriate.
    However, when I tell myself that, I am really telling myself that it's OK for me to feel uncomfortable but not for the other person to.? That doesn't really make sense because chances are, the other person already knows I'm uncomfortable and is proceeding anyway.? ?So, if they're only thinking about themselves, maybe I should only think about myself too.
    That's a really good point.?

    It all makes sense when you think about it ahead of time, but then when it happens and your not prepared for it, it is harder (at least for me) to intervene on my own behalf.? Then, when someone else intervenes when they see it happening, it kind of makes me feel even more speechless and objectified that someone else has taken over the situation for me.? It can be somewhat distressing to say the least...and if a third person becomes involved it seems like often the situation escalates.?

    Thanks for your response healthbound...it is nice to know someone else feels the same way because I never noticed any of my friends having that problem and I felt like i was the only one.? Hopefully I can improve the way I handle these situations...I need to improve it.

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    Re: Physical boundary crossing

    It all makes sense when you think about it ahead of time, but then when it happens and your not prepared for it, it is harder (at least for me) to intervene on my own behalf.
    Totally...when you're actually in the situation, it's sometimes difficult to identify ---because our natural reaction is to freeze = not do anything.

    Also, I identify with not wanting to draw attention to the situation either.

    Then, when someone else intervenes when they see it happening, it kind of makes me feel even more speechless and objectified that someone else has taken over the situation for me. It can be somewhat distressing to say the least...and if a third person becomes involved it seems like often the situation escalates.
    I'm assuming the third party was your husband? Not sure. Ironically, I remember a time when a 3rd party intervened. For me at that time, it was almost shocking because I didn't even realize that I or anyone else "could" intervene. I was really grateful and will never forget that moment or that person.

    But, I was not married and it was not even a boyfriend who stepped in. I imagine there would be other issues surrounding the situation if that were the case??

    Regardless, it's still an uncomfortable situation.

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    Re: Physical boundary crossing

    Totally...when you're actually in the situation, it's sometimes difficult to identify ---because our natural reaction is to freeze = not do a
    nothing.
    ? Exactly


    I'm assuming the third party was your husband?? Not sure
    ? Sometimes.?
    But, I was not married and it was not even a boyfriend who stepped in.? I imagine there would be other issues surrounding the situation if that were the case??
    ? Yes.

    One particular example I was thinking of when I wrote that was when I went on a weekend trip with two girlfriends not too long ago.? ?This man started coming on really strong and I didn't handle it very effectively.? My friend was trying to protect me and intervened, which led this guy to say something really rude to her.? She ended up slapping him across the face (and he was a city councilor of the town we were visiting which was kind of freaky ) and I was worried that she could have gotten into trouble for doing that and/or could make him really mad.?Luckily everything turned out alright that time.
    So anyway, that's one example of one of those situations that went really awry...escalating the situation and whatnot.

    It would be nice if people could keep their hands more to themselves!!

    It sounds like when someone intervened for you it went a lot better.? I agree that it can be nice sometimes--like when it gets especially aggressive or uncomfortable, then you do need someone.

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    Re: Physical boundary crossing

    I find those situations really challenge our assertiveness skills. I have found that it's much worse in a in a bar or club, because there is alcohol involved. Plus, some people go to clubs to intentionally "pick up", so maybe some people thing everyone else is there doing the same thing?

    But, it also happens outside of clubs or bars. I've worked mostly with men all my life. I was very lucky to be around many men who were VERY respectful of me and of all women. But there was always at least a couple of guys that would either "test the waters" or blatantly cross the line. I literally would just stare at them and shake my head because they were so clearly inappropriate.

    I never minded the times when someone bought flowers for me, asked me out or even just came by to chat a little too often. I found that flattering. It was more the guys that were married and continually trying to "get with me" that bothered me. Sort of like the city councilor - you just don't expect that kind of behavior from them.

    I often felt offended, like I was maybe giving off some "vibe" that somehow told these guys that I was attracted to them or would consider engaging in unethical behavior with them. I felt very awkward knowing what I knew about them and then being introduced to their wives. Yuck.

    Anyway, in those situations, I observed the way men interacted with each other and then I learned to communicate with them in a way that they understood. I learned to be tactful but strong by communicating through action, banter and humor. I didn't want to offend them, but I wanted to get my message across in a way that would allow me to be taken seriously. Surprisingly, I actually gained more respect from them as well as from their peers.

    Sometimes I felt guilty just for being an attractive and friendly woman in business. It was as if those characteristics couldn't coexist (maybe similar to being an attractive woman in a bar?). I think it still must be a bit challenging for some men to know how to relate to us sometimes. In my work situations, I think part of some of their behavior was simply because they didn't know how to make sense of me being there. Or maybe they figured -because I'm a single mom that somehow meant that I was ok with having careless sex or something - lol....no idea, I'm just guessing here

    And for right or for wrong, I realized that I had to became more aware of the perfumes I used, the clothes I wore the makeup I applied etc. I learned that there was a certain power attached to being a women and therefore it was up to me to use that power responsibly (again, for right or for wrong).

    I hope what I wrote doesn't sound like I think I (or you) are responsible for men who overstep their boundaries with us. Because they are absolutely responsible for their own actions. However, I do recognize that there is much we can do to help cultivate or deflect some of that unwanted attention. Regardless, we live in a world and a time where we are learning to be more assertive about both our right to set boundaries as well as our right to be who we are -both internally and externally.

    Interesting thread

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    Re: Physical boundary crossing

    It would be nice if people could keep their hands more to themselves!!
    it's funny, i've found myself in situations like that before where i was so complacent and shy when put in a position like that, but then afterwards i was soooo angry.

    maybe try to keep this in mind the next time it happens.

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    Re: Physical boundary crossing

    Well I'm glad I posted that question because once again I find people here with similar feelings or experiences that I thought I was pretty much alone in having.

    Healthbound, you make some good points about this. When you speak in terms of cultivating or discouraging that type of thing I totally agree. However sometimes I struggle with what I perceive to be person freedom vs. avoiding cultivating some situations (my original post wasn't just about this type of situation but now that we are talking about it I would like to get any input on this too). I realize that going out with all girls to places, that someone is more likely to get attention (or unwanted advances) from the opposite sex. They are clearly much more likely to approach and act forward than if you went out with other males, particularly a spouse or a boyfriend. However, it seems ridiculous to me that if I want to go out with my friends that we should have to bring a male protector? That seems so stone ages to me. On the other hand, it's clearly safer.
    After that aforementioned weekend out with my friends, my one friend that slapped the guy was so upset she kept saying "next time we'll bring Steve (her boyfriend)". Is it really necessary to bring a male bodyguard? Wouldn't that just be perpetuating the helpless feelings or maybe it is just a smart thing to do.

    And one other thing I wanted to mention that I had been thinking about since this thread, was that during situations where obvious/forward verbal or physical advances are being made I think I start feeling not like an adult, but more like a little girl. It's not really bad or obvious, I don't think, and maybe only I notice it, but it seems to make my voice go up higher and I am not able to speak with much authority, etc. I feel like when these males make advances that they are not hitting on some sex kitten or anything-it's more like they are hitting on a little girl. I mean, that how it feels sometimes. That is so strange that it feels that way--I have no idea why and I really would like to stop it.

    g-scared--good point I will try to keep that in mind, maybe I can get some assertiveness from that thought.

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    Re: Physical boundary crossing

    Hey Toeless, great points.

    However, it seems ridiculous to me that if I want to go out with my friends that we should have to bring a male protector? That seems so stone ages to me. On the other hand, it's clearly safer.
    I agree. I think it IS ridiculous that there are still men who somehow still think it's ok to cross our physical boundaries...regardless of where we are, what we are doing, who we are with, what we are wearing, how we are acting, etc etc etc. I also think it's ridiculous that anyone -male or female- still experiences that kind of boundary crossing in this day and age. But, it does happen. And it seems to happen a lot.

    Is it really necessary to bring a male bodyguard? Wouldn't that just be perpetuating the helpless feelings or maybe it is just a smart thing to do.
    I agree that one shouldn't have to bring a male protector with them when they go out and I think it definitely could contribute to the helpless feelings. That's why I thought it was important for me to figure out a way to be able to deal with these situations on my own. I thought I needed to learn how to protect myself because I would not always have someone to protect me. However, I still struggle with assertiveness sometimes.

    And one other thing I wanted to mention that I had been thinking about since this thread, was that during situations where obvious/forward verbal or physical advances are being made I think I start feeling not like an adult, but more like a little girl. It's not really bad or obvious, I don't think, and maybe only I notice it, but it seems to make my voice go up higher and I am not able to speak with much authority, etc. I feel like when these males make advances that they are not hitting on some sex kitten or anything-it's more like they are hitting on a little girl. I mean, that how it feels sometimes. That is so strange that it feels that way--I have no idea why and I really would like to stop it.
    I can definitely identify with feeling really young in these situations (it seems synonymous with freezing, actually). I also feel angry and disgusted when I think of the fact that some men are attracted to that. I don't like that at all.

    I find I'm getting a bit "spaced out" while writing this.

    I don't know much about your past, but for me, I think the freezing and feeling like a child are flashbacks. My body and mind have a memory and so when those are triggered by similar circumstances, my body and mind reacts like it did when I was younger. And not having been protected or taught that I even could protect myself from similar things left me docile in those scenarios as an adult. I still work on this a lot today. I find it difficult to "remember" that I am now an adult and that I actually CAN and have a right to stop any behavior that I'm uncomfortable with----at any time for any reason.

    For some reason, instead I begin thinking about the other person and then either freeze and disconnect from my feelings all together.

    It doesn't even need to happen in a bar or in the workplace either. I've experienced this 3 different times in my relationship (that I'm no longer in) too.

    Anyway, it's late and I'm not sure if I'm even making much sense because I'm tired and am also finding it a bit challenging to stay focused without spacing out too much . I'll write more tomorrow after I've slept.

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    Re: Physical boundary crossing

    And one other thing I wanted to mention that I had been thinking about since this thread, was that during situations where obvious/forward verbal or physical advances are being made I think I start feeling not like an adult, but more like a little girl.? It's not really bad or obvious, I don't think, and maybe only I notice it, but it seems to make my voice go up higher and I am not able to speak with much authority, etc.?
    I had an experience like this once.? My professor, whom I had always had a professional relationship with, tricked me into going on a date with him.? He not only took me on a date, but to his house while his wife was out of town.? The whole situation was so terribly uncomfortable, and disillusioning.? And I remember how complacent I was, how shy and awckward I acted, when I should have just gone to the bathroom or something and made a phone call and asked a friend to rescue me.? I didn't have a car, and did not even know how to give directions to the place.? It wasn't until well afterwards that I was overcome with a so much anger, anger at him and at myself for acting that way.?

    I avoided him for weeks, months and he would call me and send me emails.? Fortunately, nothing happened in the way of physical advancements, but I was afraid of him from that day forth.? It was difficult, and I have to admit that if it were not for my boyfriend, to whom I refer to as J, I would not had made any formal disputes against him.? So, I did challenge him with a sexual harrasment complaint.? He did not get in any trouble in the end, it was my word against his, but I think it really scared him, and he ended up fearing me and leaving the school on his own.? A year later I hear that he is wreaking havoc at another school, breaking rules and just plain being a bad teacher.? He was always one of these types that tried to be a little too cool around his students.? I also hear that he has been having affairs with other women for years, one of them actually visited us on campus, and he used his students to help her on her projects! He is also, obviously having problems with his marriage.

    Not that I not care much about his personal life, but I have to admit I feel a little vindicated and glad that he will think twice before he goes after a student.?

    I think these feelings of helplessness have a lot to do with a power differential.? Women have struggeled with this for so long, and it has not been an easy battle to defend our human rights.? Be true to yourself.? If anything, let the guy know how uncomfortable he makes you feel.? Do NOT ignore yourself, or sacrifice your comfort for another.? I know it is easier said than done, but if we want change we should stand up for it.? ?

    Take care.?

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