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Groping Etiquette

Sex Ed

Groping Etiquette

I recently was groped on the bus by someone. It was a grab-and-go; a quick flash of someone’s hand tickling, then grabbing my ass just as I was about to board the bus. My foot reached the second step, and the crowd swelled and pushed past me even as I yelled “Excuse Me!” leaving me with no idea who did it, or really even why.

Contrary to comments I received when I recounted the story, such as “It’s a compliment!” and ” Guy probably couldn’t control himself … tight skirt, huh?”, I felt insulted and a bit scared—this act reminded me that I am not seen as fully human by many people in society, from the person who groped me to those who heard about this. They do not actually see me as a person with rights, thoughts and opinions over who gets to touch my body, or deserving of basic courtesy such as respecting personal space. I was reminded that I am regarded as an object, the same as a toy or candy off a shelf that can be grabbed and taken used as you wish, and especially game to be grabbed by men. This is probably because I am a young woman and not until very recently, a long historical narrative deemed women incapable of rational thought or sexual desire, let alone fundamental rights to decide for themselves who to marry, who to vote for, and who to have sex with.

However, I am a sex positive, touchy feeling kind of person, and I am fully capable of expressing sexual desire. I actually do have the right to decide who gets to touch my body, and molestation and rape are actually crimes. Being treated as an object makes me less, and not more inclined to sleep with you, so I find this grab-and-go mentality extremely detrimental to the odds of people having a good bonk. Let’s examine the scenario above, and establish some good ground rules for groping.


  • Make sure that whatever kind of groping happens, wherever it happens, is totally consensual. Consensual sexual relations are happy sexual relations. Consent—checking in and making sure that whoever you’re planning to grope is okay with it—is the most important thing.
  • Listen to what the other person is telling you. Yes means yes and no means no. To purposeful misunderstand or tell the other person to be “nice” when she doesn’t want your hands on her is the hallmark of a gigantic douche who has to resort to molestation to cop a feel.
  • Ask if you’re not sure. Different people want and are open to different degrees of physical attraction, especially in public spaces. For example, I would be totally fine with my boyfriend groping me on a bus or in a public space, because we have established a relationship where groping is a gesture of affection. However, not everyone would feel this way because everyone’s different.

Please, DON’T

  • Grope someone you don’t know. It’s not good manners (or it’s rude!) Touch is a very intimate sensation, and you usually want to know who’s touching you, and why. Even if you like being blindfolded, you usually know who’s blindfolding you. Why are you groping a stranger? Are you lonely? Talk to them and strike up a conversation instead. Do you wish to have sex with them? Again, talking and getting to know them, will go a long way further towards seeing if they’re interested in having sex with you than groping them. Are you excited by the thought of rape or non-consensual sex? There’s nothing wrong with having desires, but there is something wrong with hurting people. People have feelings, both physical and emotional, and touching them, or having sex with them against their will them would probably hurt their feelings, and is also a crime. Find someone who likes the same kinds of things you do, who would be willing to play out these fantasies and hopefully all will be much smoother from there.
  • Take someone’s attire as an invitation to be groped. That’s why even strip clubs have “No touching” rules—girls are in pasties to make a living, not to be groped. In addition, the last time I checked, clothes still didn’t have voices and aren’t speaking for the people wearing them. People have voices, and clothing isn’t a code or substitute for their voice.
  • Grab someone and assume they’ll like it. That’s why in cartoons and movies people get slapped across the faces, but do you see that person getting further into anyone’s pants? … Not really, even though this kind of behavior is still cheered on as macho. Trying really hard, but not getting laid, in some instances, is apparently still macho.

Generally, I feel that when women are treated as people with voices, and willing to be heard, we will speak up much more about our desires, especially our sexual desires, and share them with the world. Acts like groping strangers turn potentially positive sexual encounters to negative ones, which tend to turn them off to being sexy or open about their bodies in general, so let’s work together to encourage more open and safer sexual experiences for women

In hindsight, I saw a cute boy with the most luscious ass on the bus the other day. He was wearing bike shorts, which highlighted his perfect, spherical Michaelangelo-esque buns, tight spandex hiding nary a curve from the eye. He stood so close to me, but did I grab his buns? No. I controlled myself like a civilized person, made eye contact, smiled, and struck up a conversation.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock
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Josie Savant

Josie is an artist and writer who spent her formative years traversing peripheries of the world and moving around South East Asia. She graduated with a double degree from The New School in New York in 2012 and recently moved to Singapore. Her international background has given her a uniquely cosmopolitan perspective on sex. She is a strong advocate of women’s rights when it comes to sex, expressing oneself, and exercising muscles related to these activities. She wants to start a dialogue on modern dating, the cultivation of healthy relationships, and how feminism makes sex better.


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