Stop touching pregnant women's bellies

<i></i>

“I almost got you one of those T-shirts, you know,” my stepmother told me.

“What T-shirts?” I asked. 

“The ones that say, ‘Hands off the bump!’ I knew you’d hate people touching you.”

Bingo! Unfortunately, though, my stepmother didn’t buy me the shirt, and even if she did, I doubt it would have stopped countless people from angling for a grope of my gigantic stomach. I am fairly certain people see those shirts as a joke (I think my stepmother did, too) and respond to them with a slightly less offensive version of “Aww… it thinks it’s people.”

Like pretty much every pregnant woman that ever was, I had to deal with this unwanted touching on a case-by-case basis. Work colleague strangely fascinated by pregnancy? Yeah, go for it. Stranger I met in the park while walking my dogs? No thank you.

But if I get pregnant again, it might be time to pull up stumps and move to Pennsylvania, where a law has just been passed to prevent people from touching pregnant bellies without permission. It was borne of a case where a man, unknown to the pregnant woman, touched her stomach repeatedly, even after being told to stop.

Touching anyone without their permission, at any time, is harassment, plain and simple. At a time when women are already physically and emotionally vulnerable, this is the height of douchebaggery. And yep, there should definitely be a law against it.

But why? Isn’t it just common decency to not touch someone without their permission? Yes, yes it is. It is also common decency to not sexually harass a person, to not rape someone, to not kill them, to not steal their car. Sadly, we can’t always rely on the common decency of offenders. Hence, the law. But isn’t this going a bit far? Couldn’t the woman just tell the man to stop? She did. And he didn’t. In the majority of cases, people will ask before touching. And if they do touch sans permission, the majority will stop when asked. But laws are in place to protect the majority from an aberrant minority.

So what now? Are we all meant to just say hello to every pregnant woman we meet and not make them feel even more like freaks by rubbing their tummies? Don’t women know that when they have babies, they’re fulfilling a social contract that makes them public property?

If the roles were reversed, I doubt any man would see unwanted touching by a stranger as harmless fun. It would be assault, right? And whether the touching is violent or sexual or neither of these things, if it makes someone feel intimidated, scared or uncomfortable, it is assault too.

Pregnant women shouldn’t need t-shirts or laws to protect them from being manhandled, just like, in an ideal world, we wouldn’t need laws to protect us from violence or abuse. But we do. And I’m glad that this time, the law is on our side.

Now, can we please pass a law that prevents people from asking us how much weight we’ve gained during pregnancy?

 

71 comments

  • Good God I didn't mind at all. The pregnant belly is an amazing thing and people just feel a desire to somehow experience it. I think you and all your fellow feminist nutters are a really sad and deeply selfish lot. Yeah yeah women's bodies blah blah blah ad infinitum. ....

    Commenter
    lizzy
    Date and time
    November 01, 2013, 6:37AM
    • Good God what is wrong with you? Deeply selfish for not wanting OUR OWN bodies to be touched by whoever? Wow! Just because you don't mind doesn't mean others don't. Feminist nutters? Sounds like you're the nutty one.

      Commenter
      Mandi
      Location
      Syd
      Date and time
      November 01, 2013, 10:03AM
    • As someone who hates being touched in general, pregnancy opened the floodgate of entitlement in the population to touch what they should not.If someone comes near my bump, I physically push them away.
      It is hardly selfish to expect clambering paws to feel welcome.

      Commenter
      Mas
      Location
      Penrith
      Date and time
      November 01, 2013, 10:06AM
    • Oh yes, I'm the nutty one. When I was pregnant people occasionally put their hand on my belly and I felt I was sharing something special. I think feminist nutters are incredibly uptight about pretty much everything. Soon we will be calling the belly touch some kind of assault and making laws about it ...Oh wait!!

      Commenter
      lizzy
      Date and time
      November 01, 2013, 10:09AM
    • Yeah Mas and Mandi but a law!!!????

      Commenter
      lizzy
      Date and time
      November 01, 2013, 10:14AM
    • If you re-read the article the law was enacted because a man was told to stop touching the belly and he didn't. I think the point of the article is that it is common decency to ask before touching. If you want to go ahead and make us 'nutty feminists' out to be extremists and add your own interpretation and morals onto the matter go ahead. But putting down your own gender because some of us want to stand up and say 'enough to women's bodies being made the property of everyone' is akin to living in the 50s. How was the time capsule ride?

      Commenter
      Mandi
      Location
      Syd
      Date and time
      November 01, 2013, 10:39AM
    • I think lizzy might want to take a moment to get off her special snowflake pedestal and reread the article.
      The laws aren't there to make it so someone can never touch you again, the laws are there to stop harrassment.
      There is nothing stopping anyone from simply saying 'Can I?' as they reach out to your belly and you saying a 'yes' so you can share whatever special moment/bonding/sharing/whatever.

      Commenter
      Kat
      Date and time
      November 01, 2013, 10:46AM
    • Yes well the snowflakes will certainly melt when we read the headlines about a vicious belly touching mother-in-law who forgot to ask!!!, sued for millions for the devastating belly attack on her daughter-in-law. Looking forward to that one.

      Meanwhile in Bangladesh....

      Commenter
      lizzy
      Date and time
      November 01, 2013, 10:59AM
    • So let me get this straight.... not letting a stranger touch my pregnant belly is selfish? Imagine if you touched a pregnant woman's belly, and she responded by touching your (non-pregnant) belly in the same way. Wouldn't you think it strange? That's because it is. A woman's belly does not become public property just because she is pregnant.
      What if a pregnant woman is a victim of assault and strangers touching her is traumatising? Is that a valid 'excuse' to say no? Must she be further traumatised by having to explain her reasons to somebody like you who apparently thinks that not letting somebody touch her belly is unreasonable? Some pregnant women like it when others touch their belly. That's fine, go ahead and enjoy it. But that doesn't mean that all pregnant women have to be comfortable with it. Your own life and beliefs are not applicable to all.
      Your comment about "feminist nutters" (i.e. tarring all feminists with the same feminist extremist brush) just makes me wonder (though not assume) if you might be the type that also thinks that all Muslims are terrorists, or all Christians are bigots, or all fat people are lazy pigs. You're not exactly presenting yourself in the best light are you?

      Commenter
      Ames
      Date and time
      November 01, 2013, 11:00AM
    • I agree with lizzy. The headline to the article says 'stop touching pregnant women's bellies' as if it's something people shouldn't do. I'm sorry the author has issues with this but I wish people with issues wouldn't assume to speak for the entire female population.

      I loved people touching my belly when I was pregnant. It's a warm and connecting moment.

      Commenter
      flo
      Date and time
      November 01, 2013, 12:04PM

More comments

Comments are now closed