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Stop Hugging Me

“I can never consent to being dictated to.” -John Tyler

As the whole harassment policy-conferences-feminism-sexism debacle drags on, there are more and more people writing dumbshit stuff about feminism and consent within the atheist community. I was reading through some skeptic blogs and read a few posts on hugging. This is one of them.

This post specifically finds fault with this aspect of the American Atheist code of conduct:

“You are encouraged to ask for unequivocal consent for all activities during the conference. No touching other people without asking. This includes hands on knees, backs, shoulders — and hugs (ask first!). There are folks who do not like to be touched and will respect and like you more if you respect their personal space.”

Apparently. this is “intrusive, infantilising, officious, badly thought through, and generally, to say the least, unfortunate – not to mention impractical.”

Yes, asking for consent is intrusive. That’s why you never ask for consent before, say, sitting next to someone (Is this seat taken?) or moving into someone’s personal space (Excuse me, can I get by you?”) or before touching someone else’s stuff (Can I move this bag?)

Greta Christina has a great post on hugging and handshakes in which she outlines how to properly hug someone, because apparently that wasn’t clear. Anyone who thinks consent requires a release form has been watching too much Law & Order. Look, if you open your arms to hug someone and they smile and step towards you and open their arms back, congratulations, you’ve gotten consent. With your body language, you have said “May I hug you?” and the other person has said “Yes you may.” If they don’t, then stop trying to fucking hug them.

You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and touch their stuff right? So why do people think it’s ok to walk up to a stranger and touch their person?

  • Effie Wkd

    People totally walk up to strangers and touch their stuff.  These people just happen to be assholes.

  • Molly Rene


  • Jeff

    “Look, if you open your arms to hug someone and they smile and step towards you and open their arms back, congratulations, you’ve gotten consent.”

    No…it says no *touching* other *people* without *asking*. It does NOT say, “Don’t hug/grope strangers if they don’t want you to.” It says, I repeat: “no TOUCHING other PEOPLE without ASKING” [emphasis added].

    All of the five definitions I see there state or at least imply a verbal question.

    That means: “Pardon me, good chap, would you mind so terribly much if I should happen to tap you on the shoulder to draw your attention?”

    “Why certainly. I wouldn’t mind at all.”

    “Ok, then. Allow me to proceed…” (tap)

    Notice also that it makes no distinction of whether you know the person or not. If you tap your friend of 20 years on the shoulder without first asking for permission–verbally, with words–you are guilty of violating this code of conduct. That’s ridiculous, you say? Exactly. If it meant, “Don’t touch anyone unless you’re pretty sure they wouldn’t mind,” then it should have said that.

    “So why do people think it’s ok to walk up to a stranger and touch their person?” Exactly. They absolutely shouldn’t. So why does there need to be a specific policy? Or if there does need to be a policy, why doesn’t it say, “Don’t
    walk up to a stranger and touch their person,” instead of what it actually says?

    But seriously though, what’s this all about anyway? Is there an epidemic of mad-huggers on the loose?

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