Don’t touch me – I don’t come cheap!

I am well and truly overcome.  With anger.

Yesterday as I went about loading my washing, one of my new housemates had the nerve to put his grubby hands on my waist as he passed me by, acting like it was okay to touch me without my consent. I recoiled in horror and all he gave me was a smile that I read to mean, “Come on, you actually really liked that.”

My body is my kingdom

It hasn’t been two weeks that I have been living in this new place and by Day 2, I had already singled this one housemate out as a jerk. After a few harmless conversations, he’d  zeroed in on my relationship status asking me that afternoon – on Day 2 – if my boyfriend came from Kenya “because I’ve already seen you wearing two Kenyan T-shirts since you came”. I was taken aback by this line of questioning, particularly since I had initially reckoned the guy to be a friendly soul. But after this, I realised he was a bit too friendly. All the same, I chose to tell him the truth that no, my boyfriend did not come from Kenya and that instead, I simply loved the country.

Day 3. The man decides to get more direct.

“So does a beautiful girl like you have a boyfriend?” he asked.

“Yes,” I lied.

“Where does he live?”

“In this area,” I lied some more.

And that was that… or so I thought.

Then came the comments about how beautiful my hair looked, how pretty my dress was, how lovely and tall I was. All I have given him back these past two weeks are curt responses to show him how I really didn’t care for his opinion.

And then yesterday evening, he decided to put his grubby hands on me.

Once I’d regained my senses, I felt the anger melt my insides like lava getting ready to erupt from a volcano.  Still I managed to maintain a calm tone with him because I didn’t want to get angrier than I was. I plainly told him to NEVER  touch me again; to never ask me personal questions about my life again because we were not friends, just housemates, not friends! Ask me how my day was or make comments about the weather but don’t dare delve into my private life or space. We are NOT friends!

A woman’s body, when she chooses, is her paradise.

And you know what he did? Do you know what all 6 foot-plus and 40 years of age of him decided to do?

He did what so many men do when they violate women; what women who’ve been abused endure so often.

He played it in reverse and made it seem like it was all my fault. Of course, he apologised at first but when I kept silent because I was still seething too much to speak, he flipped the switch and I became the devil and he the saint.

“From now on you are a ghost in this house. You don’t exist to me!”

His tone had gone from gentle to increasingly steely.

“I didn’t ask to be a ghost,” I retorted. “I asked for respect as a human being you share a house with!”

And then he began to walk off, but stopped after a few paces to point a big index finger in my direction.

“I am so much older than you, do you hear me?!”

I didn’t respond because yes, he is correct. He is much older than me – in age, but not in actions.

“Do you hear me?” he repeated after I’d failed to respond the first time.

“But I thought you said I was a ghost to you, so why are you still talking to me?” I asked.

And then he walked off.

The guilt trip. The ugly guilt trip that men who can’t take a woman standing up to them play. How dare he, for a second, assume to put the insensitivity of his misdeeds into my lap?! I am still burning with rage.

This happened to me before, and then I was ten years old, far too young to know what to say or do. As I walked home, an old vagabond came down the street towards me, dragging an old dirty sack on his back. I had stopped at the window of one of my favourite boutiques and was peering in at a pair of glass shoes when he approached me and tried to fondle me. Thankfully, two older women came marching towards me and prevented him from getting beyond reaching for my chest. But then I heard a few weeks later that a friend’s sister had been a victim of this man. In absolute broad day light.

Who the hell do you think you are to touch me; to touch us?!

She is a queendom

I was saved again, at about the same age, when a pair of older schoolgirls told me to get off the bus-stop bench where I was sitting and wait along the roadside with them for the next bus. If my head hadn’t been buried in a book, I might have noticed that the man sitting about one-and-a-half metres away from me on that still and sunny afternoon had unzipped his trousers and was performing sex acts on himself.

I have had saviours. And today, I know how to stand up for myself. But what about those 10-year-olds who don’t have adults looking out for them? What about those women who get fondled then beaten then raped then try to speak but get a laugh of ridicule thrown into their faces, or worse still, that wagged finger of blame. It was all your fault.

I am angry beyond imagining, beyond words, beyond anger itself. I am angry because though I stood up for myself, I am still left with that feeling of fear. What if I’ve just fuelled a fire? Did I overreact? Would I feel less awful if I’d have just kept quiet?

Isn’t this why so many of us keep quiet until something ‘really serious’ happens?  In our minds, we somehow justify that it was all well-meant and that to say anything would be to blow it all out of hand.

Well, I am not playing that game. If I let you touch my waist, then where next will your hands feel comfortable to navigate? Will it be my back, my butt, my breast?! No thank you. Your hands have absolutely no business on any inch of my skin, unless I allow them there. My skin is like fine silk and my body is a queendom.

I am not for free!

16 thoughts on “Don’t touch me – I don’t come cheap!

  1. This is a topic that burns for every woman on the planet. Almost. Somewhere out there are the women that are never done to like this because they have built their boundaries with their souls and they are recognized by everyone.

    I am not one of those women. I am 57 years old and am still being acted upon aggressively because I have not yet figured out how to protect myself without being cold and angry and venomous.

    There is a way but I don’t know it yet. And our mothers should teach us. And our fathers. If they knew. Just 2 weeks ago the 91 year old man I was helping look after treated me with this kind of disrespect and I was outraged.

    And I said nothing.

    Yes, part of this is the tragedy of the man who wants something about what we have – whether it is strength or joy or compassion – and HIS only way of expressing it is through sex. It is a tragedy. And I am still sick of it.

    I am done being done to. I will learn to build my protective barriers that keep predators out, but allow the gentle souls in and for my joy to still be a part of me. I don’t want to be hard or unloving or unfriendly. I just don’t want one more man to feel that he can touch me and imply sexuality that is neither wanted or welcome or sought.

    I am learning. Thank you for reminding me I am not alone.

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  2. Hi i totally understand what you are talking about. Abused women suffer from reverse psychology, my ex always blames me for causing him to leave me and date another woman, marry her and later date another one. He blamed me for a million things and you know what, that made me stay in there for a longer time. Now that i think about it, those were his opinions, his justification for that and i really do not blame him, that is after all what makes him sleep at night in the face of the abuse he poure dout onme. Nevertheless now i know i did not deserve any of that nonsense and worse still, there is no justification for his actions. God is for us all and not for one person, but for us all, in due course people will get whats coming to them. What we should do howveer in this time is to teach all the younger girls and ladies the art of standing up for themselves, and never, i repeat never letting their guard down so others can take advantage of them. Our biggest wekness is fear and we need to learnt to be strong and frealess in the face of abuse and harrasement. I salute you for writing this. Well done.

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  3. I can relate! But for me this experience was as recent as this year February when I was in Albany in the States and some Zimbabwean (whom I only know through Facebook) decided to ‘escort’ me to some sight-seeing places there and take photos…
    Now this guy is well in his 40s, a former lecturer of some of my colleagues back home and I had no idea he was such a slimy sleazebag until he invited me to a share a room with him in a house that has plenty of room for me to sleep by my damn self and I had even told him that I would take the couch in the event that there was no room to spare….(why the FART would I want to share a bed with that married old billy goat I had only ever first set eyes on 4 hours before?)
    So Day 1 – was the ‘it’s cheaper to share a room’ nonsense that I politely declined. (Do not ask me why politeness got the better of me…I was in a new environment being hosted by a nice Zimbabwean lady I had only ever spoken to over the phone and that he knew better than I. So my manners were out in full force to ensure that I am a good house guest)
    So Day 2 – out taking pictures in the snow (which he had insisted on and the nice Zimbabwean lady hosting us had encouraged) – he sees me lying and frolicking in the snow…taking pictures and all care free and then when I get up with snow on my butt (understandably)….he races….I mean breaks into a sprint to come over and brush the snow off my BUTT!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I was so bloody ANGRY Fungai!!!!!!! I was soooooo soooo ANGRY and I felt violated…surely; I did NOT need or request any help with wiping snow off my behind and he acted as if he were merely concerned for my outfit…..DAMN IT!!!!!! Ndakatsamwa shamwari!!!!!!
    I will never forget how that pervert ,made me feel!!!!! And to make matters worse…..I said NOTHING!!!!!!
    The nice Zimbabwean hosting lady was there, I did NOT want to cause a scene because I knew if I took the lid off my mouth there would be no stopping me…. and also because I didn’t want to be seen as someone who’s overreacting since it was so quick….one second he was there – the next he was touching and brushing at my butt and the next that weasle was yards away from my body taking more snapshots as if there were nothing abnormal about him touching me!
    Aahh,,, this post has touched a RAW nerve….I will meet that man one day and I know…I just KNOW that I will tell HIM!!!!!!!!!!
    Nonsense idiotic, moronic, disrespectful and uncultured imbecile!!!!!!!!! (not you dear….HIM)

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  4. I totally understand you anger. I have been dealing with the same problems here in Egypt. Men who do see me as a human being but an object they can denigrate and do with as they wish. They call names and whisper stuff, grab my butt and boobs. On my very first day it was a taxi driver who put his hands on my boobs. I hate these losers!!!

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  5. I am 100% behind you Fungie…..nobody has a right to touch a woman in any way that makes her feel uncomfortable/threatened/violated. The biggest problem with most men is that they are quick to ASSUME that they can have any woman they want, anywhere, anytime and that’s why some of them are rapists.
    So my guess is from the first time you guys started staying together he ASSUMED he could have you in bed hustle free. Wamugona wena. We should always stand up for ourselves.
    Him trying to flip the whole thing on you, was embarrassment. Just stand your ground girl even if he ignores you like he was threatening to, ndezvake izvo, he should “go hang” (to quote one African leader). There are lots of women out there who want that kind of fooling around, he should go to them.
    NOBODY, i repeat NOBODY has a right to touch a woman without her consent. Vasingazive ngavadzidziswe for we “don’t come cheap”

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  6. This is weird. In an incredibly revolting way. I was ten years old too, sitting at a bus stop when a vagabond tried to grope my thighs. luckily my mom was near by and had seen him and shooed him away. The whole we-are-“friends”-s-it’s-ok-if-I-put-my-arm-around-you or It’s-fine-if-lean-into-you-during-bouts-of-laughter thing was so annoying as a student. And for a long time now, as a policy, I do not shake hands lest someone feels the need to hold on to my hand a little too long. So invasive! Space people, personal space and damn it RESPECT!!!!

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  7. I applaud your courage to talk about an issue many women just bury in their psyche when it happens. I hope that your speaking out will encourage other women to do the same. Theissue of violation of body space is one i take very seriously. there arecertain lines which cannot be crossed and when a man crosses the line, their first line of defense is to make you feel like you are creating a mountain out of a mole hill. That is because men walk around with a sense of entitlement to all that is in the world, including women. the way i deal with it and have dealt with it in the past is: if you touch me, i touch you hard. In other words i will slap the taste out of your mouth after which we can have a civil discussion. I am not saying this to be dramatic or to be funny. I do slap men and I will physically defend my bodily space. I have fourdaughters doing martial arts who know that if a man touches them or a boy touches them without their permission, they are free to defend themselves. That is the only language men seem to understand and until they can behave like people instead of randy goats then we have to be militant in our response to their assaults.

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  8. My Dear Fungai!

    Good for you for standing up. We rarely ever get the response we want, but it feels so good to have said something!

    I had this happen recently to me in Barcelona. A man walked past me and brushed his hand against my butt, and gave me that “smile” as he walked past. I confronted, loudly, and I got the same response as you. I actually screamed at this man, as he walked into the store, “Don’t you every fucking touch me!”. And he came out and got aggressive towards me and made me to be the crazy one, even though he knew exactly what he did. I swear, if their intentions aren’t wrong and you call them on it, they have no reason to get agro or switch the “you’re crazy” switch.

    This was the second time I’ve had this happen to me. I would love some sort of answers. I think it just comes down to the fact that men who behave like this are bully’s and inherently do not believe women are equals to them–and that when we stand up and speak for ourselves and defend our humanity and rights to our body, they recoil in horror and fear and turn that into aggression. However, no matter what the response, I will never, ever stop standing up for myself.

    I do wonder, particularly for my friends who are petite (I am 5’10” and a bit of an amazon in stature), the danger they face in standing up for themselves. Being tall, and having taken 13 years of martial arts, I have no problem standing up for myself physically–but what about my girlfriends who are 5’2” and tiny?

    Keep it up Fungai, we’re here with you!

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  9. i totally know what youre talking about Fungie.Was at a fucnction at the Art gallery and this Rastafarian guy walks up to me,shakes my hand and says.”beautiful,very beautiful.Afrikahn princess. engish shep.”.Pardon i said,tryna catch the last bit.”English shiep”.I still coudnt hear him so i kinda leaned in and said “pardon “.Then he kissed me.On the lips.I was in shock for a couple of minutes and by the time i finished processing what he had done he was halfway across the room talking to some other people.I didnt want to be a drama queen so i pretended it never happened but Yes i did feel violated…Great piece Fungie.

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  10. My dear sister…. next time , if you feel like slapping a chap…just do it! as Barbaras says. I am , indeed, small ( 1 m 57 cm), but, whenever I have felt a fellow has touched me ( for instance, holding my cheek in his fingers at high school or pushing me several times with his back and butt in a pub ) in a way which i had given no permission , I just simply put my hand with energy in his face. No smiles, no words…action..stop it!. As always…. I loved your comment so much!! Tatenda !

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  11. These men are our brothers, fathers, uncles, friends, or maybe they are strangers. Whetever they are to us, they show disrespect to women who they should respect. I am sure these words were heavy for you to write. I think this is the more reason why efforts at educating, at changing mindsets, attitudes and practices should not be relented on. We live in a world in which many things are (hyper) sexualised, and popular media seems to trivialise and constantly wage a backlash on the fight for womens human (sexual) rights. There is also a tendency to hold on to oppressive “culture” or “tradition” as justification and explanation for certain forms of behaviour. I write as a man, who encounters other men, young and old, educated and uneducated, who are struggling to straddle the traditional conceptions of masculinity and femininity in contexts in which they are subject to constant questioning. Your experience is very individual and personal, yet also resonates with wider society. Points to the need for more work, as men and women, as society.

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  12. That is so true, and this has also happened to me. I worked with a man almost every day and because it was a physically demanding job I would often ask him to help me lift things and blah blah blah. We would talk throughout our shift and one day after a few months he just randomly asked for my number and I felt no way about it because he had never been creepy around me and he was a kind man and plus I was like well we work together, a few other girls I worked with had my number. So anyway a few days later I got a call from him around 6 am, and he started telling me that I’d been missed at work since I’d returned to London and stuff and I was like oh how sweet – and he was basically just talking about randomness, then he got to work. So I said okay well I will let you go and he said no, I’m feeling horny – just wait until I release myself. There on the phone he started touching himself. I was so shocked, horrified, disgusted! So young I was at the time and confused the phone was just glued to my ear. After like 3 minutes I hung up, and he kept calling me and I ignored the calls. I was so angry at myself later on for letting the three minutes go by, for not standing up to him an insulting him but it never occurred to me that a grown man like himself would feel no way about violating me in such a way. Nowadays, it happens on the streets a man gropes you and leaves you in shock but I am afraid of saying anything because I am like what if he reveals a knife or gun from underneath his clothes? What if him and his group of friends see my anger as an excuse to force me into a dark corner and rape me? It’s tough but girl, congratulations to you – and in fact it is you that should have told him that he is a ghost to you. The Cheek!!!!

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  13. Very reflective of an unbalanced situation. As a man I understand the the misconstruing attached to females especially in shared apace. People learn I believe and so the vocal women are the more understood you will be. Don’t stop writing for the pen is mightier.

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