I’m going to describe two separate but extremely similar events to you and then I am going to tell you very frankly how I classify them.
About a month ago, at a public event, I encountered a man who I know only in a professional context and really only barely know him. As I and two women with whom I work approached him to walk past him, he shook the first woman’s hand, then he shook the second woman’s hand, and when I put my hand out to shake hands, he grabbed me by the shoulders, pulled me in for a hug, and kissed me on the cheek.
Just 10 days ago, at a public event, I was sitting with my colleagues when a man who I know only in a professional context and really only barely know approached me from behind, grabbed my shoulders, leaned in and kissed me on the cheek and then whispered in my ear.
How do I classify these events?
This is assault.
Is it sexual assault? No. As I do not believe there was any sexual intent.
But it is assault.
Men put their hands on my body, forced me into physical contact, and planted kisses on me.
And I know not only that neither of them thinks anything of it, but that they, in fact, believe this to be acceptable behaviour.
It is not.
Men feeling entitled to force women into physical contact is an example of rape culture. Yes, even if the intent was not sexual.
Me complaining about how uncomfortable it made me and people saying, “oh, I’m sure he didn’t mean it like that,” is an example of rape culture.
Do either of these events suggest that either of the men in question would rape someone? No, of course not. What they suggest, though, is that these men felt entitled to touch me and to kiss me.
In both cases, my colleagues were both put off and shocked by what had just happened. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I felt violated.
I hope to raise my son and daughter to understand that they should have permission to put their hands on someone before ever doing so.