Is groping ever ok? The short answer is no. Of course it’s not! The very word, to grope, can be defined as fondling someone without their consent. In all cases involving consent, doing anything without it is wrong. The long answer is also no, but with a more detailed explanation. 

Firstly, there are going to be some people wondering why anyone would ask if groping is ever ok. It seems so obvious that it’s not ok. Yet, if everyone knew that, why do so many people still do it?

There can be many different situations in which a person can be groped. It seems that in some settings, the act of groping is seen as less inappropriate than others. For instance, groping someone on the dance floor of a club might be seen as more acceptable than say groping someone on a train.

This idea comes from the fact the club setting has more sexual behaviour present. After all, people do touch either when dancing. Some people are very flirty and many have had hookups from people they met on a dance floor. Because of this, unwanted attention might not be as easily understood compared to a setting where any sort of consensual touching is never expected, such as a train.

The importance of intent

One important distinction to remember is the intent of the groper. When it comes to sexual harassment or sexual assault cases, the abuser does it on purpose. They know their victim is non-consenting. There is an enjoyment of the power element involved.

There will be other cases where someone might not have the intent to hurt another person but is unable to read physical signs of non-consent. In this case, they cross the line of what’s acceptable and what’s not but do not realise they have crossed it.

To label the second scenario as equally hideous as the first scenario would be wrong. In both cases, there is someone on the other end of the groping that’s suffered. However, we can’t dismiss the importance of intent.

It’s most important to understand the context of the situation when we try and resolve the issue. For instance, a groper on public transport who preys on women he finds vulnerable should be punished much more severely than a dense guy who didn’t realise the girl was uncomfortable with his hand on her butt when they were dancing together.

Neither of these scenarios excuses groping.

Understanding why women don’t always speak out

Many people have said that women need to speak out more against these groping incidents. Catch the guy in the act, declare loudly that he is giving them unwanted attention. Publicly humiliating the groper might shame him enough to not try it again. The action might also help deter others from attempting to grope in the future.

But there is also a risk to the women to retaliate. One bouncer informed The Telegraph that seeing a woman being hit after rejecting unwanted attention wasn’t an uncommon occurrence

“For these men hitting a girl can be a badge of pride – but for the women, it’s just awful. They have to bear the mark of a stranger who didn’t get their way. Sadly I don’t think we will ever stop certain men thinking this is the way to get a woman’s attention. ”

Other times, it might feel that it’s not worth speaking out about. From personal experience, I’ve had guys cross the line and get uncomfortably close or touchy with me. But rather than cause a scene, I remove myself from the situation, not wanting to escalate the situation or get into a scene. This can be the most peaceful and safe way to deal with the situation from the girl’s point of view.

It can also mean that the guys don’t realise how uncomfortable they made the girl thus continuing with those actions in the future.

Consent and body language

The easiest way to know if someone doesn’t want you to touch them is for them to simply say no. It’s clear-cut and direct. If they say no, and continue to touch them, then that’s obviously wrong, and can definitely be considered sexual assault.

Unfortunately, we don’t always get clear, verbal communication. For various reasons, women do not always feel able to speak out. “She didn’t say I couldn’t” doesn’t stand up as a defense. It sounds like an excuse.

That’s why it’s important to stay aware of body language. If a girl constantly finds ways to get distance from you or positions herself away from intimate contact, it’s a physical sign of rejection.

These clues can be obvious sometimes, and can also subtle. There’s no easy answer to solving this. You can only learn more about body language and how to physically read someone’s mood.

This might end up making you too cautious around women. But it’s better to not touch someone when they wanted you to, than to touch someone when they didn’t want you to.

  • Rich Goldstein

    Impact > Intent. The groper’s intent is immaterial compared to their impact.

  • secretfromwithin

    I’m curious if it’s ever happened the other way around. A girl groping a man, and whether it would generate a similar response.