No Boundaries? No Respect for Personhood

By Not Known

    I was at the Botanical Gardens “underground” car park café recently. While in the queue waiting to order I stood behind a young girl, probably JC or first year uni student who was eating with other similar-aged youths. As I stood behind this girl, a young boy, about same age came and stood beside her chatting as she queued. As they chatted he started to stroke her hair by putting his whole palm on the top of her head and stroking downwards behind her head. He did this several times during their conversation and although the girl did not show annoyance or alarm, I wondered if this was an appropriate action.  He did not appear to be her boyfriend – probably a classmate with others in a group.  And yet I wondered if she was wise in allowing him to continue treating her in such a familiar manner.

    After further stroking, the guy went off to where the group was seated. Observing this scene, part of me was debating whether I should say something to the girl by way of concern. I was already framing a diplomatically-worded sentence in my mind, but before I could finish, she had ordered and scooted off.  Now, if it had been my daughter getting her hair stroked by someone she only casually knew, I would most certainly have told the guy off by saying something like “Excuse me you should not be stroking my daughter’s hair in such a familiar way. Show respect for someone else’s body.” To my (Christian) daughter I would have told her “Your body is sacred. It is the only one you have. Don’t let people you hardly know touch you any way they want. Make known you don’t like to be pawed by moving away or telling them to stop. Let them know you are not a soft target.” Should I have said something similar to the young girl in the queue? What would you have done? As disciples of Jesus Christ should we show concern by articulating Christian convictions even to people who may not be Christians?  Isn’t that being salt and light?  Even if the girl may not have been a Christian, she would have sensed my concern, and perhaps acted more carefully in future … wouldn’t she?

    Why was I on the brink of involvement?  Look at the news reports: one after another of cases involving sexually immoral behaviour in parked cars, in university professor’s offices, in shower cubicles, teachers having sexual relations with under-aged students, sex for contracts cases, etc. What’s the common issue?  Boundaries. Or rather the lack of them.

    Now you see my concern for that young girl? Either she did not have personal boundaries, or if she did, she did not enforce them. Today in a brightly-lit café she allowed him to stroke her hair. Tomorrow in a darkened cinema some other part of her body may be stroked by another person and because she allowed one earlier boundary to fall, she is less prone to raising the alarm or voicing a protest. How does she not become an easy target for predators?  Boundaries define us. We should offer some to those who may not have any.  Our boundaries are drawn by God. We neglect them to our peril.

Graham Ng