A Word on Friendships and Personal Space

More conversations about consent need to be had. While definitely important, this doesn’t just include sexual activities. Consent is a big part of conversation and platonic physical touch too. An example of consent to speak with someone would be if your friend seems to be having a rough day and you ask if they want to talk through it. They may say something to the extent of “No, but I appreciate your concern.” and your response should be to accept that. Or, they could say yes and you proceed with the conversation. This is important because difficult words take up emotional energy and can easily drain someone, but not everyone recognizes that.  Even in conversation, simple mutual respect and empathy should be prioritized.

 

 

This goes for physical touch too. Someone may not always want to be hugged or grabbed by the arm or poked. Someone may not ever want any of those things! It comes down to the individual—and you should listen to what they say and how they generally respond to your words and actions. Calling each other friends doesn’t automatically include some unspoken agreement that allows you to touch people. Body language is also crucial to pick up on and learn.  Recognizing what is a positive response and a negative response is beyond necessary. If someone tenses up, that’s usually not a good sign. If they relax or lean into you, that’s probably a sign they’re feeling comfortable.

 

The reason consent has been on my mind so much lately is because I’ve recently been having an issue surrounding personal space and consent. I live with someone who often comes into my personal space without giving me a choice, and repeats the behavior even when I didn't respond positively the last time. The thing is, some people never or rarely want to be touched or hugged. I’m actually a very affectionate person, but that doesn’t mean I always want to be touched. I respect when others do or don’t want to be touched, and I deserve the same. It comes down to choice and whether or not it’s something both parties want. If you come in to give me a hug and I don’t agree to it, then you’re taking away my choice in what happens to me.  No one is ever entitled to another’s space.

 

Normally, I’m not a jumpy person. But lately I’ve found myself flinching when I see quick movements out of the corner of my eye. I might even become extra alert and go into a state of defense.

 

Maybe I’m just someone who likes to stay in constant control of things (especially my own life), but I try not to let others control what I do. Sometimes I just follow a group around, but my life doesn’t revolve around other people—it’s made through my own decisions and needs.  Lately I’ve been having issues with a friend trying to coerce me to participate in activities when I can’t or don’t want to.  I’m typically on a schedule, and while I let that fluctuate, I’m not going to go out of my way to inconvenience myself just to please others.  I am not obligated to spend a certain amount of time with anyone, either.  This brings me to another point—it is never okay to try and challenge a decision a friend makes when it comes to any aspect of their autonomy.

 

Overall, friendship is about communication and creating a balance in what you each want. It’s about care and kindness and understanding. I try to be as nice as I can to everyone, but I respect myself enough to recognize and respond when someone is doing something to me that I don’t want. One person shouldn’t have to maintain control over the other to establish a friendship. There also shouldn’t be an excessive amount of unwanted time spent together when it could be more casual. Friendship is great, but only when everybody agrees and nobody intentionally makes the atmosphere awkward or uncomfortable by way of force.  So in all of your relationships, try to be more cognizant of your actions and more perceptive to how they affect others.

 

 

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