Pregnancy. The gift of life. The duty and honor of raising a child. Something I believe to be one of the purest, most beautiful things that can happen to a woman. Feeling that baby kick inside your belly, knowing that you’re growing a life within you. That’s something that they just don’t make words for. Even the people around pregnant women tend to get smiles on their faces as they imagine beautiful newborns who smell just like “baby” and Johnson & Johnson shampoo. Pregnancy draws people in, making them curious with questions and leaving them wanting to be a part of something magical. Even if it’s just to ask a woman her due date or the gender of her baby, they can’t help but want to know. But why? I’m talking about complete strangers who are in no way effected by the gender of this woman’s baby or when it’s due. What makes them so curious? We are attracted to the beautiful, the innocent, the pure. We see something incredible and we can’t help but want to be a part of it. This is a magical thing.
But, what happens when the line is crossed? There’s really nothing wrong with asking a pregnant woman when she’s due (so long as you’re absolutely sure she’s actually pregnant). There’s nothing wrong with being curious about the gender of the baby. That does not however make it appropriate to reach out and touch that poor pregnant woman’s unsuspecting stomach. Yes ladies and gentlemen, that is the topic of this post. I realize this has been examined and discussed to death but I can’t help wanting to add my two cents. There’s something about a woman being pregnant that seems to make people think they have the right to touch a stranger. I have read multiple articles and discussion forums about this and to be honest, the comments seriously fucking worry me. You would be amazed how many people, even women, told the person complaining about it to “stop being selfish”, “stop being a bitch”, or to “stop robbing people of the joy of experiencing a baby kicking”. I’m sorry… maybe I missed something here, but that baby that’s kicking? IT’S INSIDE OF ANOTHER HUMAN BEING WHO HAS A VOICE TO EXPRESS WHETHER OR NOT SHE WANTS TO BE TOUCHED!!!!
I realize how excited people (even strangers) get when they see a woman carrying another life inside her. Especially other women who may have children of their own or perhaps aren’t able to have children at all. However, at the bare minimum, you should at least ask. Not only are you touching a complete stranger’s body, you are touching her child. Her literal flesh and blood. How would you feel if someone walked up to your child in the mall and just started rubbing his/her head? Probably a little freaked out, maybe enraged, or perhaps mama/papa bear protective? That’s because we are protective of our offspring. A pregnant woman (especially one who’s close to giving birth) is obviously more vulnerable than she normally would be. She can’t move as fast, fight as hard, or be as aggressive as she normally would be if she felt threatened. So when you touch her (which by the way, is threatening) you are showing aggressive behavior (whether innocent or not) to a person who is already in a vulnerable position. So, should she reach out and smack your hand or start rubbing your belly in return, you had it coming! People do this without even thinking twice and that is the problem, they don’t think! Or worse yet, they see nothing wrong with it. Judging by the number of uncomfortable reactions pregnant women say they’ve gotten when they rubbed a stranger’s stomach in return, I’m going to guess this isn’t too hard of a concept to understand. Pregnant or not, it is not okay to touch a woman anywhere that she didn’t give you direct permission to. It is in no way different from walking up to any woman in a shopping mall and rubbing her very not pregnant belly. A baby makes no difference to the level of inappropriateness. Sure the baby makes you want to touch the woman more, but it doesn’t give you any right to.
The fact that we live in a society that thinks pregnant women are being bitchy or too sensitive because they don’t want a stranger to touch their stomach, a body part that’s very close to their genitals and is inherently a sensitive region, is disgusting. The idea that pregnancy makes a woman public property literally makes me nauseous. The fact that men take part in this uninvited rubbing as well as women is a bit frightening. Even in my wildest imagination I can’t comprehend what it’s like to walk up to a complete stranger and touch not only their belly, but their baby, without any invitation or forewarning. I would simply never, ever do that. It’s just completely inappropriate, wildly disrespectful, and obviously invasive. Have some respect people. Smile sweetly, don’t reach your hand out, engage in a conversation that doesn’t involve questions like “Do internal ultrasounds hurt?”, and MAYBE that woman won’t become immediately defensive just because you walked within 3 feet of her. You never know someone’s history. Even if you completely ignore the fact that its inappropriate to start with you still have to consider that this woman may be a sexual abuse or rape survivor. For all you know that baby exists because she was raped and you just walked up and touched her without her permission. I realize that may be a harsh example but the sad truth is that it has absolutely happened to multiple people.
Think before you act. A pregnant belly is not a “Touch Me” sign. A woman’s body is not your playground. If you’re one of the people who thinks this isn’t a big deal then I challenge you to think about how you would feel if I walked up to you in front of a bunch of strangers and started rubbing your belly whilst smiling at you or maybe talking to your stomach, not your face. Some people would say “It’s different, I’m not pregnant”; to which I would reply “So it’s not okay for me to touch your stomach, a part of you that’s not exactly sexual but you can touch someone else’s child?” A stomach is hardly as grave a faux pas as a child, a human being, right? If you wouldn’t walk up and touch a woman who isn’t pregnant and you wouldn’t touch someone else’s child then don’t touch the belly!
I apologize for the rant but this really disturbs me. It’s not okay and the fact that women are attacked for saying what they are and are not okay with happening to their own bodies just shows another one of the big problems in our society today. It’s just another example of how women are expected to smile sweetly and not object to something that makes them feel violated and uncomfortable. It’s another way that our wants, our needs, and our rights (like to personal space), are not respected. Well, let me be the first to say, should a stranger ever touch my stomach without asking or after I’ve already asked them not to, I can and will punch them directly in the face, promptly.
by Ashley Hebner
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