General Question

elijah's avatar

Why do strangers think it's ok to touch me?

Asked by elijah (8659points) January 8th, 2009 from iPhone

I have a lot of tattoos. Often complete strangers will come up to me and start moving my clothing around to look at them. Now, these people are trying to complement me, so I really don’t like to be rude, but I don’t think it’s ok for them to touch me. No matter how nicely I try to explain it, they get offended. Should I just not say anything since they mean me no harm? Either way, one of us ends up feeling uncomfortable. I don’t like promoting the steroetype that people with tattoos are mean and crazy freaks, especially when a ‘normal person’ is making an effort to experience ( for lack of a better term) someone like me.

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17 Answers

kevbo's avatar

They’ll get over it, and they should know better next time. I say let them feel uncomfortable and don’t worry about it.

KatawaGrey's avatar

I think it’s because people feel the need to experience, in any way they can, anything out of the ordinary. The same thing happens with pregnant women. Complete strangers come up to them and touch their stomachs. People might also think that because you are covered in tattoos, you don’t follow the same social conventions as “normal” people.

elijah's avatar

So true, Katawa! I completely forgot how people touched me when I was pregnant! That’s why I hate being mean about it, because they look so happy.

asmonet's avatar

It might also have something to do with you being a woman, men are far more scary to run up to and feel up in general. :-/

loser's avatar

Some people just aren’t good with boundaries. Nothing wrong with you giving then a little wake up call. Or maybe some humor, “Hey! Hey! Don’t disturb the canvas!”

m_dub's avatar

Tattoos are for looking! not touching… got the same problem with the tattoo on my forearm… wicked texture, so people always want to caress it… not so bad when it’s a girl, but when it’s another guy, I simply put him in a wrist lock until he taps out.

windex's avatar

Do you Live in Japan?

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

They probably view you as a public work of art; it’s like touching a statue even though the sign clearly says do not touch.

elijah's avatar

@windex – no, I don’t live in japan. Why?

DandyDear711's avatar

When I was pregnant, I looked very pregnant – I carried all in front. I was only touched when I was at work – at a private psychiatric hospital! Family members of patients and staff thought it was okay… I also got tired of being asked when I was due, why I was still working, haven’t I given birth already and then telling me I was having a boy. I wanted to wear a sign that said don’t touch and I’ll give birth when IT is good and ready. (I had a girl, BTW.)

Sorry you are getting touch – there are just too many people in the world with no social skills… At least I knew the invasion of my personal space would come to an end.

elijah's avatar

Honestly its not so much the touching that bugs me the most (although i don’t like it) it’s when people actually come up from behind and start pulling at the neck of my shirt to peek inside. It’s not only rude but can be a bit scary when you’re not expecting it. This one woman almost pulled me off my stool, and when I said “please dont pull on my shirt” she got all mad and told me how her daughter was so much prettier than me!!! WTF?!?

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I’m not saying this to be judgmental, but with that last statement, you have just supported my argument to my daughters of “Don’t do anything to your body that will attract attention, if you don’t want to attract attention.” I’ve had this argument with my daughter over hot pink hair. She would get really ticked off when people would turn around and look at her, or people would make comments about it, or kids would come up and say, “why’s your hair pink?” I would tell her, “if you don’t want people asking you stupid questions, don’t do things that invite stupid questions.” To which she would respond, but it’s my hair and it makes me happy to have pink hair. I should be able to do what I want with my body, To which my response was, “Be that as it may, if you don’t want people asking you stupid questions, don’t do things that invite stupid questions.”

If someone had told you that for the rest of your life, people will come up to you and either touch you without your consent, or ask you questions about your tattoos, would you still have positioned them where they are?

And I personally loved her with pink hair—it made it easy to find her at the mall.

tinyfaery's avatar

Elijah: I am heavily tattooed and I experience the same thing. People come up to me, touch my arms, look down the back of my shirt, and ask to see tattoos that are in “private” places. When I see someone approach me, and they are looking at my tattoos, I immediatly say “please don’t touch me”. People are usually nice about it. Every once in awhile I’ll get a snarky comment. But who cares? Fuck ‘em.

laureth's avatar

When people see someone out of the ordinary, covered with art (in this context), I think it becomes like a “freak show.” Remember freak shows, where the bearded lady and the tattooed man and the snake woman would be observed like animals at the zoo, like things, like they weren’t really people? And once you become “not really a person,” people feel free to treat you any old way, including touching you, pulling on your shirt, or being generally rude.

They do this to retail workers and waitrons all the time, who are similarly “not real people,” but because of social status, not art.

elijah's avatar

@alfredaPrufrock- I welcome the questions, that doesn’t bother me at all. It’s the physical touching, especially when I’m not expecting it.
If your daughter was grabbed by a stranger because she had a cool bracelet, would you tell her she was asking for it because she was wearing something that caught his eye? I bet she would be fine with it if he just walked up and said “excuse me may I see your bracelet? It’s really cool!” I don’t mind the looking, it’s the innapropriate touching.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I’m not saying I think the touching is in any way warranted. I find touching people outside your inner circle of trust to be entirely creepy. I once worked with a guy who would come up behind female coworkers and give them a backrub without warning…no, no, no, no, no!

I just think that a lot of visible tats is an invitation to attracting unwanted comments from people who shouldn’t comment, let alone touch. A bracelet doesn’t catch someone’s eye unless they’re really staring at you. And you can take a bracelet off and hand it to someone. Bracelets generally fly under the radar. A four inch turquoise butterfly on the side of the neck, completely tattooed arms and legs, if exposed, you can’t help but notice. Ditto hot pink mohawks, or 6’3” guys dressed in a floral knit dress and combat boots, or kilts, or body modification, large ear gauging, multiple facial piercings. What you don’t expect see, or what’s out of context, surprises. Perhaps it ties back to the idea of “the shock of the new.” If everyone had a lot of tattoos, no one would notice.

My neighbor and I discuss all the time, the strangers who see you washing your car, bringing groceries into the house, whatever, and stop and ask you what you’re doing.

BTW, both my daughters have tattoos, but not really visible ones, and we’ve had hair of every color of the rainbow, mohawks, dreds

susanc's avatar

When I see someone approach me, and they are looking at my tattoos, I immediatly say “please don’t touch me”. People are usually nice about it. Every once in awhile I’ll get a snarky comment. But who cares? Fuck ‘em.

- tinyfaery, today, 2009

What I like about this is that she’s the expert. She knows people are going to want to touch her and she forestalls it. She’s in control. No one’s confused.

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