What to do when someone kisses you without permission?
March 12, 2017 6:53 PM   Subscribe

Recently a friend of a friend, Sara, gave me a kiss on the lips out of nowhere. It was a quick peck. I'm a gay man, she's a straight woman. At the time I was so shocked I didn't say anything. Now our mutual friend is getting married so we will be spending more time together. Is this worth acknowledging or should I just pretend it never happened?

Nobody said anything when it happened, so either everyone felt too uncomfortable, or my silence gave the impression that it was okay. I think Sara meant to cheer me up because I was in the middle of a downer of a conversation with our mutual friend. She was also drunk and is kind of a boundary pusher, even when sober.

I'm worried that with the upcoming festivities (Bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, and the actual wedding) there is going to be more unwanted contact.

I really don't know how to address this without making it seem like a big deal. Sara can also be a bit of a drama queen, so I worry it would cast a shadow on everything.

Is it better just to be on guard with her in the future, or nip it in the bud?
posted by blackzinfandel to Human Relations (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Nip it in the bud. I've been in Sara's position (kissed a male friend on the cheek not knowing he wouldn't have appreciated it) and he sharply told me to cut it out. It hurt, mostly because I didn't want to hurt him and was aghast that I broke his boundaries like that, but we talked it over and we're cool now. But yeah, speak up - if she reacts really really badly that's on her, not you.
posted by divabat at 6:59 PM on March 12, 2017 [16 favorites]

addendum: I know conversations like these can be hard to accomplish, especially if you're not sure how the other person would react, so please don't feel bad if you decide not to say anything and it happens again. It's not your fault regardless.
posted by divabat at 7:00 PM on March 12, 2017 [9 favorites]

Give her the benefit of the doubt, but nip it in the bud. Tell her you appreciated her intentions but the physical kiss made you uncomfortable because you reserve that sort of thing for romantic involvement. Don't make it a big deal, just cordially express your boundaries.

Some people/families/countries/cultures/subcultures are totally cool with a quick peck on the lips as an expression of affection, with no romantic overtones implied. It's definitely not common in most circles in the US, but I've definitely seen it here in some circles.
posted by erst at 7:08 PM on March 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

Nip it in the bud, but do it lightly. I would catch her at an alone time and tell her "Hey, I'm not a kisser. But, I'm definitely a _____." (you could say hugger if you want to be hugged, but you could also make it a bit of a joke and say "into shaking hands" and offer her a very hearty handshake)

You said she's a bit dramatic - I'd tell her, but do it lightly not because you need to, but just to avoid additional drama. If she makes it dramatic, well, she was looking for something to be dramatic about anyway.

If she does it again, I would say "Sara, I've asked you not to kiss me. Don't kiss me!" very firmly.

posted by stewiethegreat at 7:09 PM on March 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

Kissing someone without their consent is sexual assault.

I get that you may choose not to make a big deal about it in the larger social milieu, many people prefer not to for all kinds of reasons and that is your prerogative, but you are not obligated to convince yourself it was okay. She may not have consciously decided to assault you and might be socialized to believe that's not what it is, but that still doesn't mean you have to feel anything other than what you feel. And you may take whatever actions you want to and are comfortable with even if they are messy or inconvenient for her.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:20 PM on March 12, 2017 [22 favorites]

Why not ignore it? If she does it again, all the above advice can still be applied. If she doesn't .. you're done.
I'm not trivializing it -- I would think it weird if it happened to me. But some problems solve themselves, and that's the best kind.
posted by LonnieK at 7:26 PM on March 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think there's also a dynamic that sometimes emerges between gay men and straight women specifically where one party thinks it's "okay" to invade the other's personal physical boundaries. It's the whole "gay best friend" dynamic. Which, it's fine if a gay guy and a straight woman are good friends and feel free to be physically affectionate with each other without the sexual overtones.

That's not what's happening here. Your body is yours, and you have the right to decide who is touching you and how; this person who is at best an acquaintance is being aggressive and that's not okay.

If this were a kiss on the cheek, that might be a cultural issue (I'm a cheek-kisser myself) but assuming that you are both Anglo North Americans, even cheek-kissing requires a brief moment of silent check-in if you aren't already somewhat close. A kiss on the lips from someone that you're not in a sexual relationship with or possibly a close family member, in some family cultures, is pretty outside the norms of mainstream (white) North American culture and it's an act of social aggression.

Don't let her push your boundaries; if it comes up again, be kind, brief and clear that you don't like this. You don't have to make it a big dramatic event; just a "Heh, I'm not a kiss-on-the-lips person" thing should do the trick.
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:43 PM on March 12, 2017 [31 favorites]

I like the idea of saying something in a neutral context. Don't wait for the next kiss attempt! Think about how you'd like to be told if you were the unwelcome kisser, and say something along those lines. Make it about you and what you like/don't like, not about her making a mistake.
posted by wryly at 8:03 PM on March 12, 2017

Wow! I'm kinda appalled anyone would even suggest you reconsider your boundaries. Just for context - this is Mrs. Stewie, I'm small and look younger than my age. Lots of people want to hug me at work. I don't want to hug people I don't know well, but also feel some societal pressure to accept the hugs. I've had people previously talk to me about whether it was a big enough deal to actually assert myself about it and encouraged me to consider changing how I think about hugs.

This is way past appropriate to me. Please don't "examine" your feelings on this, go with your gut. You don't need to say or do anything you don't want to and I support you no matter what you decide - but know your feelings are real and legitimate.
posted by stewiethegreat at 8:15 PM on March 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Just turn away next time and say lightly "eh I'm not a kisser." I don't think she was trying to assault you or get away with sexual gratification at your expense; but she was claiming an intimacy which doesn't exist -- I agree with whoever said above it's probably part of what she thinks gay men do with female friends - and you certainly have no obligation to let her do stuff to your face that you don't like.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:26 PM on March 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

As a woman who has, in the past, been way too concerned with "being nice" and "not making a scene" and as a result, had my boundaries tested and crossed way too often, I'd also advise you to nip it in the bud. Boundary pushers know they can get away with a lot more egregious behavior on nice people who don't want to make a scene, so they'll constantly push your boundaries -- often using alcohol or being wasted as an excuse; don't let them, or else you'll doom yourself to feeling constantly anxious and uncomfortable around them, waiting for their next attack.

Because she's a friend, I'd take her aside when she's definitely not drunk and casually say, "Hey, I don't know if you're aware, but when you kissed me at the party, it made me really uncomfortable. We're cool and everything, but please don't do that again." If she tries to make excuses ("What? Don't you like me? I thought we were friends. It was just an innocent kiss, etc."), or acts pissy, or tries to discount your feelings in any way, then you'll have to decide if you want to continue to associate with this person. Personally, I wouldn't; it's not worth the stress and mental energy to try to constantly fend them off.

If you don't want to have a conversation with her before you next see each other, just be on alert when she's around you and if she tries to go in for a kiss again, back away and say, "Whoa! What're you doing? Don't do that." Don't be afraid to put up your hands to keep her from encroaching. If she has any sense and respect for you at all, she'll be the one who's embarrassed and won't try that again. Mission accomplished. If she's a boundary pusher, she won't care and sometimes will try to make you feel bad in front of others for rejecting her advances. Simply move away to another group or room and put her on your shit list. You have every right to body autonomy, friend or not, whether you're attracted to the person or not; unwanted physical contact is not anyone's right to inflict on you, no matter the relationship between you both.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 8:35 PM on March 12, 2017 [7 favorites]

You're perfectly within your rights to tell her not to kiss you in any way you see fit. If she's a good friend of yours and you want to do it with humor, the next time you are in a conversation, you could slip in a joke. Something like, "So that's why it ended up not being a very good day at work... Now, Sara, don't go kissing me for comfort, I'll be okay." Smile, wink.
posted by Knowyournuts at 8:35 PM on March 12, 2017

Ugh, sorry that happened to you. I'm a queer woman in a relationship who recently got boundary-pushed like this by a drunk, self-described straight woman who was newly single and just went for it while I was leaving a party. I just barely had the reflexes to turn the attempted on the mouth kiss into an "aha, you are into that European goodbye cheek kiss thing! Side air kiss for you I guess!" so I suppose that's... one tactic? I didn't feel very good about it though, and if it comes up again I'm going to be more direct and hopefully not jokey. Jokey's my default social defense mechanism, but direct is better with boundary pushers.

That said in my case there was a humorous silver lining coda. I walked out of the party, still confused over what just happened, and into a small crowd of 20something straight dudes from school. Me: "I think $girlX just tried to kiss me." Dudes: "Oh, you too?!"
posted by deludingmyself at 9:51 PM on March 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would tell her it was not okay to kiss you without your consent and that she cannot do that again. Because it's not okay, and her gender and your orientation do not make it okay. It's almost a worse betrayal because it's a friend you probably never thought you had to worry about.

I don't think you have to assume the best intentions from her or be super nice about it either.

Someone taking liberties with your body is a violation even if they're not trying to get into your pants.
posted by kapers at 9:58 PM on March 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

In my circle of friends, there is not only cheek kissing with a hug, but sometimes pecks on the mouth in an utterly non-sexual context that is not meant to push boundaries at all. Like, in front of each other's spouses as a routine matter of greeting.

This might be as simple as just saying "I'm not a kisser, please refrain."
posted by desuetude at 10:37 PM on March 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

How do you know she even remembers doing it?

In the context you described, it sounds like poor drunk judgement without any intention to sexually or otherwise assault you. Say something now if you think she remembers and you can manage it without killing the vibe for the wedding (fwiw, I think this is impossible,) or simply be prepared to draw a boundary if it ever happens again. Avoid her generally if you want to.

If you agree with the impression you gave that this probably won't happen again anyway, please wait until after the wedding to say anything. If this person has been pursuing you and this was a pattern, say something before the wedding. I mean, is this person a boundary pusher generally, or has she been pushy and flirty specifically with you? Only you know what happened, so do what's comfortable.
posted by jbenben at 11:51 PM on March 12, 2017

Your body; your choice. simple as that. But of course it's never simple; I've had a similar experience and it's unsettling.

Definitely take her aside next time you see her and tell her it bothered you, and that you were too surprised in the moment to respond, but you want to be clear.

You will feel better, and it won't be on your mind during the wedding.
posted by chapps at 11:53 PM on March 12, 2017

If you think you're being too sensitive then just sit with it for a while, but if it sort of traumatized you then speak up. I would not embarrass her by saying something in front of a group, that would probably trigger the drama you speak of. Maybe a text or an email, something with a soft but clear delivery. Leave it and re-read it later after you've written it, make sure it's not brash. If being light-hearted about it feels better then maybe a "no more kisses you!" or "that was a bit weird, you know I love you but please no." I guess it all depends on how well you know this Sara and if she's a good friend or not. You shouldn't feel badly about setting boundaries, we all have them and they vary from person to person.
posted by Avosunspin at 12:53 AM on March 13, 2017

I am in the "say something" camp, otherwise things will be forever weird between you two and she won't know why. If she does it again and you get upset, she'll wonder why you didn't say anything the first time. It doesn't need to be a big confrontation, though. Just send her a text: "Do you remember kissing me at the party? That wasn't cool, please don't do that without asking."

If she gets all dramatic and says you're overreacting, say "my boundaries are not up for discussion." If she doesn't reply at all, be civil but otherwise avoid her at the wedding.
posted by AFABulous at 7:34 AM on March 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I would find it hard to speak up directly (hey, remember that time you kissed me on the lips instead of saying goodnight like a normal person?) but I would take it that her margin of error was down to zero, and the next time I saw her, if she went in for a hug, I would pause briefly, pointedly turn my head, the pantomime of over-caution and/or small child who's avoiding slobbery aunties, and say, "Cheek only this time, ok?" or "hug only" or "how about we just shake hands this time, ok?"
posted by aimedwander at 7:48 AM on March 13, 2017

Your question didn't at all give me the impression that this won't happen again anyway, and obviously it bothered you enough to ask Metafilter about. So in my mind the question you should ask yourself is what is going to make you feel more at ease - keeping silent and being ready to react if it happens again, or speaking up now despite her dramatic tendencies? It sounds like either way is going to cause some discomfort for you, so I'd go with whichever one you think feels less stressful. Neither one is wrong - she's the one who transgressed here and you have every right to set your boundaries however makes it easiest for you.

(for what it's worth, I'm on Team Speak Up Now, but again whichever feels more comfortable to you is the right way)
posted by DingoMutt at 7:52 AM on March 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

[One deleted. The question is about how to avoid the same unwanted contact happening again, not about if the OP should somehow become okay with it.]
posted by taz (staff) at 5:15 AM on March 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

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