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Hands Off! Don’t Touch the Pregnant Woman’s Belly

Hands Off! Don’t Touch the Pregnant Woman’s Belly

No one would ever consider placing a hand on the stomach of another man or woman without permission under normal circumstances. Yet for many people, a visibly pregnant woman is often seen as an open invitation for unwanted and non-consensual touching.

It’s a phenomenon so common that pregnancy message boardsdevote threads to it andlines of pregnancy t-shirts warding strangers off have been spawned because of it. Now, finally, one pregnant woman in Pennsylvania has had enough and called it what it is harassment and has gotten law enforcement involved.

After a Pennsylvania man came over to visit and allegedly gave his pregnant neighbor an unwanted hug, followed by a belly touching despite her objections, the mother-to-be called the police to have him charged with harassment, defined as an “action [a person takes] that has an intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person,” according to NBC.

The issue, in this case, appears to be the repeated violation of the woman’s bodily autonomy, as explained by attorney Phil DiLucente, who although not involved with the case itself explained the circumstances to CNN. “Here was a woman who was pregnant and (a) man had touched her belly area, which women have to go through all the time, and she didn’t permit him to do that, and then he repeated it, so she decided to file charges.”

We don’t have any issue with the idea of pressing charges if a person does any other inappropriate touching, be it strangers or friends. In fact, no means no in any other type of physical situation. Why do we find the line blurred when it comes to a pregnant belly?

Corporations spend thousands of dollars per company doing extensive sexual harassment training seminars, of which the basic principal is unwanted touching is never acceptable, sexual jokes and comments that make other people uncomfortable are inappropriate, and the performance of either in the workplace is a considered an offense worthy of employer reprimand or even dismissal. Few people would bat an eye over the idea of a lawsuit against a colleague or workplace that allows such a thing to continue after a person has asked for the harassing behavior to be addressed and stopped.

Yet for some reason, pregnant women are treated in a completely different sphere, as if their bodies belong to the public. Strangers on the street feel welcome to comment on a woman’s body, ask her when she is due or if she is having multiples as a means of telling her that she physically looks too large. At a time when many pregnant people are feeling more vulnerable and anxious, their behavior is up for public scrutiny as well, from what they are eating to their physical activities, such as the pregnant woman who became the focus of national attention after a picture of her lifting at 8 months pregnant hit the internet. In the tempest, critics accused her of being willing to put her baby in harm “just to stay in shape.”

If charging strangers with breaking the law is what it takes to finally convince the general public that all unwanted touching is still unwanted touching, and that a pregnant body is still the sole property of the person who is pregnant, maybe it is time. Your body belongs to you and whomever you give permission to share it with. That right stands for all people, even those who are gestating.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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328 comments

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9:20AM PDT on Apr 11, 2014

Yeah, touching someone where/when they don't want you to, I'm pretty sure that counts as harassment. If it is that important to touch the pregnant belly, then ask the person first.

12:02PM PST on Nov 26, 2013

OMG! Kathy, that would send me going ballistic in some bodies face. That is a clear example of what irks me. I live in the country arias of Kentucky, and People are constantly doing stuff like that. It's very rude and inconsiderate.

10:47AM PST on Nov 26, 2013

people i didnt know in any way would touch my belly! then if you go to town after birth strangers want to touch/hold the bay, get in their faces, i even had some crazy woman walk up and KISS my child. wth?!

4:33PM PST on Nov 12, 2013

I WOULD NEVER! I felt awkward feeling my sisters belly the first time to feel the baby kicking her ! Never would consider touching someone otherwise!

11:06AM PST on Nov 9, 2013

One last thought .Nobody dies through being touched but they do die through not being touched.

10:42AM PST on Nov 9, 2013

I have always said that people who think they have a "God given right" to touch a woman just because she is pregnant, are offensive, and intrusive to say the least! What makes people think this is ok?!!!! I have never thought this was ok!

9:22PM PST on Nov 8, 2013

I would no more rub (or touch) a pregnant woman’s belly than touch a stranger’s infant. Or, mj, a portly man’s stomach. Judy T is so right – if you wouldn’t rub her belly when she’s NOT pregnant, don’t do it when she is.
Carolanne P’s right. Guys wouldn’t like someone walking up and grabbing them by the cojones. Or maybe they would…
Marilyn M, why shouldn’t pregnant women wear “regular” clothes? Maternity tops are (in many cases) pretty ugly, and women should be PROUD rather than try to hide (“be discrete”) the fact that they’re pregnant.
Allison T, you’re right that there are many more serious events going on in the world; however, we teach kids about “good touch/bad touch”. Why should that be put on hold when a woman is pregnant?

3:05PM PST on Nov 7, 2013

Use to drive me sister in law insane!!! Ask first its common courtesy!

11:48AM PST on Nov 7, 2013

I beg to differ. This is not harassment! In my country we hug people a lot and we like it when people touch us. It shows affection. So, touching a pregnant's woman belly is ok and welcomed. Some people are very easily offended.

1:13AM PST on Nov 7, 2013

I never do that!

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