This is my house.
The color of my house has no bearing on your life. The shape of my house has no bearing on your life. If I choose to change the way my house is painted, or if I choose to change the shape of the house via addition or removal, that has no bearing on your life.
The way I decorate my house has no bearing on your life. If my sense of aesthetics appeals to you, you are welcome to compliment me on my house’s appearance; but if your style choices would be different, that is information you may keep to yourself because I will not be changing my aesthetics based on your preferences. If I ask for your opinion or your advice, that is all I am asking for–it is not to be misconstrued as blanket permission, implicit or otherwise, to attempt to exert any control whatsoever over the choices I make with my house.
You cannot see it in this picture, but there is a flag on the front of my house. Frequently this flag will say “welcome”, or the doormat will say “welcome”, or there will be a sign on the door that says “welcome”. This also should not be misconstrued as a statement of universal permission. Because this is my house, I have complete unilateral control over who is or is not actually allowed to enter the house. If, for instance, you had come to the garage sale in the picture, the presence of a “welcome” mat by the door would not be assumed to be a statement of actual permission to enter the house.
Additionally, having received permission to enter the house once is not an automatic statement of permission to enter the house for all time. If you are invited to come in, I will say so, clearly and directly. If you are invited to come in anytime you want to, I will say so, clearly and directly. I will probably give you a key, or the code to the garage door. However, permission to visit is not automatically permission to stay; furthermore, because this is my house, I reserve the right to rescind your invitation at any time, with or without notice, regardless of whether you have been given “anytime” permission to enter previously.
This is my house. In my house, I make the rules.
This is my car.
The size of my car in relation to the size of your car has no bearing on your life, and it is not yours to comment upon. The color of my car has no bearing on your life. If I choose to change the paint color, that is my decision to make, and mine alone.
My car has a handy sliding door on the side for easy access. This is for my convenience, not yours. The fact that it is easy to get into my car should not be taken as blanket permission to climb aboard. The fact that my car is large enough to hold more than one person should not be taken as blanket permission to climb aboard. Having ridden in my car before should not be taken as blanket permission to climb aboard.
This is my car, and I–and I alone–have the authority to decide who may or may not drive or ride in it.
This is my body.
If we assume–as I do–that we are souls with bodies, that our bodies are not who we are but where we are, that our bodies are the house where our soul lives and the vehicle by which it gets around, then it seems reasonable to me to assume that social conventions about our houses and cars are also applicable to our bodies.
The size of my body in relation to the size of your body has no bearing on your life, and it is not yours to comment upon.
The way I paint or decorate my body is not relevant to your life, and if I ask for you opinion or advice, that is all I am asking for. My sense of aesthetics are not yours to control.
The decision to invite you to share my body as consenting adults is mine and mine alone. It is not a blanket statement of future permission, and I have the right to rescind your invitation at any time, with or without notice. If you are invited to share my body, you will know because I will tell you so, clearly and directly. The clothing I wear–even clothing that is easily removable–is for my convenience, not yours. Anything I wear or do that implies “welcome”–including flirting, joking, and giving you my telephone number–is the moral equivalent of a “welcome” mat on the porch and should not be misconstrued as an actual invitation. Again, if you are invited, you will know it because I will say so. I will use language that makes it spectacularly, abundantly, unmistakably clear that you have been invited. I will be frank. I will be direct. I will be obvious. If I have not been frank, direct, and obvious, then you may comport yourself as though you were a shopper at a garage sale, or a person observing my car in a parking lot: you may look, you may form opinions, you may compliment respectfully, but your permission ends there unless I personally tell you otherwise.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and frankly, it pisses me all the way off that this is even a thing. I am baffled by the idea that there are social conventions that govern how we interact with people’s houses and cars but somehow those rules don’t apply to people’s bodies. I am furious that there are people who cannot take their bodies’ safety for granted.
But above all, I am motivated to make sure that people know that regardless of the situation you may find yourself in, you are in fact in charge of your own body. If there is someone in your life who is not respecting that fact, you are allowed to get help. Tell someone. If that person doesn’t believe you, or cannot or will not help you, tell someone else. Keep telling people. There is someone out there who will help.
Because this is your body. You and you alone are in charge of it. It. Is. Yours.
If you or someone you love has been–or, god help me, is being–sexually assaulted, please contact RAINN (the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) at www.rainn.org or 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). Counselors are available 24/7, and speaking with someone is free, confidential, and secure.