Your Body is Your Own Business

Posted by on Feb 11, 2013 in Self-Defense | Comments Off on Your Body is Your Own Business

Some people feel powerless to control their lives.  For many, this feeling started in childhood when they failed to accept the belief that they deserve to control who touches their body and how (both appropriate and inappropriate physical contact).  Even grown women often don’t realize that there is nothing wrong with setting boundaries related to physical contact.

I call my kids’ lesson on this “OK Touch, Creepy Touch” and start it by showing a handout with this simple paragraph: Your body belongs to you and no one else.   Your parents and your doctors may touch your body to check on you and take care of you.  If someone touches you in any way you don’t like, you have a right to ask them to stop.  You can say “Grandma, I feel embarrassed when you hug me.  Can we just shake hands?” The parts of your body covered by a bathing suit are especially private.  Even doctors and parents need a good reason to touch your bathing suit parts.

Then, we discuss touches they like and don’t.  Most kids find the “You’re so cute!” cheek pinch painful or annoying, but like hugs from family members.  Each individual, though, has a right to like or not like certain touches.  If your friends are “huggy” and you are not, you may set boundaries.  If one of your children likes to snuggle and the other doesn’t, respect that.

While there are situations to be quite forceful about setting boundaries, like the beginning stages of a date rape, in low danger situations you’ll get better results if you avoid hurting the other person’s feelings.  One way to do this is to use the “magic formula” which goes “I feel ______ when you ______. Could you _______ instead?”

First, decide how you feel when this friend, relative, or coworker does the offending behavior, whether it is inappropriate physical contact or something else (embarrassed, uncomfortable, weird or “like I’m doing something I shouldn’t”). Then, think of a replacement behavior they might accept like a handshake, high-five, or speaking from a distance. Finally, choose a good time to talk to the touchy person, tell them how you feel, and ask if they could do the replacement.

Although this may not be easy, you can rehearse for it in advance. When you talk to them, remember to stick to your message and avoid a defensive reaction by acting like you have a strange need for personal space rather than like they behave wrongly.

To teach this to your children, you might start with “I learned today that parents should teach their kids that everybody’s body belongs to them and no one else.” Continue with the paragraph from my handout above.  Then, ask if anyone touches them in a way they don’t like and role play how they could use the magic formula.

If you’re ready to get more serious, mention that if anyone touches them, or asks to be touched by them, in a way they think is creepy they should refuse and tell another adult about it later. If they start telling you about a creepy thing that happened to them, show support but not surprise, and don’t help them explain it. For example, don’t teach them new names for body parts.   Just listen and then say you have a friend who knows what to do about these situations and call your local sexual assault recovery services.


Marcy Shoberg is the creator of “Bring Out Your Inner Bodyguard in Two Weeks or Less” home study course for adults and seniors. See