A humorous look into body autonomy and consent
Last week I got to meet the infamous Cinnamon, the cat I’d been seeing hilarious Facebook posts about for the past two years. Cinnamon lives with some friends of mine on the other side of the country from me, and although he’s got a permanently disdainful expression, I still expected that when I finally visited his house, I’d be able to pet him. In fact, I was really looking forward to it. However, when the time came, that was not what Cinnamon had in mind at all, and I decided to respect that. After all, what right did I have to touch him against his will even though he was adorably fluffy and grumpy looking?
Some might say, “Hey, he’s just a cat. Pet him if you want to and he can deal with it,” but you know what, it’s that kind of hierarchy where those with more power get to do what they want to those with less that has caused a lot of problems in this world. I’ve been on the receiving end of some of that unwanted touch and had no interest in perpetuating that against someone else, even if he is just a cat.
We were sitting out on my friend’s deck, having a socially distanced get-together when I asked them where Cinnamon was. After all, I’d heard so much about him and seen so many funny pictures. I couldn’t wait to meet him. Animals always like me, perhaps because I always like them, and I assumed that this time would be no different.
“He’s off in the yard somewhere,” my friends told me. “He’ll be around eventually.”
“Oh, there he is,” I said hopefully as I finally spotted Cinnamon sauntering towards us.
“He’ll probably just ignore you,” my friends said. “He doesn’t really like people.” And that’s exactly what he proceeded to do, to my dismay. Cinnamon sat about 10 feet away with his back to us. After a bit, he turned his head in my direction.
“He looked at me!” I said with both delight and a touch of irony.
“He’s probably looking at a bird in the bushes behind your shoulder,” they told me with a laugh.
Later at the end of the night, I popped into my host’s house to use the bathroom before getting back on the road. There was Cinnamon sprawled on the back of the couch, laid out in all his adorable glory. I’d had a couple of Old Fashioneds that evening, and since I wasn’t the one getting behind the wheel, I was toasty enough that I was feeling like my inhibitions were somewhat relaxed. I really wanted to pet that cat. He would probably enjoy it, right? I mean who doesn’t like to be petted?
But I didn’t.
I didn’t touch the cat, even though he looked inviting and I was a little drunk. Even though I surmised that he might very well end up enjoying my attentions. I didn’t pet the cat because he gave me no indication that he was interested in me in any way and I’d feel like a heel if I forced my attentions on someone — anyone — even a cat.
Too many times in my life I’ve had some guy get handsy with me, acting like my body was there for his pleasure and entertainment even though I’d given no indication that I was interested in him or in that. More than once I’ve had strange men press up against my breasts on a crowded subway car and one who even grabbed me in the crotch as I passed him in a busy bar. Those are just the anonymous ones. The rest had names and some sort of place in my life, even if only briefly.
I didn’t want to be like them with Cinnamon. I didn’t want to act entitled to his body just because it looked like it would be pleasant to touch. To do so would be to act no better than all those men who touched me without my permission or in ways that I hadn’t consented to throughout my life. Nope, I wasn’t going to do it.
I’ve petted cats before, and I will pet them again. I didn’t have to pet that one. I have two at home that I can pretty much pet whenever I want. Allison gets a bit feisty if you have petted her one more stroke than she ideally wanted, but that’s just a typical cat thing. It doesn’t mean that she didn’t want to be petted — just 4 times and not 5. “Can’t you get it right, human?”
I would really have liked to touch Cinnamon and I completely expected than I was going to get to, but when he made it clear that he had no interest in that or in me, I backed off. Really wanting to do it was no excuse and neither was being under the influence of alcohol. If I can resist touching Cinnamon, under those circumstances, as much as I like cats, no one else has any excuse for touching someone else against their will. Besides the fact that you might get bitten or scratched, it’s just the wrong thing to do.
© Copyright Elle Beau 2020
Elle Beau writes on Medium about sex, life, relationships, society, anthropology, spirituality, and love. If this story is appearing anywhere other than Medium.com, it appears without my consent and has been stolen.