The first time I really heard this word when defined to personal space was about 6 years ago from my trusted counselor. Boundaries were not something I talked about much until then, and now it’s a word that passes by my lips several times a week. I am fascinated by personal boundaries and how they are all so unique. Boundaries can expand and contract often and depending on who we are with they change drastically. This is what makes it confusing to know what your boundaries are, and what others believe in. As it can be a process to discover what your boundaries are, and that takes self-awareness and experience.
When it comes to sexual assault/rape/sexual misconduct it takes boundaries to another level where sharing body fluids, and DNA can literally change someone’s life, destroy their life, and or create a new life.
For the most part, I feel like most of us are intelligent, empathic people who realize the consequences of having sex with someone. But there are plenty of us that feel the consequences are not important and have little respect for their own bodies, and therefore have no respect for others.
It ultimately comes down to self-respect. You cannot give respect to anyone else if you don’t respect yourself. Pushing yourself onto someone else might become the new normal for some people, and perhaps the thrill is so intoxicating and their lack of respect for their own wellbeing is so low that it becomes something to seek out.
People often convince themselves that anything they are doing is needed or wanted and will do anything to make themselves look good. This is where rape culture and victim blaming comes into play.
Right now there is a lot of #MeToo stories, and people coming up talking about things that have recently happened to them or happened decades ago. It feels really good to see people speaking from their truth and standing up for their own boundaries. If we don’t say something, the boundaries will keep being crossed and it would appear that its okay to do so.
It can be challenging to verbally express your boundaries to people, but it absolutely needs to become commonplace. It’s so easy when it comes to taking off your shoes in someone’s house, it’s really easy for the host to ask the guests to take off their shoes before coming in. So when it comes to setting boundaries about personal space, it *should* be just as easy, but usually, it’s not.
The #MeToo movement is a symptom of nonverbal communication that is not working. It’s also a symptom of boundaries pushers who are used to dominating others on a regular basis. They will seek out those that appear unable to stand up for themselves, which could be someone intoxicated, someone overly emotional, someone by themselves late at night, or an obvious power difference in social status.
The only way to change this is for the powerless people to gain power by speaking out against their perpetrators. I feel that powerless people are just as dangerous as powerful people. However, asking someone to speak up against their perpetrators is a big jump into boundary setting. Its like asking someone to run a marathon who has can hardly run a mile. So it starts with setting boundaries and keeping to them on smaller levels. It needs to become a practice, and part of daily life so if something epic happens such as sexual assault, the victim has the confidence to stand up for themselves.
The little ways I have been working on setting boundaries with people are stating what is important to me. Some things that are important to be are that my inner circle of friends know its absolutely not okay to have a romantic relationship with one of my ex-boyfriends and I honor them in the same way. That is a boundary I will not cross as I see extremely negative consequences with my relationship with my friend. It’s not worth the risk to find out. Another boundary of mine is that I can’t allow people into my inner circle that do not have the ability to listen deeply and put their phone away while we are talking. I feel this is an obvious one, but it’s not always. I run a business, and I need to check my phone often, but not while I am in a conversation with someone. My time is valuable, and so is yours. We are all busy, so let’s make the most out of personal time together. If not, I would rather spend time with people that value me and what I have to say.
The point is that we all have needs/wants and we deserve to ask for those. Its good to value yourself, and state what is important to you. I have found you will attract people that have the similar boundaries as you and its a recipe for a wonderful relationship.
When it comes to your body and sex, I have found that talking about boundaries with your body are not common. There is a lot of unspoken assumptions that lead to unwanted advances and consequences.
When someone is in a dangerous situation such as sexual assault they usually respond to it in one of four ways: Fighting, Freezing, Flighting or Fawning (according to a book I read years ago called “Complex PTSD” by Pete Walker”). It seems that if a victim fights back or tries to leave (flighting) out of the situation that is a normal response to most. But if the victim freezes (dissociation and unable to move) or fawns (which is basically trying to admire the predator so they can prevent more harm) that the victim *must* have wanted it.
The best thing to do is to prevent your boundaries from being crossed in the first place, but if that is unsuccessful you need to state they were crossed or the perpetrator will continue to do it again to you, or to someone else.
I applaud everyone who is standing up for themselves. I appreciate that the world is shifting. We are intelligent. We know how to talk and think and process information. Yet emotional intelligence seems to be a new concept and it is just as important as book smarts.
I am glad I have invested in years of counseling. About 13 years. It prepares me for life and gives me the tools to know how to handle most situations. For anyone that is new to counseling, I strongly suggest you start doing it. Think of it as a brain scrub or personal training for your mind. It works! It can be a process to find your perfect counselor, but even the counselors I have gone to once have given me valuable information.
My dream is to live in a world where we stop adding new stories to the #metoo movement and start aggressive verbal boundary setting and stop passive-aggressive communication. I have a feeling we are on our way. I am a hopeful human, I see a lot of progress and this post is another drop in the bucket of hopefully adding to the progress.