This column is not about Joe Biden.

I thought Mr. Biden was a perfectly good vice president and if he wins the Democratic primary, I would vote for him for president, and I’m sure he would be a perfectly good president as well.

No, this column is about men like Joe Biden.

They are men of a certain age – usually older than 45 – who are cheerful, friendly, outgoing and what is often referred to as “physically affectionate.” They would never, ever do anything to hurt a woman on purpose; they would never rape or harass or assault a woman; they love their wives and their daughters and their granddaughters.

And yet, these men feel free to – without permission – hug women they aren’t on personal terms with, and to give them a kiss on the cheek or the top of the head. The younger the woman, the more likely it is to happen. And they never do it to young men. (Some of the most boisterous might engage in a little back-slapping with young sporty types, but that’s it.)

You probably know some of these guys. Heck, given the demographics of this newspaper, you might be one of those guys. And if you are, I would like to ask – with no blame or judgment or aggression – why? Why do you feel the need to hug women without asking first? (Or worse, the cheek kisses! And no, being European doesn’t make it OK.)


I’ve been in my fair share of social situations where I’m ready to give a handshake – my dad, a former bank lawyer, trained me in the art of a good solid handshake, and I am very proud of my form – and then, suddenly, arms are around me. And then what? I’m stuck in a hug that I don’t want to be in. I could try to forcefully remove myself, but then everyone involved would feel hurt.

I was never a touchy-feely kid. As soon as I was old enough to walk and talk, I started jumping out of laps and pushing away hands and saying “no thanks.” (Or, given that I was about 4, “no tanks,” which also explains my ongoing anti-war stances. I got started early.)

This was hard for my mother – she is a naturally affectionate, touchy-feely person. But she decided to respect my personal space and help reinforce the idea that my body is to be touched only if I want it to be. She asks before hugging me, every time. I’m 26 now and she still asks me every time before she hugs me. And again, this is my MOM – the person who literally made me and who loves me more than anyone else on earth does.

A lot of people feel a connection to me – because, I think, I remind them of their daughters and granddaughters or their exasperating liberal niece. And people do often feel that they know me through my writing – which is something I strive for and am proud of. But I’m not on close familial terms with men I have just met. (We might get there at some point, fear not.)

I’m an adult human being, and all I want is to be treated the same way you would treat me if my name were Victor and I were 6 feet tall. And if you do try to touch me without my permission, you probably don’t know me nearly as well as you think. Even my boyfriend (who I would hug 24/7, if that were a feasible option) knows to telegraph his moves to me. He sneaked up behind me exactly once and I shrieked so loud I nearly broke his eardrums.

Since the revelations of the #MeToo movement – the revelation mainly being that sexual harassment is rampant across many industries and wasn’t solved back in 1992 (the year, by the way, in which I was born), I’ve noticed a lot of hand-wringing in commentary, with men saying, “What are the new rules now? Where are the lines drawn? What are the new rules for interacting with female co-workers in This New Day And Age?”


Allow me to suggest one simple rule that should help everyone: Ask permission before touching someone beyond the common professional handshake. Just ask. “Hi, nice to meet you! May I give you a hug?” (The exception to this rule is emergency situations: If I am choking, please give me the Heimlich maneuver.)

And if the idea of asking permission before touching someone, especially a woman, makes you uncomfortable – well, imagine how uncomfortable it is to not be asked at all.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

Twitter: mainemillennial


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