What Discussions on Joe Biden’s Unwanted Touching Need to Address

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, you would know that likely candidate for President of the United States Joe Biden has been accused of unwanted touching, and has since then made jokes about consent and touching. As a result of these accusations, there has been conversation, but most of those conversations have surrounded the former Vice President of the United States himself: about whether accusations against him are true, whether his jokes about touching were in poor taste, and about whether these things should disqualify him from being a serious candidate for President of the United States.

While these are all valid and important conversations to have, I think we would be doing an injustice to ourselves, and to American society as a whole, if we do not have conversations that go beyond the purview of Biden himself—conversations like these:

  1. We need to have a conversation about the warped power dynamics of someone touching from behind. Yes, unwanted touching of any sort is a problem, and there should be a discussion about unwanted touching as a whole. However, with unwanted touching from the back, the nature of it is such that the victim does not have the opportunity to say “no” because the victim did not see the person moving toward them. That warped power dynamic, which comes with the inability to say no with a touch from behind, needs to be addressed.
  2. We need to have a discussion about the fact that “jokes” involving inappropriate behavior, of any kind, are not funny. Stalking “jokes” are not funny (which I wrote a whole post about). Rape “jokes” are not funny. Unwanted touching “jokes” are not funny. “Jokes” related to any form of wrongdoing need to be addressed, because while Biden’s jokes were inappropriate, there are many places where I’ve heard jokes about inappropriate behavior, and unless we address that fact, we will just see such jokes get told over and over and over again.
  3. We need to continue discussing consent. For the umpteenth time, if there is no confident “yes,” then the answer is “no”! How many of these stories is it going to take before that fact dawns on people who are most likely to be tempted to act badly and commit an act of unwanted touching, sexual harassment, or sexual assault? 

I am sure there are many other things that can and even should be discussed, given the recent stories on the former vice president (and if that is the case, please let me know in the comments below). That being said, we must at least start by expanding the discussion beyond Biden himself. After all, Biden may only be around for a couple more decades on this earth (if that), but issues regarding touching from behind, jokes about inappropriate behaviors, and issues about consent may last much longer than Biden himself.

7 Replies to “What Discussions on Joe Biden’s Unwanted Touching Need to Address”

  1. So, I admittedly goofed up on the timing of my post. I meant to publish this at 12pm but it published at 12am instead. Oh well. Though who knows… maybe a midnight post is best for some. 🙂

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  2. I agree with you … perhaps most of us, male & female alike, need a course in what’s appropriate and what’s not in this age, for may grew up in an age where it was the ‘norm’ to touch one’s shoulder, or give a spontaneous hug. I sometimes think that we have gone to far, but better to err on the side of caution when in doubt. Good post.

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    1. I would agree with you. Biden uses the excuse that the “norm” is different from what used to be the case. Maybe that’s true, maybe not. I was born in 1994 so I can’t speak for what was the norm when he started to be in politics in the 60s and 70s. Regardless, there needs to be better educating of ourselves and others on what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate. And as you said, when in doubt, err on the side of caution.

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  3. If we are in a crowded room, and I want to say something to you, I tap you on the shoulder to get you to look at… if there is no confidant yes—it is no is just tone deaf and puritanical.

    Learn some judgment and stop always blaming.

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    1. I have actually experienced those situations before (where I get touched like that out of nowhere), and each time it happens it really freaks me out. It wasn’t a big deal but it still freaked me out.

      Regardless, I think with physical contact in general, it’s probably wisest to air on the side of being cautious. I have never known anyone to get into trouble for being cautious, but I have known many to get into trouble for being too aggressive.

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  4. Human beings need touching. Harlow’s experiments with monkeys demonstrates the power of touch and the primacy of touch. When I started teaching in 1977 we were told that a hand on the shoulder was a good thing. Kids, especially with emotional problems, need some form of human physical connection. By the time I left teaching in 2009 I would not touch a kid with a 10 foot pole.
    Something happened in the 1980s and 90s that perverted the idea of human warmth. Maybe it was the sexualization of young girls by Madonna. Maybe it was the Clinton sex scandals. Maybe it was the Clarence Thomas sexual escapades. Maybe it has to do with the increased isolation caused by new technologies. I recall sitting in a restaurant in which 4 people are eating “together” while silently staring at their iphones. No real human connections.
    Something happened that redefined almost all human touching as “sexual”. So, if Biden hugs someone folks minds immediately gravitate toward sex. When all touching becomes sexual we have lost a key component of what makes us humans.
    I don’t know what the answer is, but it is not increased human isolation.

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    1. I don’t think isolation is the answer, either. So I agree with you there. That being said, I don’t think that unwelcome touching is the answer either. I think that there is a happy medium, a medium where both parties–the toucher and the touched–actually welcome the touch.

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