8 Ways Women's Boundaries Are Constantly Violated

Woman and feminine-presenting people constantly receive little reminders throughout their lives that their bodies are not their own. Indeed, the little ways women's boundaries are violated on a daily basis are too numerous to count — and so commonplace that they're not always called out in the way they should be. And to be clear, they should be called out; over time and with repetition, both the boundary violations we face and the way that they are so often ignored contribute to rape culture — and this cannot stand.

Boundaries are typically thought of as sexual, and they frequently are. But they have a broader meaning, as well, and many women and feminine-presenting people struggle to enforce their own boundaries in multiple ways. For example, we may have difficulty asserting our emotional boundaries by telling our friends we're not able to help them at the moment. Or, we may have trouble asserting our professional boundaries by telling our boss we're unable to take on a new assignment.

These issues all relate to one central problem: Our culture teaches us that women exist almost exclusively for other people, and when women don't please others, they're often made to feel guilty about it. Guilt, disrespect, and a multitude of other factors contribute to a culture where women's boundaries are repeatedly disrespected. Here are a few ways that happens on a daily basis.

1. Unwanted Physical Contact

Women's boundaries are violated disproportionately through sexual assault — 33.1 percent of women are sexually assaulted during college by their senior year, according to the Association of American Universities'(AAU) Campus Climate Survey. Even in non-sexual scenarios, however, women are still often told they must hug or kiss people, even when they don't want to; the idea is that allowing such touches make other people feel welcome and wanted at all times. BUt "being polite" — which is often just code used to prevent people from enforcing their own boundaries — for someone else's convenience should never trump your own sense of safety or physical comfort.

2. Unwanted Looks

You may think of the violation of physical boundaries as something that happens only through touch, but it can also be visual. When somebody looks at you in a public place for longer or in a different way than is considered respectful, this conveys the message that you don't have the right to personal space or privacy.

3. Pressure To Perform Emotional Labor

Women are expected far more than men to give friends advice, lend a listening ear, and perform other forms of emotional labor that can be draining if we're being shoehorned into the role, rather than taking it on of our own free will.

4. Low Value Being Placed On Our Work

The lower value placed on women's work is reflected not only in the wage gap, but also in requests for free advice and professional assistance from people who don't offer anything in return. And when we attempt to charge people requesting phone calls or meetings to "pick our brains," they often guilt us, reflecting a lack of respect for our boundaries.

5. Care-Taking Expectations

Women are more often expected to play the care-taker role, not just when they have kids but also when they have sick parents, younger relatives, and others who need to be taken care of. As with so many things, the issue is not necessarily that a woman does take on a care-giving role; it's when a woman feels pressured into taking that role — that she has no other option but to take it That's a clear boundary violation, even though many might not see it as such.

6. Online Harassment

Women's boundaries are disrespected as much online as they are offline. Over three quarters of women under 30 in Australia have experienced online harassment, according to a Norton survey. This harassment pushes boundaries in multiple ways by sexualizing women, exposing them to violence, and engaging them in discussions they did not consent to.

7. Nosey Questions

"When are you having kids?" "Have you met any nice boys?" "When are you going to settle down?" The questions women hear on the regular tend to be nosier than the ones men hear, which again reflects the assumption that women are here to please other people and must meet the cultural expectations set for them.

8. Through Superficial Judgments

People tend to comment on aspects of women's and gender-nonconforming people's appearances and personalities that don't receive as much attention in men. From what we wear to how we talk to our sexual decisions, everything is under scrutiny, and very little is off the table. These judgments — and all these boundary violations — reflect a sense of ownership over our bodies, when in reality, nobody should own our bodies but ourselves.

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