“Handsy” = The “Cutesy” of Sexual Predation

I’m not sure how I feel about the word “handsy.”

It’s come up in a variety of contexts lately. “He was getting kind of handsy.” “I was warned that he was handsy.” I have only encountered the word “handsy” when describing male people who have touched women’s bodies without consent. I understand that it may be applied in other contexts. But, I wonder about it. I like that there is a word that is easier to use to talk about something that for too long has not been easy to talk about. At the same time, I wonder at the ways that word is so protective of the (often male) offender.

It is a word that does not speak of violation, of sexual violence, of entitlement, abuse, or aggression. It’s a diminutive word. It’s kind of like “cutesy.” It’s the “cutesy” of sexual predation.

“He was getting kind of handsy” makes nice with the offense and the offender in a way that “He assaulted me,” or “He grabbed my breasts,” or “He pressed me between his body and a wall,” or “He put his hands all over me without my consent” does not.

Also, there’s something passive about the word “handsy.” It’s a word like “hungry” or “horny.” Being hungry doesn’t necessarily describe the behavior that was taken when the person was hungry. (i.e., “because he was hungry, he devoured that steak”) or when horny (i.e., “because she was horny, she pulled out her vibrator”). With hungry and horny (for example), there are a variety of options for what to do when one is in those states.

The word handsy implies that sexual violation is some kind involuntary of state of being. On the contrary, I think it corresponds to behavior or to a set of behaviors that a person exerts will and choice to perform. The person wasn’t, just, for example, getting “horny” (a state of being). When the person was, perhaps, horny / turned on / attracted to someone, the person touched someone in an intimate way without consent.

I acknowledge that I kind of liked the term, myself, when I first heard it, but as I heard it applied in more (and more serious) contexts, I felt less good about it. I’m not sure about all of the ways in which it is used, and I understand that there are different kinds and levels of sexual violation. Nevertheless, in each case, I want language that makes it clear that there’s nothing cute about it and that there’s nothing involuntary about it, regardless of the level of violation.

I want the language to indicate that someone actually did something and what they did caused harm.

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