Public display of affection or sexual harassment?

A "public display of affection" captured in Paris, captured some years ago. Harassment or love?

Here in our section of the Blue Ride Mountains of Virginia, many of us are touchy-freely.

I sometimes hug women I haven’t seen for a long time.

It’s the way we are.

So, apparently, is former vice president Joe Biden.

Biden comes from a culture in and around his hometown — Scranton, Pennsylvania — where people greet each other with hugs.

It’s the way folks in many parts of the country act.

Let’s not confuse how Biden treats women with predatory president Donald Trump, who got caught on tape bragging about “grabbing their pussies” as a way to seduce any woman, married or single, he wanted to — shall we say — “get familiar with.”

The “Me Too” movement in America today, spurred by celebrities, politicians and industry leaders who sexually harassed women as a matter of course has also made simple touching between a man and women questionable act.

And it’s not just men harassing women.  Actor Kevin Spacey went into hiding after revelations of his attempts to seduce and underage boy wipes out his career.

Sexual harassment is a clear and present danger in America today, even here in Floyd County.  Just visit the Virginia Sexual Offenders Registry online and browse the section dedicated to Floyd and surrounding counties. You probably know several of the folks who will be on that available public display of shame and humiliation for the rest of their lives.

They a place on such lists.  It includes a Floyd County grandfather who molested his granddaughter, a former athletic coach who molested the girls he coached, a former business leader and his Iraq-war veteran son who engaged in child photography and others.

Some Floyd Countians now live in other places, which keeps them off the Floyd County list, but you can find them in Montgomery County, Giles County,  Carroll and other counties.  We recommend checking the list often.  Residents need to know if there is a sexual predator in their midst particularly if they have children.

Sexual harassment is a vile crime.  Harassing or raping a child is worse.  An old joke about Floyd and other Appalachian counties says “their family trees don’t branch” because of births from incestuous affairs. We have parents raping their children or their nieces and nephews and it happens far too often.

There’s a fine line between acceptable and unacceptable affection and it is a line too often crossed.  When does simple public displays of affection become harassment?

A simple question, perhaps, but one difficult to answer.

In the midst of the “Me Too” uproar, an email appeared from a former lover in Alton, Illinois, where I worked as a reporter and photographer at the newspaper for 12 years.

“We need to talk,” she wrote.  “Please give me a call.”

I did and she laughed.  I forgot she had that kind of sense of humor.

“Gotcha,” she said.  “What happened between us wasn’t sexual harassment.  I believe they call it foreplay.”

At a meeting of the Floyd County Board of Supervisors last month, I ran into Pat Sharkey, Director of the Floyd County Tourism Office.  I’ve known Pat since returning to Floyd County 15 years ago and we usually hug each other when we haven’t seen each other for a while.

But when I started to hug her, she pushed me away.

“Please be careful,” she said.  “I’ve got some sort of stomach bug and I don’t want to pass it on.”

I took a chance and hugged her anyway.  I didn’t get sick and I didn’t get arrested for harassment.

What’s a stomach bug among friends?

© 2004-2021 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse