awkward people

When people lack a basic understanding of boundaries

Every time I write about boundaries or creepy people or stalking or harassment people respond saying that I shouldn’t call it creepy because he or she might not know better.

And sometimes that’s true. People often violate boundaries and hurt people without understanding what they’re doing. And when people really don’t understand, it’s good for someone to help them. (And in some situations there’s an obligation to do so, up to a point. Eg, if you’re their teacher and they’re inadvertently hurting other students.)

But, even if there is no malice, they’re still hurting people and it’s still wrong. If you want to teach someone to stop doing something wrong, you have to understand that it’s wrong and that it matters. You’re not doing them any favors by letting them continue to do it on the grounds that they may not understand. If people act like it’s ok, it’s really hard for them to learn that it isn’t.

Further, it’s ok to say no if someone is hurting you. It’s ok even if they have no idea what they’re doing wrong. It’s ok even if they’re upset by it. Asserting boundaries doesn’t come with an obligation to convince them that what they’re doing is wrong. Them hurting you doesn’t make you owe them anything. It means that they owe it to you to stop. Even if they don’t understand why.