DEAR ABBY: I identified with the woman signed "No Hugs, Please," who complained of a man who considers himself a "good Christian" yet dispenses lecherous hugs in the name of fellowship. I am a slim, attractive female who is a United Methodist minister, and three older men in our church fall into the same category. Here's how I handled it:
When one of the men zeroed in on me prior to worship as I was greeting people and proclaimed, "I need a big hug!" I quickly stepped back, pointed to his wife and said, "There ... help yourself!" He's never tried hugging me again.
More often, when I see these predators coming, I simply extend one hand out to shake, and put my other hand on their shoulder to physically keep them at bay. After a brief handshake, I move away. That way, I'm in control of the situation. -- PASTOR IN TEXAS
DEAR PASTOR: I heard from a number of readers of both sexes about how common this problem is. Thank you for sharing with my readers your successful technique. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I have worked in the field of violence against women for six years. No one has the right to touch anyone without permission. Once "Uncle Harry" has been told by these women not to hug them anymore, he's legally obligated to cease. He needs to understand that if he continues to hug women who have asked him to stop, he may be breaking the law and could be arrested. Everyone has a right to her (or his) personal space. -- GIGI IN HAWAII
DEAR ABBY: Your response to "No Hugs, Please" regarding thumbtacks in bras was just bizarre. Just because the man is in his 70s and goes to church doesn't mean he shouldn't be held responsible for sexual harassment.
I'm also curious as to who a "fine" Christian such as Uncle Harry is married to. A woman who turns a blind eye to her husband's lecherous behavior is nothing but a fine example of denial! -- ZERO TOLERANCE FOR LECHERY, GOLDEN, COLO.
DEAR ABBY: Uncle Harry, the older man who loves to hug women, pretending it's not sexual, won't be put off by simply being told, "Don't hug me." He'll laugh and hug harder, just to prove he's in control.
I've found it useful to pretend I don't know there's any sexual component behind such behavior. Example, call out nice and loud, "Ow! You're hurting me!" no matter how gently he hugs.
If you accuse him of improper intent, he'll only deny it. But if you state that he's causing you physical pain -- he can't deny that. It worked for me with a former co-worker who was a lot worse than Uncle Harry. -- MILLIE IN ROCHESTER, N.Y.
DEAR ABBY: Tacks in bras? Please say you were kidding. That's the old passive-aggressive way women dealt with men in the past because they were afraid to stand up for their rights and feelings. Imagine a child trying to hug you with those tacks. Besides, the sight of little points sticking out of my bra and dress is enough to send me into hysterics. -- DEALT WITH IT VERBALLY IN FLA.
DEAR ABBY: I loved your reply regarding lecherous Uncle Harry. As long as he doesn't over-hug, he won't get the "point." Thanks! -- K.J. IN WINDSOR, COLO.
READERS: Today you have seen what the women have to say. On Thursday, I think you'll be equally interested in seeing the responses I received from the men!