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I want to preface this post by saying that this is, indeed, a very difficult question that I genuinely don't know the answer to and am seeking opinions on.

I was recently at a party at the home of the family of an acquaintance. They have a very nice, very sweet son who also happens to have Williams Syndrome. Let's call him Alex. ETA: Alex is 30, not a small child. One of the things that this means is that Alex was very affectionate, and did a lot of hugging without asking.

Now, I am a person who, because of various life experiences, is very uncomfortable with unasked for physical touch from men who I do not know. It makes me very anxious and unsettled, and if it continues can prompt a severe anxiety attack. Fortunately, my acquaintance was sure to warn those of us who hadn't met him of the physical affection, and I was able to mentally prepare myself so that, although I was anxious, I was able to moderate it and have a nice time with everyone, including Alex, who was a wonderful person.

I recognize that in this situation, it's up to me to moderate my anxiety because I can and because Alex cannot moderate his actions. I'm cool with that. However, I also realize that there are people who have the same issue with physical touch as me but to a much more significant extent, and for whom this would create a serious problem. My question is, in that case, how do you handle it? Is it fair to expect people to be okay with being touched because of Alex's disability, regardless of their background?


Another thing I noticed that made me slightly uncomfortable was that the physical affection (hugs, backrubs) was only directed toward women. Men got handshakes over and over the same way we got hugs. In my experience, handshakes pose way less of an uncomfortability factor for most (though not all) people. It was at that point that I felt like hmm, maybe part of this is gendered in a very subconscious way. I felt as if the women were expected to accept a different level of physical touch without being asked than the men, and I felt like that wasn't okay.

If anything that I've written here offends or is insensitive or incorrect, please let me know and I will change it immediately. I don't know the answer to this question, I'm genuinely seeking answers and a discussion. I recognize that it's a really hard situation to navigate and I don't know the right way to do it.