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Sadly, Sunday's incident was just the latest episode of famous men getting too touchy feely.

Barbara Stepko
February 24, 2015

What was the most buzz-worthy moment of Monday’s Oscars? The sight of host Neil Patrick Harris in his tighty whities? Lady Gaga’s weird-but-wonderful tribute to The Sound of Music?

No, for our money, it was when John Travolta, presenting the award for Best Original Song with Idina Menzel, went all handsy on the singer’s face—grabbing her chin for what seemed to be an eternity (actually five looong, cringe-worthy seconds), while saying "You, you, my darling, my beautiful, my wickedly talented Idina Menzel."

All together now: Eeeewwww!

More mind-blowing: This wasn’t even Travolta’s first close encounter of the creepy kind that evening. Earlier, cruising the red carpet, he came upon Scarlett Johansson and planted a kiss on her cheek. (Johansson, suffice it to say, was not amused.)

Which prompts us to wonder: What is it with guys getting all grabby?

Remember last week’s infamous touchy-feely moment? As Ashton Carter was being sworn in as defense secretary, Vice President Joe Biden was having a special moment of his own with Carter’s wife, Stephanie, placing his hands on her shoulders and whispering in her ears. Look just beyond her small, tight smile and you could almost hear a silent scream, “What the…? Did he just… Okay, okay—hold on. Just keep it together.”

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Of course to many in The Beltway, it was just, you know, “Joe being Joe.” Biden, after all, is known for these kinds of impromptu displays of affection. So is former President George W. Bush, for that matter. Remember when he gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel a quick back rub at the G8 Summit in 2006? I’ll bet Merkel does.

No one is suggesting that there's anything remotely sexual about these “reach out and touch someone” moments. Maybe we can just chalk them up to miscalculated acts of friendliness and innocent affection. Even so, it’s pretty hard to give these guys a pass. Invading someone’s personal space—especially when that someone happens to be female—is just wrong in so many ways.

Bad etiquette? Sure, there’s that. But one can’t help but wonder if there’s also an underlying power play at work here; one in which The Grabber just naturally assumes that he’s in a position to do such a thing in the first place. Women don’t make that kind of presumption. (Seriously, can you imagine Hilary putting her mitts on Vladimir Putin’s shoulders during a global summit?)

What’s more, as women, we’re conditioned to feel that we have to stand there and take whatever some dolt is dishing out (with a frozen smile and gritted teeth, perhaps, but still). What are you going to do, make a scene? No, that’s not realistic in high-profile settings.

But there does have to be some kind of understanding that when a woman wants to be touched, she’ll let a man know by sending a signal—making the first move, so to speak, by reaching out first.

Until then, to paraphrase the man-handled Menzel: Let go, guys.

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