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Setting effective boundaries with boys and men is a common problem for many teenage girls (and women too). One of the primary problems is dealing with unwanted sexual attention. This attention comes in many different forms from unwanted comments to inappropriate touches to physical violations. These incidents are boundary setting and boundary violation issues.  A look a #MeToo shows how widespread this problem is.

A scene from the film “Being 14”.

Generally, girls have been socialized in society to “be nice”. The side effect of this “niceness” is girls not standing up for themselves for fear of the consequences of not being nice. Therefore, many girls deal with conflicts by engaging in passive and/or indirect speech. Assertiveness seen as “bitchy” and is associated with being angry. Girls are also physically intimidated by larger and stronger boys and men, leading them to not want to “make them mad”.  There also exists a considerable percentage of boys and men who are looking to take advantage of girls and women. The result this combination is a long list of victims as exemplified by #MeToo.

In terms of Everyday Boundary Setting™, standing up for yourself means engaging effective boundary setting. In order to set boundaries, you must be willing to clearly Communicate and Enforce them. But before you can do so, you need to know what your boundaries are, and to what extent you are willing to insist they be respected (your Boundary Setting Paradigm). You must also recognize that many times girls and women don’t stand up for themselves out of fear of creating a Backlash. They are afraid that their level of Enforcement will be perceived as Over-Enforcement. As a result, they undershoot and engage in Under-Enforcement.

The dominant conflict management strategy in much of “girl culture” is to engage in passive aggressive methods of Under-Communication and Under-Enforcement. Communication is achieved through body language and Enforcement is done behind her opponent’s back. Body language is the primary method of Communication. Social manipulation is the primary method of Enforcement. When dealing with unwanted male attention, girls tend to use ignoring/passive body language to send a message of “I don’t want to engage in you.”  This method allows them (usually) to avoid undesired attention in social situations. This socialization leads to minimal practice and experience with using assertive Communication and Enforcement of their boundaries.

Imagine the following scenarios:

  • Your leaving public transportation, and you feel like you are being followed.
  • You are shopping and the store clerk makes inappropriate comments.
  • You are walking down the sidewalk, when a drunk man steps out and calls out menacingly.
  • You are standing in a crowded train, and a stranger purposely brushes up against you.
  • You are returning from a social outing, and your date will not take “no” for an answer.
  • You are walking down a deserted street at night, and a suspicious person you rapidly from behind.

In the above scenarios, passive body language alone is unlikely to work. These situations require the use of effective boundary setting.

Harry Potter film series – Hermione deals with Malfoy


A important aspect of Everyday Boundary Setting™ is to apply its tools in boundary setting situations. The Progressive Fence™ is an essential tool for effect boundary setting.

In this video clip, you can see Hermione use the Progressive Fence. Her direct approach towards Malfoy shows the strong body language of the Visual Fence. She follows with the clear verbalization of the Visual Fence. Her use of the Physical Fence comes in two stages. The initial stage is to use her wand to pin Malfoy to the tree. When her actions are not sufficient to create Respect, she follows up with a punch (second stage). The use of the Progressive Fence is the natural outcome of effective boundary setting.

The judgement of the appropriateness of her level of Enforcement is in her eyes and also in the eyes of the Beholders. Based on the reactions of all involved, it appears that her level of Enforcement had the desired result of creating Respect.

It is important to keep in mind that the judgment of acceptable levels of Enforcement differ for fantasyland. In the real world, Hermione’s punch would likely have been viewed as Over-Enforcement and created a Backlash of some sort.

The use of the Progressive Fence™ is an important aspect of Everyday Boundary Setting™.  In order to apply boundary setting in an reliable and effective manner, you need to train yourself to use it properly.

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