It’s 2023 and We All Know What Consent Is, So Why Are You Still Trying to Touch My Pregnant Belly?

stop touching pregnant bellies: an illustration of a pregnant woman sitting and holding her belly
Ponomariova_Maria/Getty Images

Nearing in on 30 weeks, I’ve been fortunate to experience an easy pregnancy so far. Despite the warnings to “enjoy the sleep now!” (sorry, what sleep?) and unsolicited insistence to “put your feet up!” (I’m fine and capable of taking care of myself, thanks!), I’ve felt happy and relatively comfortable the past six months—as comfortable as one can feel carrying around something the size of an acorn squash in their uterus.

The real discomfort has come in the form of palms descending like vultures to cop a feel of my expanding midsection. Ahh, belly touching. It’s something I thought I was prepared for—and yet. It’s 2023, so why are we still groping pregnant people’s bellies without permission?

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Pregnancy is a “magical time,” they say. I suppose…if by magical you mean it magically beckons a tidal wave of weird behavior from strangers and acquaintances alike. “Were you tryyying?” and “You look like you’re about to POP!” and “It’s definitely a boy, since you’re carrying blah blah blah.”

Pregnancy is exciting! I get it! The unsolicited questions and comments are one thing; the hand I see zooming out from my peripheral vision to rub, pat or pinch my midsection is something entirely more aggravating.

Many people will argue that this is an instinctual behavior, to reach out and touch a pregnant belly—rooted in the innate human desire for social interaction and need for community. Psychologists note that touch is a form of unspoken communication. Touching a pregnant person’s stomach could be seen as a way to communicate the excitement and hope that comes with a child.

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Even when well-meaning, this argument is spoiled by the implication that there’s an attitude of entitlement toward other people’s bodies that we can’t seem to shake. From celebrity “bump” announcements (‘Lindsay Lohan Is Pregnant! Check Out Her BUMP!!!’) to speculation about the size and shape of my own protruding abdominals, the way we treat pregnancy as a free-for-all opinion dump has been a constant reminder that I live in a society that doesn’t view my body as my own and doesn’t care about my privacy either. Why does having another body growing inside of me reduce my own bodily autonomy to nothing? In a post-Roe era, this is both frightening and sadly unsurprising.

But for me, that’s not even the biggest issue. I’m most bothered how, more and more, it really seems like a big fat lie that someone is touching my belly because they think “children are a blessing.”

If you cared about my kid, you would care that the United States doesn’t guarantee paid family leave to workers, but depending on where you live, it may guarantee that you can’t get access to proper reproductive healthcare.

You would care that in this country, the maternal death rate has risen sharply each year since 2018, currently at its highest among Black women, with 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births.

You would care that although it would be technically very easy to provide universal pregnancy coverage, our policymakers would never do such a thing.

You would also care that the current leading cause of death among children in the United States is firearm-related injury, yet we still can’t pass an assault weapons ban.

But you don’t really care…do you? So stop touching my pregnant belly. Or at least ask first.

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Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...