John Travolta, Kanye West, Joe Biden and Other Guys Who Touch Women in Weird, Inappropriate Ways

I did an interview for Yahoo Style on the inappropriate ways that men are touching women.  You can read my insights below highlighted in yellow.  I have also put the link to the actual article below.

John Travolta, Kanye West, Joe Biden and Other Guys Who Touch Women in Weird, Inappropriate Ways
There were many touching moments at Sunday night’s Oscars: Imitation Game screenwriter Graham Moore’s admitting to trying to kill himself at 16 and telling all the other weird kids out there to “stay weird.” The teary hug and kiss between Lady Gaga and Julie Andrews after Gaga’s stunning Sound of Music medley. And of course Common and John Legend’s heartrending performance of “Glory” from Selma, with Legend telling the audience, “Selma is now.”

Joe Biden cameos in one of several memes inspired by John Travolta’s Oscar night antics.
But at least two “touching” moments were downright, well, icky—both of them involving John Travolta. First, on the red carpet, he kissed ScarJo and cupped her midriff in a way that might have been tender and sweet if the two were married— to each other. Then later, while charmingly being upbraided onstage by Idina Menzel for mangling her name at last year’s Oscars, he held her too close, cupped her cheek in his hand and close-talked her. Ew.
Alas, Travolta’s tactile malfunctions were just the latest in a seemingly undying string of high-profile men inappropriately touching women in public, televised settings. Last week, vice-president Joe Biden got dubbed once again “America’s Creepy Uncle” when, for a cringe-worthy 20 seconds during the swearing-in of new defense secretary Ash Carter, Biden kept his hands on the shoulders of Carter’s wife, Stephanie, then whispered in her ear. And who can forget the 2006 G8 conference at which then-president George Bush stepped behind the seated German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and shoulder-rubbed her? (Merkel raised her arms in horror.)
Looking back on past Oscars, was Adrien Brody’s understandable elation in 2003 for just having won Best Actor for “The Pianist” justification for his planting a long, powerful, passionate kiss on Halle Berry, who was presenting the award? (Watch the video; Berry looks stunned—and not happily. Creepily, Brody tops off his kiss by telling her, “I bet they didn’t tell you that was in the gift bag.”)
Of course, you might say, oh please, it’s Hollywood, it’s all entertainment and titillation. But according to some experts, male-on-female touching is still driven by male obliviousness toward personal-space boundaries and toward issues of power, even in a limelight-drenched setting. “I did years of sexual harrassment training,” says body-language expert Patti Wood. "The problem was that guys didn’t know they were doing something wrong and the only thing that worked was when women told them, ‘I don’t like that—stop.’ All the men who got word stopped immediately. Women thought the nonverbal messages they were giving, such as leaning away or tensing, was enough, but it wasn’t."
Of course, when you’re live on TV in front of an estimated 34.6 million viewers, saying “stop” can be hard to do. And that’s where issues of power, not just “silly fun,” come into the picture. Referring to Travolta’s cupping Menzel’s face in his hand, Wood says, “That gesture usually connotes to someone that they are really precious to you, but it’s also something a parent does to a child. It’s a way of saying ‘I’m more powerful than you.’” So for Travolta to do that to Menzel when she was sending him up for last year’s gaffe suggested it was “a bizarre, passive-aggressive way to quiet her,” says Wood.
So what are the do’s and don’ts of man-on-woman public touching? There are none, says etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore. “It all depends on your relationship with the person and on the situation,” she says. Biden’s touching the defense secretary’s wife as he did was out of bounds, says Whitmore, because the swearing-in was “a business, not a social, situation, with cameras running.”
But is an awards ceremony a business situation? “That’s a gray area,” she says. “They’re there to party, but then again, they’re viewed as role models and people are watching.”

And the message people may be taking away is, if men feel entitled to touch women in such a proprietary manner before the whole world, what must many men still feel entitled to do in an unobserved setting? It’s especially confusing now that millennials have brought hugging from high school into work settings, says Wood, who suggests that both men and women restrict touch in work settings to the classic handshake and, if they feel compelled to express warmth or bonding after having gotten to know someone, go no further than brief, light fingertips to the elbow or forearm. “That’s the safe zone,” she says.
John Travolta earned himself a spot in an already circulating Kanye West meme.
And Kanye West, who is famous for following his own code of conduct recently posed at the Grammys with both hands squarely on the notorious, Gaultier-clad booty of his wife, Kim Kardashian— much as he once publicly squeezed the butt of Amber Rose, now his ex. “There’s been way more men’s hands on women’s butts in photos the past ten years,” notes Wood. “A few years ago, you’d only do that to a prostitute, not your mate. There was a taboo, because that touch said that sex to the rear was probably going on in the relationship. But now people almost think it’s charming.”

Just one rule, there, says Wood: Make sure that woman whose butt your grabbing in that photo is your wife or girlfriend—and make sure she’s okay with it.

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at Also check out Patti's YouTube channel at