Can I put my hand on your butt without offending?

This morning I played pick-up basketball with a woman, a former college player who was shooting around at the gym. Playing one-on-one with a girl who you don’t know is always a little complicated, especially in the beginning. This girl was a solid player with a decent outside jumper and she was capable of driving to the basket with both her left and right hand. In order to play defense, especially in a one-on-one game, I was going to have to make a certain amount of physical contact with her.

A hand on the hip.

Body-to-body blocking out.

The inadvertent hand on the butt when reaching for the hip or contact with a breast when reaching in for a steal.

Most female players understand this, but as a man, I must gauge the level of contact that my opponent will find acceptable and be careful to not be perceived as stepping over any unspoken line. It’s complicated, and it can be a little stressful until we reach a silent agreement as to what is permitted and what is not.

What I’d like to do is simply state the following prior to the game:

“Look. You know and I know that basketball is physical, especially when played one-on-one. It’s likely that at some point during this game, I will be placing my hand on your hip, and inevitably, that means an occasional hand on your butt. It’s also likely that my hands will come into contact with your breasts, inadvertently of course, but things happen. I’m very happily married and have a beautiful baby girl at home and have no interest in anything more than a competitive game of hoops. Is that cool with you?”

Instead, I must wait. Gauge my opponent’s level of physicality. Eventually take a chance and see how she reacts. A hand to the hip or a aggressive move to box her out from a rebound. Quite often this stilted play can lead to a loss in the first game, as my defense is inevitably porous and weak.

Today I took an elbow to the chin almost immediately, followed by a barely-audible apology and a layup while I was still doubled over. It hurt, but it was worth it. Right from the start, I knew that being physical would not be a problem.