10 Ways to say no when people try to touch your natural hair

Guest Post By Danielle James

If you have curly hair, chances are you’ve been approached by a stranger asking to touch it. If you’re Black, chances are that said stranger’s hand was already in your hair before you could respond. I’ve experienced this many times, from a sweaty man on the subway platform pleading to let him finger my curls, to a fellow writing contest winner grabbing a handful without warning before dashing through closing subway doors, knowing that I couldn’t chase him.

Once, a young man’s lips formed a perfect oval as his mouth fell open in disbelief, after I told him no, he could not touch my hair. He was indignant, But why? Because I said no. My first response should have been enough for him to understand and walk away. But he had difficulty comprehending this. Back and forth we went, until I hopped in a subway car. Yes, this also happened to take place on a subway platform – though it has happened in many other places, all around the world. And yes, in case you were wondering, all of these men were white.

To the people out there, roaming around touching the hair of strangers without consent: I appreciate that you think my hair looks nice. I’m flattered that you are so attracted to it that you would like to touch it. If you ask and I say yes, touch away. If I say no, do not, under any circumstance, proceed to move your fingers toward the area near my face.

The concept of stopping your action when someone says no seems pretty straightforward, however, some have a hard time accepting this, hence the above mentioned situations. (Sadly, this doesn’t apply to hair only, women are often touched without being asked, or disregarded when they say no.) My girls and I often share Can I touch your hair? scenarios, and how they play out in the workplace, on NYC streets (hint: we don’t let anyone off that easily), in restaurants, clubs, and restroom waiting lines. One day, we got together, poured us some prosecco, shared our usual laughs, and came up with 10 ways to say no when someone asks to touch your hair.

  1. My mother don’t want nobody touching my hair
  2. H. no
  3. *Side eye + curve*
  4. I don’t think your hands are  clean
  5. H.. f…. no
  6. Touch yo’ mama’s hair
  7. Sorry, but no
  8. No hablo ingles
  9. I don’t think HR would approve of that
  10. No thank you


Hear the full audio recording, complete with voice impersonations and lots of laughter.


Additional info:

Reader Questions:

    1. Have you ever encountered strangers trying to touch your hair?
    2. Do you have other ways of saying no?

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