10 Ways to Say No When Someone Asks to Touch Your Hair

Since its publication on Two or More, 10 Ways to Say No When Someone Asks to Touch Your Hair has been featured on Kinky Hair Connection.

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 abovementioned 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.

See below for the result. Have more ways to say no? Share them in the comment section!

#MinorityReport Co-Hosts: Simeona, Danielle, and Domanique. Two or More https://bklyndani.wordpress.com

10 ways to say no when someone asks to touch your hair

  1. My mother don’t want nobody touching my hair
  2. Hell no
  3. *Side eye + curve*
  4. I don’t think your hands are  clean
  5. Hell f*cking 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.

About my co-hosts:

  • Simeona Cayetano was born in Guatemala, where she lived until she was 11 years old. When she came to the United States, she moved to Brooklyn, and became the first member in her family to graduate from college. She currently lives in the Bronx.
  • Domanique Borges is a first-generation college graduate who currently works on Wall Street. She was born in New York City to an American mother and  a Dominican father. She lives in Washington Heights.

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19 thoughts on “10 Ways to Say No When Someone Asks to Touch Your Hair

  1. Leila Mabourakh says:

    Love this. Especially love the ’10 ways to say no’ bit – sometimes it’s hard to find the right words to explain to people why touching your hair is not OK! Also, I just saw this Dove spot that brings yet another interesting perspective about hair to the table – hair bias and embracing your natural hair and beauty. Enjoy and I look forward to reading the next post 🙂


  2. Mia says:

    Dear Danielle, as always I love to read your stuff ! Can’t wait for the next projects !
    About 40 years ago when I was 14 I went to Haiti to visit my uncle who lived there. I remember quite vividly that as I was walking through the local market I regularly had the impression that something was going through my hair , gently pulling it. It was always very swift..I turned around trying to figure out what it was but I saw no strange object hanging and the vendors kept looking the other way. Until I finally caught a woman touching it. I was the only blonde girl in that market and as I was walking by all the vendors tried to get a “feel” of it . It was a very strange feeling, it was the first time it ever happened to me.
    At school when I wore my hair quite long people sitting on the bench behind me used to always play with it. It annoyed me so much that one day I cut it all off.
    I guess hair always fascinated people… Look at the different religions where women cannot show their hair to other men than their husbands…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Danielle James says:

      Hi Mia,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and your personal story.

      There are so many reasons people reach out to touch our hair. As you mentioned, some might be or of curiousity, and some out of curiousity + the thought that they can just go ahead and touch it without regard for the person the hair is attached to. How did you feel after cutting yours?

      I’ll keep you posted on the next projects via the newsletter, lots in the works.



      • Anonymous says:

        Hi again,
        to answer you question… when I cut it off it felt good in the beginning, like “I am free and I am more than just my hair !”, but it was the only time I cut it short, I’ve kind of always grew it long since then. I must admit I have been thinking about it again… But more for practical reasons. Now I have a different dilemma : colour or no colour ? Well, I decided to embrace my natural white and even though you always have people criticising this choice, I get more and more compliments lately, sometimes from complete strangers in the street, people loving the natural look. As with everything in life, do whatever makes you happy.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Adrienne says:

    What a truthful and fun post Danielle and co-hosts! As a fellow curly girl, I have experienced this many times and thus relate wholeheartedly to your post. The strangest thing that happened to me was a stranger put her entire face into my hair from behind in a dark pool lounge. Thank goodness the person was harmless and we were able to laugh it off in the end. But, wow, what an experience! Keep up the fantastic work!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anastasia Nicole says:

    Love everything about this, especially that list. Reminds me of the time a stranger touched my hair. I was in the airport one morning for a 7am flight and a lady behind me on the escalator ran her whole hand through my hair. I was already tired and annoyed that I was at the airport at 6am so I turned around and told her very bluntly to never do that to anyone else again. She had the nerve to be mad at me. Umm ma’am, you just violated my entire person and have the nerve to be mad that I wasn’t OK with it.

    I get that you may be curious about someone’s hair texture but assuming they have no right to their body is a major problem. And that is exactly what people are saying when they won’t take no for an answer or just reach out and touch you without engaging.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Danielle James says:

      Hi Anastasia,
      Thank you for sharing! How invasive. Isn’t it crazy that people just assume that it’s ok and to do that to someone they don’t even know? That’s super creepy. Can’t believe she got mad at you.


    • Danielle James says:

      Doesn’t make sense when you think about it, right? I’m thinking of starting a study where I go around touching people’s hair and note their reactions 🙂 I’m sure many of the people who respond indignantly would be just as shocked and upset to be touched without asking.


  5. Judith says:

    Having read this I thought it was rather informative. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this informative article together. I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!


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