WE READ THE STORY "A Pat on the Bottom Lands Va. Man in Jail" with a mixture of satisfaction and sorrow, knowing full well that Walter Combre richly deserves his 60 days in jail, his $150 fine, and his lecture on the women's liberation movement for pinching Vickie Evans "on the posterior end"; yet knowing, too, that the liberties taken by Mr. Combre, and the resultant penalties, are bound to have some inhibiting effect on time-honored custom - if not, in fact, on liberty.No more will swaggering men feel free, so to speak, but will rather discipline themselves to keep their arms at their sides, their eyes on higher matters. Whistles and hoots will undoubtedly go next. There will be an eerie silence at construction sites.

This eventually had to be, of course, but it's too bad the revolution had to come at the hands of Mr. Combre. Miss Evans testified that not only had Mr. Combre pinched her on the day in question, but that he had also done so the day before. The second time around, Miss Evans was sitting on her porch when Mr. Combre attacked. She chased him back to his yard and hit him on the head with her shoe; whereupon the fanatic Mr. Combre drew a gun , hopped into his van and bumped Miss Evans as he drove away. In short, Mr. Combre was not your ordinary pincher. Yet the exception will make the rule.

As long as a precedent is being set, however, we ought to correct a statement of District Judge Joseph Jordan, who handed down the ruling. In reference to the pinch, Judge Jordan said the equal status of men and women "does not grant special liberties unless you're invited by the other party." That is an unlikely occurrence, even in the friendliest relationships. The success of the pinch - according to those who practice such things - depends totally on suprise. An invitation would be pointless. There is no use creating contingencies.

No, let it go cleanly. Shakespeare spoke of "Necessity's sharp pinch," and he was right, as usual - whatever way you choose to read it.