I broke my toe a few weeks ago. I was giving a workshop at a conference out of state. When I was done with my talk and while walking down the stairs, a very foxy woman (which I had been flirting with all weekend) made a positive remark about me shaking my ass. So, I exaggerated the swishing and shaking as we continued down the stairs.
Mind you I’m not a very graceful person. In fact, most people would consider me downright clumsy. But regardless I swished and with that came a fall that landed me at the bottom of the stairs and my big toe broken in three places. Needless to say — flirting is not always harmless.
As I landed, a man rushed up to me and offered to
A trip to the hospital, good medication, a friend’s company, and a drive back to the lodge where I was staying put me in the mood for — nothing. With assistance, I made it to the couch where a couple of the retreat attendees helped prop up my foot. I asked one of them if they could bring me a cup of hot tea. For me, this would be the ultimate comfort. They replied with a chipper “of course” and soon returned with … a glass of water. I was grateful, but questioned “A
Shortly after that, another attendee came and sat next to me and stated they really appreciated my talk earlier and wanted to share a few insights they’d had from it. I said thank you for their kindness, but I’m just not feeling well and the medication has me foggy. Another time would be better. Their reply: “It’s okay, I understand. I’ll just talk and you can listen.” So they talked, and trapped as I was, foggy brained and in pain, I listened.
When they were done saying all they needed to say, they gave me a smile and said they hoped I feel better soon and how nice it is that I’ve been able to just rest. As they walked away, I leaned toward the person next to me and stated, “I am exhausted from dealing with all of these good intentions.” Kindly, they helped me to my room.
Regardless of how pure we may believe our intentions to be, if the person at the other end of our plan objects, we must step back. Consent must take place at every level of our interaction with others. Too often the voice of the one intending to help is heard louder than the voice of the one who doesn’t want help.
Tremendous damage can result from forcing another person to receive unwanted care in the name of “I know what’s best for you.” Micro violations can wear down a person’s agency and create a segue for greater violations. In this age of constant awareness it is more important than ever that we each check ourselves and make certain we are honoring the ‘no’ of other people at every level of their being.
So how would I have wanted the people who insisted on being their version of kind to me react when I said no thank you to their offers? I would’ve liked them to say: “Thank you for taking care of yourself.” And mean it. Because acknowledging how another person desires to care for themselves, and support their way of doing so, that is the kindest way to assist anyone.
Dr. Laurie Bennett-Cook is a Clinical Sexologist, Director of Sex Positive Utah (find us on meetup), and maintains a private practice in both LA and SLC. She can be reached at [email protected]