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Sex and Salt Lake City

The problem with good intentions

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 hum with me as a means to help me “ground.” All I could reply was a quick, “no thank you.” Much to my dismay, he knowingly looked at me, as a parent who knows what’s best for their child, and proceeded to hum anyway.

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 “Are we out of tea?” “Oh no, I just think this would be better for you” was the reply. So, stuck on the couch, with no real way to get to the other end of the house while on loopy medication, holding a glass, and managing crutches, I drank the water.

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.

There is a lot of focus these days on major violations and assaults that take place — which are many times incredibly traumatic. But micro violations are often overlooked even though the collection of them over time can also be damaging. Too often, we have the best of intentions and really believe there is a necessity for us to help another person. We think we see a void that needs to be filled, and because of context, mitigate the fact that the other person still has a right to object to what we are offering.

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 Dr.LaurieBennettCook@gmail.com

About the author

Dr. Laurie Bennett-Cook

Dr. Laurie Bennett-Cook is a graduate level Clinical Sexologist, with an undergraduate degree in psychology and a Doctorate Degree in Human Sexuality.

As a Clinical Sexologist, she believes a large part of her job is to be a sex enabler. Through counseling, workshops, and hands on exercises, she assists others in achieving the level of sexual function they desire. She enjoys the study and research of not only what people are doing sexually, but how they feel about it.

Dr. Laurie divides her time between Los Angeles California, and Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition to seeing clients in either of her offices or via skype, she is President for the non-profit, Sex Positive Los Angeles inc. (SPLA) and recently began a chapter in Salt Lake City, (SP-SLC). Her non-profit offers sexual education and support programs throughout Los Angeles and Salt Lake Counties.

Rounding off her work, she is an IPSA certified Surrogate Partner Therapist working with clients and therapists in a triadic model to assist in bringing clients comfortable with their sexual selves.

Dr. Laurie can be found in various publications; radio, podcast, and television interviews. For individual consultations or appointments please contact her at DrLaurieBennettCook@gmail.com

Welcoming and affirming of all gender identities, all sexual orientations, all sexual and relationship expressions.

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