Does no always mean no?
Some thoughts on abusive or self-harming boundaries.
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted” is basically the story of all female progress through history. A true feminist can see similar narratives from either sex.
Women were told they couldn’t vote. They were told they couldn’t play certain sports, work in certain jobs. And they gave a big middle finger to that “no” and did them anyway. It’s important to know when you need to do this in your own life.
In the dance world, I personally have not attended events that ex gf’s were at because it might make them uncomfortable or unhappy to see me with a new girlfriend, or flirting with another girl, or even just dancing with another girl. That’s respectful – to consider/ask about the needs and wishes of another person, and do things that align to bring everyone the best experience possible… but it’s also self-sacrificial. It’s limiting my own agency and well-being to provide happiness for someone requesting an abusive boundary.
What about other things – Is being pushy ok?
Almost all westies are ‘pushed’ in some way – into competing, into coming to a weekly dance – into taking private lessons… #ourresponsibility at the core, is a pushy concept – it’s the objective of the culture to bring more people into the culture and share how good it is right? Well, take out the “ure” from culture, and reread the last sentence and you’ll see the potential problems with this dynamic.
Most people would label this as ‘marketing’, but when does it become unhealthy or a violation of consent? Lets look at a few examples where we can think on if consent was violated, or disrespected.
Wanting to push people into happiness, success, or fearlessness… or helping them overcome anxiety or depression:
I haven’t done that dip yet, I don’t want to try it
I’ll spot you
No, I’m not comfortable
We’ll go super slow through the movement at first and I’ll support you the entire way
Hmmm. I’m not sure.
Slowly supports the movement.
There! see, easy and safe.
Wow, that was easy and fun!
Hi five! Well done!
I’m feeling terrible
Do you want something to eat? I can cook something, you haven’t eaten in a while
No. I’m not hungry.
Do you want to talk?
Leave me alone.
— makes banana pancakes with walnuts, strawberries, and whip cream, brings it into bedroom and sets it aside bed —
Omg that looks amazing. Fine I’ll eat.
How are you feeling?
Want to cuddle?
Sometimes we can hear a no, and feel that the person would be a yes if only they had some knowledge or understanding that we have. Some people absolutely dislike (some teacher) in workshops but love them in private lessons and are really happy people pushed them into booking one, or even paid for it for them, for example. Getting addicted to the feeling of a sugar push just requires the first few dance classes to learn to do them and feel the rush of connecting with all kinds of people, being able to communicate and move to music in ways we couldn’t previously is such a thrill… even though it’s quite scary at first. We have so much anxiety that we’re doing it wrong it’s hard to enjoy.
I’ve been trying to get my brother into dancing for years and it just isn’t for him. Even in the privacy of his own home he’s really hesitant to dance. The closest I got was a halloween family party where I taught a lesson to my mom, sister, and his girlfriend so he participated and I think had a decent time. Although there were a bunch of distractions from dogs and having to dip into the house for monitoring the stove and oven, it was mostly a very memorable fun experience for us all.
So sometimes we can setup the right dynamic where a person will be a “yes” to an experience even though they aren’t a “fuck yes”. Some people will say that you shouldn’t do anything unless you are a “fuck yes” to it. Enthusiastic consent. This is good, but then, I’d personally encourage people to be “fuck yes” to more life experiences instead of hiding in a cave cowering in fear, for example. But maybe I’m pushing a mindstate of consent here, which is a slippery slope. Because of my ‘fuck yes’ mentality, I’ve had a pretty exhilarating life with a wide variety of experiences I won’t go into details about, but I’ve also had more scars, more heartbreaks, and more pains than the average person also, and at times regretted going along with some things I wasn’t a “fuck yes” to, and even was more on the “no” spectrum, but didn’t vocalize it when I should have.
Learning to vocalize a no is very important. Waiting for the ‘fuck yes’ mentality to manifest is very important. And being sure alcohol, drugs, fear, sadness, and other mind altering factors weren’t present when we make this transition is what intentional living is all about.
No means no. Sometimes even yes means no. But sometimes those that love us will disrespect our no for our benefit and be a bit pushy. That doesn’t make it ok, but we should understand that psychology. Sometimes other people do know things we don’t and can try to push us into the right direction – that’s what we pay for private lessons for in the first place – to get our minds opened enabling us to provide better dances to more people. In many cultures, a guy is supposed to offer to get the bill, and a woman is supposed to say no, yet she EXPECTS him to continue to offer and push. This dynamic is pretty prevalent around the world. Many women tell guys not to call them but then secretly want them to and are happy when they do. It’s totally insane how boundaries are set sometimes just to be overcome. But we have to overcome them in the right ways. Learning this art is hard work.
In Japan, even when you say you don’t want anymore food, they will put more food in front of you until you stop eating. It’s just the custom. Many similar ‘disrespecting a no’ experiences are prevalent all over the world.
In America especially, people say no to each other’s no probably more than anywhere else in the world. Because freedom. Understanding the laws of the country, and also that they are changing every day, is very important. For example, if a 19 year old who was drinking tells you not to tell her mother, you can respect her decision to commit a crime and her request in not reporting it to authorities or parents. But there are definitely some laws that require you to report certain crimes. And not respecting her no may actually be in her best interest.