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Beauty Therapy and Consent Culture

Girl’s night in. Eating pizza, drinking wine, painting our nails. Telling stories. Swapping advice. 

Don’t wear the paper underwear the wrong way around. Remember to take the ibuprofen half an hour before you go in. And then I realised – a full-body massage means a full-body massage!

At first it was funny – my friends are funny women. Story piled on top of story until we were all giggling helplessly over our wineglasses and choking with laughter.

But then it struck me – how weird was this? All of us – all of us – had stories about how, in the course of some treatment that we willingly undertook to look or feel better, the person doing the treatment touched us somewhere we weren’t expecting; touched us intimately; made us physically uncomfortable; hurt us or injured us.

And none of us said a word at the time – no-one said to the masseuse or the manicurist or the waxer or the beauty therapist – hey, what are you doing? Why are you touching me that way? Stop that!

I’m not immune, no.  I’ve done it myself, I’ve lain there thinking ow ow ow ow that hurts! When is it going to be over? Is he really touching me there…? and not so much as twitched a muscle, never mind opened my mouth.

Isn’t that odd? These are people – professionals – whose services and time we booked and paid for, so that we would feel good, and then the moment we are lying down or undressed or both… and they put their hands on us… we lose our ability to speak up.

We suffered in silence, we never said a thing; just saved every detail to tell a funny story later on.

Why is that?

2 replies on “Beauty Therapy and Consent Culture”

Well, with waxing, you know going in it’s going to hurt, right? But I know what you mean. I go to a salon that does scalp and neck massages before they shampoo your hair (I’m so fancy). I had a different stylist once, and during the neck message she was basically throttling me. I couldn’t tell her. Because I couldn’t breathe…no, kidding. :) It seemed to me like she would be so embarrassed that I couldn’t bear to tell her.

With full-body massages, I sometimes feel like they don’t cover *enough* surface area, and I have been too shy to say, “Hey, don’t forget my butt.” I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if I did, though.

I don’t think I’ve had a poor experience where I should have said no, but then, I don’t get many beauty treatments.

However, I did like that during a massage I was asked, “Do you mind if I do your glutes?” And I was practically like, “OH MY GOD GET TO IT…” because that’s honestly where the muscles hurt the most, outside of my shoulders. But it was polite of her to ask.

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