When a person crosses their arms it usually means they are either hiding something or trying to protect something. It’s a natural instinct built into the human race.
She sat across from me in her white doctors’ uniform. Her hands were folded on top of the clipboard on her lap. She was going off script – I could tell by the hesitation followed by not being able to look me in the eye. Routinely, when I am getting a sexual heath checkup, they ask the normal questions; the questions written down on the page on the clipboard. They ask about my sexual history, they ask about escorting, they inform me about the dangers of sex work and STD’s and I’s and HIV.
I can answer these questions robotically, having been asked them dozens of times before. It doesn’t faze me or embarrass me – my answers are without emotion. But this time I really fucked up. I really, really fucked up and now the doctor was going off script.
In a perfect routine of questions and robotic answers, the doctor will ask questions about escorting (“How long were you in sex work?” “Did you use protection?” “Did you provide full service?” ect.) and then they will brush on the ultimate question: “Have you ever had sex that you didn’t consent to?”
I had developed such a methodical and resounding ‘no’ to that question they would usually move on to the next question immediately.
This time when I was asked by this particular doctor, “Have you ever had sex that you didn’t consent to?” I fucked it all up. Instead of answering her, I lifted my hands off my lap and crossed them. It’s such a stupidly small gesture, one that can go easily unnoticed, but this doctor was perceptive. I don’t know why I allowed myself to do it. Immediate regret flooded through me. She put the clipboard down on her lap and rested her hands on top of it. She was looking down, I could tell she was building her off-script sentence in her mind.
The doctor looks up at me earnestly and asks, “Cody, have you ever been raped?”
I keep my arms crossed. I am uncomfortable but doing my best not to show it, especially in my voice. But my voice betrays me and it wavers slightly as I answer, “Yes.”
“Was it through sex work?”
She sits up straight in her chair, “You know we have crisis counsellors here, right? If you ever need someone to talk too about it we offer our counsellors at no charge.”
I swallow hard. I wear an imitation smile and respond, “Thanks, but I’ve dealt with it all myself. I don’t need help.”
“They are always here. If you find you’re having a hard time then please don’t hesitate to contact us and we can set you up with an appointment.”
I smile harder as if I am trying to prove something to the entire world, “Thanks so much, but I am honestly fine.”