Making good choices and accepted other people's choices.

I have a good head on my shoulders. How do I know that?  It's because I survived my first job with my integrity and wellbeing intact. What was my first job? I sold tickets to porno movies for the mob.  I was 16 years old! 

Now, some may argue that working for the mob selling tickets to porno movies when you are underage is itself – a bad decision.  And you wouldn't be entirely wrong. But in my defense, when I took the job, I didn't know that would be the job. Do I make good decisions? Yes, because I obviously handled what turned out to be a crazy job - quite well.  

The theater was a revival movie house. We showed more than porno movies. Just - we also showed slightly more porno movies than is legally allowed before you have to register as a porno theater. We got raided by the cops. A lot. The pornos we showed was almost all art films and cult films. It also turned out the theater was a money laundering operation for a gay mobster but that's another story.  

What I remember the most was how hysterical it was when young men, going to an art film porno on a Sunday morning, suddenly have to purchase a ticket from an obviously underage girl. They universally stammer their way into explaining why the movie they are going to see – wasn’t something they were PLANNING on seeing even though, that's totally what they had planned. They would make an excuse like - my girlfriend is shopping (even though there were no stores near us) and they had time to kill. What movies are available? Oh - it's a porno?  Oh well - might as well see it. Men, just so you know, you don't have to explain to anyone why you are going to a porno movie. The people selling tickets - don't care.  

Despite being surrounded by the mob, prostitutes (both male and female) and people doing drugs, and being head hunted by famous strippers to learn the trade, and being hit on, a lot,  I got through that job – without trying drugs. Without getting raped. Without having sex, without working in a sex club, and without going on any dates with questionable people, though there were a couple I seriously considered, including a concert pianist or the guy who went on to become a famous Oscar winning movie director both of whom – I liked. Despite everything I was exposed to and multiple opportunities to make questionable life choices, I made good decisions for myself.  

As for how this relates to Humanism. If you want to know why I am so completely non-judgmental when I meet people, it’s because – I’ve MET people.  You are almost assuredly pretty boring compared to some of the people I’ve met.   And I do love boring but interesting people so don’t think of that as an insult. If you are boring - I mean that you aren't making choices that create unnecessary drama and hardship for yourself or the people around you. I've seen PLENTY of that. I prefer boring over unnecessary trauma.   

(Note: If you want to learn how to make better decisions to avoid unnecessary drama and trauma - I have a course called Living Made Simpler that explains how I use the Humanist philosophy to making difficult decisions in all aspects of my life -

The main thing I learned though – is that everyone I met, every single person I met, including the ones I knew enough to say no to, were human beings worthy of being treated with dignity. 

The other lesson? The reason I was ok through all of that, was because every single person I met, was ok with me saying NO.  Even the kind of scary, almost assuredly mentally ill guy that would come by on occasion to hit on me  – accepted me saying no to him. 

So – when we talk about rape, understand something important. People who don’t accept "NO" - ARE The problem and they are the exception. Because I’ve hung out with strippers, had extensive conversations with prostitutes brought by their Johns to see violent porno movies and other people of equally – interesting backgrounds.  And at no point, was I ever made to feel like I wasn’t safe or didn’t have control over whether I was ok with things or not. I knew what my boundaries were and kept them and my boundaries were ALWAYS respected.  It was ok for me to say no to people involved with the mob. 

Consent is everything. People who ignore consent are uncommon – fortunately – but they are ABSOLUTELY terrifying and do a tremendous amount of damage to everyone else.  

Making good choices, only works to keep yourself safe, if the people around you – respect your choices.  This is what we should be teaching – as normal. This is what I learned was normal selling tickets to porno movies for the mob. It must be ok for people to say – no thank you. I’m not interested in doing drugs, having sex or working at a strip club or whatever else I said no to.  If you want to do those things – have fun. But I’m not interested.  That was ALWAYS ok which is why it was ok for me to work there. 

Most people - accept consent as foundational to everything. Those that don't - are dangerous.  And when I say, accept consent. As soon as I said no, no one cajoled me or tried to make me change my mind. Never. If I said I wasn't interested, the conversation stopped there. Always.  Anyone who tries to make you change your mind, isn't accepting your no which means, they are dangerous. 

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