A while back consent came into vogue. The internet was plastered with the slogan “consent is sexy”; but consent isn’t sexy. Consent is necessary. Consent is a fundamental right to control what happens to your own body. As informed members of the modern world, we want to form a consent based culture. Consent Culture is when a community as a whole focuses on understanding and practicing informed consent in all of their actions.
A lot of things have to happen for consent to happen truly and fully. For consent to exist it must be informed; everyone has to know what is going on and be able to comprehend what is happening (this is why an animal or a toaster can’t consent folks!). Consent also has to be enthusiastically given, you can’t take someone saying “well maybe I dunno” as “why yes put your fist in my ass that is my jam!”. A reluctant yes is not really a yes.
Consent needs to be sober. This does not mean stone cold sober, drinks happen I get that; but everyone does need to be in charge of all of their faculties. If someone is falling over drunk they can not consent. If someone is passed out they can not consent. We really should not have to explain that bit folks.
Consent has to be freely given, if someone is coerced, if they feel threatened or in danger if they say no, they can not actually consent. Consent is necessary for all areas of life where you interact with others. Any interaction with another human that human has to consent to.
The kink community is the most consent obsessed group of people I have ever met and it is fantastic. That was the first place where I encountered people gaining consent for casual touching. The phrase “Is it alright to shake hands” was groundbreaking to me; because actually it wasn’t I don’t like to touch people I don’t know very well. Kink is the first place I encountered people who did not question my choice to give or deny consent.
Consent violations happen, they are a part of life. Most of these violations are small, they are little bumps in the road dealt with with a simple apology. A consent violation can be anything from unwanted contact, to rape. Like everything else in our world consent violations fall along a spectrum. Educating people when minor consent violations occur instead of staying silent helps to perpetuate consent culture. For us to stay a consent minded community we must be vigilant and yet still remain understanding.
Consent culture is a responsibility. We are responsible for self policing without turning everything into a witch hunt. Keep consent in mind when you are interacting with new people, what may come to you with ease may be something that others need to work up to. Remember, just because you’re a hugger doesn’t mean that everyone you meet is a hugger to. Consent is as simple as asking a question and respecting the answer. Let’s make a point to ask first, and help take consent culture into the mainstream.