Getting Consent in a Sex Positive Environment
Today, I attended a Consent Workshop by The Consent Crew. There were some interesting discussions amongst the attendees and organizers about some great topics. I want to reiterate some of the points that I feel are most relevant based on my experiences over the past two decades.
IT’S OK TO SAY NO
How many of you are guilty of trying to giggle your way out of an uncomfortable situation just to be polite? And how many of you have compromised your own boundaries just to wake up the next morning filled with regret? Western cultural values have taught us to be excessively polite, but that shouldn’t be at the cost of your own personal boundaries. If somebody is doing something that makes you uncomfortable, you have the right to say no. And, although you don’t have to justify your reason for saying no, saying it in a way that is polite and respectful will go a long way towards diffusing what could become a confrontational situation over hurt feelings. Here are some of my favourite ways to say no:
- No thank you (smile on face).
- Thanks for offering but not at this time.
- I’m not into that, but thanks anyway.
- You seem like a great person but I’m not interested. Thanks anyway.
IT’S OK TO HEAR NO
When you hear no, you may feel hurt, rejected and generally bad. Why? Because our culture has taught us that “no” is a bad word when in reality, “no” is just somebody’s way of expressing their own personal boundaries. Usually, the no you are hearing has very little to do with you and everything to do with the person saying it. Perhaps they are there for a different reason than you. Maybe the timing is just off. Or, it could be as simple as they like blonds, and you’re a brunette. Whatever the reason, remind yourself…“getting a no is no big deal”. Here are some of my favorite ways to respond gracefully to “no”:
- I’m not hearing a clear yes so I’ll take that as a no.
- No problem.
- Thanks for letting me know. I appreciating knowing your boundary.
- Thanks anyway.
Obvious right? Easier said than done. Consent is complicated. Often, expectations surrounding consent are firmly rooted in cultural values, gender values, family values, or even the environment we are in at the time. At Club Eden, the expectations are framed by the use of signage, marketing, and agreements. This is a great foundation for consent. But even with all of this, there is still room for interpretation based on an individual’s unique perspective formed over the course of a lifetime. This is why it is also important to say no when you feel like your personal boundaries are being compromised. In my experience, most people want to do the right thing and DON’T want to maliciously or deliberately compromise your boundaries. They just don’t realize they are doing it. Here is one of my favorite personal stories to reflect how cultural expectations can create a misalignment between boundaries:
While working in an office environment, one of the long term vendors and friends of the owner approached me saying “it’s nice to finally meet you”. He then stepped in and gave me a hug and then a kiss on my left and right cheek. My background is British and back then, I was a bit of a cold fish. His background is South American and to not step in with a light hug and kiss on the cheeks would be considered an insult. He didn’t get my consent but conversely, because of his cultural values, he didn’t think he had to. This illustrates a great example of how easily consent boundaries can be accidentally crossed.
When at Eden, remember these four points to help you navigate consent:
- Play within the rules of the framework provided (signs, agreements, marketing messages).
- Politely say no when your boundaries are being crossed;
- Politely hear/accept no when somebody tells you.
- If your no is not being heard, then it’s ok to find the organizer or one of the staff to help you diffuse the situation.
When attending other sex positive events remember to familiarize yourself with their unique framework.
I hope this article helps you find your voice for consent. Play safe, have fun and respect your own boundaries and the boundaries of others.