So, what is consent?
Consent is clear, communicated, enthusiastic, the responsibility of the initiator, ongoing, and can be renegotiated or withheld at any time. It means listening to each other, respecting each other, and bringing mindfulness to all our interactions. Practicing consent is an important step in creating a culture we want to live in. A culture in which people are respected and have autonomy, choice, agency, to decide for themselves what is best for them.
At AVP we support and encourage folks to explore their sexuality in safe, exciting, consensual ways. While doing this it is incredibly important to discuss safety, boundaries, and care. Everyone deserves boundaries and safety for themselves and those around them when and if they choose to engage in sex. Your first partner is you. Knowing and exploring our boundaries can involve a lifelong conversation and relationship with ourselves.
No one is responsible for fulfilling our sexual wants but ourselves. Wants consist of the things that we enjoy doing, turn us on, and give us pleasure. While it can be exciting and empowering to share these things with others and to experience ourselves in relation to intimate partners, other people are never responsible for fulfilling your sexual wants.
When practicing consent there are 6 elements:
A mutually communicated agreement
- We do not use words like “talk” or “verbal” in this element because not everyone communicates verbally.
- That being named, for folks who can and choose to communicate verbally, it is very important that you talk to each other.
- Respect the yes.
- Respect the no.
- Respect indecision (it is not a yes).
- Listen and pay attention to words, feelings, and context.
When we name enthusiasm, we’re referring to a felt sense in yourself and and also in the person(s) you’re engaging with.
First, check in with yourself. Think of the last time you were really excited to do something, to see something/someone, or to go somewhere.
- What did that feel like?
- What happened in your body?
- How did you know you were excited?
- We want people to feel free to be that excited to have sex.
Second, check in with the person(s) you’re engaging with.
- How do you know that they are excited?
- Is it feeling like what they’re communicating with words (if they communicate verbally) is the same as what they’re communicating with their bodies?
- If not, check in. If you have doubts, don’t proceed.
Responsibility of the initiator
The person wishing to initiate an act (e.g., hold hands, make out, cuddle, touch different body parts, etc.) or change an act (e.g., switch from kissing to touching) is responsible for initiating the conversation about consent.
Step by step (ongoing)
Having established consent for one activity does not mean that consent has been established for all activities. Just because someone consented to dance with someone else, it doesn’t necessarily mean they consented to having their body touched. Just because someone consented to having their body touched, doesn’t mean they have consented to making out. Just because someone consented to making out, it doesn’t mean they have consented to having sex.
Check in every step of the way.
Cannot be held to a predetermined agreement
Consent is not a contract; people can change their minds. If early on in the evening someone agrees to have sex after a date, check in after the date before moving forward. Although prearranged conversations can be had, no one should be forced to engage without an in-the-moment check in. Our wants and desires are fluid, as should be the agreements that we make when it comes to how we relate to our bodies.
Best practiced sober
Under the law in “Canada”, consent cannot be given when under the influence. It’s important for folks to know this, as we live and work and play in a system that answers to the criminal justice system. Alcohol is often used to absolve accountability (“I was drunk and I didn’t know what I was doing”), or worse, to victim blame those who experience assault (“She shouldn’t have gotten so drunk”). This is one of the reasons that we assert that consent is often best practiced sober.
While we assert this, we also recognize that regardless of the laws that are in place, or the guidelines that are offered by university organizations, people do and will continue to drink alcohol/do drugs and have sex, especially on university campuses.
Because of this, we invite people to shift their focus from the effects of alcohol to the social factors that enable assault to be more likely when under the influence. Instead of blaming someone for their increased vulnerability, let’s talk about the messages and attitudes that told people to take advantage of it.
We do not come into any interaction, relationship, or space without our identities; our identities do not come into any interaction, relationship, or space without power. That power comes from systems that have been (and continually are) put in place to benefit some and oppress others. For example, white supremacy gives privilege to white people, patriarchy gives privilege to masculine folks, capitalism gives privilege to the wealthy. Privilege exists whether or not someone chooses to it acknowledge it, and though we do not have a choice about whether we receive it or not, we do have a choice about whether or not we are accountable to it.
In terms of consent this is incredibly important. If someone holds certain power ( for e.g male) this can impact the ability of someone to feel comfortable to say no, ask for what they want, or engage in fully consensual activities.
Informed consent means that someone who is being asked for their consent has full information about what they are being asked to consent to. When someone is intoxicated, under the influence of drugs or otherwise unable to make decisions in an informed way, consent can’t happen.
Gender-based violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It takes place within a cultural context of ideas, values, and behaviors. We are surrounded with images, language, jokes, movies, music, advertising, laws, that validate and perpetuate sexualized violence by making it seem normal. This is referred to as “rape culture”. “Boy will be boys”, “It’s just the way it is…” are examples of this normalization.
At AVP we recognize that this violence is not normal nor is it inevitable. By practicing consent we aim to shift the culture from one that teaches us that exploitation, coercion, domination, and control are ok to one that is grounded in respect, accountability, responsibility, reciprocity, and interrelatedness.
At the center of all of this work is consent.
As an organization and as community members, we believe that by practicing consent in all of our interactions we can work towards building safer communities.
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