Hard to believe how much of a trigger word this is- consent. Just like the word murder. The phrase gun control. It's one of those words that everyone jumps to define, thinking they understand all there is to know about it, how it works, how it's produced, how to get it. We have these long long conversations about what it means, viral videos and conversations on better ways to define it. I didn't fully understand consent until I because a part of the polyamorous (consensual non-monogamy) community and learned to speak with accurate terminology, a concept I will explore further in an upcoming post as I am very passionate about it. We all think we know what consent is, and want to believe that there is no one out there telling a story where we are their villain. But the reality is, that might be the case.
The best video I've ever seen explain this was one where they said to imagine someone is borrowing $20. If you have to borrow $20 from someone, and you ask them when they are unable to answer you- because they're drunk or asleep or can't hear you- and you take it, that's stealing. If you beg someone repeatedly after they have told you no and eventually they give in, it was not freely given to you. If the person happens to be in a skewed state of mind- trauma, sadness, drug-induced- then you stole it.
That comparison works to an extent.
We can break down consent into three basic parts- eloquently explained by Poly expert Jonathan Walker. Full disclosure: we don't know what we are consenting to if we don't have all of the information. Full disclosure means you are aware of all of the nuances- your HSV status, your sex partners, your emotional needs and theirs. You need to know what you are agreeing to. Full comprehension: having the mental capacity to consent. Children, animals- do not. Drunk people, sad people. NO. Voluntary participation: coercion, manipulation, do not count. If one, under no duress, wants to do something, that is voluntary. I like to define this (and teach my teenager this) as: when you are alone with your thoughts and you have time to think- is this what you want to be doing, where you would like to be spending your time? I.E. are you going to be wishing you were making out with this guy the entire night or just be like eh? Because life is way too short and there are far too many people out there that will set your soul on fire, for eh.
Then we have to consider that consent starts from our moments where we can separate our minds from our bodies. Considering your levels of motivation as determined by humanistic psychologist Maslow decades ago- your physiological needs are the very basic motivational force in our minds. If our basics needs are not taken care of, our behavior is ruled by the need to take care of them. Hunger, urgency to relieve yourself, and, YES, sex. So the things we are willing to do- completely putting aside rape culture- are very primal ways of seeking to fulfill that need. Think about this: when we are driven by the emotion of arousal (say, after a hot date) we are more likely to go to a stranger's house to get it on, or meet them in their car, or something as simple as just giving them our information (phone numbers, school we go to, where we work- arguably dangerous personal details!). We are also more likely to encourage them to engage in those behaviors if they are feeling restraint. What do you mean you don't want to come home with me? I can see what's going on in your pants! We are more likely to disregard consent.
Consent takes on a wider term when we are starting a relationship. Part of the self-disclosure that is given when you meet someone is tactfully gift-wrapped so you are presenting yourself in the best possible light. But, as we discussed, full disclose is absolutely necessary. If this means that the person may find you far too much to handle, or simply just not what they are looking for at the moment, at least you know that you were representing yourself honestly. You also spare yourself- and them- the heartbreak of something that was just not acceptable to them. This is something I have much growth to do on.
In an effort to enlighten people who may be reading who may in some ways be in the dark about the reality of rape culture, I'd like to share a night that I had at a bar about a year ago. I was with a group of friends and the night had become somewhat unenjoyable for me so I decided to head home, at around midnight (I feel the need to say the time because I could see why some people would care to approach me about going in with them like I had just arrived). On the way out, you had to push through double doors. A bouncer mentions to me and a guy leaving slightly in front of me that we had to push hard to get the door to open. The guy tries once, then again a little harder and the doors finally open. To this I say "Guess you should've listened" and smiled. The guy turns to me and replies, literally, "Like your p-ssy, I needed a hand". This is with no one around us to impress or make laugh. I answer, with furrowed brow, "you should never say that to anyone". I promptly proceed to get an Uber and stand on the sidewalk to wait for it to arrive. Three guys get out of one a few steps from me, one politely asks if I would like to go in with them (because they are on the list). I say no thank you, I've had a rough night and I'm heading home. He does not insist. His friend, however, does. When I decline a second time he tells me I am not even that cute and I'm the one standing in the f-cking corner. Hm. The corner you were just standing on? Okay... suddenly a new group of men get out of an Uber at the intersection. They ask me if I want to go in with them, they are getting a bottle. No, thank you, I'm going home. One proceeds to ask me for my number. I say "I don't know you, why would I give you my number?". How am I supposed to get to know you if you don't give me your number. "You're not". He continues asking and walking towards me until I repeatedly and in crescendo say "WALK AWAY" and all of this is in 4 minutes that it took the Uber guy and in a crowded Houston street. They don't deserve the impact of their profanity. Or the effect of their words. Each and every one an example of rape culture- the expectation that something is owed. And you wonder why women go to the bathroom in pairs.
But again, consent starts from within. In the moments of silence, when we are alone in your thoughts and your physiological needs are taken care of *do not make any decisions when you aroused and unsatisfied*, in sober, supported soul, there lies consent.
I find it important also to note that most (and I do not say ALL in an effort to allow for some confidentiality) of the men I have dated in the last few years have been molested. Sexual abuse and molestation is prevalent and damaging to our cores. It is a cancer. And cancer does not get cured by ignoring it. In the mind of a child, the fact that they feel pleasure when touched in pleasurable areas means they were willing participants. Finding pleasure does not indicate consent. Brock Turner used in his defense a comment about his victim having placed a hand on his back and moaning. As she was unconscious. Your moisture, your orgasm -even-, they are not signs of consent. And it's time that we redefine that word in a way that produces more heroes than victims. Share your comments and experiences with me! Below or on our Facebook Page