LSPIRG is dedicated to fostering a community that prioritizes consent in all actions. Check out the info contained in our Consent Campaign below. Fell free to reach for more information or resources!
Consent is a BIG topic! It applies to all areas of life and impacts all social interactions. But what is it, exactly?
Consent means giving permission for something to happen, or agreeing to do something. It is not just the absence of a no, but it is the presence of an enthusiastic yes. When we talk about consent, it is often related to sex, as well as gendered and sexual violence.
Gendered Violence: any form of behaviour (including verbal, physical, and sexual behaviour) based on an individual's gender that is intended to control, humiliate, or harm the individual. This type of violence is most commonly directed at women, girls, and two-spirit people, with racalized folks facing the highest rates.
Sexual Violence: any unwelcome sexual advance, statement or request for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual violence is ultimately about using power, intimidation, threats and/or coercion to force sexual acts to occur.
The above definitions have been taken in part or in whole from The Change Project (sascwr.org/the-change-project)
What To Do If A Friend Discloses To You?
DO be supportive and tell them you believe them. Validate their feelings. Listen. If they ask for support or help, do your best to provide it.
DON'T pressure them to take any particular action (such as reporting to the school or the police). Sometimes people choose to take these routes, but many do not. It is important that survivors get to call their own shots on what they want to do. DON'T ask them what they were wearing or how much they had to drink.
It is important and mandatory to ask consent prior to and throughout all sexual acts. it is also important to respect the answer regardless of what it may be. Remember, consent can be withdrawn or changed and should be ongoing! Many consent campaigns stop at this and don't really get into the other areas of life that require consent. We would like to go a little further and complicate the conversation.
Often when we talk about consent, we assume a "yes" is a "yes" and a "no" is a "no". To be clear, a no is always a no - but sometimes people say yes when they don't actually want to. How come?
Our lives are full of power imbalances. This can be on an individual level (parent vs child), work or school level (boss vs employee, teacher vs student), or based on larger systems of power (such a the power imbalances that authority figures like police hold) and are often determined by what groups hold the most amount of privilege (white, cis, straight, upper class, male etc.)
It is important to acknowledge that sometimes people do not feel secure in being able to say "no" when requests are made by those with more power than them. We need to understand that not everyone has the chance or capacity to express how they want to participate in any given situation or conversation. Concerns for safety and security are real and valid.
Consent is mandatory in all interpersonal interactions, not just during sex. From holding hands, to dancing with someone at the club, to asking someone a personal question about themselves. We need to consider what it would look like to create a culture of consent in ALL areas of life, not just our sex lives. This will help us move in the direction of creating communities where consent is the norm, and more healthy relationships can flourish and be sustained.
Some Ways To Incorporate Consent Into Our Life
- Getting everyone's input before planning group activities, and respecting peoples choices and wishes regarding the activities.
- Do not out someone without their explicit permission (this goes for sexuality, gender, history of trauma and more!)
- Check in with people about whether they have the capacity to have tough conversations BEFORE you bring them up.
- Ask before you touch someones hair, give them a hug, touch their tattoos, or anything else related to physical contact. Understand that not everyone is okay with expected touch, and the only way to know is to ask.
For more information about consent inside and outside the bedroom, visit ascconsent.com
Consent And The Land
As we already mentioned, consent goes beyond sexual interactions. But did you know it also has a lot to do with colonization and relationships with the land?
Resource extraction is a large area where we can see how consent (and lack of consent) impacts the land and peoples ability to survive and be healthy. National and international extractive industries have non-consensually drilled, mined and fracked on and near Indigenous land for decades.
For example; the Alberta Tar Sands (located in northern Alberta) is currently the largest industrial project on Earth, with plans for continued expansion in the works. The impacts of the tar sands on surrounding Indigenous communities is devastating and ongoing: chemicals emitted via air pollution and tailing ponds have significantly hindered or eliminated peoples' access to clean drinking water and their ability to hunt, fish and trap. Studies have confirmed a link between the project work camps and increased rates of gendered violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit folks who live near the sites. These projects continue to operate with little consideration for the communities most negatively impacted, and despite resistance from communities, the provincial and federal governments show no signs of ending the tar sands. Nations including the Mikisew Cree First Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Fort McMurray First Nation, Fort McKay Cree Nation, Beaver Lake Cree First Nation Chipewyan Prairie First Nation, and the Metis all face implications due to this expanding mega-project.
Resource extraction impacts many communities across Turtle Island, including many nations across Alberta, Aamjiwnaang First Nations (dubbed "Chemical Valley") and areas all across the Dakotas. It is essential that we talk about the intersecting and widespread implications of all non-consensual actions that continue to take place due to settler colonialism.
You are not alone. Please feel free to reach out to any of the resources below if you are in need of support.
Indigenous Student Centre
187 Albert St.
Sexual Violence Support Advocate
Sarah Scanlon firstname.lastname@example.org
Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region
Office: 519 571 0121
24/7 Crisis Line: 519 741 8633
Indigenous Student Centre
111 Darling St.
Bonnie Whitlow email@example.com
Sexual Violence Counsellor & Advocate
Office: 95 Daring St. Top Floor
Sexual Assault Centre of Brant
Office: 519 751 1164
24/7 Crisis Line: 519 751 3471