The Perspective Exchange held its first community dialogue on October 12 on the topic “Consent – What Is It Exactly?” The dialogue had an equal number of men and women discussing their thoughts and feelings on the topic.
The questions posed included:
· In thinking about the issue of consent, what are your assumptions about the topic being raised at all?
· Are there places where you feel internal tension--gray areas where you might be pulled in different directions when thinking about consent?
· What is at the heart of the matter for you when you think about consent?
Some of the more interesting concepts that came out of the discussion included:
· We live in a culture of assumed consent. Instead of asking for consent to touch one another, we assume it. We hug and/or kiss each other hello or shake hands. As we are try to move toward a culture where consent isn’t assumed and where we ask for permission before hugging someone whom we do not know, we are rubbing up against standard cultural norms.
· Men come from a position of power and privilege where they have not had to think about whether or not they need to ask for consent. Now that they are being challenged by the idea, some are both confused and resentful that they have to think so hard about the ways that they interact with others and their effect on them. Women have had to think about how they approach men for time immem orial.
· The definition of consent is misunderstood and context of the situation and relationships is important
· Those in positions of power must understand how having that power affects their interactions with subordinates. Any consent that anyone gives them must be looked at through that lens
· Is the purpose of talking about consent preventative or responding to an issue?
· Consent pervades our daily interactions. All the way from borrowing your co-worker’s stapler when they are not there to give consent, to getting consent from your sexual partner during foreplay. Obtaining consent is practicing good communication and showing respect for the other person.
If you had attended the dialogue, what thoughts would you have added to the conversation?