The One Who Needs to Learn About Consent – Issue 5
Let’s start this by reminding you that you’re not the only person at the party. I’m not giving you tips to overcome a deep psychosis – take this thought a little less literally, because yes, we know the fact that you’re “at a party” means that obviously, you’re not alone. But you’re not the only person at the party.
As a person, you’ve got complex thoughts, feelings, and opinions. You know what you want, what you don’t want, what you like, and what you don’t like. Sure, there are some things you’re undecided on, like whether the Liwi should be our national flag, and also whether everyone will know what you mean if you start referring to the Laser Kiwi flag as the “Liwi”. But putting those aside, when it comes to important decisions, and the things that impact your day-to-day life, hopefully, you’re confident, and you can stand up for yourself. You can make sure that other people know what’s okay with you, and what’s not.
It’s not the ability to articulate these feelings that make you a person. Even if you aren’t feeling so confident, or you’re not in a position to stand up for yourself, you still have an enduring right to feel safe and to be happy. Sounds pretty logical right? If you can argue with this, then you’re either a giant douche or you just really like to argue (or you’re a debater – so both).
Consent. Put simply, it’s an agreement that something can happen. It’s giving and receiving permission. And consent is a vital part of every interaction you have, to make sure that you and the people around you feel safe and happy. When you go to the liquor store and buy your Cody’s you consent to give the cashier your money, the cashier consents to you taking away the drinks. Without consent, one of you is blatantly stealing. Jake invites you to his Edinburgh St party – he’s consented to you coming along, and you’ve consented to attend. Without consent, you’re trespassing, or he’s kidnapping you. When you get into a friendly-wrestle with Todd on the lawn, you’ve both consented to that, or it’s potentially assault. And the one you know we’re coming to, hooking up and sex. Without consent, that’s sexual assault, or even rape.
But just because consent has been given at one point, doesn’t mean it’s there to stay. Consent can be withdrawn at any point. You’ve picked up a box of Cody’s, walked to the counter, and then remembered that you don’t like Cody’s. Put down the box and walk out. You are under no obligation to buy them, and you can change your mind. You throw up on the carpet, and Jake tells you that he doesn’t want you at his party any more. Fair call – just because he invited you over earlier, doesn’t mean you get to stay forever. Or, you realise that you’d actually rather go home early, eat some chicken nuggets, and watch the Chase. Jake can’t make you stay at his party, you have the right to leave. Todd starts taking the friendly wrestle too far, and you see a dislocated shoulder in your near future – tap out! Just because you were wrestling before, doesn’t mean you have to see this out.
At any point in your night (or day), you can withdraw your consent. And so can the other people involved. Of course, this absolutely includes sex and hooking up. At any stage, anyone can withdraw their consent, and you need to respect that. Be aware – a withdrawal of consent isn’t always as loud and clear as yelling “Get the fuck out of my house, asshole”. Sometimes it looks more like Todd stopping the cheering and disengaging with the wrestle. Every situation is different, and you need to be aware that just because someone said yes in a different moment, doesn’t give you any right to anything.
You know what you want and don’t want; so do other people. Everyone you cross paths with has their own view on the Liwi and other more pressing issues. Just as it’s your right to be respected, everyone else has the right to be respected as well. On the flip-side of the coin, you don’t have the right to make anyone do anything they don’t want to do. And in any interaction, whether it’s at the liquor store or in your bedroom, you have a responsibility to make sure that everyone is on the same page. That the other people involved consent to what’s happening, at any stage. If you’ve still got some questions, or you don’t agree with what you’ve just read, take this big, red, glaring, flashing hint, that you’re the one who needs to learn about consent.