On the topic of Consent

This last weekend I attended an amazing event called WisCon. I want to first off say that it was nothing like what I was expecting and in this case it was awesome to say so. The only other conventions I have attended have been PAX Prime *Penny Arcade Expo* in 2010 and 2012 in Seattle, both times as an [E] *Enforcer – Volunteer* and GenCon in Indianapolis working for Break From Reality Games. So this was not only the first convention I attended just as an attendee, but also the first panel focused Convention I’ve ever gone to. Both of the other two were much larger and much more vendor floor focused, and or event focused.

The experience could be likened to going to a school you actually want to go to, attending classes that you want to attend and listening to more than one teacher so you get a more rounded opinion on the topics you’re learning about. The very first panel I attended was called, “Feminism, Ethics and BDSM.”

It was exactly as exciting and interesting as it sounded. On the panel was a diverse set of individuals ranging in age, gender and sexuality. Having such diversity on this type of a panel allowed for widely varying view points. However one of them stood strong no matter what was brought up. That was “Consent” and what it meant to have or not have consent.

The first point that I thought was rather interesting especially from a fetish side of things was public consent. No, I’m not saying that the public gets to say what you do in your own home, bedroom, club, space. I’m talking about being out in public and maybe bringing your fetish along with you into the public eye. Say, like walking your partner around the mall in pony-play get up…

Here’s the thing. In a controlled environment. Like your home, like your bedroom, like the club you’ve all been at that has you sign waivers and tells you what’s going on in what room and when, the poor unfortunate folk who are just wandering around the mall (or any public space) have not given their consent. Not everyone is ok with every fetish out there. While this seems like it should be a “well duh,” sort of statement, it’s unfortunately not.

It brought up the interesting discussion of not only what is ok and what is not ok to do in Public (and what sound maybe be kept at home or in safe groups/clubs/etc), but also what consent can really mean.

Consent: permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.

For me however, it gave me an overall look at consent. Do I consent to be somewhere? Do I consent to seeing things I do or don’t want to see? Do I consent to giving myself the option to consent?

In short, consent doesn’t have to do JUST with sex or the activities focused around sex. Consent can broaden out to how people treat others in general and what we “allow” in our lives. Friends who are good or toxic? Partners that accept us for who we are or partners whom we are forced to be something other than ourselves in order to please? Jobs we love or jobs we hate?

Making sure you have consent not only for yourself but for those around you is incredibly important. A statement I heard a lot this last weekend was trying to turn the world around from a “rape community” to a “consent community.” The buzz R word was jolting to hear again and again but it made me think, “What does that really mean?” Have so many of us given up consent for so many aspects of our lives both in and out of the “bedroom” that that’s the sort of community we really are? The scary conclusion I came to was that I agreed with that statement. If nothing else I can handle myself and what consent means and how I can implement that on a day to day basis.

So I leave you with one question: Do you have consent?

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