Happy Do Year from #WeLoveConsent
Have you ever flirted with someone who wasn’t sober? Has someone borrowed your things without asking? Have you had a sexual encounter with someone who was way older or younger than you? Received an uncomfortable and unwanted hug from a stranger – or a relative? Been the person who gave that hug, and felt uncertain afterwards about whether it was well-received?
These scenarios are all examples of the areas where consent isn’t as simple as just a “yes” or a “no.” Most people have heard the word “consent,” and most people think that they really understand what it means. Contrary to popular understanding, consent is nuanced and ongoing – and it requires intentional implementation! That’s right: even if you feel as though you really, really get it, there might still be areas where things get sticky in practice. We’re here to help you navigate the muddier waters of consent, including topics like platonic interactions, altered states, and kink.
As part of our Do Year resolutions, we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to expand our consent-related resources for our community, specifically in the realm of being precise and action-oriented in explaining the topics that trip people up. We’re going to dive deep into what practicing intentional and effective consent looks like (and where it might go wrong sometimes). Everyone is responsible for consent, including DanceSafe, so we’re also taking 2021 to reimagine our organization’s consent culture among our team members. Have you heard? Getting well-versed in consensual behavior is the new coolest activity of the year.
Ready to take your knowledge to the next level? Let’s get to the essentials!
- Practice Consent, Not Get Consent, in All Encounters
Contrary to popular belief, consent is not just something you “reach” in a one-time conversation. It’s an ongoing and active process that should be practiced every single day! Try thinking of consent as a way of navigating interactions with others in a way that respects everyone’s autonomy, boundaries, and rights. This means that consent doesn’t just apply to sexual situations – it’s also important in any situation where your behavior could impact another person (which is, well, pretty much all the time).
You should practice consent with family, friends, and strangers as well as romantic or sexual interests. We need to acknowledge that consent is involved in all interpersonal situations if we are going to establish a consent culture in our community. Even if something seems small or insignificant to you, it really does make a difference. Showing another person that you really care about whether something makes them uncomfortable on the micro-level fosters trust on a macro-scale.
This year, we encourage you to start thinking of consent as a practice instead of an event (if you’re not already), and prioritizing enhancing your awareness of how you can practice consent in all areas of your life. Never assume that someone is okay with something, whether it’s a sexual encounter, an emotional conversation, an activity in a group, a financial decision, sharing physical space, or interacting during COVID. When in doubt, always have a direct conversation to establish boundaries, wants, needs, and limits! This also means considering and honoring a person’s emotional boundaries, privacy, and personal possessions. For example, maintaining the privacy of things said in confidence unless given permission to share with others is a critical consent practice. #WeLoveConsent will be producing educational content on consent as a continual practice on social media and on our website in 2021.
- Learn my Yes’s and My No’s
We are all more equipped to communicate our needs, desires, and boundaries to others when we know what they are. This year, begin (or continue) the process of identifying your own interests and limits, including sexual, emotional, psychological, professional, and physical boundaries. Become aware of what your yes’s and no’s feel like in your body and how those sensations differ; this will help you know when you are feeling uncomfortable in the present moment. Practice honoring your own boundaries by delivering clear, direct, and unapologetic no’s in your life based on your limits and needs, and work on clearly communicating yeses as well! We’ll be releasing more information about mutual consent agreements during our Valentine’s Day Takeover.
- Better Understand the Impact of Power Dynamics on Consent
Power dynamics are present in pretty much every social interaction, whether you’re about to hook up with someone or chatting with a person you just met at a show. Uneven power dynamics can impact a person’s comfort level, safety, and ability to consent to various interactions. Sometimes these imbalances are only felt by one person, so it’s extra important to use attentive behavior and mindful observation to step up and take ownership of uneven power dynamics.
Heart guardians work to understand how power imbalances influence their interactions with others, and actively apply this understanding in order to work towards a more balanced situation. While power differences will often still exist in most scenarios, doing our best to balance power helps others feel safer and more comfortable. In 2021, resolve to learn how to identify differences in power and respond in kind when the situation arises. One place you can start is reading our toolbox series on navigating power dynamics. #WeLoveConsent is committed to racial and sexual justice work and will continue to produce content that examines the impact of power and privilege on consent culture and safety in our community.
- Be an Active Bystander
While the responsibility for owning and responding to a consent violation falls on the perpetrator, we all play a role in creating a consent culture that promotes respect and puts an end to violence in our community. This starts with you – commit to being an active bystander, someone who steps in when they see something problematic happen rather than standing by and watching. Active bystanders learn how to recognize when someone is at risk for harm and safely intervene. Sometimes this means calling someone out when they make a sexist comment; other times, it means distracting someone who seems to be harassing a person who is too high to consent to allow that person to escape, or flagging down security for help so you don’t put yourself at risk. This year, see if you can work on developing active bystander skills through practicing bystander intervention in virtual spaces when you see victim blaming and slut shaming. #WeLoveConsent has been and will continue to be committed to promoting active bystander intervention in 2021.
- Support Survivors of Violence in My Community
We can’t establish and maintain a consent culture in our community if we don’t support survivors of violence, so in order to be heart guardians in 2021, we need to commit to being there for those who have experienced consent violations. Supporting survivors of sexual violence includes believing them if they disclose about what happened, respecting their choices after the incident, actively listening to them and centering their perspective, using inclusive and affirmative language, and validating their experience. Supporting survivors also means stepping in when you hear people victim blame or slut shame others. For tips on how to support survivors in your life, check out this article and stay tuned for more #WLC educational content!
- Support #WeLoveConsent
As a DanceSafe follower and supporter of #WeLoveConsent, your participation in this movement is essential! Visit our website and DanceSafe’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for educational content. Donating to #WeLoveConsent helps us fund our continued efforts to provide blog content, infographics, and training materials to equip you with tools to promote consent culture in our community. #WeLoveConsent is a program of heart guardians, and in 2021 we will expand this mission even further through peer education and outreach. There is so much more to come! Keep an eye out for the launch of our #WeLoveConsent minicourse series to learn about consent culture, bystander intervention, and supporting survivors of sexual violence in 2021.
We want our community to be one where everyone feels safe, welcomed, and included, but this is only possible if we work together to dismantle rape culture in our spaces and foster consent culture in its wake. Your commitment to and involvement in this project is what makes dance floors feel safer, individuals feel braver, and nightlife feel friendlier. It’s also critical work. Consent isn’t a bonus, it’s a core component of any successful community. This means making consent a social norm and everyday practice and stepping in when we see something sketchy. We’ve got this. Thanks for joining us, DanceSafe supporters – happy 2021!