While we are primarily going to discuss what positive and enthusiastic consent looks like today, I am aware this can be a difficult topic for some who might have interest in the rest of the information. So, putting a little space here, so nothing shows up in the email preview.
Also, this will be in the resource page as well, but: RAINN has resources and info to discuss sexual assault, and assisting loved ones who have experienced it, as well as links for those outside the US: The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24/7: Telephone: 800.656.HOPE (4673) Online chat: online.rainn.org Español: rainn.org/es
Okay. RAINN’s definition of consent includes that it is provided, for a specific activity or activities, and can be altered or rescinded at any time.
Some of you may have also seen the cup of tea video (Note: That link contains swearing), and I think that video makes a couple of important points. First, consent isn’t just about sex. In your daily life (even pre-pandemic, but oh gosh, definitely amid a contagious pandemic) there are boundaries that you navigate constantly with friends, family, co-workers and strangers.
There are times – say on a packed metro train, where I accept a level of closeness with people unknown to me that I would absolutely push back on if they tried it in a different space.
If my friend wants pizza but I hate pizza or am gluten free or any other number of things, we may have to negotiate a place that is mutually acceptable to both of us. Or we may decide that this is not the right day for us to dine together. None of these things mean I or my friend are awful people.
When writing characters that are considering a variety of activities that involve both of them, they are constantly establishing boundaries.
This is something to particularly consider when writing characters where one of them has more power. Examples of power differentials include – age, race, ethnicity, access to money, managerial power, immigration status, carceral status, and so on.
Am I saying that one or more of your characters can never over step, can never nudge the boundaries, insist that another character stop what they are doing, or change their plans?
No, I am not. (See, how I firmly stated a boundary there?) But, I am saying it is something to consider. As I have now said so many times you are likely to be sick of it, the times where your character overrides or ignores the stated wishes of another should all be intentional.
Similarly, while an author may choose to rely on non-verbal consent, having a character decide another could not have violated consent because they are simply to nice, is not demonstration of healthy consent.
If your goal is to demonstrate that they land in a place where their relationship is equitable, it is something you will need to address in the story.