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Dear John | 2021, What I’ve Learned About Consent

Dear Diary,

This month’s wellness theme at The Lighthouse is “consent.” I’ve challenged myself to learn more about this subject and find ways to practice it more often.

I found a pretty good definition for consent. It’s “a clear, voluntary agreement from one person to another to engage in some form of activity.”

So to give my consent, I’m agreeing to an activity with another person. I do this by giving a clear, enthusiastic “yes.” To not give my consent means I’m not agreeing to an activity with another person. I do this by giving a clear “no.”

I’ve learned there are a number of ways to practice consent. We’re often educated on practicing consent during sexual and romantic activity. I’m learning practicing it in everyday life with strangers, acquaintances and friends is equally important.

Here are some scenarios where I can practice consent:

  1. Before sharing someone’s personal information with another person (phone number, home address, workplace, etc.)

  2. Before engaging in non-sexual forms of touch, including touching someone’s shoulder or hair, hugging, handshaking, etc.; in fact, before engaging in all forms of sexual touch, including kissing

  3. Before taking a photo or recording a video of someone (sometimes people aren’t comfortable being on camera for various reasons) and before sharing photos and videos of someone on social media

  4. Before ordering someone food (they may not want food or may not be eating at the time)

  5. Before approaching someone within less than 6ft. (considering COVID-19 protocol)

  6. Before assigning someone a nickname (they may prefer their full name or not like the nickname for other reasons)

  7. Before moving or using someone’s personal items

  8. Before making a pit-stop while driving with someone else is in my car (people deserve to feel and be safe)

  9. Before video chatting or having a phone conversation with someone else in the room (respect other people’s privacy)

  10. Before sharing potentially triggering content with someone else (violent songs, photos, movies, etc.)

  11. Before addressing someone by pronouns (she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs)

  12. Before sharing my grievances with a friend (they may or may not have the emotional capacity to hold space with me); likewise, before offering my advice to someone (there are other ways to support someone, don’t assume, ask for what they need)

In this same way I intend to ask for someone’s consent (a clear enthusiastic “yes” or “no”), I intend to enforce boundaries with others, requesting they ask for my consent before doing these same things.

Consent is important. It allows people to maintain autonomy over their lives, while also preventing confusion and damage in relationships. It also builds trust. I’m committed to practicing consent in my everyday life this year. It’ll make my life a whole lot easier when I’m clear about my boundaries and the boundaries of others!

With Love, Imani


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