Consent is a topic that has come up a few times over the past week. I have been asked to do a presentation on consent, pleasure and orgasm and over the past few days I have seen this discussed in regards to a social media post.
The social media post was being discussed on the radio. A young man took a photo of an attractive, young woman wearing very short, shorts while doing her shopping. He posted it on social media saying he would like to meet her and would be at the shop every evening, for a week, at the same time that he saw her. The radio hosts were discussing if his behaviour was romantic or creepy. I was very tempted to pull my car over and call up, but there was no where for me to stop. One of the male hosts was very adamant that it was creepy, the female host thought that perhaps the woman would not mind and maybe it was romantic, as he was too shy to go up and speak to the woman in the shop. the people that called, both male and female all agreed it was creepy.
Personally I agreed but it got me thinking.....creepy is a very subjective term and we may all describe different behaviours as being creepy. So lets step back from that and look at the situation ethically and legally. Ethically this was a case of non consent, the woman did not consent to having her photo taken, she did not consent to it going on the internet, let alone national television and radio. And do any of us know the legality of taken and releasing publicly, the image of another person. I know that in a work context we must have a media release form signed by the person in the image, unless it is a wide group shot at a public event where it is hard to pick out individual people. And I know if someone did that to me I would not be ok about it....what about you?
So back to consent....what is it and when do we need to get it?
Consent is required in many situations when we are engaging with others and especially when it is another person's body. We may have people in our lives where there is an unspoken level of consent to touch; our children, family and sometimes close friends, but for others consent is required or non consensual touch can breach legal boundaries.
When it comes to sexual touch then consent is paramount, it is illegal to touch another person , in a sexual way, without their consent. There are many codes of ethics that also disallow consensual sexual contact between the person providing a service and the person accessing that service.....therapist and client, doctor and patient, teacher and student.....a power imbalance is present and it then brings doubt as to whether the touch is really informed consent or subtle coercion.
Here is a short clip comparing consent to a cup of tea. It is a simple explanation on consent, which is much more complicated than this, when you consider capacity, intoxication and conditional consent (they will have sex if there is a condom, then they remove condom without informing).
Watch the tea and consent clip here and about consent and riding a bike that explore some of the other considerations can be found here
Here is another clip that explains some of the intricacies of consent by looking at the kink community, where SAFE, SANE and CONSENSUAL are the mantra and essential to all interactions.
So I hope the notion of consent is a little clearer and something that you are more capable of negotiating.
Richelle has had a passion for sexuality and sexual health since 2001. She has worked in the field since 2006, providing sexuality education in schools, and adult education in the topics of diverse sexualities and gender identities, LGBT health issues, sexual health and LGBT relationships.
This is a space for me to share with you my journey as a Sexologist, the things I learn and the people I meet and what I think and feel along the way.