Consent practices in the studio

The following text is modified from the Anti-Violence Project‘s text on consent. It has been modified and reframed for the context of rope.


Consent

So, what is consent?

Consent is clear, communicated, enthusiastic, the responsibility of the initiator, ongoing, and can be renegotiated or withheld at any time. It means listening to each other, respecting each other, and bringing mindfulness to all our interactions. Practicing consent is an important step in creating a culture we want to live in. A culture in which people are respected and have autonomy, choice, agency, to decide for themselves what is best for them.

We support and encourage folks to explore rope in safe, exciting, consensual ways. While doing this it is incredibly important to discuss safety, boundaries, and care. Everyone deserves boundaries and safety for themselves and those around them when and if they choose to engage in rope. Your first partner is you. Knowing and exploring our boundaries can involve a lifelong conversation and relationship with ourselves.

No one is responsible for fulfilling our ropey wants but ourselves. Wants consist of the things that we enjoy doing and give us pleasure (in the broadest sense of the word). While it can be exciting and empowering to share these things with others and to experience ourselves in relation to rope partners, other people are never responsible for fulfilling your wants.

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When practicing consent there are 6 elements:

A mutually communicated agreement

We do not use words like “talk” or “verbal” in this element because not everyone communicates verbally.

That being named, for folks who can and choose to communicate verbally, it is very important that you talk to each other.

Respect the yes.

Respect the no.

Respect indecision (it is not a yes).

Listen and pay attention to words, feelings, and context.

Enthusiasm

When we name enthusiasm, we’re referring to a felt sense in yourself and also in the person(s) you’re engaging with.

First, check in with yourself. Think of the last time you were really excited to do something, to see something/someone, or to go somewhere.

What did that feel like?

What happened in your body?

How did you know you were excited?

We want people to feel free to be that excited to do rope.

Second, check in with the person(s) you’re engaging with.

How do you know that they are excited?

Is it feeling like what they’re communicating with words (if they communicate verbally) is the same as what they’re communicating with their bodies?

If not, check in. If you have doubts, don’t proceed.

Responsibility of the initiator

The person wishing to initiate an act (e.g., initiating the rope scene, the cuddling, touching different body parts, etc.) or change an act (e.g., switch from tying to touching) is responsible for initiating the conversation about consent.

Step by step (on­going)

Having established consent for one activity does not mean that consent has been established for all activities. Just because someone consented to do rope with someone else, it doesn’t necessarily mean they consented to having their body touched. Just because someone consented to having their body touched, doesn’t mean they have consented to further intimacy.

Check in every step of the way.

Cannot be held to a pre­determined agreement

Consent is not a contract; people can change their minds. If early on in the evening someone agrees to to rope at a rope jam/event, check in at the jam/event on before moving forward. Although prearranged conversations can be had, no one should be forced to engage without an in-­the­-moment check in. Our wants and desires are fluid, as should be the agreements that we make when it comes to how we relate to our bodies.

Important notes

Identity

We do not come into any interaction, relationship, or space without our identities; our identities do not come into any interaction, relationship, or space without power. That power comes from systems that have been (and continually are) put in place to benefit some and oppress others. For example, white supremacy gives privilege to white people, patriarchy gives privilege to masculine folks, capitalism gives privilege to the wealthy. Privilege exists whether or not someone chooses to it acknowledge it, and though we do not have a choice about whether we receive it or not, we do have a choice about whether or not we are accountable to it.

In terms of consent this is incredibly important. If someone holds certain power this can impact the ability of someone to feel comfortable to say no, ask for what they want, or engage in fully consensual activities.

Informed

Informed consent means that someone who is being asked for their consent has full information about what they are being asked to consent to. When someone is intoxicated, under the influence of drugs or otherwise unable to make decisions in an informed way, consent can’t happen.

Context

Gender-­based violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It takes place within a cultural context of ideas, values, and behaviours. We are surrounded with images, language, jokes, movies, music, advertising, laws, that validate and perpetuate sexualised violence by making it seem normal. This is referred to as “rape culture”. “Boy will be boys”, “It’s just the way it is…” are examples of this normalisation.

This violence is not normal nor is it inevitable. By practicing consent we aim to shift the culture from one that teaches us that exploitation, coercion, domination, and control are ok to one that is grounded in respect, accountability, responsibility, reciprocity, and interrelatedness.

At the centre of all of this work is consent.

As community members, we believe that by practicing consent in all of our interactions we can work towards building safer communities.

Boundaries versus Consent

A persons wants in rope may shift and change depending on the day, context, partner and how they feel. That’s why it is so important to have a conversation about what is okay and what is not okay before and during rope.

While boundaries can be fluid and re-negotiable, being consent focused isn’t negotiable.

If someone says “I didn’t consent to this” the correct response is never “you didn’t communicate your boundaries properly” because this takes the focus away from consent initiation and onto definition of boundaries. This is problematic because boundaries can shift and it is virtually impossible to list all the things that are okay and not okay in any given situation. Moreover, focusing too much on establishing boundaries places most of the burden onto one person rather than promoting an ongoing exchange and shared responsibility between two people.

When in doubt, ask or do not proceed. Indecision is not a yes.

 

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