This article, about consent, is a rewrite and combination of two articles written for another ‘occasion’. It’s just a vision, a thinking out loud, on the subject. It’s not written to be absolutely correct, and is really just an observation from, and description of, what’s experienced here. I do not ask you to agree. I do not ask you to mimic. I do not even ask you to consent with anything you read. :D
Consent, some thoughts
One of the subjects I love to talk, write, and think about, for as far as I can remember, is consent. I guess that’s one of the reasons, I was, along with a few other subjects of interest, always observing how things appeared to be working. Consent is, in my experience understandably so, one of the foundations when it comes to trust. This is the case in life (although generally an unseen mechanism) and the context of relationships (in the broadest sense) magnifies the whole mechanism.
In reality we never really learned about consenting
Generally speaking consent is taken for granted, even if it’s unconsciously. In reality we never really learned about consenting. Generally speaking we’ve learned how to behave in a certain way. “Shut up”, “Sit down”, “Listen”, have been some of the core instructions we got about ‘showing desired behavior’. Certain behavior got rewarded, certain behavior got punished. The behavior, and the fact what kind of behavior got rewarded, and what kind of behavior got punished, differs from person to person,
This might be an important thing to see, when talking about consent. (imho, it is.) Overlooking this is effectively ‘making an assumption based on one’s own perception / background’ and taking that ‘perception / background’ as valid. Unconsciously rendering the ‘perception / background’ of the other person invalid! In my experience this is something which happens, until made conscious, on a unconscious level.
A ‘definition’ is not the same as Truth
The same thing said in a different way: ‘My definition of something’ will not automatically match ‘the other person’s definition of something’, or to be a bit more clear, it won’t. In practice I found it’s a good idea to not to make the assumption the definitions match, but find out through communication. Where I, like it or not, will have to make the assumption the other person has really thought about the thing they are consenting to, and is speaking it’s ‘inner truth’, for lack of a better word.
The funny thing is – and that’s not a complaint whatsoever – that people tend to see this thinking and talking about, and applying ‘this deeper level of consent’, as long-winded. So the tendency would be – as it once was – to override that and just assume.
I mean when you know how fucked up ‘violated consent’ feels, especially when this mechanism got (gets) internalized, and becomes a voice inside, it would be the last thing you would wish for another person. Rather the opposite, at least, coming from the life experience (in regards to consent) up to now, here. (Which all is just a story, an experience shared, nothing more, nothing less.)
Consent, deeper down the rabbit hole
The whole concept of consent, is like a rabbit hole, that’s goes deeper than we, at least from my experience, would ever have thought. To start off with a crippling detail: In reality, what we call reality, is based on consent, and consent alone. Basically, when I deny ‘a chair’ is ‘a chair’, it will be impossible for you to prove there is such a thing as ‘a chair’.
To illustrate this mechanism a bit clearer, I hope. When you are in China (and let’say they all speak Chinese), and you call something ‘a chair’, nobody will understand you. Still you are looking at the same object.
Far Fetched, mister
Now, you may say, I am not in China, I’m an English speaking person, and I talk to English speaking persons, so… What’s your point?
The point is this: Although it might be less obvious in appearance, this is the same thing that is going on, when dealing with people you ‘know’ very well. Let’s say family, close friends, or even a partner. Like it or not, it’s quite impossible to ‘know’ – if anything – everything about someone, or for that matter, even yourself. Because, when reality is based on consent, who or what did (or do) you ‘consent to’?
Consenting where you can, when dealing with other people, is a good practice, imho, but, when a consent based reality, starts to base itself on assumptions and presuppositions, rather than consent, it’s a bit like being lost at sea. Can you see the ‘problem’?
A lot is self-evident, right?
Even the ‘fact’ you are born, male, female, have a certain sexual preference, and e.g. what you appear to have become later on in life, bases itself entirely on consent, and consent alone. It’s kind of ‘a story about who or what we appear to be’, so to speak, So, the question arises again, who or what consented to who or what? Answer: If not you, than who?
With the above as a sort of rough guideline, it became clear to me that ‘violating consent’ is always luring, and now when I think about it again, will always happen. But, there’s a twist to that.
The context used here is the context of you, me, reality, ‘the constentless state’, so to speak. ;-) From that ‘space’, everything ‘is possible’, as long as everyone involved, keeps an eye on that ‘space’, so to speak.
Translating this to relating and relationships – which in this context is seen as ‘a play layered upon reality’, so ‘personal reality’ is the leading container, in which this relating takes place – it means that awareness of tendencies, and punctuality are key. Though we should not deny, we are all in the act of being human, and have a bit of a setback ‘knowing’ others, without projecting our own beliefs, judgments, assumptions, presuppositions, and perceptions upon them.
While in life we get dealt the cards we get dealt, so to speak, when we get into a relationship, and that ‘space’ (talked about earlier) is kept as a ‘foundation’, it’s almost like ‘everything is possible’. But like I said, the ‘space’ is almost ‘holy’, and should not get cluttered with all types of convincing and influencing, either way.
Being clear and honest about your feelings, make it a subject of conversation, ‘create consent’ is some sort of way, is a must. When someone feels – and what a person is feeling is always right at that moment – consent gets violated, it would be this ‘space’ mentioned before, to come back to. In my experience it’s best to be very willing to see a situation for what it is, and act accordingly in a ‘grown up way’. Saying that, when that means ‘the show is over’, the show is over. When things get settled easily, play may go on, but when (a lot of) convincing and influencing, seems ‘necessary’, ‘the show got cancelled’, right there an then. Swell? From a personal viewpoint it won’t feel that way, I guess. Seen from a wider view, it’s like almost logical to surrender to the situation.
Time, effort and the fast life
Of course all of this takes time and effort, time to slow down, dig into yourself and the context you ‘reside in’ and go into details, and (a lot of people) seem to experience that as long-winding, not very interesting, and especially not exiting. Life is fast and getting faster. So is communication, and inherently, the increase of misunderstanding and belief in false assumptions and presuppositions. It’s all about ‘chasing the next experience’, or so it seems.
We, in a lot of cases, don’t really talk, and listen to each other anymore. A situation which seems to (and maybe necessarily so, who knows) worsen in time. We live on soundbites, manuals, how-to’s, and all of that, to which we somehow delegated our responsibility, and now we are wondering why there are trust issues, consent violations, reinforced taboos about sexual preferences and expression, and more and more repressive stuff going on.
Nobody really figured that one out, I blindly guess…. ;-)