Let’s Talk Consent

Before we get started, I’d just like to point out that this is a post about consent (obviously). It’s going to cover consent violations, including one of my own, but I’m going to do my absolute best to steer clear of any potentially triggering phrases or sexually based examples as much as possible. Please keep in mind though that, unfortunately, a lot of consent violations are sexual in nature. I’ll be as implicit as I can, but if you think this post might be triggering for you – don’t read it. Look after yourself first, please x

Right, so, consent. It’s something of a buzzword across all forms of media just now. Everyone’s talking about it, whether in relation to violation, enthusiasm or the “grey area” that exists around it. I thought I’d skip passing judgements on the bad guys (because I think we’re probably all in agreement that they’re bad) and focus on this tricksome issue of consent.

As a young woman who has been to clubs and bars in Scotland and abroad, I have first hand experience of consent violations. For the most part, these have been sexual in nature, but not always.

A few summers ago, I was leaving a club with a friend. That summer I had decided not to drink. My mental health had taken a hit and I was sure that excessive drinking would only be detrimental so I decided to have a dry summer. Granted, there were one or two occasions where I had a gin and tonic or two, but for the most part I stuck to my resolve (which, if you’ve been around Edinburgh during the Fringe, you’ll know to be no easy feat). A friend and I had gone out dancing and, on our way out of the club, I had my stomach grabbed by a man who I would guess to be in his thirties.

I cannot fully articulate how violated I felt in that moment. It still elicits an incredibly visceral reaction from me thinking about it today. It makes me want to shower in scalding hot water. It makes my skin crawl. It makes me feel vulnerable. This man not only grabbed the stomach of a 19 year old girl, but he did so and laughed.

At that time, I was 10 stone. I was wearing high waisted jeans and a crop top that displayed – at most – half an inch of midriff. Not that it should matter. But, for this man, it was enough of an invite to put his hands on my body and exploit my insecurities and vulnerabilities. Had I been drunk, I would probably not even remember this. But I was sober as a judge. I don’t exactly remember what happened next because I was enraged and embarrassed, but I know I was pulled up the stairs fast enough to stop me from swinging for the man or get into a yelling match.

This particular instance stands out for me because it was not inherently sexual in nature. Young women have been conditioned to brush off or defend against sexual harassment from men in a variety of settings, including the workplace, the street and clubs.

“Don’t wear this, don’t say that. Ladies sit with their knees together. Flirting has consequences. That tone will get you in trouble. Be one of the boys to keep them on your side. Put up with the sexual harassment or deal with hostility. Don’t ever expect respect.”

But this was something entirely new. This was a man, yes objectifying me, but finding it completely acceptable to put his hands on my belly and pinch my visible and covered skin between his fingers while laughing. It was invasive and it was far too intimate.

To this day, I think about that incident. It’s a driving factor for a lot of my conversations around feminism and my belief that we need to drill home the importance of consent and body autonomy and goddamn respect for women.

Why consent matters

Because humans have the basic right to choose. It’s that simple. This applies to all thing – law, shopping, GDPR (can you tell I work in marketing?), sex.

To be a little less facetious, consent is a hugely important part of human interaction. Consent helps identify boundaries in interpersonal relationships and is an agreement to do something. This agreement is usually verbal, but can also be granted through non-verbal cues, although this can cause issues with miscommunication.

A great quote I picked up from a website while doing some cursory research for this post summed up consent quite nicely:

Consent allows people to have more control over their decisions and their bodies, which makes people feel more comfortable in social encounters.

At the end of the day, consent is there to ensure the safety, wellbeing and happiness of everyone. By appreciating and looking for people’s consent, we create a culture that understands and respects the views, wants and needs of others while they do not infringe on our own experiences.

What is consent?

According to Merriam Webster online, consent is defined as:

v. to give assent or approval

Definitions of consent in particular situations do vary, though. The law is a great example of this. In America, for instance, individual states have identified different ages of consent to marry.

There are various phrases thrown around in various circles to refer to acts of giving consent, each with a slightly different situational meaning.

Informed consent

Most often found in medical situations (but also works for relationships – consider cheating), informed consent can only be given by an individual after they have reached a sufficient understanding of relevant information that would affect them. For a surgery, for example, informed consent is given after a patient fully understands what is going to happen.

Implied consent

This is an area where much of current debate around consent violations sit. Implied consent is consent which is not expressly granted, but instead implied by actions, circumstances or – as is often the case with the many victim blaming scenarios, inaction.

Explicit consent

Consent of this type has been expressly granted, verbally or written. This type of consent is still fallible, but certainly more likely to result in a happy outcome (as long as such explicit consent has not been coerced in some way).

Active consent

Some would argue this is a duplication: consent is itself an active thing.

Passive consent

The flipside to active consent, most would argue that consent cannot be passive, because to be passive means you have not consented.

Enthusiastic consent

Unless someone shows enthusiasm about a proposal, you cannot assume consent has been given. As my boyfriend pointed out – you don’t tend to go to a restaurant without everyone agreeing and being happy with the choice (there are, of course, fussy eaters and exceptions to this rule, but for simplicity’s sake, it’s a good analogy). Why should any sort of intimacy be treated differently from going to dinner?

Thoughts on consent

Jameela Jamil (goddess, actress and writer) wrote a great piece following the Aziz Ansari shitstorm that has been dividing the internet more than that blue/gold dress that had us all topsy turvy.

Anyway, Jameela is all about enthusiastic consent, and wraps my thoughts in a very neat bow with far more finesse than I ever could:

CONSENT SHOULDN’T BE THE GOLD STANDARD. That should be the basic foundation. Built upon that foundation should be fun, mutual passion, equal arousal, interest and enthusiasm. And it is any man or woman’s right at ANY time to stop, for whatever reason.

Preach it lady!

Final thoughts

Consent should not be so hard to understand. Someone broke it down for those of us who are tea drinkers in a rather nifty analogy video which, if you haven’t seen, is worth a watch (if only to make you thirsty).

We really need to change our approach to consent conversations. Starting with highlighting that no one will get it right 100% of the time. People will continue to miscommunicate as long as communication exists. That shouldn’t stop us from trying though.

Consent matters.

Give people the chance to choose for themselves. With a better understanding and ability to negotiate mutual consent, we might actually build a better society, including how we respond to victims of consent violations.

Wouldn’t that be something?

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My Top 5 Fave Poets

I’m back! I know it’s been ages. I’m terrible. And busy. Like, soooo busy. But, I managed to find time to knock this bad boy together.

So, today I want to talk about poetry.

Do you ever read a passage in a book and instantly imagine it brought to life in a hazy, Baz Luhrmannesque kind of beauty that you know would reduce you to tears just looking at it? Or listened to a song and thought you belonged in the music video? (You’re lying to yourself if you say no – everyone imagined themselves in Taylor Swift’s music video for Love Story).

Well, that’s how I’ve begun to feel with poetry.

taylor swift love story
(image source)

Last Fringe, I went to the Loud Poets’ show at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a friend. A friend of ours used to perform with them regularly and it sounded like a sophisicated way to spend an evening at the festival. At the time, I wasn’t much for poetry. I mean, sure, in theory it was great and beautiful and, well, poetic. But in practice I rarely read or watched anything that wasn’t Shakespearean or woven into a film or tv show.

The Loud Poets’ Fringe show changed that for me. I was awestruck by the beauty and fun and sadness their words were eliciting from me. It’s hard to verbalise the experience – you really had to have been there. My love for poetry has since been reingited and I thought I’d share some highlights from my recent readings and watchings.

Slam poetry is new to me, but I have fallen in love with the rhythmic, raw passion it is so often performed with and the realness of the words. It’s one thing to read a poem, but to feel those words seeping into your skin and crawling up your neck with the goosebumps they produce? That’s something special.

Speaking of special, my first slam poet recommendation has to be Neil Hilborn. He has lived with mental illness since childhood and discusses his experiences openly and with an uncomfortable honesty that you can’t help but enjoy.

I went to his Fringe show this year at the New Town Theatre on George Street. We sat in the front row (which after he reduced me to tears for the third time I was starting to regret). He’s an incredibly funny, self-depricating, hugely talented man. He tells stories as easily as breathing and was born to share his words with the world.

This is the poem that convinced me to follow his work and the one that emotionally broke me at the end of his set. I hope you enjoy “Joey” as much as I did.

Savannah Brown is my next recommendation. This poem was my first introduction to her, and I went on to buy her book and artwork created from this poem.

This poem has been shared across social media a number of times. In my opinion, people need to watch it now more than ever. This poem is something of a battlecry for women everywhere who have been marginalised, categorised, appraised, disregarded, sexualised, trivialised and minimalised.

She’s soft and bold and her words reflect many of my experiences growing up. Give her a watch, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Next up has to be Sabrina Benaim. Yes, there does seem to be a theme here in mental health chat (and the fact that Button Poetry is the source – a channel I’d urge you to follow for more great content), but I swear you need to watch this one.

It’s real and it’s painful and she gives you a real insight into the fear and frustration that comes with depression. Her other work is fantastic, but personally this one pushed a button and it has stayed with me ever since I first saw it.

 

I first came across Iona Lee through BBC The Social’s Facebook page, watching her perform this particular poem.

It might be her Scottish accent that endears me to her words so much, but she is a wonderful storyteller and the rhythmic cadences are almost hypnotising.

 

Some written poetry now, but just as worthy of your time as the videos above. You’ll likely have heard of Rupi Kaur by now. Having hit Number 1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List and become an Instagram superstar, her words are world-famous.

I bought her first book, Milk and Honey, a few months back and putting into words how her words made me feel is incredibly difficult. She writes about growing up, falling in and out of love, loss, feminism and her experiences of abuse.

While I can’t relate to everything she has lived through and written about, many of her poems really moved me to tears. Her words are magical and I truly appreciate her craft. I’m currently waiting for my copy of her second book, The Sun and her Flowers, to arrive so I’ll be sure to update you when I’ve had a chance to read it!

🌱😌🌱

Une publication partagée par rupi kaur (@rupikaur_) le

So, there you have it. There are many more poets I’ve found and fallen in love with, but this post was getting to be a hefty length so I’ll save them for a Part 2 in the (hopefully) not too distant future.

Are you a fan of poetry in some form or another? Do you have any recommendations for me? Share them in the comments below!

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Smells Like Teen Angst

Communicating my thoughts and feelings through writing has not always been my strongest skill, but it has been a cathartic release for me from a young age.

While packing up my bedroom at my parents’ house over the Christmas break, I came across an old notebook I’ve owned for years.

It’s a pretty little hand-stitched number from Paperchase that I bought many, many moons ago.

As teenagedom hit with the subtlety of a sledgehammer and the emotions began running amock, I took solace in the pages of this notebook.

I always fancied myself as a poet or novelist, and unfortunately I was less than talented in the poetry department.

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I thought I’d share some of the greater works (and by greater I mean those that induced the most stomach-churning cringe) of my adolescence.

Fact and Fiction

Sometime I feel like a character from a book
with no choice of path.

It seems to me that
we are all characters from God’s latest novel.

It seems to me
that we are all characters from God’s new best-seller

Apparently I was struggling with religion…

Act I Scene III

You’re the Lady Macbeth
of today.
Your tongue is your dagger
You seek revenge, need to
satiate your thirst.
Your anatomic sword pierces
hearts; spilling tears and
killing dreams.
Bloodlust courses through your veins
and yet you lie
ever silent, ever dreaming,
until the day the dagger
plunges.

It would also appear I was both ridiculously pissed off with someone and had a flare for (what I considered at the time to be) dramatic structure. Thank God there are no rhyming couplets or I’d be at this page with a rubber and a lot of elbow grease…

And, God Almighty, I seemed to think I could write humour into my ‘poetry’:

Optimism

My glass is half full
of an exciting new drink
that colours my day.

Optimism is
the new pessimism but
more optimistic

Give me strength.

One of the final entries in this notebook is also a short one, but it has a lot more meaning to me. And yes, this one rhymes:

Roses are red
violets are blue
I cannot fathom
this world without you.

Yellow’s for daisies
purple’s for heather
I’ll love you and miss you
forever and ever

I wrote that in 2012. It was the first Valentine’s Day after one of my dearest friends died in a car crash. It was such a devastating time for me. Probably fuelled a lot more angst, but fortunately I stopped writing so much poetry and focused my energy on journals and fiction. I can assure you they were better.

So, there you have it. I was an angsty wee thing, but God loves a trier.

There are still empty pages in this notebook, as time and other distractions left it sitting on the bookshelf for years. I am going to attempt to fill them all. No doubt there will be some angst still there – gotta get it out somehow – but I’m determined to finish this book on a happier note (and maybe without so much terrible, painful poetry).

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