Consent is not a dirty word
“I imagine even people reading this might be feeling a curdling in their stomachs and an activating of their defence mechanisms. Don’t worry, it’s a good sign.”
I got dacked in year eight. I think that may have been when my drive to advocate for consent started (and possibly where my humiliation fetish would eventually sprout from). Almost everyone has encountered a time like this in their life - when their boundaries were crossed in a way that cuts right into their self-esteem and sense of sexual safety. When I told my parents I would be using a cabaret I wrote about my many experiences with sexual discrimination, harassment and violence to move into a career working with consent principles and practices, they expressed their concerns. I responded by telling them what every parent wants to hear: “I’ll have a job for life.”
I call myself a consent advocate and educator. Unfortunately, what our society did to the word ‘feminism” it has done to the word ‘consent’ - defined it by what it is not, rather than what it is. When I enter a room and tell people what I do, I’m often met with suspicion, dismissal, fear, even hostility, which I find bizarre. I think, ‘shouldn’t everyone want this? Shouldn’t everyone want to find a way to be better, safer, more communicative, more loving?’
I imagine even people reading this might be feeling a curdling in their stomachs and an activating of their defence mechanisms. Don’t worry, that’s a good sign. It means we’ve been raised in a world that tells us our individual needs exist as a priority over, and at the expense of, others. The yucky feeling is an instinct that you don’t want to behave according to this. That discomfort indicates you’re seeking a system of fairness and freedom from pressure, respect and a right to change your mind, honest and specific information, engagement with one another, and ultimately safety. Just like that, you know a consent tool!
The FRIES model was implemented by Planned Parenthood based on the five principles - Fair, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic and Specific - to give you your basic consent parameters. Once you understand the importance of those parameters, all you need to do is ask, listen and reflect. And just like that you’ve learned another tool: a basic consent process, this one is from the legends at Rape Prevention Education in New Zealand.
Consent tools are super practical and uncomplicated, and like any tool, from a hammer to a dildo, while it may be challenging to use at first, if you want the outcome enough (in this case a healthy relationship), you’ll master it in no time.
Everyone says consent is sexy, which I don’t exactly agree with (it’s more that sex is consent-y). My fulfilment comes from people reflecting that consent is fun - when you take the angst of rejection, doing or saying ‘the wrong thing’, or being boring in bed, and you replace that angst with certainty as well as clear options for how to proceed.
Everyone says consent is sexy, which I don’t exactly agree with (it’s more that sex is consent-y). My fulfilment comes from people reflecting that consent is fun - when you take the angst of rejection, doing or saying ‘the wrong thing’, or being boring in bed, and you replace that angst with certainty as well as clear options for how to proceed. Who isn’t going to get something out of that? How many of us wish we’d had that kind of sex education at school, more about pleasure and safety than abstinence and shame?
After hurriedly pulling my charcoal grey shorts up to my razor-sharp adolescent hips over the boys underwear I wore to bind my developing body going in the wrong direction, I ran to a hidden corner of my high school. It was next to the payphone which nobody used because this was 2003 middle-class South Australia so most people had a mobile. As hidden as I thought I was, I suddenly felt a gentle hand on my back and a caring voice asking if I was OK. I was bent double, my face in my knees and from there I shouted that I wasn’t, and I wailed that no-one would care if I died, and I cried at their suggestion that I could talk to someone about what happened to me. When I calmed down, they wished me well and left me to face the world again, settled by the kindness of strangers. I never saw their face, I have no idea who it was, but they’re my role model for what I do for people now, and why I work to prevent what happened to me then and since from happening to anyone else. Whoever you are, I hope I’m doing you proud.
Bayley Turner (she/her) is a proud queer trans woman living on stolen Wurundjeri country. Her work involves consulting with creative teams on consent-focused policy and protocol documentation, bespoke workshops in consent tactics, and support with sensitive material or safety and inclusion requirements. She recently won a scholarship with IDC Professionals to train in intimacy directing and has been awarded a place in Ernst & Young’s ‘She Starts Out’ entrepreneurship program.
Find out more bayleyturner.com or email email@example.com.