Most people probably agree that sexual assault shouldn’t happen and that consent is crucial to ensuring that suffering related to sexual violence is ended. The concept of consent can improve relationships with self and others and encourage people think more consciously about their next interaction, but in order to ensure long term prevention the practice of consent must become normalized and prioritized. When it comes to large scale culture change and engaging a critical mass in shifting away from a culture that condones sexual violence, basic consensus that violence is bad and that consent is necessary is an amazing starting point.
When clearly illustrated ideas about consent are common place, rape myths and rape culture norms become dislodged and begin to appear in their full absurdity. When we understand the pervasiveness of rape culture and harm inflicted by sexual assault, we may have a hard time accepting that consent is not concrete. It is critical that consent is accessible to all people and that people have the opportunities to learn about consent and the self-empowerment to exercise consent. At the same time, consent is not a fixed location on a map or a tangible commodity to be passed back and forth between various people. Consent is more complex in that it is a mode of conducting oneself in relation to others. Because each of our experiences are different, consent that we carry with us into these experiences may look and operate differently, and in that sense, consent may seem a bit abstract and fluid.
Apart from having a critical role in ending sexual assault, consent centric approaches to life can open us up to many fulfilling adventures in self discovery and improved interactions with others. When consent becomes an ongoing process, and a mode of transportation rather than a destination, we learn to be more connected to ourselves and the boundaries of everyone we interact with. Consent involves verbal communication, listening, and attention to context and body language. Further, consent is non-static and unstable and must be renewed regularly; each moment encouraging us to improve our knowledge of self, communication, compassion, and respect for all people.
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