Some topics are never mastered because they seem too simple to warrant thought or practice. Explicit consent, in my opinion, is one of those topics.
Explicit consent is asking someone a direct question and obtaining an “explicit” affirmative response before proceeding. Explicit is defined as “stated clearly, leaving no room for confusion or doubt.”
For example, “May I kiss you?” is an explicit question. The response, “no,” is explicit.
I’ll admit that I haven’t always used explicit consent in my life, and even now, it feels awkward at times. We polled the YCP Facebook group and asked them, “In your current relationship. If you initiated the first kiss, did you ask for explicit consent and get a “yes,” before leaning in? Or did you rely upon body language, eye contact, timing, or other non-verbal cues that the time was right?”
Six times as many people answered that they relied upon non-verbal cues than used explicit consent. Does that mean that those people sexually assaulted their partners? Of course not. But it shows that explicit consent is not yet the ordinary course of action. I feel like that’s really, really important to understand.
At the last party, I was face-to-face with a woman in the pool. We’d been flirting for quite some time, and she was giving every indication that she was sexually interested in me. I perceived many non-verbal cues that she wanted to kiss, and honestly, it wasn’t effortless to ask. It made me feel a little ridiculous, as I was confident that I knew what the answer was.
That doesn’t mean that explicit consent is wrong, that means that I need to keep practicing until it becomes second nature.
Any time I write something like this, there is a risk that it’s misinterpreted and does more harm than good. So let me summarize.
Explicit consent is the law of the land at YCP. If you aren’t willing to ask before touching, and as things escalate (kissing, fondling, etc.), then you cannot attend an event.
Explicit consent is something that I believe very strongly is the right thing to do.
The point to this blog post is that it’s a more difficult subject to master than many people give it credit. It’s something that will require a good deal of introspection, study, and practice. We need to reinforce it with ourselves, our partners, and each other at events.