SFS14 Workshop Recap: “Beyond Yes Means Yes: The Law, Activism, and Practice of Consent”

Two-people-talking-logoMissed the Sexual Freedom Summit by @WoodhullSFA this past weekend? Fear not! I’ll be recapping some of the sessions I attended. First up: “Beyond Yes Means Yes: The Law, Activism, and Practice of Consent” by Andy Izenson (@andyeyeballs).

Overall, I want to commend Andy for a wonderful session. He managed to strike a good balance between hilariously personable and serious, all while providing useful information and having us directly practice some of the concepts through engaging activities (AND giving space to not participate for those who hate activities and/or may be triggered by ones specific around consent). I’m a pretty harsh critic when it comes to judging presentations, and I had a lovely time.

While I don’t think everyone left the session with the same delicious taste in their mouth (especially not the cisgender white man who probably felt attacked when he mentioned that a way for people, and particularly women, to stay safe was to do things like “not go into the dorm room of college guys if they’re drunk,” and there was a palpable sense of rage in the room), I’d venture to say 95% of folks felt good about the workshop. Curious to hear more? Check out the workshop description to start:

This workshop will take participants through an understanding of the current state of and conflicts around sexual consent in the law, within activist communities, and in their own practices. After last year’s workshop focused solely on personal practice, this workshop zooms out to take a wider view of what it means to commit to fighting rape culture on multiple fronts. Participants will have opportunities to learn and practice positive consent strategies in their interpersonal interactions, and takeaways enabling them to empower the members of their own activist subcommunities to speak up and connect against abuse and assault. The session’s goals are to allow participants to experience consensual empowerment in a safe environment and learn strategies for spreading that empowerment throughout their own work.

…don’t ask too many questions. (But if you’re desperate for context, someone came into the room asking if it was the erotica writing one or something, and we all assumed it was a joke…and just kept going from there.)

Something that’s worth repeating over and over and over. For more reading about things like intimate partner violence in activist communities, check out The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities.

Someone brought up HIV criminalization laws. Check out the Positive Justice Project’s fact-sheet on the issue (and more on criminal law here). For more information, POZ’s website has a great section on this too. I have  mixed feelings on this because I’ve seen victims of domestic violence get infected and/or threatened with infection by HIV+ abusers and some criminalization laws have been helpful for them, but…overall I’m against criminalization of HIV and other STIs.

This is actually also relevant in working with victims and survivors of domestic violence. An advocate should never demonize an abuser. Particularly because so often it takes victims multiple attempts to leave abusive relationships, when and if a victim returns to their abuser, knowing that a friend or advocate hates the abuser can make them wary of seeking help. They may feel guilty for “messing up” or feel that everything in their relationship is fine now/again, and that their friend or advocate “wouldn’t understand, and that their [abuser] had turned over a new leaf.”

A super intelligent way of reframing how we interact with people, both personally and professionally. I’m also very fond of this kind of outlook, because it focuses on maximizing kindness instead of minimizing harm, which some people (sadly) get antsy about and whine about “political correctness gone too far” or something silly like that.

Basically, we were paired off with another person. We took turns asking each other if we could touch a particular body part, and the person being asked had to respond by saying “Yes and… [insert something else they would be allowing the asker to do]” or “No but… [insert something else that they would say yes to instead].” That way, each person would practice asking, responding, and having consent be a dialogue rather than a “gatekeeping” situation where one person is always asking the questions and the other is always responding. It’s also a good way to redirect questions or propositions that one isn’t ready for and spinning them more positively. Like “No, I don’t want you to touch me here, but it would be AWESOME if you touched me there.”

There have also been some good articles about consent in relation to how we teach kids about touch and bodily autonomy. Here’s a short one that’s more of a personal reflection, a video explaining it all more in depth, and a fabulous resource with age-appropriate ways of discussing and teaching consent to kids. Finally, I can’t NOT plug the consent video from the “Use Your Words!” series on sex-positive parenting we did through The CSPH.

Anyone who has ever partnered with me will attest to this: I am a meta-communicator through and through.

It’s just all about being on the same page and not just making assumptions!

If you’re pouting, rolling your eyes, saying “pretty pleeeeeeeeeeease,” or any non-verbal cues that imply dissatisfaction and pressure, you’re not allowing that person to make a choice free from coercion!

Want to learn more about transformative justice and restorative justice and community accountability? Check out the resource on TJ/CA, Philly Stands Up!, the Project NIA transformative justice curriculum guide, a resource all on restorative justice, and for my fellow Massachusetts denizens—the MA Restorative Justice Collaborative. If you want to get super practical, too, you should take a peek at the Creative Interventions Toolkit to stop interpersonal violence.

Not sure…if I caught the name correctly here. Eep?

I recently read an article from a survivor on this very topic, titled “The Nomadic Rapist: A Critique of Not Being Friends with Rapists.” Worthwhile read if you’re trying to think through this. I still think there are times when expulsion is the only available choice given the situation’s constraints, but that yes, we should be moving towards accountability instead of total ostracizing and erasure.

…and people don’t really identify as “monsters” even when they are.

Stay tuned for more posts about the conference, as well as a masterpost on #Ferguson coming soon!

2 thoughts on “SFS14 Workshop Recap: “Beyond Yes Means Yes: The Law, Activism, and Practice of Consent”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *