As kind of a follow-up to my last writing, and maybe for those who aren’t drowning in the ocean/sea/river of consent: what is it?
In its briefest, consent is permission/agreement to do something.
That’s it. It’s not inherently sexual in nature–which is actually pretty awesome, since not everything done in kink-land is sexual in nature, and so we need it to cover a lot of territory.
It also means that someone’s consent can be violated without that person having been raped, and it means that someone can be a consent violator without being a rapist.
This is part of why we need to talk about it–because right now, there’s a lot of “but if X violated consent, X is a rapist,” or “but I don’t see rape there, so it’s not consent,” and neither of those statements actually follow a logical progression. I understand the reason why so many have gotten there–because one of the most egregious forms of consent violation is rape, and so it’s pretty easy to equate consent violation with rape. But consent and consent violation cover much more territory than rape, and that’s actually a good thing.
It means we can talk about being touched in ways we don’t like to be touched that aren’t inherently sexual, and point out those consent/consent violation boundaries. For example, hugging: not everyone is a hugger. I love hugs. My best friend only hugs people with whom she’s super close. She really appreciates people who ask before assuming, because then she doesn’t have to be a stiff, awkward body stuck in someone’s arms when they’ve swooped in for a ‘genial’ hug.
My spouse is a pretty private person about her computer, her notebooks, or anywhere she writes. It took a really long time before she was okay with me seeing her screen or anywhere she’d written–years after we were married–and that was a privacy boundary for her. It had nothing to do with sex. I needed her consent first.
I am in the process of learning that I can’t be in the middle of my mom and grandma anymore as their go-between messenger (and that really, I shouldn’t be doing that for anyone who is capable of doing their own messengering). I’ve consented to it in the past, but I am setting up new boundaries now, because that gets messy fast. They need my consent for that.
All three of these examples are about consent. None are about sex. All three can be violated, and the people violating would be consent violators but not rapists.
To summarize: Consent is permission/agreement to do something. Consent violation is breaking a boundary set. Rape falls under the heading of consent violation, but is not the only form of consent violation.