Question of the Week: March 6th, 2018.

What sort of behaviors make you feel like a person is respectful or disrespectful of consent?

I am a huge consent nerd.  I consider consent important in all aspects of behaviour, not just when it comes to things like sex or touch.  
I think that looking at how people are in lighter situations can give you good information about how they will be later on.  One example of this is how people act in conversation.  Are they aware of when others speak up and try not to speak over them?  Do they notice if someone looks uncomfortable with a joke?  Do they get inappropriately defensive if someone calls them out for bad behaviour?

I also feel safer around people that code as aware of queer issues.  A good example of this is if someone asks me what my pronouns are.  I don’t present as particularly gender nonconforming, so what this says to me isn’t just ‘what pronouns do you want me to use’ but ‘I am someone that has a good level of awareness of queer issues and how to be considerate of others.’

How do you judge someone’s ability to be trusted with  consent?  What other signs do you use to work out what kind of person someone is?

About astarlia

Astarlia is proud of herself for only having volunteered for..... okay if you have to stop and count it's probably too many things isn't it? She is passionate about nerd culture, disability and mental health, alternative relationships, sexuality, and young adult fiction.
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8 Responses to Question of the Week: March 6th, 2018.

  1. Sara K. says:

    I agree that I use observations how people act in less serious situations to judge how they may act in a more serious situation with regards to consent (though I have also seen people who don’t consider consent to be important in situation A take consent very seriously in situation B). However, I don’t consider how they code as aware of queer issues when I judge how they will deal with consent issues, because I’ve known people who coded as very aware of queer issues do things such as dismiss sexual harassment as just flirting. Likewise, I’ve known people who did NOT code as aware of queer issues (that doesn’t mean they were actually unaware, merely that they did signal awareness) yet demonstrated good sensitivity to whether the people around them were feeling comfortable.

  2. patience says:

    My ex-partner was often a hell to discuss anyhting with as they seemed to have a hard time seeing things from other’s perspective and admitting to being wrong and I sometimes had a feeling that my opinions were being dismissed. This might be why I sometimes found it hard to say no when I felt uncomfortable (and later I realized that it was because I didn’t consent) and voicing my opinion more generally. On the other hand, at other times they seemed to at least try and be very considerate of what others felt or wanted.

    I have a friend that I really love talking and discussing things with. We often disagree more than we agree, but always with respect for each other’s opinion and I also tend learn more about myself, my friend and the world. And there aren’t many things that I wouldn’t trust them with.

    So I guess this could be one way to sorta judge how people react, but as Sara pointed out above (and my ex-partner might be a case of this), people might act differently in different solutions.

  3. Alex Black says:

    The most indicative thing to me is how someone responds when I say “no”, whether it’s to something big (like consenting to sex) or something tiny (like if I’ll hold their bag for a second).

    For example, if someone offers me a slice of chocolate cake, and I say “I’m too full,” and they respond with “Oh, maybe later then? I can save you a piece.” Then that’s fine. If instead they persist and wheedle and refuse to let it go, throwing reason after reason at me why I simply must try the cake (“Just try a little bite, then,” “But you love chocolate cake!”, “You can break your diet for just one bite,” “I baked it just for you,” “You can’t know you won’t like it if you don’t try it”, etc.), then that sets off major alarm bells in my head.

    • luvtheheaven says:

      In all seriousness, if someone made me a chocolate cake without first asking me or having a close enough friendship with me that they have good reasons to predict I would want it, that would be really uncomfortable in the extreme…

      If they did have good reasons to believe I’d want it, or even I already said yes when they asked before starting baking, they went through the trouble to make me a cake, and then I don’t want it, I’d still want the ability to be honest but I’d be sorry and it would be hard to shake feelings of obligation to just eat it anyway…

      But yeah anyone who believes they have the right to insist you enjoy what they’re enjoying is not doing a good job at making you feel comfortable with saying no to them, and therefore aren’t building a consent culture.

      A good sign that they respect and believe your no’s is when they really want to share some activity with you but you don’t want to do it and they quickly move on to “I only wanted to do it with you if you would WANT to be doing it” attitude?

      Idk I kinda wrote more about this in my comments on Coyote’s “What is “knowing” no?” post 3 years ago:

    • patience says:

      That’s a pretty good point with the cake/chocolate/whatever. Apart from obligation, there could also be not wanting to displease someone or seem ungrateful and I feel that can be a pretty hard minefield to navigate.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I’m more comfortable around people who are queer/code as aware of queer issues too, but that has nothing to do with any judgments about whether they’re “good about” consent. I feel safer from discrimination/alientating microaggressions/etc. around those people (and even more so around those who signal being ace- and trans-friendly), but only that. Because I have actually known at least one queer person, who did indeed ask about pronouns and all that, who even read and highly praised my article about sex and consent… and then went on to ignore someone else’s lack of (sexual) consent. :/

    So I don’t care how good a game someone talks about consent. No one gets a status as “Trustworthy” enough that I’m going to believe they couldn’t possibly have violated someone else’s consent, if someone comes to confide in me about something they did. It isn’t just Male Feminists who use the language of consent to establish a reputation and then use that as cover to hurt people. There are people in the queer community, including women, who do that too.

    And, when it comes to consent other than sexual consent, I don’t think anyone is 100% safe/perfect about it. Sometimes there are situations that can come up where, for example, maybe people share some information with others without consent, because they never realized that the information was supposed to be kept private. Sometimes it really should be obvious that the information is sensitive (like, don’t out people?), but other times, it might seem like really casual small-talk stuff. For example, I’ve had friends who got in a fight with each other before over one of them sharing their (shared) weekend plans with another person, who then went on to basically invite themselves along. Person A knew that Person C was the type of person who would do that because they’d done it many times before, but Person B had no idea and thought talking about it in front of them was okay.

    So, anyway… I guess you could say that instead of judging whether someone is “safe” or “trustworthy” I instead judge whether they are untrustworthy, and back away from people who give signs that they don’t really care about whether others are comfortable/okay with their actions/any given situation. I use a lot of the same red flags mentioned above, and I can’t really think of a whole lot of other examples right now off the top of my head, but… I guess one thing I really pay attention to is how people frame conversations. Are they reinterpreting things that other people are saying with a more hostile lens, or a more simplistic/stereotypical view, and effectively minimizing or dismissing what other people are saying? Do they take the focus off of other people to center on themselves instead? That sort of thing.

  5. demiandproud says:

    Trust – both in how they treat trust given in them (do they notice, do they betray it) and how much they reciprocate. One of the biggest warning signs for me in any relationship is trust requested, or even assumed, without it being returned. I also have a hard time coming back from a betrayal of trust I have given.

    Respect and control – as in, how much is one person alright with leaving to another’s judgment, and how much do they try to control through rules, fussing or other forms of pressure. Also, how do they address conflict? Leave room for reasonable doubt, defense, reconciliation? Do they approach someone privately, as an equal? Especially in situations involving relationships and mental well-being, I think a key aspect is learning to hear and respect another’s boundaries.

    Space – this can be literal and metaphorical. I feel best within space I consider mine. If a friend or guest comes over, one of the first things I do is try to create a space for them and what they bring along. Sharing a space with someone peacefully is essential to a relationship to me (I experience being quiet with one another as more intimate that talking to one another). Leaving someone space they require (to unwind, to work or to talk and share together) is a good way to care for them.

    Conversely, I feel very easily violated in body and mind when someone does not respect my space, such as touching anything other than my shoulder or hand out of context, being too close, demanding attention I am unwilling to give, setting up rules that I feel restrict me unreasonably, do not respect my privacy, do not let me participate in a conversation or start talking while I was not yet finished. Especially that last one I’ve come across a lot with men doing it to women.

  6. demiandproud says:

    My big flag for (live) online communities, when company becomes mixed:

    Can they take what they dish out?

    If the (dirty) jokes or smack talk started flying, women respond in one of three ways: they started making jokes or talking smack right back, became really quiet or made themselves the butt of the joke. I logged off if I encountered the latter two, because to me it was a sign women were required to submit in that group.

    If we joked back, the men often responded in one of two ways: delighted or insulted. Again, if it was the latter, I logged off.

    Over a longer term (hours or several sessions), the talking often went one of two ways: either it died down into a normal-ish conversation or it evolved into an on-and-off stream of good banter. I could appreciate both.

    So my biggie for an environment open to consent in online communities boils down to: do women feel safe enough to act as equals and do men respond positively if they do?

    (If you’re wondering, MMORPG raids.)

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