Have a “hot” consent summer

By Sarah Maetche

Summer is finally here. It’s time to come out of our dormant Alberta spring/winter shells and have a hot consent summer.

Like Megan the Stallion said about “hot girl summer,” we can enjoy this summer feeling confident in who we are, have fun and practice consent while doing it.

Coming out of our post-COVID reality, many are ready to get back to the things they enjoy – like hitting the beach, patios, going to social events, backyard barbeques, camping, rodeos and outdoor sporting events – especially during the summer months.

The Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre (CASASC) encourages you to be mindful as you go about these and many more social activities with the phrase “only yes means yes” when it comes to consent in your mind.

This is the idea behind CASASC’s campaign Only Yes Means Yes (OYMY) – speaking positively about consent to change our community for the better.

Consent is an important concept in sexual violence prevention. OYMY focuses on what positive consent can sound and look like as a way to promote healthy relationships and increase a greater sense of consent culture. OYMY changes the way we look at and understand consent.

Many of us may be familiar with the saying “no means no.” This is a frequently used statement when talking about consent. This statement indicates that we are always saying “yes” until we say the word or indicate “no,” which is a lack of consent. This statement tells people that unless they indicated “no,” that was clear and understood by both involved individuals, they were giving consent.

With OYMY, we have turned the above “no” conversation on its’ head. This campaign challenges the consent conversation by reinforcing that an individual is always conveying a lack of consent (always saying “no”). The default for consent then is “no.”

It’s literally a “no” until they say “yes” with their words, their actions or with their body. Consent can only happen when a person actively and consciously says “yes” and gives/shows their consent.

Consent can be simply defined as this: a voluntary agreement between people who want to do something together. Yes, this of course applies to sexual activity, but it also applies to our everyday lives, with things like driving down Lakeshore Drive in Sylvan Lake, lining up to get ice cream at the Little Ice Cream and Soda Shoppe, attending a staff backyard party and on. When defined like this, consent applies to everyday life.

Consent is given freely. It’s chosen and ongoing.

This is why we all should aim to have a hot consent summer. Showing and saying an enthusiastic “yes” is letting that other person know that you are interested in the summer activity.

Here’s an easy way, or rather process, to give consent: 1) Know how to ask for consent. Your words matter, 2) Saying and/or showing a “yes” or “no” for yourself, 3) Hearing and/or seeing if the other person is saying “yes” or “no” and 4) Recognizing and respecting the other person’s yes or no. That’s the process – knowing, saying, hearing, recognizing and then respecting.

Sarah Maetche is the communications and administration manager at the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre.

Article as published in the Red Deer Advocate on July 7, 2022.

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