Updated: Jan 14
Think about where you could embed consent into your everyday life to help normalize it. I was speaking with Radinka Ustasia recently about this topic, and I have been thinking about this issue for a long time now. In the past, I was horrified by the issue of lack of consent when it came to sex, but then I realized how rarely we encounter consent normally in our lives. If we don’t bring it into all areas, it won’t be normal to use it in the places where without it, terrible consequences can occur.
Where can we add it? It is really a misnomer that consent resides only in the bedroom. It actually happens very early in our lives.
Think about being a young child - were you ever told to give a grandparent a hug? We want to assume that those hugs are welcomed and wonderful, but that is not always the case, and sometimes we may feel uncomfortable. It should be the option of both parties involved how they connect. I assume positive intent, but when a young person is not given the opportunity to make that choice for themselves, they do not learn that the opportunity to say “no” exists. We teach children at a young age that they don’t have the choice in how and when their bodies are touched, but we tell them to let us know if someone touches them unwantedly. It is not something we adults realize we are doing, but it carries on through their lives.
Consent in the classroom seems contrary to everything we learned in school to ask students. I know from my own experience that when I was in school, I did as I was told and never questioned why I did what I did. But now that I am a teacher, I wonder why the students don’t have a say in what we ask of them. Using consent in the classroom feels wrong - what if they don’t do what I need them to do? Why not let them learn the consequences of not making those choices? It is a challenge, there is no doubt, but it is more about the need for us to be in control. If there is no choice, only consequences, then they don’t learn the role they have in the choices. I have written a lot about this issue - it is where my heart and passion ignite, but when it comes to consent, it is absent in the classroom, and this is the place where we need to be teaching students to speak up.
What about as a parent in our homes? When our children are not given an opportunity to make their own choices, they actually never learn the consequences of their actions. Now, more than ever, parents are making choices for their children. I will not tell you the consequences of them not learning on their own, but our society is feeling the impact of poor choices. It seems silly to let our children make choices, we know best, but it is important not to make every decision for our children. Especially when we ourselves are not perfect, so when we make a bad choice on their behalf, they learn to blame, rather than reflect.
Does your contract or job description say - extra duties as assigned? Most teacher contracts do, and often your supervisors, regardless of the job you hold, ask their employees to do other things that are not necessarily within what one might have imagined being part of the job. Have you been asked to do one of these “extra” duties, or have you asked your employees to do something that falls under the umbrella of “additional duty?” What I am asking is - did you ask? Were you asked - or was it just an expectation that you would say yes. All too often we are not asked. Don’t get me wrong, I would probably do it either way, as would many of us, but when did the “ask” leave the process? When that step is skipped, it often leads to resentment and frustration. Not to mention when the expectation is placed on employees for things that the supervisor is not willing to do. If this hits a nerve with anyone - maybe the ask should be placed back into the process - what would the outcome be? Do we worry that the employees might say no? This would imply that the trust is not there.
How can you add consent into your daily practice to help normalize it?