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My New Year's Resolution: Practicing Good Consent

by Lani BlechmanPEP Young Women's Leadership Council

This year my new years resolution is to actively practice good consent. (Here's my working definition of consent: making sure it's alright before/during/after you initiate physical or sexual contact.) I didn't hear about consent until I started college a few years ago, but once I did it started changing how I looked at my own sexuality and how I have sex. In fact, it's still changing. I think that there's a lot of responsibility that goes into practicing good consent. Not only does it involve being aware of your partner, but it also involves being aware of yourself, looking at your past, examining how it affects you now, and thinking about how you want your sexual future to be. As Cindy Crabb says, "learning our boundaries is a life long process". For many of us, it also means changing the ways that we have sex and unlearning what we're taught sex is supposed to be like.

And I also think consent is important outside of the bedroom. Here's a recent example: I was in a really bad mood. I was surprised steam wasn't coming out of my ears (that kind of frustrating and angry bad mood). My housemate came up to me and asked if he could support me by patting my back or something like that. And I told him no. It was much more supportive and relieving to have him ask me then for him to freak me out by touching me, know what I mean?

In the 'bedroom' (or tent as was the case), the first time that a partner of mine actively and persistently sought verbal consent from me, I was blown away. (I was also at a queer gathering in central Tennessee.) It was not only hott and fun, but it made me feel safer. This experience also made me realize that I was relying on my partners to ask me if something is ok, and not often enough was I the one asking the questions. So I identified one way that I could work on practicing good consent, and I'm still working on it.

I'll admit though, I started my new years resolution early. This week I started reading a new zine that's hot off the presses: Learning Good Consent. It has really revved me up for the new year. There are submissions from people and organizations all over the country with folks giving advice, telling about their experiences, and saying really honestly "I have never been able to figure out a way to talk comfortably about consent" and then trying to do it anyway. Whether you've been practicing consent since your five-year-old self asked that cutie on the playground if they wanted to hold hands, or you don't think you know much about it at all, I *strongly* urge you to check this out.

Also, I can't wait to get my hands on Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape, edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti.  The articles just make me think: pro-sex, fat-positive, anti-racist, queer-lib, youth-lib amazingness! 

So yeah. I'm excited about my consent process. Thus far it's done me nothing but good, and I can't wait to keep working on it over the next year (and rest of my life).  If you're still not sure what your new years resolution is, I don't mind sharing!

cross-posted from Amplify Your Voice.

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