Posts in relationships
Consent: The Check
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The Check: How Do You Know You’re Asking the Right Questions?

This is the third and final post in a 3 part series on the topic of consent.

Ok, so now that we have established what is required for consent (Part 1) & what can make it complicated (Part 2)… here are some ways we can make sure we have consent in each area that is required, and how to communicate, avoid, or navigate safely through the situation.

 

If you are unsure about:

?      Enthusiastic Yes? – Ask again! “You sure?” “You want to?”

If the other person is not enthusiastic or seems hesitant, either suggest talking about it or doing something else. DO NOT move forward in the activity. Just because someone doesn’t say “no”, doesn’t mean it is what they are wanting. Make SURE you have that enthusiastic yes!

 

?      Mutual? – Ask what they are wanting and what they are comfortable with!
You: “What would you like to do?”
Other person: “Kiss you”
You: “I would like that! *followed by big smile*”
CONSENT HAS BEEN GIVEN MY FRIENDS! KISS AWAY! (smooooth, am I right?)

 

?      Voluntary? – Ask how they are feeling! Pay attention to body language, not just verbal. Body language can often speak volumes. But remember, you still always need verbal consent. If you can tell someone is feeling nervous around you, slow down and talk more. Consent doesn’t always have to be intense. Consent can be fun, expressional and conversational. LAUGH! Be playful. But in it all… just be you! You always want to keep the activity at a place where you both are feeling comfortable and relaxed.

 

*For your own personal confidence, safety and empowerment: Practice saying no to the people around you. So when/if you engage in sexual activity, you will feel confident in communicating to a sexual partner things like: “No, I’m not ready for that”, “No, I don’t want to do that” or “No, I don’t like that”.

‘No’ is not a bad word. It’s actually such an important word! ‘No’ communicates healthy boundaries. Every person has boundaries, but every person’s boundaries are different. So it’s important to learn how to communicate them and respect them. J

 

?      Informed? – You can ask different things before and during your encounter(s) to make sure you know the other person knows what they are agreeing to.  Before:  “Would you like me to…?”  “Can I…?”  “What would/do you like?” During:  “Is this good?”   “Is this okay?”   “How does this/that feel?”

 

?      Clear-minded? – Ask and observe.

Parties are not the safest place to be engaging in physical activities. Be smart. Make sure you and your partner are clear-minded and 100% aware of and present in what is going on. If you both are not clear-minded, it is not consensual. So if they’re acting Weird, stay Clear. ;) #yourewelcome

 

?      Of age? – Ask them and ask their friends. (Facebook is sometimes a good way to check).

Again, be smart. If you’re unsure, it is not worth the risk.

 

?      Before all sexual acts? – If you forgot, slow it down for a second and check up on the person. You don’t have to bring things to a dead stop, but a consensual slow is always better than assumed permission just because they haven’t stopped you. Assumed permission is still sexual assault.

 

In conclusion… consent is about respect. When you ask for consent you are telling someone that you recognize their body is not yours and you respect that.  It also shows that you care about them as a person who is different from you.

VALUE people. Don’t use people. CARE about people. Don’t pressure people. Consensual acts are ALWAYS more enjoyable, not to mention legal.

No one DESIRES to be treated like an object. NOT. ONE. PERSON. Some people will settle because they don’t know better or different. Be that different for others, and KNOW that you DESERVE different. Don’t settle for unhealthy.

Every physical experience that you have should feel safe and leave you feeling cared about, not used. If it’s not going in a direction you are feeling comfortable with, communicate that. Stop it & talk about it. If they don’t care about how you are feeling or what you have to say, walk away.

Your body is yours, and no one has a right to mistreat it.

 

*For sexual assault information and/or help, go to: https://www.wavaw.ca or contact their crisis line @ 604-255-6344

Consent: Why, When and How Does Consent Become Complicated?
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This is the second post in a 3 part series on the topic of consent. In a couple of our weeks, our third blog post on consent will talk about how to make sure you are giving and receiving proper consent.

In our first consent blog post (Consent: The Breakdown) we looked at the basics of what is involved in an activity for it to be consensual. But from what we are hearing in the media, from people around us, and/or from our own experiences, we are finding consent can quickly become complicated and confusing; leaving us unsure of what to do to in the present situation or how to navigate new situations safely.

 

Here are some examples of things that can easily complicate consent:

            X    Playing Mind Games (“Hard to Get”)

            X    Making Assumptions/Not Learning About Your Specific Partner

            X    Awkwardness and/or Lack of Education

            X    Seeing “No” As a Personal Rejection

            X    Rushing Things

            X    Being Selfish

            X    Obligation

            X    Objectifying

            X    Porn

 

Now let’s break each of these down:

            X    Playing Mind Games (“Hard to Get”)Saying one thing and expecting another.

Say what you mean. Sometimes we think a love interest should be able to read our mind. They should know when the moment is right and when it’s not, when to kiss and when to hold our hand, when to talk and when to listen. But this is all a part of learning, understanding and knowing a person. One cannot learn how to effectively communicate with a person, understand and know what they want and how they work, without time together and honest conversation. If you are unsure about something (e.g. a physical act), wait until you are sure to do it. If you know what you want, ask and/or communicate it. You can be flirty and mysterious, without being confusing and sending mixed messages.

 

            X    Not Learning About Your Specific PartnerWhen we think we know what the other person will enjoy without ever asking them; or when we think that because we enjoy something, the other person will or should enjoy it too.

Different people like different things…bodies are different! We should always ask our partners what they enjoy BEFORE doing it (holding hands, hugs, cuddling, kissing, surprise kisses, and other physical activities). This communication does not have to be limited to just asking in the moment. Open and honest questions and dialogue about likes and dislikes, comfortability, and interest can happen well before and even after an activity, as well as in the moment.

 

            X    Awkwardness and/or Lack of EducationSkipping verbal consent because it feels awkward, we are unsure of how to do it, or we feel it takes too long.

Sometimes we may find it awkward to ask for consent because we don’t often see it done (movies, TV shows, porn, etc.) But the reality is: movies, TV shows and porn are all a scripted act, made to look a certain way. It is not often, if ever, natural or genuine. They know (most of the time) what is about to go down before it goes down! And they (should) have signed a contract saying that they are consenting to the activities about to happen on screen.

Real life isn’t like this. It isn’t scripted or contracted. We don’t automatically know the boundaries and level of someone else’s comfortability and consent. It’s not on paper. And that’s ok! Because… instead of knowing what is going to happen and then just doing it, we actually get to be our fully present, genuine selves in the moment and figure out the complexity and uniqueness of the individual with us; which can often be challenging (…and maybe even a little nerve wracking).  But this is also so exciting and fun while keeping us on these cute ‘lil toes of ours! ;D

So if we want to go get our mustaches dyed purple with our friend, we have to ask them right?

Yes! Why? Because…

1.      They don’t know what we want if we don’t ask and say what we desire.

2.      We can’t demand or force anyone to do anything.

3.      We can’t just do what we want because we feel like it, when it affects other people.

4.      We can’t just take what isn’t ours.

Consent is not awkward unless you make it awkward! If we have to ask our friends to hang out with us and do other activities with us, we definitely have to ask to touch or do physical things to or with someone else’s body? If it ain’t yours, ask! And respect the answer.

 

            X    Seeing “No” As a Personal RejectionNot saying “no” for fear of the other person feeling unwanted or rejected; or not asking for fear of being rejected.

“No” does not mean personal rejection. “No” is setting a boundary and boundaries are necessary for every single relationship to be healthy. Saying “No” to something someone has asked you to do is not rejecting that person; it’s rejecting the activity they have asked you to do. “No” puts a boundary around the activity, situation, or person so the individual stays true to who they are and protects them; which is healthy and important to do in all relationships! (Yay for heathy! WOOT WOOT!) It is very possible (would I dare even say “common”?) for a person to really like someone and just not be ready to kiss them yet. “No” allows a person to feel safe and in control of what is theirs and share when they feel ready and excited to do so.

“No” ≠ personal rejection

“No” = personal boundary

 

            X    Rushing ThingsTreating physical activities like a destination to get to, instead of a journey you are taking with another person.

It isn’t a race! No really...it isn’t! (ha) Check it out: If the goal is to go from kissing to sex in 10 seconds or less, A LOT of important things will be missed! Ten seconds definitely does not give enough time to make sure all activities are consensual and both parties are comfortable.

So for Pete’s sake… SLOW. *clap* IT. *clap* DOWN. *clap*. We aren’t limited to 10 seconds of screen time! WOOT! Enjoy the moment…and make sure they are enjoying it too, ESPECIALLY if it is your first time doing physical things with someone!

If you are with a partner that is going too fast for what you feel comfortable with or are enjoying, TELL them. It can be something as simple as saying “slower” or “not yet”.  You won’t enjoy something you are feeling uncomfortable with or weren’t ready for, and it can often cause resentment or even regret after. (Nor should you want the other person to feel that way ever either!) And if you don’t care…refer to my next point ;). #itsnotcooltonotcare

 

            X    Being SelfishWhen one person cares more about what they want than the other person’s comfortability or enjoyment.

Physical interactions are meant to be enjoyed by BOTH parties EQUALLY. When one person cares only about what they like or want, it often (if not always) leads to non-consensual acts. Physical interactions are ALWAYS more enjoyable, safe, and consensual when both parties are enjoying, caring, and communicating equally!

 

            X    ObligationWhen a person feels a duty or responsibility to fulfil their partner’s physical desires or fantasies; or feeling like they have to continue to do something they didn’t like or feel comfortable with because they did it before and their partner liked it.

Hear me loud and clear…You are NEVER in your life REQUIRED to ENGAGE IN OR PERFORM ANY. SEXUAL. ACTS. EVER.

Nor is it your DUTY or RESPONSIBILITY to FULFILL someone else’s EXPECTATIONS, DESIRES, OR FANTACIES EVER!

I hope that spoke to someone.

Never at any point does someone HAVE to do or go through with anything they are uncomfortable with, are unsure about, or just straight up don’t want to do. In consent, a “yes!” is valid until the MOMENT a person says “no” OR communicates that they are no longer wanting to engage in the present activity. Anything that continues after that is non-consensual. So EVEN if they said “yes!” to an activity, people always have 100% freedom to change their mind at any point during that activity (or before). Consent can be revoked at any time, and must be respected when it is.

Your body is yours, and only yours. No one ever has a right to it or to do anything to it. Not your girlfriend, boyfriend, family member, co-worker, spouse, boss, friend or best friend. No one. <3

 

            X    ObjectifyingSeeing a person as something or someone made for just your pleasure and enjoyment and removing the feelings of the other to perform a “sex act”.

Oxytocin is the bonding chemical released through a person’s body, which makes a person feel close to and connected to another person. Oxytocin is automatically released every time a person engages in physical activities with another person. The bond is then made stronger and stronger each time a person engages in physical activity with the same person. Oxytocin can affect people in different ways and form different levels of attachment in each person. Sex is not just a physical experience; it is also a relationally bonding experience. You are always having sex with a person, not just a body. ALWAYS value and respect the individual person’s mind, body, and feelings.

 

            X    Porn Acting out what you have seen in porn, assuming that it is what sex is like.

With 64% of people between the ages of 13-24 actively seeking out pornography weekly or more often and the average age of first exposure to porn being 11 years old, studies are now showing many young people’s first experience related to sex is through pornography.  Studies also show many young people’s main sexual education is from pornography as well.

This is not good because . . . (pause for effect) . . . porn is NOT realistic! *mindblown*

There are MANY interviews with porn-stars who say that they don’t know why people (especially teens) watch porn as a “How to Guide”. That’s never what porn was made to be. It was made to be adult entertainment, a fantasy, and extreme imagery – it is often non-consensual and physically and/or verbally abusive on screen, as well as off screen. It was not made to show you what sex is actually like, nor is it a good representation of what healthy sex looks like.

Porn is NOT created to help educate you on sex. Pornography is a product that is created and sold for profit (aka: to make money off you). They are not focused in any way towards how what they are making affects you and/or your relationships. They are working to make and sell the most addicting product they can, to keep you coming back (as almost all products do). [See www.fightthenewdrug.org for more information].

 

So now that you are aware of these things, keep an eye out for them. Be careful to engage with any partners that show signs of these but also be aware of whether you have been influenced by any of these things. Work to become an even healthier partner.

So now how do we make sure we hit all the necessary points of consent? In our last consent blog post (Consent Part 3 - The Check: How Do You Know You’re Asking The Right Questions?) we are going to answer that very question… stay tuned ;)

Consent: The Breakdown
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This post starts a 3 part series on the topic of consent. In a couple of weeks we will explore what can make consent more challenging to understand and our third blog post on consent will talk about how to make sure you are giving and receiving proper consent.

The Basic Breakdown: What is Consent?

Consent is the “hot-topic” for today! You ready, Freddy? <- ( Boom. Asking for your consent. ;) ) It has become something you now often hear talked about on many different platforms, in schools and across media. We are definitely gaining a greater awareness of the amounts and frequencies of sexual assaults in and among celebrities, college students, high school students, and all in between. What we thought would/could be a simple and straight forward concept, actually has a lot of things that make it more complex. Including the “grey area/messy” situations we can find ourselves in.

 
You may be someone who…

            ...feels consent is a simple and straightforward concept, so why do we need to talk about it?!

            …was accused of something being non-consensual and don’t understand why because you may have thought it was totally consensual!

            …is so confused about what you actually need to do to have consent and are worried you may be missing something.

 

Whatever questions and perspectives you come with today, my hope is that we can clear some things up, and understand why it may not be as simple as just saying “no” if you don’t want to do something. 

The biggest change that has happened recently with consent has been the change in its common phrase. Once being “No means No”, consent has now changed to “Only ‘Yes!’ means yes, everything else means no.” Why? We will get into that shortly. But first, what is consent?


Let’s start with a basic breakdown of consent:

  • Enthusiastic! – both parties want to do this act and have communicated it in an affirmative way verbally to the other person. (‘Yes!’ ‘Yeah!’ ‘Let’s do it!’) When a person is excited to do something, majority of people are naturally enthusiastic about it.

  •  Mutual – both parties have separately decided to do this activity and then come together in that same decision.  

  • Voluntary – the person is freely making the decision without being pressured, manipulated, persuaded, guilt-tripped, threatened, blackmailed, or coerced. Person freely feels the ability to say “no” without any fear.  

  • Informed – They know the act they are consenting to.  

  • Clear-Minded – not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A person legally cannot consent if they are drunk or high.  

  • Of Age – of legal consensual age. The age of consent in Canada is 16 years old.  

  • BEFORE all sexual acts – BEFORE any type of sexual contact (not just sex). Even if you are in a relationship you need consent every time.

E.M.V.I.C.O.B…EMVICOB…an acronym easy to remember (ha!)

 

So consent seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Well as some of you may know from personal experiences or stories, it’s just not always that simple…

 In part 2 we will be addressing the questions around how and why consent can often become complicated.

 

To be continued…
Simple Not Simple: Why, When, and How Does Consent Become Complicated?

 

Relationship Myths: Part I
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The wonderful thing about the internet is that there is a wealth of information, advice and wisdom made easily accessible for us regarding anything, including relationships!  But the downside of the internet is that it’s hard to sift through all of that information to find the good, helpful and wise advice!  There is a lot of information posted by anyone and for anyone. But it might not be true.  This is no different with relationships.  There can be a lot of myths about relationships; our hope is to dispel a couple of them in this post.

 “My partner should know what I’m thinking or feeling”

By definition a relationship is two separate people coming together.  You may feel a connection with someone but no matter how similar you are in your beliefs and ideas, you are two unique individuals with your own unique DNAs.  You will have differences in some areas of your lives. These differences may be in interests, beliefs, ways of thinking, patterns of behavior, how you listen or communicate and your experiences.  There is this idea that when you’re in love with someone or when you’re with the right person they ‘will just get you’.  But they are not in your head and they are not you.  Communication and boundaries are important.  Both of you are unique individuals who are responsible for your own thoughts and feelings.  Communicating your feelings and thoughts when it’s appropriate and safe to do so is better than assuming that your partner knows what you are thinking and feeling.  If you need help learning how to communicate in healthy ways, you can ask a trusted counselor, mentor or friend to help you learn these skills.

 “Our relationship has to be a certain way”

Healthy relationships involve: mutual respect, trust, individuality, good communication, compromise and understanding.  There are many different opinions online about when you should become official, when you should say ‘I love you’, how to know if you’ve found “the One”, where you should meet someone, etc.  There are important things that you should do to make sure your relationships are healthy, respectful and aligned with your own values.  However, determining where and how you meet someone, how long you should date till you meet the parents, get engaged, etc. can look different for every couple because, every couple includes two unique individuals with different opinions, beliefs, values, thoughts and feelings.  One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to relationships.  Your relationship might look different than someone else’s. Don’t feel pressured to speed up your relationship to different stages just because another couple is at a different stage or does things in a slightly different timeline or fashion.  Focus on your relationship and hold it to your values and standards.  Make sure both you and your partner are comfortable with how things are going and progressing – this requires good communication so try to practice this early on if you can.

As always, our centre provides support to clients who wish to talk about relationships and how to create and build healthy relationships.  Feel free to contact us if you want to talk with one of our Client Advocates or our Community Education team.  

How To Curb Loneliness Over the Holidays
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Family.  Wonder.  Fun. Hope.  Friends. Peace.  Bright lights.  Giftgiving.  Joy.

This is normally what people think of when Christmas comes to mind, isn’t it?  Fun, excitement… why would anyone dread the holidays?

It seems there’s something inherently peaceful about Christmas time and the origins of the celebrations.  Yet, culture’s focus on Christmas has made a natural shift over the years and become quite solely focused on family and consumerism.  Most holidays have become this way, but particularly Christmas.  Family is definitely not a bad thing to prioritize and celebrate but when the focus becomes heavily centered on community, it often marginalizes those that don’t have it.  The reminders are painful; the loneliness experienced at other times of the year becomes even more palpable. 

In many ways, the loneliness is exasperated because we feel alone in our grief or loneliness, we can feel as if we are the only ones that feel this way.  When we glance at social media or look around in our daily lives we see couples in love, new romances flourishing, families together, engagements, new baby arrivals and many joyful photos popping up everywhere…  We feel like nobody else is experiencing loneliness, that nobody understands our pain, that we are alone.  The reality is this may not be true but the pain, the misery of feeling alone – it’s still there. And it’s not easy to experience, especially at Christmas.

Loneliness is painful, but reaching out or putting oneself “out there” is also scary.  Taking small steps towards community can add value to our lives and, although sometimes scary and difficult, intentional small actions can have long term gain.  So here’s a few tips on how to deal with loneliness during the holidays:

1) Pick one person to deepen your connection with over the holidays

Finding community isn’t about going out and finding as many people to hang out with as possible.  Extroverts may love this idea but for most people, extroverts included, finding deep and meaningful connections fulfills some of the longings of a lonely heart and mind.  A small step to take this Christmas season is to find one person in your life that you can reach out to and build a relationship with.  Perhaps do an activity together, spend some time catching up over coffee or over text.  Make an effort to check in and ask them about their life.  Finding a good friend in this season is important; a reciprocal relationship that is deeper than surface level can add meaning and value to this difficult season.

2) Say yes to one social invitation

Even if you just go for an hour, say yes to one social invite over the holidays.  It’s hard to put yourself out there but it will get harder and harder the more that you isolate yourself.  Many times people who feel discouraged and lonely will believe that an invitation isn’t genuine or that they are only receiving the invite out of pity.  The reality is that oftentimes the person extending the invite genuinely does enjoy their friend’s company, doesn’t feel it’s a bother that they spend time with them and is often happy to extend invites and include friends in their holiday plans.  Don’t overthink; take a risk and challenge yourself to go, even for just a bit.

3) Try something new

Especially for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones during the holidays or those who are discouraged after heartbreak, breakups or family conflict, the holidays hold many memories of activities and calendar dates that can trigger more sadness and pain than happy memories.  It’s important to allow space to grieve and honor memories of loved ones and the happy moments of life, but it’s also helpful to challenge yourself to try new things and create new memories and traditions that will honour the stage of life you are in.  If you are single but grieving the loss of a romantic relationship, perhaps you can go with a friend to a new and fun Christmas event or market.  If you’ve experienced estrangement in your family due to family drama over the holidays you could create a new tradition with friends like doing a White Elephant gift exchange over a brunch.  In any stage of loneliness, you could also serve at a soup kitchen or create a gift basket for someone in need.  Serving others is a great way to give meaning to your time, while also taking the focus off of yourself.  It is a distraction for a time from the loneliness you may feel.  

4) Be honest

As discussed, it’s so important to have authentic and meaningful connections in our lives.  Our loneliness is a craving for intimacy and intimacy involves deeper relationships where we can feel known and loved just the way we are.  We will not feel fully known and loved if we are not open about how we are feeling.  When you find that one person to reach out to – that one friend you trust, that one person in an online community that you feel safe to share with, etc – be honest; take a risk to build a real relationship with someone.  You do run the risk of rejection but starting small in trusting a friend with personal things can help you test out the person’s safety level.  Be honest about how you are really doing when they ask.  “Actually I find this time of year challenging for me. I get lonely.”  Perhaps they may not say much. BUT, perhaps they’ll share they feel the same way, or maybe they’ll invite you to join them in some of their Christmas plans.  What do you have to lose?

Let’s face it, the holidays can be a hard season when you feel down or lonely. What’s helped you make it through?