Give the Gift of Asking: Navigating our Consent Culture

 by Captain Blood

consentlookConsent is an important discussion to have because we are generally a gifting, loving, sharing group. It is very easy to take that for granted without realizing when we do so. Generally when consent culture is discussed the focus is on sexuality, but it has a much larger scope.

So I thought I would throw out some scenarios that most of us have been probably guilty of at some point, and also potentially how to react when consent isn't given. Let’s start with the basics. Consent is about asking first. It is the participatory gift you can bring and give at any time or situation. It may not be the most heralded or recognized, but your receiver will either note it or learn from it. Knowledge and experience are the best gifts in my world.

Let’s be real, we all can work on our asking for consent. Who hasn’t just walked up and petted someone’s tail or plopped down at someone’s campfire? I know I have failed at times, but being consciously aware of it is what we are striving for. That awareness will help us develop a knee jerk "Ask First" reaction to situations.

Consent is given

Physical contact: This is the most often area that is touched on (I made a funny). Physical contact encompasses ALL touching: hugs, handshakes, kisses, groping, touching a tattoo, wig, fuzzy vest, light, etc. Any and all sexual contact, even mid-sexual encounter.

Conversations: Sharing our input and experiences is often very fluid at burns. But be conscious that in an intense conversation (or intimate one) that another person’s input may not be welcome.

Physical space: Some theme camps have all-day offerings of yummy things or fire pits or fun stuff and music. Others do not. When approaching a camp, confirm that you can have a drink, or share the fire, or have a seat or eat foods. Usually they will call you in, but theme camp people also want to do all the things and at times may have their camp unattended. Best to wait for an okay, or see if they have a sign. The same applies for anyone's physical space that is not deemed yours (or your camps.)

Others belongings/Art: Art is effing awesome. So much of it is interactive and meant to be touched, climbed on and tagged. Some is just meant to be visually appreciated. If you are unsure, ASK. Some art will have signs indicating its purpose. Please respect the time and resources invested to stimulate our imaginations and spirits. This applies to open camping, people, chairs, kitchens, all the things. Never assume it's okay. Get consent.

Photography: Not everyone wants the interwebs to see them in their awesome striplaya outfit. They chose it for themselves - not you. Ask before shooting pictures of people. When shooting pictures of camps, art, fire, etc, make sure either no one else is in the frame, or make anyone near aware you would like to take a pic of this super cool thing. If they wish not to be included, give them the opportunity to do so. When posting pictures, make sure you have gotten permission prior to posting any recognizable faces or bodies. If you are unsure, or want to give them a copy but forgot their name, reach out to Mosaic leads, one of us will be able to help you find them.

sad unicornThey said NO. Now what? Rejection sux, but we need to not take it as a personal slight. We have no idea why in that moment that action isn't okay. I have come up with a useless acronym for dealing with a NO: A.R.F. Acknowledge: We need to acknowledge we heard them. Either a “thank you for letting me know” or “have a good day” or “okay”, but just let the person know you heard them and respond with assent. DO NOT ask why. Just accept that is where they are in that moment. React: Now that they have declined your request, it’s time to react in a comfortable manner. If your long lost burner buddy doesn’t want a hug, continue the flow of the greeting, do not make it weird. Just verbally show your happiness at encountering them. If a camp has said they are not currently serving from their bar, ask when maybe you can return and move on. Follow Up: Especially when you have a pre-existing relationship with the individual, it’s good to do some follow up. Just check in and see if there was another way you could have approached them. It gives them the opportunity as well to communicate about the moment, or maybe they need to decompress about some issue. In the instance of a camp, it’s nice to go back, find out when is a good time to participate and thank them for giving when they can. Follow up can also be a time for apologizing for overstepping boundaries.

"But I know Sparkle Pony, and they always have been okay with ______, why do I have to ask now?" Have they given you blanket consent, meaning yes all the time? Even if they have, I have a large group of friends I’m close with and we all hug, kiss, pet and grope each other. We do not ask anymore BUT at anytime I am ready for someone to change that dynamic. Even for a minute or forever. I will accept that boundary and love them in a manner that honors them.

unicorn_coexistIn a nut shell, the topic of consent is growing in visibility in our community. Many feel it should become the 11th principle of Burning Man and all communities who follow the principles. In order to grow, adapt, and share our philosophy, we need to come together and install the principle of consent in all we do. Only this way will we be able to sustain as a community and educate those who desire to call our community home.

rangermeCaptain Blood, new Gate co-lead for Mosaic, lives in Chicago and is the founder of Camp Cloud City. Captain Blood has been an avid volunteer at Lakes of Fire, local burn events, local art and childrens events, and spent 7 months in Thailand involved in post disaster relief. She is passionate about the importance of regional burns and their diversity in the changing landscape of our developing society. She is also a feeder (Hungry? Go see Captain Blood), active within the Chicago burner community, a Ranger and generally open to dispensing long, sweet hugs. She also makes a mean cocktail and bakes wicked good cake.