However, even with all of this sexual celebration going on, we still need to respect and honor people's boundaries, personal space, and overall safety. When it comes to sexual etiquette, firm and enthusiastic Consent is still King/Queen.
Note: The situations listed in this article do not include the context of Kink that can be considered more extreme than what is acceptable in mainstream society. The Kink communities have their own rules and guidelines and they are not covered in this article. If you are engaging in Kink, please make sure that everyone involved understands the rules about Consent and realize that Consent can be revoked at any time.
GENERAL SOCIAL BEHAVIOURWhen engaging with people in most social situations, act, and speak in a respectful manner, being mindful of people's personal space and boundaries. Let your behaviour be guided by kindness, mutual respect, equality, and compassion for your fellow human beings.
To be mindful of how you interact with other people, you must refrain from any and all of the following:
* touching any part of their bodies without invitation
* uttering rude or vulgar statements
* making sexualized gestures towards any person
* engaging in catcalling, even if you think it's a compliment
* staring, standing too close, or following the person around uninvited
* insisting that this person must act in a specific manner
Although sexuality is often celebrated in Pagan culture, it is also an act that is treated with respect and reverence for those who choose to engage in it. Even if you see others acting in an affectionate, intimate way with each other, this is not an automatic invitation for you to take part. Invitations must be explicit and offered, not assumed.
Free sexual expression is not a requirement of Paganism and is never a measurement of how Pagan you are or how seriously you take your spirituality. Pardon my French, but anyone who suggests otherwise can fuck right off.
HOW TO IDENTIFY CONSENTAccording to Canadian law, these are rules that govern Consent:
1. You can only Consent for yourself.
2. You must be able to give Consent, which means you must be awake, conscious, and sober enough to make a clear decision.
3. People in positions of trust, power or authority cannot abuse their position to obtain Consent.
4. Implying "No" is as valid as stating a clear and firm “NO”.
5. You have the right to change your mind and stop anytime for any reason during the consensual activity.
Consent is clear and enthusiastic. Consent is joyous and filled with anticipation. Consent is not half-hearted, nor does it come from a place of fear, either for personal safety or rejection. Consent must be clear, pure, and honest.
Consent is the result of a clear, thorough discussion and negotiation between the people involved. What the person is Consenting to must be clearly understood, boundaries need to be stated and respected, and all pertinent information needs to be shared.
Sure, it might take some of the spontaneity out of the moment, but it's better to make sure that everyone is being safe in that decision, including yourself.
Lastly, and most important, Consent can be revoked at any time by anyone and MUST BE RESPECTED. Just because the people involved agreed to something before it started, that does not mean that the original Consent is binding. Every person has the right to change their minds and renegotiate Consent at any moment without coercion, intimidation, or threats.
STAYING WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF CONSENTGranting Consent is not a blanket statement. You can (and should) be specific about what kind of Consent you are granting, the kind of activity in which you are interested, what are soft-limits, and what are hard limits.
For example, you can Consent to a passionate kissing session, but state that there is to be no nudity or sexual touch. If the other party(s) cross your lines, be firm and re-state your Consent boundaries. If your boundaries continue to get crossed, you need to walk away and keep yourself safe.
It is recommended to define the boundaries of Consent before the intimate act begins, so that everyone can know what the rules are. Knowing where your limits are is best determined in a calm, sober state: it can be difficult to make the right choices in the heat of the moment.
WHEN CONSENT CANNOT BE GIVENWhen it comes to acts of intimacy, Consent can never be given or received when under the influence of a substance that can impair judgment (i.e.: alcohol, drugs, etc.). If the person is too impaired to be able to make clear, rational decisions, Consent cannot be guaranteed even when the person gives Consent in that moment. The only thing you can do at that point is make sure the impaired person gets to a safe place, allow the intoxication to pass, and then revisit the giving of Consent if the person is open to this.
Consent cannot be implied or interpreted by actions, behaviour, or mode of dress or undress. "The way he was acting, he clearly wanted it" or "The way she was dressed told me that she wanted it" are NOT forms of Consent. Consent can only be clearly stated by someone who is sober, awake, and enthusiastic in its utterance. Consent is NEVER open to interpretation.
Consent cannot be given if the person is unconscious or unable to respond. EVER.
You cannot be bullied, intimidated, or threatened to give your Consent. Consent given under any of these circumstances is NOT valid.
Legal Consent cannot be given by someone who is under the age of 16, no matter how true or pure your love is. Only a parent or guardian can grant that kind of Consent, and even then, it only applies to people between the ages of 12-15. Under 12 years of age, this kind of Consent cannot be legally granted by anyone.
YOU ARE CONFIDENT THAT CONSENT IS GIVEN. NOW WHAT?Enjoy! Now that you and your partner(s) have clearly stated their needs, expectations, and feel safe and secure, go and enjoy yourselves! Sexuality is a beautiful thing. Make sure that everyone practices safe sex so that everyone can get lost in the pleasure of it without worrying or concerns.
Once the good times begin to roll, feel free to check-in often with everyone that they all feel safe and respected, that everything is going well, and that Consent is still being given. Doing frequent check-ins shows that you care, gives people a chance to check-in with themselves, and gives everyone a voice.
BREACHING THE BOUNDARIES OF CONSENTIf at any point and for any reason, if anyone feels unsafe or unsure, they can declare that their Consent is now revoked. At that point, the activity must stop and boundaries must be respected. This is a time for compassion and empathy; this is not a time for judgment or frustration. Be kind and ensure that their safety is paramount.
If your revocation of Consent is not being respected, you need to be firm and restate your boundaries. Generally, it is not in the middle of the act that boundaries can be renegotiated. If your boundaries continue to be pushed or crossed and you feel unsafe, you need to get yourself away immediately from this situation/person to a place of safety. If you are at an event and continue to feel unsafe, you may want to contact Security and discuss it with them when you are ready (bring a friend for support).
THE CONSEQUENCES OF ACTING WITHOUT CONSENTIf you find yourself guilty of acting without clear and firm sexual Consent, or that you continue to act while ignoring denied or revoked sexual Consent, you can find yourself in a world of trouble. Depending on the act, you can be facing legal charges of assault, sexual assault, and even rape.
If your are guilty of acting without Consent, you must realize that you cannot undo what has been done, nor can you define the nature of the assault for the victim. It is the victim that defines the nature of the assault, not the aggressor.
If you wish to apologize or make amends, you need the victim's permission to be approached first. You must also realize that you cannot make the victim forgive you, nor can you decide when the victim should be ready to forgive you, if ever. All you can do is to respect the victim's wishes and boundaries, offer an apology and a promise that you will learn from this experience, and then respect the victim's wishes and give them the space that they need, for however long they need it, even if it means forever.
You must then take a good hard look at your own values and decide for yourself what lessons you need to learn to be able to treat others with respect and keep them safe.
RECOVERY AND HEALINGIf you are a victim of a non-consensual act, you must realize that this is not your fault. You have every right to expect to be respected, to have your wishes heard and honored, and that you deserve to be safe. If someone has violated that trust, it is not your fault.
It's normal that it feels like it is your fault, that you did something wrong and this non-consensual act is the result. Most victims (including the author of this article) go through this process of self-blame after being assaulted. Even when you recognize that it is illogical to do so, you might say "Well, yes... If this happened to you, it would be assault, but in my case, it's different and it doesn't apply."
You hear yourself saying these words, you know that it's wrong intellectually, but emotionally, that's how it feels. The facts are that, being the victim, you are practically incapable of being objective about this. Furthermore, you just want to forget the whole thing, so it's just easier to take the blame and learn from it quietly intead of making a fuss and having to relive the assault over and over.
That's what I went through after my assault. Even after friends and family insisted I tell someone in authority about what happened, I couldn't bring myself to do it and I tried to repress it instead. The results were sleepless nights, horrible mood swings, and devastating bouts of depression.
And then I told someone in authority, and the healing process began. It's incredibly difficult and conflicting to tell someone about your event because it feels like you are just shifting the burden to others, but this is not the case. You are seeking the help you need to heal from this incident and your people want to help you.
If you are suffering from the affects of a non-consensual act, there are just two things you need to know:
1. It was not your fault.
2. You are not alone.
Talk to someone. Seek help. It is the purest expression of strength to seek help.
In Canada, there are several organizations available to either get you the help you need or to point you in the right direction.
Recovery From Sexual Abuse/Assault
Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres
A Voice for the Innocent
Many Canadian provinces offer their own local sexual assault resources, so to find the ones in your area, we suggest that you search for "sexual assault support [your province/city]" to find the most relevant and immediate resources.
Talk to someone. Get the help you need. You are not alone.
Editors: Aniya,, Laurie S., Nat M., Caroline W., Jessica B., and others