Consent Beyond Binaries encourages conversations around consent

The conversation was organized through SFU’s SVSPO

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This is a photo of a couple hugging, while lying down on their bed. They are wrapped in eachothers arms closely.
PHOTO: Becca Tapert / Unsplash

By: Eden Chipperfield, News Writer

On September 19, The Peak attended a workshop organized by SFU’s Sexual Violence and Prevention Support Office (SVSPO), discussing the importance of “Consent Beyond Binaries.” The discussion was led by two prominent leaders on the topic: non-binary and queer author, Kali Boehle-Silva, and “somatic educator, award-winning speaker, author, restorative justice advocate, and lesbian Jewish feminist,” Marlee Liss

The discussion aimed to encourage a conversation about consent that goes beyond the binary of yes and no. Both speakers noted there are great “complexities and limitations of the yes and no.” Boehle-Silvia explained how consent is sometimes more complex than a simple yes or no. Sometimes the answer may elicit further conversation from all parties. Discussions about intimacy should not involve convincing someone to violate their boundaries, but allow parties to speak about comfort levels.

The message from Boehle-Silvia is that consent looks different at every changing moment. Some intimate activities may be a yes, others may be a no, and there are also instances where someone may not consent to one activity, but be open to another. In other words, this gray area is a place where more conversation should take place before taking action. 

Liss elaborated that viewing intimacy as a spectrum of yes and no creates room for discussions or “negotiating desire.” Negotiating desire refers to allowing more thought and “more space for us to make adjustments, to address limitations, and to get creative and potentially playful as well, really opening the door for so many different possibilities.” 

During the conversation, Liss was reminded about queer experiences she had at a younger age, including the mixed emotions of excitement and enthusiasm, but also the feelings of internalized homophobia. Liss discussed how navigating consent and boundaries by speaking them out loud improved her journey of the queer intimate experience. 

“Before it gets too hot, having conversations about boundaries and desires beforehand is really important, talking about aftercare.” An example of some conversations to have before intimate activites include,  “What do you want to do afterwards in order to care for one another? Short term [answers] could be cuddling, getting a snack, anything’s valid! Long term could be, ‘How do we want to interact with each other in class for the next week in order to make sure it doesn’t feel icky for either of us?’” said Liss. 

The last question for the event revolved around building more consensual connections and exploring how individuals can begin practicing consent beyond the binary. “I don’t know is a powerful statement in between yes and no,” said Boehle-Silvia. “The phrase is a helpful reminder that we are always learning and growing and that we can change, and that just because we don’t know something right now doesn’t mean that I’m not going to know forever.” Holding that phrase can be an important step in encouraging more conversation to happen between all parties, before anything takes place. 

The SVSPO is currently holding its 2023 campaign, Tell Us Why Consent Matters, where individuals can create a sign answering SVSPO prompts. The signs will be shared on their social media channels. 

To find out more about the SVSPO and to access their resources, visit their website at www.sfu.ca/sexual-violence. 

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