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  • Writer's pictureEmily Ainscough

Is your consent accessible?

TW: discusses consent. The details (horrors) of non-consent are not included in this post in order to make it more readable for persons who might find such content triggering. I want this message to be as clear as possible, but let there be no mistake, what has been left out of this post is the sickening reality of what happens when comprehensive consent is not achieved.

Hello old friends, and since there have been a few new site subscribers lately, hello new friends, too! Today I want to talk about consent. Emi... didn't you already do a post about consent? Yes. And I will do others and others and others and I will never stop because as much as randos from dating apps want you to think that consent is a thumbs up react to a text saying "sex?" there is so much more to it. So, let's roll up our sleeves and and get right up in there ;). The question I want to ask today is, 'Is your consent accessible?'

With FND, I never know when I am about to experience symptoms. One minute I could be dancing around, speaking the queen's English (albeit slightly bastardised) and thinking clearly, and the next I might suddenly be completely unresponsive, unable to move, speak, and sometimes even think. Naturally this creates a lot of sexual complications. Now, it might seem pretty obvious that if the person/people you are sleeping with suddenly go all vegetable on you ya need to stop fucking, but what about the grey area in between? What if, for example, it's just my speech that's gone? Often when I have aphasia I'm still really keen to carry on having sex, but how do I communicate this if I can't speak? You can't secure consent in advance, so the person/people I'm sleeping with cannot assume that if it's just my voice that's gone we are cool to carry on. What if my cognitive symptoms make it unclear in a moment how to interpret the social cues that a lot of people use to communicate their consent? How do we make sure that we are securing enthusiastic consent when all of these avenues of communication could be compromised? My solution... creating a language of consent for each person you have a sexual relationship with.

Some of you may have checked out of this post around now thinking, 'well, I don't have an episodic disability so this doesn't apply to me' but you're wrong. Even if up until now you have only had sex with able-bodied people who speak the same language as you, by not engaging with this conversation and preparing yourself to treat all people with respect, kindness and understanding, you are actually being oppressive. I encourage you all to have a conversation with each of your sexual partners about what consent means to you all specifically. Make sure that your communication of consent is multi-lingual, uses different senses, works for all eventualities, and always defaults to 'stop'.

If you agree with everything I'm saying but don't know where to start, let me give you an example. Sit down with the person/people you're sleeping with and decide 3 different ways to express consent, each in a different language. i.e. "stop" means stop, tapping you three times means stop, and scrunching up my face means stop. You can make these as fun or flirty as you'd like to, all that is important is that we know what it means and we respond to it. Even neurotypical people can find words difficult in stressful situations, so having a few different types of signals across different senses makes that stop-button as big, colourful and easy to reach as possible (which is the goal).

It's also really important to work out which kind of consent is right for you: passive consent, or active consent. By passive consent, I mean that after securing initial consent, consent is assumed until told otherwise. This can be verbal (i.e. stop, safe words), physical (i.e.clapping hands, blinking twice), or behavioral (i.e. if a person stops partaking and starts 'just lying there'). For a lot of dynamics this kind of consent is enough, but it shouldn't be assumed (as it pretty much invariably is) until you've had the conversation. It's probably also the case that even if you and your partner/partners are supposedly using this kind of consent, you still need the reminder now to make sure you are looking out for all of these cues and diligently watching out for the kinds of communication you have opted for together. Now, active consent is the best kind of consent because there is less confusion. In this kind of dynamic no consent is assumed but it is constantly reaffirmed throughout the sexual activity. This could look like making moaning noises, repeating a word (maybe their name to keep it sexy!) or for some non-verbal ideas: drawing circles on their thigh, patting their back, keeping eye contact etc.

Passive consent is fine if it has been discussed effectively prior to the sexual activity and all parties prefer it, but I would encourage each of you to give active consent a go, at least. It might sound like a bit of a palaver, but it's actually incredibly intimate. It will help you and your partner/partners connect and using different senses can also be really sexually stimulating too. Tips like choosing to repeat names or moaning noises make it just as sexy as passive consent and it also has the added bonus of reminding your subconscious just how important consent is both for you and for your partner/partners. Our hearts aren't always the best at knowing what our minds do, so being in the habit of making sure you are doing everything you can to watch out for the other person/people's welfare and consent, reminds your heart to stand up for your welfare and consent, too.

Thinking about consent in this much detail ripples positive influence everywhere. It opposes ablest stigma, stops people making neurotypical assumptions, encourages all people into the conversations, it drives home the importance of respecting the idiosyncrasies of each person and its influence isn't just in the bedroom either. It's in the doctor's office, it's at the family reunion where people feel pressured to violate their own boundaries, it's with best friends and total strangers. Think about it, talk about it, act on it. I am actually begging you today, make your consent accessible, or it isn't really consent at all.

I'll see you all back here next week for a debriefing of my love-life recently (your girl has another date tomorrow!) and in the mean time stay sexy and stay safe. I love you all. xxx

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