Current Thoughts – Consent, part 1: definition
[‘Current thoughts’ means that a. this is such a central topic that it’s incredibly possible that I will run into some thoughts/readings/information etc that will cause my thoughts to change in some way, and b. that this is such a central topic that the only way my brain will let me make a post about it is if I explicitly mark the possibility of making a ‘better’ post later.]
Under the definition I use for consent, consent is an internal state. This makes it somewhat difficult to elaborate in words, because it is something felt, and therefore ends up somewhat like describing colors. The way that works best for me to express it is to say that consent is about something being congruous with you. Metaphorically, I think of consent as an ‘all systems go’ responce to an internal systems check. All the lights are green, everything is in place, and if something is out of place (say there’s a pillow on the floor of the bridge) then it is alright for it to be out of place in this particular situation. I also sometimes think of it as things fitting correctly – perhaps lego bricks making a particular figure, or the scales of leaf mail. Consent is when everything fits and nothing sticks out in a way it shouldn’t.
This conceptualization has several corollaries/ramifications.
First, it means that consent can change from one state to another at any time. All systems could be green, everything could be fitting correctly, and then suddenly there’s a wrong note, something is out of place, there’s a red warning light on one of the consoles.
Second, it means that it is possible to not be consenting and not realize it at the time (this has happened to me).
By another analogy, this is like accidentally leaving your keys on the table when you leave the house. The state is what it is, but this fact hasn’t registered in consious awareness.
This could have happened because of someone, if say they insisted on rushing me out of the house while I was trying to make sure I had everything (so, if someone doesn’t give me the time to realize that I do not have consent for what they want from me). In that case, that person has done something wrong.
It could have happened because of internalized social badthings, for instance if I feel guilty over taking a long time to leave the house and thus leave before I’ve actually had a chance to do everything I need to (so, if I do something because I feel I ought to, and don’t realize that I’m not in a state of consent for it). In this case, it is an instance of this social badthing doing harm.
But it could also have just happened as an accident because our brains are often imperfect.
None of these situations change the fact that consent has been crossed, and it is perfectly valid for people to realize after the fact that they were not in a state of consent while something was happening, even if they didn’t realize this at the time.