* * Please note – this is a new podcast and we apologise for any technical hitches. This episode should become available at 7am GMT on 30th November 2021 on all major podcast platforms* *
Welcome to the I Do Consent Podcast with Jenny Wilson. In this introductory episode, Jenny talks through the Consent Manifesto and why she instigated the International Day of Consent, and offers the FRIES framework as a core tool for navigating and practicing consent. FRIES stands for:
- Freely given
Jenny talks through the framework, which is the basis for her work on consent culture.
Music credit: Heitor Alves heitoralves.bandcamp.com
Jenny Wilson 0:02
Hello, and welcome to the very, very first I Do Consent Podcast. I’m Jenny Wilson. And I’m going to host these podcasts going forward. And usually, I’m going to have a guest with me who’s going to have a conversation with me about consent and what it means to them. But for this first podcast, I thought it would be helpful if I maybe just did a recording by myself, to say a little bit about what I Do Consent is all about and why we’re here; to introduce someone the core principles for the work I’ve been doing, and to introduce myself to you as well. I’ve been championing consent and consent culture through my practice as an artist, performer writer, since 2016. My website www.consentculture.co.uk is a space for sharing ideas, tools and resources for practicing consent. And it’s where you might have found this podcast although it’s in a few other places, too. I also write about consent in relationships at www.loveoffscript.co.uk. I’m also a coach. Presently, in November 2021, I’m developing some work in the UK and internationally, exploring consent culture inside cultural organisations, arts organisations, and via my own company, Irregular Arts, and I’m also working towards touring a solo performance piece called ‘The Cabaret of Consent’. I’m a resident artist and activist at Leeds Beckett University with the SSSH! group research group focused on stigmatized sexualities and sexual harm, in the Department of Psychology. And the chair of Happy Valley Pride, which is based in Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire. And I also perform on stage regularly as a drag diva, Mysti Valentine. So that’s me based in Yorkshire in the UK, where I live with my daughter, my housemate, a couple of rescue dogs and cats, and that’s me identifying as queer, neurodivergent, a cisgender woman, a polyamorous relationship anarchist, a lone parent, a home educator. And yeah, an artist. So, consent culture, then.. Consent.. what do I mean by that? And what’s this podcast all about? For me, consent is so much more than a simple yes or no. Consent is about how we connect with ourselves, with each other, and with the world we make together. In my experience, consent is transformative. I called the world’s first International Day of Consent on the 30th of November 2018 at a small gathering and performance event in Theatre in the Mill in Bradford, which is my home city here in Yorkshire. In 2019, I produced first Festival of Consent in Leeds, also here in the UK, including international artists, panel discussions, workshops, exhibitions, performances, all exploring consent. In 2020, Kitty Stryker, the founder of www.consentculture.com, and the editor of the book, “Ask, building consent culture”, Kitty came on board to help create the first online Festival of Consent because we were in the middle of a pandemic and online was the way to go. And that was a 14 day series of online events that cultivated conversations about consent for people all over the world. It was an intense burst of consent culture, activism, education and awareness raising. It was great. In 2021 we’re launching this podcast. In 2022 I hope we’ll be able to produce another festival with both online and in person content happening internationally. Basically, I’m going to keep on championing consent culture with the International Day of Consent 30th of November, as its focus for sharing and connecting. So if you’re listening on day one, launch day, congratulations and thanks for supporting the International Day of Consent.
Back in 2019, when I was starting out on this work, I wrote a Manifesto for Consent Culture. And I’m going to read that out to you now, because it’s a set of principles that I wanted to offer and put out there into the world as a kind of guide.. well, a manifesto. That’s what it’s called.. for what I believe consent culture is, what I mean when I’m talking about that. So here it is.
Consent culture is a movement for social change. Consent is transformative. Consent is a human right. Consent shifts our culture, away from entitlement and privilege, towards empathy, and kindness. Consent is the foundation for building a better world. Consent is in place when it is: Freely given; all parties have the full capacity to consent and nobody’s pressured, manipulated or coerced: Reversible; consent may be withdrawn or retracted at any point, and it’s clear to all parties at what point can a consensual transaction is complete: Its Informed; all parties understand fully what they’re consenting to, and any risks relating to it: Engaged; there is a clear communication and a positive agreement to proceed and to continue: And Specific with limitations and boundaries, understood by all parties. We want consent to be present in all human interaction from the intimate and interpersonal, to the social, and the cultural. Building consent culture involves celebrating human diversity, whilst not categorizing difference, as otherness. We can accept and embrace difference. We can disagree successfully. We can be curious about each other. We can search for points of connection. We can work towards consensus. The personal is political and we can all use our personal agency to make change within our sphere of influence. Together, we will campaign to grow consent culture across the globe. # I Do Consent.
So I drafted that in March 2019. And it’s been amended a couple of times along the way. And it’s a living manifesto that will adjust and change with the consent of the people that want to champion consent culture with me. So I hope that that’s you. And I hope that you find inspiration in these podcasts to practice consent. I think that’s an important thing I want to say about consent, is that I see consent not as a transaction, by the dictionary definition of permission to do something to someone or with someone. But consent as a practice, a life skill, something that we can all practice and improve our skills in. And I see consent as something that we involve in our agreements and choices at a bunch of different levels, and to simplify those: there’s consent at the level of the self, so the permission we give ourselves to live our life in certain ways, the agreements we make with ourself, to live by our values to get on with this things that we feel must be done. So that self consent, that permission to the self, that inner voice, and how we reach agreement with ourselves to proceed. It’s at the interpersonal level, of course, and interpersonal interactions include the intimate, there’s no shame in talking about sexual consent, and it’s certainly something that we will cover in some of these podcasts. However, the interpersonal interaction can be, so so many other contexts, parenting, family, relationships, friendships – any kind of interaction between individuals at an interpersonal level is an opportunity to practice consent. Then there’s the level of group consent; the situations where we find ourselves in social groups, organisations, workplaces, and we often find ourselves in different sets of rules and assumptions and consensuses, and there’s peer pressure within groups to act in certain ways and to consent to certain things. So consent operates in that group dynamic as well. And then there’s the much bigger, overarching cultural level at which consent is operating. So how we operate in terms of our socio economic structures, and how we consent to those or don’t. I have a lot of questions about whether democracy is consensual… And I would suggest that some of the hierarchical and coercive social systems that we operate within, such as patriarchy, capitalism, white supremacy, many many more, mean that we are socialized in ways where consent goes against the norm, the social expectations, the social scripts we follow, and our expectations and assumptions about how we’re going to relate to each other. And with that as the context, I think that the interplay of all of those different levels in which we can practice consent mean that consent is quite radical – it’s a force for social change. We can literally be the change we want to see in the world.
The other thing I want to sort of lay out this stage at the beginning of these podcasting, episode one is FRIES. The FRIES framework, which appears in the manifesto, that I read out; Consent is in place when it’s Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Engaged, and Specific. And I’m just going to talk through each of those now, as an introduction to the FRIES framework, because I think it’s a really, really useful tool, set of tools for understanding when we are in full consent, and not just a reluctant Yes, or, no.
So, consent that’s freely given. Freely given consent, I think refers to the hierarchies and privileges and relationships that co exist when we enter into any kind of interaction. And so we may not be fully and freely giving our consent when somebody has some kind of power over us.. whether that’s literal like a boss over an employee, or whether that’s more perceptual, like, perceived difference in status because of your gender, for example, or something like that. So when there are assumptions in place about somebody being more high ranking than another person and having more capacity to consent than another person, then we have to work really hard to make sure that the consent that’s happening is freely given and isn’t coerced, isn’t peer pressured.. And is given with as much agency as possible. The other small one in Freely given is around the capacity to consent is, do you have the full capacity to consent if you’re under the influence of drugs, or alcohol, perhaps, or you’re unwell or ill or very sleepy, or in some other way incapacitated, and that can affect your capacity to give consent? Now, this is not to say that we can’t have full consent in place with someone who doesn’t have that full, free agency that we do so for example, a newborn baby. Do you, can you get consent, communicate consent to change your newborn baby’s nappy? Well, probably not. The only way that that newborn baby can communicate is by crying, and letting you know that they’re in some kind of distress, and you can respond to that. But what you can do is respect the bodily autonomy, of that individual human being, that’s a tiny baby in front of you; make eye contact, talk about what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it, and begin to practice their consent in that situation. So it’s not necessarily about completely leveling out the playing field at all times. It’s about being mindful of the privilege that’s in the room.
Then we’ll move on to the next letter, which is R for Reversible. Consent is reversible. You can say, “Yep, I want to do that”. And then you can change your mind, for any reason that you want, and that’s okay. Being aware that once a transaction is complete, then it may be impossible to reverse your consent at a later point. So that’s pretty straightforward, reversible consent. But it can be really, really hard to reverse your consent in a situation because once you’ve said yes to something or gone along with something, it can be quite scary, dangerous, even frightening, awkward, it can feel rude. It can be very, very difficult to back out of something that you said you would do. But a promise is a prison and any agreement can be dismantled. Ideally, one does that with some empathy and some care for the person that we’re reversing our consent with, and acknowledging their expectations. But those assumptions.. those assumptions are very often where we get into sticky stuff around consent, because somebody is making an assumption instead of actually checking whether the other person is still fully consenting to what’s going on. So reversible consent is important.
Then there’s I for Informed.. informed consent, you need to understand fully what you’re getting into, what you’re consenting to. Informed Consent gets tricky because we don’t always know what we don’t know until we suddenly realize we don’t have the information we need. We can say yes to something and then realize we didn’t understand what we were saying yes to. And we want to reverse our decisions. So more information, communication, curiosity, discussion, renegotiating that consent, that agreement in any situation. So that’s informed consent.
E is for Engaged. Now, the original model for FRIES comes from Planned Parenthood who are a great sex education, primarily ,organization in the United States of America. And I learned about the model from reading Kitty Stryker’s book where it was mentioned there. And the E in their original FRIES model stood for enthusiastic consent. And enthusiastic consent is great, it’s a really interesting principle to work from, because you do want clear communication, you want to, particularly in the context of intimate and sexual interaction, you want to know that that person is experiencing pleasure and is very happy to continue what’s going on. However, there are many times and situations where I’m fully consenting to something, but I’m not necessarily enthusiastic about it, for example, the dentist. I am not enthusiastic about having my teeth drilled. But I am engaged in wanting my dentist to do the work on my teeth, so that I have good dental health, and I don’t end up with worse toothache and stuff like that. So it is a positive agreement. It’s a definite yes, it’s the Yes, side of the equation. And I like the word engaged because it’s a good thing to notice, when someone’s become disengaged in what’s happening, then maybe that’s a point at which to check in and see if they are still consenting and wanting and happy to continue with whatever it is you’re doing together. So that’s engaged consent.
And then the S is Specific. So it’s specific to the individuals involved the situation you’re in, the context, the limitations, the boundaries, and whatever has been agreed by the people involved. So whether that’s at the level of the self, the interpersonal, the group, or the societal level, specific consent.. so if you’re voting in an election in the UK, for the central government, you’re not going to have an opportunity to do that again for another four to five years. That’s very specific. Similarly, it’s specific that if you agree to share a pizza with black olives with your friend one Friday, that doesn’t mean you’re going to share a pizza with black olives with the same friend every Friday for the rest of your life. So it’s very specific to each situation.
I really love the FRIES framework, because sometimes when I’m navigating, and practicing consent, I feel I’m in that difficult area between A definite positive ‘hell yes’ And a very clear boundaried ‘Definitely not. No’ there’s a whole load of ‘maybe I’m not sure. Possibly, maybe, maybe not. I need to know more. I need to think about it. I’m not sure I’ve never tried that I might want to but maybe not today’. There’s all of that stuff. And FREIS helps me navigate for myself when I’m consenting to things. And for the people whose consent I’m negotiating, whether it’s in parenting my kids or working with colleagues on a performance piece, or being part of a group of activists, or facilitating some kind of workshop or training, or whatever. I find the FRIES framework is a really, really helpful checklist for understanding whether we are still in consent, or whether we are pushing up against the boundary and the limitation where we’re in danger of being outside consent. And that is a line. But it’s a very wibbly wobbly, specific, difficult to navigate, soft line sometimes. And it’s not, it’s really not as simple as yes means yes, and no means no. So yeah, that’s, that’s the FRIES framework. And I would like FRIES to be your takeaway…. A bit of a play on words there… If you’re gonna.. if you want to engage in practicing consent, and bringing it, bringing your life into a more consensual, kinder, more empathic, more intentional kind of a place, then this podcast is the place for you. I hope.
I’ve had a wonderful time this last month or so recording some conversations for this podcast with some really, really interesting and amazing guests. And I’m looking forward to releasing some of those podcasts today, on the 30th of November 2021, the International Day of Consent, I D O, International Day Of, I Do Consent. And I’m going to be releasing them over the coming weeks. I want to thank all of those guests for being so amazing. And for sharing their expertise with me and their experiences and their insight into consent in a range of different contexts and situations. And I hope that you’ll find it interesting.. it would be really, really helpful to me, if you can share your response to this podcast and the coming podcasts by giving us feedback on our social media, emailing me getting in touch, and generally sharing this if you like it and spreading this this message of consent and the manifesto and consent culture far and wide. So if you’ve enjoyed this, please do share it, please do…you know, send it to a friend who you think would be interested in it. And if you have resources, it’s great if you can donate. We do need support to continue to grow the podcast and the work that I’m doing around the International Day of Consent… so every little bit of contribution is great. Finally want to say thank you to Heitor Alves who did the music for the intro and outro, it’s very lovely. And all my friends, family, especially the chosen family who are all in my corner on this consent work and supporters, near and far, known and unknown to me for getting on board and giving the I do consent podcast ago. Thank you so much for listening. Please listen to some more. And please tell me what you think. Thanks everyone. Bye
Transcribed by https://otter.ai