Jenny Wilson offers a few ideas for practising consent at Christmas time and over the holidays. This is a specially recorded shorter episode – consent is for life, not just for Christmas, of course. This recording can be shared with your kids, your granny, and your co-workers – it’s got tips and ideas for making this holiday season and 2022 a more consensual experience for everyone.
TRANSCRIPTION: Hello, and welcome to I Do Consent with me, Jenny Wilson. It’s December 2021, and this is a little, Christmassy, festive holiday season special podcast that I thought I would record because consent at this time of year can get a bit tricky. But at the same time, that makes it a great time of year to practice consent, and to practice it with FRIES. So if you’ve listened to the first podcast, you’ll know that we talk about consent as being fully present when it is consent with FRIES. So that’s F for freely given, R for reversible, I for informed, E for engaged, and S for specific. So I’m just going to run through some things that can happen during the holiday season, and thatare great opportunities for us to practice consent. And I’m going to use the FRIES framework to do that.
So freely given. Here’s the one that’s about who’s got privilege, and who hasn’t, who’s being coerced, who’s feeling pressured, Who’s under the influence, who’s actually got the capacity to consent…? So maybe you’re thinking about the office party, at the end of the year, or other kinds of parties that you go to, or maybe family occasions and the kind of weird hierarchies that can sometimes happen in family dynamics. So freely given consent is about being careful and mindful of the pressure to go to things, to be with people, to follow the traditions and do things ‘because we’ve always done it that way’. Well, we don’t have to do it that way if we don’t want to, especially not if it harms us physically, or mentally. Not everyone wants to celebrate in exactly the same ways are not everyone can physically, financially, some people have barriers to celebrating the same way that you want to celebrate maybe. So now’s a really good time for being self aware and mindful. And not being a bit of a pillock about pressuring people to join in with your fun. If it’s not fun for them that it’s not fun for you either, really, is it?
R, reversible. Well, we are in the middle of the COVID Omicron variant causing problems here in the UK where I’m based….and globally, I think most places are struggling with that as well. And so lots of things have had to be cancelled. Just about 10 days ago, I was having a debate with my fellow trustees at Happy Valley Pride about whether we should go ahead with our Christmas events. And it was a really tough decision because everyone’s missed each other, and it’s so important to gather and be with people at this time of year, to be with our communities, to be with our loved ones. And yet at the same time, it’s really important that we keep each other safe. So it’s okay to cancel things. And that’s what we had to do. But cancelling plans is okay anytime. You don’t have to coerce yourself into being in some kind of situation or space that you really don’t want to be in. Also, just because somebody gives you a gift or a card, you’re not automatically required to give them one. Gifts are for giving and accepting – they’re not some kind of crazy, random equal exchange thing. You don’t have to love the gifts you’re given. It’s nice if you do… it’s nice to show gratitude for the intention of the person giving it… but you don’t have to accept gifts. It’s not selfish to give gifts either. If you listen to the episode with Betty Martin, it was quite interesting because she separated out the giving and the receiving and the taking of a gift. So sometimes we give a gift because it gives us absolute pleasure to give that to someone else and to see the joy it gives them. Sometimes we give a gift for our pleasure, not just for theirs. So that’s one to think about in terms of Reversible… who are you doing it for? Are you really doing what’s what you really want to? Are you really giving that gift generously? I had a really odd conversation with an elderly relative of mine, who said it was really selfish of people to give her Christmas cards when she saw them, because now she would have to go out to the post office and pay for stamps and send that person a card back. I kind of don’t think that’s really the point of giving someone a Christmas card, just because they gave you a Christmas card.
Informed. Gift giving can be really flipping wasteful, you know, lots of bits of plastic tat that nobody really wants. It’s not very environmentally friendly. It’s, you know, it’s stuff that we don’t really want or need, sometimes. I’ve got a friend who’s got some really, really good information, she makes sure she informs people that she doesn’t want gifts of things, she doesn’t want stuff, thank you very much at Christmas. And with the very few people that she does exchange presents with, she has some really clear rules that they know and that she knows so that everyone’s happy with what they’re exchanging …things like no single use plastic; giving gifts that are secondhand, not new; given gifts that have an ongoing use, not things that are just going to be used once and then thrown away. Various rules like that. And that means that the gifts that she does get the things that she really wants and values and has room for in her life, and can embrace and enjoy and engage with. And that’s wonderful. So informed. ‘Secret Santa’ is a really good example of informed consent and putting in really specific communication about how much money you’re supposed to spend. And a lot of secret Santas that I’ve been involved in over the years, there’s a little bit of being able to say, you know, things that you’re allergic to, or things that you just would hate to receive or things that you would kind of like, and making sure there’s that price limit, and actually sticking to that. If there’s a five pound price limit or a one pound price limit, on your Secret Santa, please don’t spend 10 pounds, because it just makes people feel awkward. Anyway.
Engaged. I reckon this is one for the kids. Does your kid really want to kiss grandma this Christmas? Does your kid really want to sit on Santa’s knee and have their photo taken? Respecting kids agency in family gatherings and situations, instead of insisting that they acquiesce to being tickled or hugged or kissed or required to behave in special particular ways, especial ways at Christmas time, it’s a really great way to teach consent to the very young, to respect their agency at Christmas time. And to get them to respect yours as well. Like, I’ve always had a rule with my kids… as soon as they could tell her time, they were old enough to tell the time: Don’t wait me up on Christmas morning before 7am, because I’m going to be flipping grumpy all day if you do that. And they have a couple of gifts in their room that they can open and enjoy if they wake up a bit earlier than that. There’s no… that’s cool…they can do what they like. But they don’t wake me up too early on Christmas morning, cos that just makes everyone grumpy. So yeah, Christmas is a really great time for teaching kids some boundaries and some respect… by respecting theirs and by asking them to respect yours. And that’s cool.
Specific, actually, I think specific is probably boundaries again. Holding boundaries with your family members, is something that comes up a lot at Christmas. I know lots of people who struggle to spend time with extended family members who they’ve got kind of awkward traditions and rules and things with.. and maybe it’s time to say “look, I want to spend time with you, I want us to be able to spend time together… but the only way that I can do that is if you respect me, respect my boundary”. It could be stuff like respecting my pronouns, or respecting my beliefs and way of life about things, respecting the things that we maybe don’t want to talk about for a little while. Maybe we can just say, ‘Right specifically for this 24 hours or 48 hours that we’re hanging out, we’re not going to talk about that one thing that’s going to upset us all, we’re all going to agree to just leave that elephant in the room this time”. Or, maybe it’s stuff like alcohol or Christmas … there’s huge assumptions about people wanting drink, or cake or food or… and kind of like giving them “go on and have a bit more, go on to have another one, go on have a drink”. Well, people have all kinds of reasons for not wanting to drink alcohol, or not wanting to eat another slice of cake. It might be an allergy, it might be they’re recovering from alcoholism, it could be any number of reasons that somebody doesn’t want that stuff. So don’t push it on them. Be really specific. And be really honest. And give people your no as well… say, “No, thank you, I really don’t want that”.
So it could be the most consensual time of the year or…. not. It’s kind of up to all of us. I really hope that 2022 is a really good year for consensual, ethical, happy, wonderful ways of living, where we all use our agency. And we’re all really kind and wonderful to each other. That’s my hope. I’m going to go now, it’s just a short one, and invite you to tell me what you think. On the I do Consent Facebook page, or via the consentculture.co.uk website. And share with us your consent-in-the-holidays, tips and stories from whatever tradition or faith or background you might have. What’s going on for you during this holiday time? Maybe there’s stories you’d like to share. Maybe there’s some hopes that you’ve got for 2022. Yeah, that’s it. Happy Christmas. Happy holidays. Happy Yule. Happy Solstice. Happy New Year. And we’ll see you soon.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai