Consent is not something you can just write down

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Illustration by Saida Saetgareeva (The Peak)

Illustration by Saida Saetgareeva (The Peak)

BURNABY — Let me just pre-emptively address the elephant in the room: I believe that any sexual activity should include equal consent between all participants, and that’s exactly what the Affirmative Consent Project (ACP) seeks to do.

The ACP has created a “consent conscious kit” for those who are looking for more physical evidence of consent in sexual activities. This kit includes a written contract for sex, a pen, some breath mints, a condom, and a bag to hold it all. The kit’s instructions encourage two partners to photograph themselves holding the contract as proof of consent before having sex, but I’m left wondering: Isn’t this a little ridiculous?

When engaging in sexual activities, consent is something that should obviously be given. The act of sex itself is something both emotional and grati- fying, so long as you and your partner don’t act like lifeless wet noodles.

However, with a binding contract in the mix, something about this feels a little too ‘business-y’ to me. The situation becomes more cold and official, and isn’t necessary. It’s a nice gesture, but consenting adults will still have sex, form or no form.

Conversely, a form like this does not prevent non-consensual activities, either. I have yet to hear of a person who has successfully fended off a potential sexual attacker with a signed sheet of paper, hassle-free. If consent worked like that, then I would imagine the Affirmative Consent Project would soon replace the UN and all other bodies of law enforcement. Alas, it was not to be.

But as I ridicule the product, I still am very stricken by the idea. What type of society needs legal documents to prove our sexual consent? Are there situations where two people both agree to have some nice, fun sex, only to turn to their partner the next morning, look them in the eyes, and retract it?

Sex is not something you can take back, like cooties on the playground. It’s a physical activity for some, an emotional one for others, but once it happens, it’s shared between its participants and gone after the heat of passion.

The kit claims its design is “easy, safe, and fun,” among other things. If your idea of having a sexual bonding experience is to sign papers, then this kit seems to be the right thing for you. But in the sweaty moment, so long as clear-minded humans grant consent, smooth jazz is a nicer touch than a pen and paper.

To those who created this product, I salute your efforts. But due to the mechanical nature of the contract, I think the simplification of human emotions in this situation is not something anyone can just write down.

Though if you can convince your partner to actually sign the darn thing while you’re foreplaying on the couch, kudos to you. Here, have a breath mint.

This article originally ran in the Peak, Simon Fraser University’s student paper, on July 27, 2015.

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