Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of Odyssey stories written about someone in the writer’s life. An ex-lover, a friend, a significant other, a family member. It made me think: what are the chances these writers asked for consent to posting an article on a public forum about this person? How many people actually realize that consent is just as important in everyday situations as it is in sex?
Let’s talk about consent.
Consent is verbal affirmation to a particular situation as it is described by the other party. Maybe you’ve heard “No means No” or “Consent is Sexy” plastered on flyers hung up in the hallway. The best way to look at consent, however, is “Yes means Yes”. That’s it. Yes means yes. Everything else means no.
What is everything else though?
A coerced yes.
If you have to talk someone into it, if they feel pressured or feel like they have no choice, that isn’t consent. Reassuring Susan that you’ll leave her name out of the article when she says she doesn’t want it written isn’t consent, Susan still knows it’s about her.
If Bobby decides a week later that he actually doesn’t want you to write an article about your relationship, even after saying yes, that isn’t consent. Drop it and write about hamsters or how your college campus is the best college campus in the same way every other college campus is the best.
If Sally doesn’t say anything when you ask if you can write about your staycation last summer, that doesn’t mean yes. Just because there wasn’t a “no” doesn’t imply “yes”. Implied consent isn’t a thing. If you ask and Miss Sally is busy and not able to respond but your article is due in an hour so you write it, you take away her right to consent.
If Joshua consents to you writing an article about him under the pretense that you’ll leave his name and major identifiers out, and then you go ahead and tag homeboy on Twitter, you’ve breached his consent. He was consenting to you sharing a story, not you sharing him and his life.
Consent to something else.
If Alex agreed to you writing an article about your relationship, and you write a story about how you felt when they came out to you, you’ve breached their consent. This also means that if Alex consented to you writing an article once, and you write multiple articles about Alex without asking again, you breached their consent. You must ask for their consent before writing each and every article
Not asking at all.
If you write an article about Kent and don’t even ask her if it’s okay, that’s not consent. You’re breaching her right to consent to situations that affect or portray her and her life. If it’s a surprise for someone, maybe write it and then send them a message saying, “Hey, I wrote this article about you as a surprise, do you want to read it before it goes online?” It’s still a surprise, but if they decide they don’t want it out in the world, they have that power.
Why does it matter?
You might be asking yourself why it matters that you didn’t ask your girlfriend before writing an article about how in love you are.
“She loved it!”
Well, yeah, maybe she did, but she might not like that next article about how you handle her anxiety. On Odyssey where we share our lives and stories every single week you have to be careful not to share the wrong information or the wrong story. You never know if your article will be seen by two people or 2,000 people and you wouldn’t want someone’s article about something deeply personal to you to go viral. Give Harry that same respect.
Think about it this way:
How would YOU feel if someone did that to YOU?
Consent isn’t just about sex.