At Interfusion we embrace the exploration of new experiences. We encourage attendees to stretch and grow. And we believe in the healing power of intimacy.
Embedded within these values are the important building blocks of consent and personal agency. Which are prerequisites for the feelings of safety and empowerment, for members of the community.
Peeling back another layer, it is important to note that we cannot engage in a practical conversation about consent without also talking about boundaries.
A boundary is the line that demarcates the space where one transitions from feeling comfortable and safe, to uncomfortable or unsafe.
It is something that is internally felt.
Feeling ok, versus feeling not ok – with a specific context, activity, or person.
Exercising consent is the practice of communicating and honoring of one’s own boundaries, and that of others.
A more detailed definition of consent, can also be found in the Interfusion Consent Policy
There are 3 key components to practicing consent, in a healthy way.
And each component has an aspect of relating to yourself, and then to others.
1) Understanding boundaries: One of the biggest challenges with exercising consent is, understanding boundaries.
To understand your own boundaries requires an internal awareness of yourself. To feel intuitively when something doesn’t feel good to you. For folks who have experienced trauma, this may be a difficult thing to decipher. Self-doubt, dissociation, or intoxication can cause also confusion or an inability to understand one’s own boundaries with confidence or clarity.
To understand the boundaries of others requires a certain level of emotional intelligence. It requires an active listening. Watch and be attentive to what people say, or perhaps don’t say – verbally and non-verbally.
Connect with your empathic abilities.
Practicing being aware in the present moment and grounding, as a way to help develop the muscle of understanding your own boundaries, and that of others.
2) Communicating boundaries:
We need tools to learn how to communicate our boundaries because this is something many of us are not taught how to do in our society.
The step of communicating boundaries can bring up a whole schlew of things for people. Social anxieties, fear of being judged, rejected, abandoned, the list goes on…
So there is a level of courage that it takes to say “no” or articulate another kind of boundary. It requires honesty, vulnerability, and taking a stand to take care of yourself and your safety (physical, emotional, or otherwise).
Use your words as much as you can, but of course there are situations when there context where communicating verbally can be difficult.
In these instances, remember that we can communicate in many ways beyond just words. The use of non-verbal cues, such as body language is an avenue for helping others understand what you’re feeling and thereby your boundaries.
(Once again, keep all of these things in mind also in the reverse, when you are seeking to understand someone else’s boundaries.)
3) Honoring Boundaries (both self and others):
Integrity and respect are the main players here. Once you have accurately understood your own boundary and that of others about a situation, the next step is to honor those boundaries.
Honoring your own boundary: the words self-care and self-love come to mind here. Are you being kind to yourself and providing yourself with the space that you need; or just going along with something because you don’t want to be rejected, abandoned, or judged?
Honoring the boundaries of others: respect the agency of others to know what they need or want to feel comfortable or safe. If things are unclear, refer to #2. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. And remember, if they are physically unable to consciously articulate their consent (because they are intoxicated, unconscious, or otherwise, do not proceed until things are clear for both of you.)
Remember that boundaries can change, over a long period of time or within a few moments. Stay in-tune with the shifts as they happen, for yourself and with others. Communicate as much as you can when these shifts happen, to adjust your levels of consent as needed.
Just because you (or they) said yes at the outset, that doesn’t mean it will stay a yes forever more. Check in with yourself and with others if ever things begin to shift or feel unclear.
Again for more in-depth look on this topic and how it applies to Interfusion Festival, feel free to take a look at our Consent Policy.
In an ideal world, boundaries would be easy to identify, understand, and communicate. It would help make the practice of exercising consent much easier. It would help people to feel more safe, supported, seen, and held, with integrity and respect.
Ultimately, as human animals, it is safety we are seek and need in our spaces of vulnerability and intimacy.
We need to feel safe before we can learn, grow, or thrive. Safety is a base-level prerequisite for the journey to achieving self-actualization. Think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
By contrast, when we feel unsafe we contract. Biologically, our autonomic nervous systems trigger the fight-or-flight reflex (our instinct for survival as connected to our need for safety).
In this state, all of our biological systems aimed at growth shut down, and go into self-preservation mode. Our entire nervous system is impacted. This can trigger deep mental and emotional suffering, especially if one has experienced trauma.
To learn more on this mind-body-emotion connection (think neurology meets biology meets psychology, regarding the human experience of safety and trauma) check out the Poly-Vagal theory.
But for the purpose of our discussion: in a nutshell, when we feel unsafe we are less receptive, less open, and it’s very hard to learn and grow in this state. We need to feel safe and supported, in order to evolve to our highest potential. It is just how our systems work.
As evolutionary beings, we self-define and identify in our journeys of growth. We embrace and seek conscious evolution of ourselves, our communities, and our world.
Understanding, communicating, and honoring our boundaries and that of others (i.e. exercising consent) are necessary steps for us to be able to do this work.
To those of you who already embrace and practice this foundation, thank you.
Taking a stand for the integrity and respect for yourself and others is important. Your courage is an inspiration.
Let’s us all keep growing.
In honor and solidarity.