Is Consent Given and Gotten?

Below is an article that Party With Consent founder, Jonathan Kalin, wrote for The Colby Echo.

It had been brought to my attention that a couple “Colby Crushes” (the anonymous crush sharing facebook group at my school) were directed towards me. Jersey John (my conceited alter-ego) would like to thank the anonymous posters for feeding his ego, and Colby John (my shy and considerate persona) is extremely humbled by these flattering anonymous advances.

Due to my work founding and leading the Party With Consent movement, each one of these advances mentioned ‘consent’ (i.e. “…you have my consent” or “…give me your consent”). After the warm and fuzzy feeling of being liked wore off, I asked myself candidly, “Can someone give me their consent over Colby Crushes? Can I get somebody’s consent over Colby Crushes?”

In the same week, a group from Arizona State University contacted me and asked if Party With Consent could collaborate with their consent-based movement. It seemed like the perfect marriage, their group is called, “I ALWAYS get consent!” Again, after the excitement of the recognition and the potential to grow PWC further wore off, I asked myself candidly, “Is consent something that you get? Is consent something that you give?”

The questions continued, “Do I own my consent and then give it away? Is there a consent point system where those who get consent gain a point and those who give it lose a point? Is consent something that one person always wants and the other person holds on to until they feel comfortable or are potentially coerced?”

Consent is something more than what can be given and received.

It’s come to my attention that I’ve been subconsciously being taught that ‘getting consent’ was the same as being successful in athletics throughout my youth playing sports.

“Take what the defense gives you.”

In basketball, it’s important to never force an action. If your defender is guarding you tight, you have to make a move and go by him. If your defender is sagging off you have to shoot it over him. Reading the defense is key.

However, when we bring this principle into the context of sexual relationships, we walk a dangerous line. In high school, I asked my buddy:

“Did she want that?”

“Well, she never said she didn’t want it. Take what the defense gives you! Am I right?!”

Yes, high school buddy, you are right — when we’re playing basketball or when we are competing. Bringing me to make next reflective question, “Is sex a competition?”

“He who hesitates masturbates.”

My high school coach at the all-boys prep school I went to referenced this quote after we would make passive mistakes. Essentially this quote is saved for a social setting where a guy is considering approaching a woman and his boys remind him that he shouldn’t make a passive mistake.

Again, passive mistakes can be very costly in basketball. Yet, when he intertwined athletics and masturbation, my coach made it very clear to us (young men ages 14 to 18) that sex is a competition just like basketball and if you make a passive mistake in sex, you lose.

Sex is not a competition. Consent is not a competition. Relationships are not competitions.

Conceptual learning is a vital skill, but it can fool us. Yes, the lessons that you’ve learned competing in the academic arena and in the athletic arena are important and can be applied to numerous other endeavors, but sex, consent, and relationships are not games where one party wins and one party loses.

A relationship, sexual or otherwise, is a culmination of the interactions and emotions you share with another human being. And our relationships are beautiful and meaningful when both parties get more than what they once had. It’s not a zero sum game.

Until we notice this trend, our generation will be stuck in a hook-up culture that confuses us and subtly incentivizes a rape culture.

Don’t take it from me. Ponder it yourself. What does consent mean to you? What is sex? What do you want out of your relationships?

If you think about it enough, maybe you and I could create consent together at some point.

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