5 Things We're Not Taught To Get Consent For, But Should Be
I don't normally reveal this because it's often used against me, but I'm one of the most ticklish people ever. And, like many ticklish people, I have many, many memories of people touching me without consent. Indeed, tickling is one of many things we should be taught to get consent for, but often aren't. And it's long past time to change that fact.
When you hear the word "consent," you may automatically think of sexual consent, but for the same reasons it's important for sex, consent matters for other activities, too. After all, what makes sexual assault traumatizing is not any particular act — people can do the same acts with consent and enjoy them — but the fact that the attacker did not give a damn whether the victim wanted it or not. And people can show this lack of consideration for boundaries in other ways.
Without realizing it, many parents teach kids from a young age that people are allowed to do things to them without their consent, which ultimately ends up teaching them that their bodies don't belong to them and that they don't always have the right to say "no." But they do always have the right to say "no" — everyone does. Our society teaches women especially to put other people's desires over their own comfort, and not teaching consent contributes to this problem.
Here are some things we're not normally taught to get consent for, but for which we absolutely do need it.
Tickling is considered a funny way to tease siblings, relatives, and friends, but as a ticklish person myself, I can tell you it's not fun for the person being tickled when they don't consent to it. Even though the automatic reaction is to laugh, the sensation isn't pleasant — at least when it's not wanted. According to psychologist Robert Provine, tickling can actually be a fun activity for some, but many people dislike it altogether because they have bad childhood memories of being forced into tickle wars without their consent.
Kids are often taught to hug and kiss their relatives no matter what to avoid offending them. What this teaches them is that it doesn't matter what they want to do — they should accommodate other people above all else, even when it disregards their own comfort zone or boundaries. Down the line, this can make people unaware of their rights when it comes to other forms of contact, including sexual contact, as well.
3. Taking Photos
In the age of social media, your face could end up on the Internet without you even knowing — and that's problematic for a number of reasons. First of all, it can be extremely triggering to people struggling with body image. Secondly, what happens to someone's body should be up to them, whether that happens IRL or in cyberspace. Asking for consent before you take a photo of someone and before you post it online is a matter of basic respect for their autonomy and possibly their mental health.
4. Revealing Information
Most people know not to tell secrets, but even when someone doesn't tell you something explicitly in confidence, not everybody is comfortable with everything they say being repeated to just anyone. While it may not be realistic to never mention anyone in conversation without their permission ever, it is common courtesy to keep particularly sensitive information — like, say, the fact that someone is having a problem with their significant other — private, or at least ask when in doubt about what you can repeat.
5. Speaking On Someone's Behalf
This is another thing parents often do to kids, from ordering for them in restaurants to signing them up for activities. And even as adults, many of us have had the unsettling experience of someone else speaking on our behalf. Once, for example, someone at a party asked if she could put on Adele. "We all like her," one of my friends said. But I actually can't stand Adele. Sitting through a song wasn't a big deal for me, but the lack of consideration reflected in speaking for someone is, and for children, it can be disempowering. When we teach kids to think about what their preferences are instead of what others want from them, on the other hand, we empower them to make their own decisions in the future.