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Power and Consent – Life as an Extreme Sport
Life as an Extreme Sport

Power and Consent

I’ve had a mental dialogue with myself knocking around in my head for a few days now, thanks to a conversation I had with a colleague. One of those situations set up by a misunderstanding, it’s turned into a continuing conversation that in many ways is centering around consent and power.

Consent is an interesting notion. What do you have to consent to? What’s implicit, what’s assumed, what needs to be crystal clear? And how do you consent? Must it be verbal, or does physical count?

Obviously there is power in consent, giving or receiving it, or taking by force without. But there’s also power on the other side of consent. You can take consent away from someone by placing yourself in a hierarchical position of power over them, and assuming full responsibility or culpability for a situation. For example, if two people opt to consensually have sex, and one of them, at a later point, decides that s/he did something wrong by their partner, they have the ability to remove the consent given by saying “I was wrong for doing this to you” – they ignore the reality of the situation, that there were two consenting parties, and shift all ownership, all power, onto themselves. As a way of remaining in control in an out of control situation (life?), it’s rather effective. Because then, no matter what the consenting person says, they can say “no, no, no, it was wrong and I…”

I’m tired and still thinking about this, but I find that dynamic between consent and power to be remarkably fascinating. As much as consent is given by the individual, it can be taken away by someone apart from said individual person.