How to Create a Culture of Consent

By Jacqui Rabkin, marketing director and consent lover at House of Yes

Consent! You’ve heard about it, read about it, and think about, but you still have some questions? Great! Let’s talk. Festival season is the perfect time to brush up on your understanding of consent, and in doing so, help build safer spaces on and off the dance floor.

No Means No! Yes means Yes! These are the very basics of consent, but the topic is much broader than that. What I love about consent culture is how it elevates communication. Getting consent is about checking in with someone, regardless of circumstance, and finding out if you're both on the same page. Consent is about letting your words guide your interactions, and minimizing your assumptions.

Consent can apply to all your interactions - sexual, platonic, personal, professional! Consent is sexy. Knowing how to communicate what you want is beautiful. Knowing how to gracefully accept a ‘No’ is empowering.  

I challenge you to practice consent both in and out of the bedroom (or… tent! As the case may be). For example, when you meet a new person at a festival, try asking, "Can I give you a hug?" Even though hugging a stranger is the norm in festival culture, everyone has different boundaries, and you’ll get so much more out of the interaction if you ask first. I can't tell you how good it feels to offer a hug and get an enthusiastic “YES!”  The entire interaction is elevated.

By practicing consent, you can show people how much you love communication and cherish their active participation in your engagement.  Consent gives intention to all your interactions and ultimately deepens the connections you make with others.

Let’s move on to the nitty gritty!

How do I know if someone is giving me consent?

Yes means Yes! An enthusiastic YES is even better. Anything that isn't a clear yes is a NO. Silence, vagueness, incomplete answers, dodging the question, changing the subject, smiling and giggling, “I’m so fucked up right now,”  or continuing to dance without saying anything do NOT mean yes. They mean no.

Can I give consent when intoxicated?

This can be a tricky issue for people, since everyone loves to let loose at a festival. Technically speaking, your ability to give consent is compromised when you are drunk, high, tripping, or otherwise intoxicated.  And this isn't math class– two negatives don’t equal a positive. Sex is not consensual just because both people are drunk! Proceed with caution when there are drugs or alcohol in the mix. Best practice? Bring the person some water, ask where their friends are, and ask if they want to sit down. Get to know them, and have fun when you’re both sober.

Can I say "Yes" and then change my mind?

Yes! Consent can be revoked at any time. You can be really excited about getting intimate with someone, and change your mind mid-act. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, or simply lost your mojo that’s 100% okay - just communicate what you’re feeling. Your partner is probably not a mind-reader!

I suck at saying "No!" Can you help?

My favorite response: “No, but thank you so much for asking!” This is a gracious way to firmly state your boundaries while thanking someone for engaging in consent.  

Other turn downs you can try:

Not right now, but I’ll let you know if something changes.

Thanks for the compliment! I don’t want to be touched right now

I’d like to dance without touching right now. But I love your energy, please feel free to dance next to me!

Can we pause for a moment? I’m feeling off. Let’s get some air!  

My friend is drunk and I can’t tell if she’s into the makeout session I see happening! Should I do anything?  

If you watch 2 people closely enough, you can usually tell whether the interaction is shared or one-sided. If things are looking one-sided, check-in with your friend. This also applies to drunk strangers who look like they need help!

Hey, do you know this person?

Are you into what’s going on right now?

Do you want to come grab some water with me?

Any partner who is truly practicing consent would be cool with this momentary interruption for a good cause. It things start to go south - if someone becomes aggressive, resistant, or belligerent - look for a consent guardian to help! At Gratitude Migration, these people are members of the Love Patrol.

How can I accept a ‘No’, gracefully?

Step 1: Back off

Step 2: BREATHE. 

Center your thoughts! Respect the human before you. Aretha Franklin was really on the money with this one, and you may even find it helpful to hum her iconic R-E-S-P-E-C-T in your head when someone turns you down.  

Do whatever it takes to keep your mind cool and bring awareness back to your body. Go for a walk on the beach or a dip in the ocean. See if there's a sound meditation or yoga class you can join.

We all know that blue balls suck - but don't let them be an excuse to pressure someone into doing something they don't want.

Photos by:

Sasha Charonsaub
Earl Maldoun

Eva Reiska

Nathan Frank