Yukon Employees’ Union recognizes May as Sexualized Assault Prevention Month. We know our small population in the Yukon means there is a big chance the people we work with overlap with the people we see outside of work. We might see them casually, intimately and/or be in a relationship. The connections we share are important when we talk about sexualized harassment and assault.
This year YEU is reflecting on the consent dialogue we all need to have - in the workplace and everywhere else. Consent is an essential conversation piece that is often overlooked in the prevention of sexualized harassment and assault. In order to understand what is wrong or unhealthy, we must first agree on what is right and healthy. The way we come to agreement is by discussing what consent means to each of us, at an individual level, in real time.
Consent is an ongoing conversation of what is in and out of our comfort zone. The conversation can be between two or multiple people and must always respect the lowest level of risk tolerance. It is a conversation that needs to happen every time we engage with others, because our boundaries are elastic and change regularly.
One way to envision consent is to picture elastic bands. When two or more people meet casually, hook-up and/or are in a relationship, each person can be represented by an elastic band. The elastic bands may have points of overlap and can be stretched or relaxed in different directions - Sometimes we may extend ourselves and other times we may pull back so there is no comfort zone at all. It is our individual responsibility to check in with others to be sure we are in a clearly communicated consent zone. If we make assumptions and pull or force someone into our comfort zone, we can break their elastic band and destroy whatever trust existed.
This May, we invite you to think about your relationships with others. What shape is your elastic band and what is in your comfort zone? How safe do you feel when you stretch in a new direction? How are you communicating consent and risk to others? Are you checking in with other people and asking for their consent, so you don’t risk damaging the trust you share? Questions like these are a healthy way to have consent conversations that keep us safe, meet our needs, and prevent sexualized harassment and assault.