Photo by Amy Potenger
PART ONE: Boundaries
A two-part blog exploring how our community can do better when it comes to consent culture. This first blog discusses boundaries – what they are, how to create them, and what to do when they are crossed. The second blog is focused on how you might navigate a situation appropriately if you, or someone else you know, has crossed a boundary.
Consent and boundaries have been buzzwords around these parts lately. As we become more aware of why consent is important, we start to explore how we align our behaviour with these values. Often the easiest place to nurture consent culture is within safe and familiar relationships.
As we start to see the positive impacts of explicit communication, we also begin to see the negative impacts of not seeking consent. Through awareness comes the ability to change ourselves and society as a whole, regardless of whether our relationships are romantic, platonic, or professional.
What is consent and why is it so important?
Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert are educators, writers and activists, who say that: “consent is about you: your body, your mind and your choices. Your consent is required to access what is yours. The people around you have agency: they do not need your consent to act, because you do not own their bodies, minds or choices. But if their behaviour crosses in to your personal space, then they need your consent”. This video about tea and consent explains it pretty well too.
In our culture, consent is violated in many ways, big and small, every day. Some of the common consent violations we see are:
- Taking photos without permission.
- Hugging someone without asking first.
- Assuming it’s OK to get in someone’s space on the dancefloor because they are the same gender as you, without checking in.
- Feeling someone up on the dancefloor because you’re pretty sure they would be into it, but you didn’t actually ask first (FYI this is sexual assault).
- Engaging in sexual interactions (touching, kissing, penetration) without an ongoing, explicit, enthusiastic and active, “Yes!”.
Consent is important for the privacy, autonomy, safety and well-being of all of us, and plays a crucial part in preventing sexual assault, which is more common than a lot of us would like to admit.
We reached out to Kiwiburn participants to hear their thoughts about how we can do better as a community. While this is certainly not an exhaustive or complete guide, it includes some great suggestions. So let’s get exploring!
Personal boundaries are like our own invisible guidebook that help us define and communicate the kind of interactions we are comfortable with. Sometimes it’s tricky to know what our boundaries are, especially in fast paced and playful environments like Kiwiburn.
And while it’s great to be aware of our own boundaries, it’s important to note that even when we do know what they are, there are many reasons why they may not be communicated.
Defending or communicating boundaries can at times be exhausting, but it can also trigger PTSD or anxiety, especially when it puts the person defending their boundaries at risk of physical or emotional danger.
So heck yeah let’s be strong in our boundaries, but let’s also be aware that some people will find it challenging to communicate their boundaries for many reasons in different situations. Making others feel like it’s OK to communicate their boundaries will go a long way in ensuring we’re all on the same page.
How do I identify my personal boundaries?
You could start by noticing what you do and don’t feel comfortable with in familiar situations with familiar people. Have a go at communicating that in a clear, respectful and non-blaming way. This will help give you confidence to speak up with unfamiliar people.
- Ask yourself: What’s my ‘yes’? And what’s my ‘no’? If someone stopped and asked how you felt during an interaction, would your honest response be an enthusiastic “Yeah!”?
- Be curious and talk with friends and trusted people about boundaries. Verbalising these and hearing about other people’s boundaries can make you more aware of what those are.
- Some things will lay kinda-sorta-somewhere-in-between, and that’s OK too. If we have an idea of how to communicate this, we can feel more comfortable and confident to communicate our unsure-ness. Maybe you just let someone know that for now, it’s a ‘no’, but that could change later.
- Consider whether alcohol or substance use may impact your ability to be aware of your boundaries.
And remember, it’s always OK to change your mind whenever you want to.
If you’re interested in more information around developing personal boundaries, there are a lot of helpful articles on the web, like this one.
So, someone crossed your boundaries, now what?
Some situations require a swift and clear response such as “No!” or even walking away. In other situations it may be appropriate to let someone know they have crossed a boundary without creating shame.
Whatever the situation, the thought of confronting someone who has crossed our personal boundaries can be incredibly challenging / intimidating / terrifying, and often we won’t say anything at all. The hope is that through awareness, education and practice within familiar and safe contexts, speaking up will become easier.
You are not obliged to tell someone your boundary has been crossed, but if you are willing and comfortable, here are some pointers:
- Let the person know by ‘Calling them in’. This involves recognising that mistakes are made and inviting them to do better without creating shame. More info here.
- You may want to tell a friend or mediator and let them know how you want to be supported.
- Defending boundaries can trigger PTSD, anxiety, or any number of emotions. If you need to walk away, this is fine. If you skip the ‘being reasonable’ part, that’s OK too. Do what you need to do to keep safe, it’s not your responsibility to educate boundary crossers.
- Some ideas for a swift clear response to harassment/assault: “I’m not comfortable”, “You’ve crossed my boundary, you need to step away now”, “that was harassment/assault, I’m going to contact a Ranger/security guard/host”.
- If you see someone else looking uncomfortable with an interaction, check in and see if they are OK.
- Make an official complaint. On the Paddock at Kiwiburn, official complaints can be made to the Site Manager. They can be contacted through Rangers, The Depot, Medics or anyone with a radio. Official complaints can also be made to the Kiwiburn ExCom at any time via email.
Hopefully this blog has helped provide some clear and practical ways to navigate the sometimes overwhelming topic that is consent. If you found this helpful, share it with your friends, and get some discussions going.
If you would like to contribute more to this conversation there are a few options:
Join the ‘Women of Kiwiburn’ a Facebook group offered to all the women-folk and specifically inclusive of all our non-male / non-binary / femme-identifying people.
Join the ‘Brotherhood’ a Facebook group for male identifying persons of Kiwiburn culture.
Contact the Kiwiburn ExCom (organising body of Kiwiburn) here.
by Hana Tuwhare in collaboration with many folk from the Kiwiburn Community. Thanks to everyone who contributed.
Thanks for tuning in. The second blog explores how to stay aware of others’ boundaries, as well as what to do if you realise you’ve crossed a boundary.
Part Two: Navigating Situations can be found here.