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The Complexity Of Consent

The unearthing of vast sexual misconduct claims throughout parliament and workplaces points to a severe lack of understanding of consent. Consent cannot always be simplified into a clear yes or no, and extends beyond sex; broadly, consent is a union of respect + permission.

When you think back to your own education on consent, was it enough to prepare you for the real world? A world in which it’s expected for a woman to be groped in a bar, normal for a woman to feel scared walking home, commonplace to feel uncomfortable or ashamed to speak up about assault.

Learning about consent has been neglected in education, directly impacting how our existing workforce understands what’s ‘okay’ and what’s not ‘okay’ at work. There’s no rulebook that determines the lines you can and can’t cross, as each situation is unique.

So do we really think an app will solve such a socially ingrained, systemic issue? An app proposed by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller suggests we can record sexual consent, but like a lot of others contesting his approach have reiterated, consent is an active, ongoing choice that can change at any moment. This means consent can also be forced or coerced in threatening situations. Mick Fuller’s dedication to continue the conversation around consent is extremely valuable, however simplifying consent to a recording undermines the complexity in the experiences of those involved. Consent can be complex, and hence must be approached with consideration and education.

Past approaches, such as the 2018 ‘Bonk Ban’ offer band aid solutions, avoiding the matter entirely instead of looking at the underlying systemic issues present that make workplace relationships hard to navigate. Power relations, how consent is communicated, and gender norms all act to make workplace relationships potentially more unsafe. As we’ve seen in recent interviews between Anne Ruston, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Kate Thwaites and Ben Small, in which the male speakers talk over their female counterparts, there is a clear lack of respect ingrained into parliament culture, which we see mirrored in corporate workplaces. These power imbalances that are reinforced at senior levels across parliament and businesses impact the ability to create equal, respectful and safe workplaces.

Consent education needs to be increasingly practiced in schools and workplaces to ensure our future workforce is equipped to navigate situations that deal with consent. Younger generations are taking matters into their own hands and that’s exactly what organisation, Consent Labs, has done. A collective of passionate young people, their team provides engaging educational sessions and frequent Q&A’s to understand consent and normalise ‘taboo’ sexual topics for young audiences.

Simultaneously, whilst the work is being done with our younger generations, culture needs to change from the top-down. Acknowledging there is work that needs to be done is the first step. To help you with the next steps, we’re here with the knowledge, sensitivity and qualified team to put your best foot forward when it comes to consent in the workplace.

We recognise the need to tailor our approach per situation, as the context, emotions and warm data is crucial in understanding the issues at play.

If you want to know more about what you can do to create a safe, respectful and thriving workplace, get in touch: [email protected] 



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