Consent Everywhere

Written by Nicole Chammartin, Executive Director of SERC and Klinic Community Health

Every February around Valentine’s Day, Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week (SRH Week) is marked in communities across Canada. It’s a great time to promote sex positivity, safer sex and sexual health as a vital part of overall well-being. The Sexual Health Educators Network– made up of representatives from a variety of community health organizations in Winnipeg (including Klinic and SERC) use this opportunity to send kits full of resources, tips and goodies to organizations all over Manitoba.

This year our  SRH theme for Manitoba is #ConsentEverywhere

#consenteverywhere reminds us that consent is required in all spaces in our lives – on our campuses, in our bedrooms, in our workplaces, on our streets – and that all sexy talking and sexy touching should only happen when everybody involved is into it. Consent is an active, ongoing and clearly communicated agreement about how we talk to, treat and touch each other. Together we are building a culture of consent and respect for every person, everywhere.

I  hope you’ll join the campaign by:

  • Using the hashtag #ConsentEverywhere
  • Participating in various SRH Week Events or hosting your own (let us know if you do by emailing us)
  • Encourage your social media followers, clients and co-workers to do the same

For more information, you can visit the Manitoba SRH Week Facebook Page at facebook.com/SRHWEEK2017

At SERC, SRH Week is a very important time of year for us.  We believe that everyone has the right to safe and accurate information about sex, and a key component of that is supporting understanding of how we integrate consent into what we do every day.  We can start to develop a true consent culture by teaching the importance of respect and consent to our children.  For example, allowing our kids to say no when they feel uncomfortable hugging or kissing others, even when it makes for an awkward moment with great aunt Janet…  the reality is that children who learn that they are in control of their own bodies are more likely to respect the same right in others.

Valentine's Cards

This year SERC is celebrating SRH week with four different FREE Valentine’s Day cards, complete with consent themed candy-hearts! Share them with someone special or write a love note to yourself. Download  them out here!  Also be sure to check out SERC’s consent themed lunch and learn.

I actually had a few ‘aha’ moments about consent culture this last week that reminded me that #consenteverywhere is so much more than a sexual health issue.  At its core about how we respect each other as independent autonomous human beings, which also means that what we want may not be the same, and the basis of love and humanity is the mutual respect of that.

One of the places that I had one of these moments was while sitting in on a Klinic Art Group, run by our wonderful counsellor and art therapist, Cindy.  These groups are open to anyone in the community and run every second week with approximately 12 participants. Some have been coming for years, some are here for their first time.  All are very welcoming of me.  Which is good, as you may know already, art and crafts of any kind are something that makes me intensely nervous.  In fact I have very few fond memories in my life of participating in anything remotely creative (beyond singing loudly, and off key- which I still enjoy immensely).

Cindy the art therapist / counsellor

Cindy: art therapist / counsellor

When Cindy starts to talk I am immediately aware of how connected this experience feels to consent culture, with one particular aha moment happening when Cindy says, “In this space you get to ask for what you need”.  In that moment I realize she is talking about so many things, from markers and glue to time to process and not fear criticism or judgement.

IMG_0244

The theme for the group today is the elements, and how we feel connection to them.  Though I am still wary of creating in a room with others I am very excited to work with oil pastels, especially when I learn I can change the look of them by using my fingers (a big thank you to the creative person next to me for that one).   The time goes quickly, and not surprisingly, I am the quickest artist to finish (another aha moment- I do everything fast- even art).  I note many things about myself in this process, but I realize, even in my own reflection on my elements, I am still caught on the theme of consent everywhere.

My art piece

My art piece

When I listen to others share their experiences in the group so much is about permission; permission from others, permission from ourselves, to just be what we need in that moment, and also ask for whatever it is we need.  Apparently, what I need is some pastel oil crayons.

Note- as part of SRH Week I am very excited that I will be participating in the weekly the Sex Files Radio Show supported by SERC and Klinic Feb 23rd at 9pm on CKUW 95.9 FM, listen in for more on this topic!