Festival Workshop for Teaching Adults Consent

This is the workshop outline I’ve created to lead consent discussions at pagan festivals and conventions.  It comes out of the Cherry Hill Seminary Pagan Consent Culture class that all ADF leadership and priesthood is currently taking. I hope to share some of my impressions on that as we move forward from the Isaac Crisis. For now, I’d like to start working on getting more consent information and materials out there for pagans to use.  I give full permission for anyone to use this workshop outline, adding to it or changing it as they need. I can’t promise it’s going to turn your group into a bunch of consent filled awesomeness, but it can’t hurt to try!

Consent Discussion for Festival or Convention

A woman holding her hands up and out in front of her face blocking her face.
Pxhere: CC0 Public Domain License

Intended Audience

The goal here is to get individuals to talk about and be educated on consent and how to do so within a lower key festival setting.  Rather than focus on a long winded lecture the idea is to create discussion questions that can build understanding.

Assessment of Previous Knowledge:

Levels of knowledge may vary greatly and participants may or may not know each other.

Anticipated Challenges:

Participants may be in a “party” mindset rather than a scholarly one.  Participants might be inebriated, they may have previous misunderstandings or be resistant to see their own actions as problematic.  Participants may have had previous experiences or violations of consent that might lead to triggering or psychological problems.

Goals for the Class:

To present a clear definition of verbal and enthusiastic consent between adults.  To provide and develop a number of scenarios where consent might be practiced or developed in a festival or convention setting, including sexual relations, non-sexual touch, alcohol, ritual participation, teenagers and consent, and inebriation.   No means No, Safewords, Sane Safe and Consensual,

Step By Step Plan

Introduce the facilitators and the suppositions of the discussion:

Explain facilitation and that it is their job to keep the group on topic and focused on useful conversation and explain upfront that for the sake of the community facilitators may ask individuals to pause in their explanations or be brief. Explain that this is a safe space: non-judgemental, inclusive of all genders, races, sexual orientations, abilities and disabilities, the only thing we will be intolerant of is intolerant behavior.

We encourage active listening, kind creative development of solutions, openness to developing knowledge of consent, and respect for the perspective of all participants.

Hospitality as an idea for consent:

They consider the idea of hospitality and that no harm should come to either the guest or the host when hospitality is in play, and suggests that the body can be seen as the home of the soul and that hospitality can be applied to our own selves.

*Ghosti and hospitality:

Discuss morality of exchange, and how it requires the idea that there is an essential and underlying similarity within those things exchanged.  “An eye for an eye”  This is seen as a negative thing, where within a pluralistic viewpoint, nothing can ever be totally alike and therefor exact exchange is impossible.  

Hand Exercise

See below for exercise details

Common phrases that illustrate the positivity with which we see violation:

  • Go-getter
  • Don’t take no for an answer
  • It’s better to seek forgiveness than permission
  • I have a right to because I’m your husband/mother/doctor
  • Do what you can get away with!
  • It’s just words. What about free speech?
  • But it’s not violent touching

Talk about the ways we see violation as positive as a culture.

Scenarios:

As time allows and if people are interested, bring up some specific scenarios that people can discuss.  I’d like to add more scenarios to this list and hope that as we run the workshop people will help me add to the list.

This happens to women of color all the time, but we heard from an ADF member and former member’s advocate that once when he was at a pagan festival he was asleep and when he woke up there was a woman he barely knew stroking his beard. When he asked the one friend he knew well at that festival about the woman he said she “was harmless”   

That particular evening, I was wearing something that showed off my cleavage. At some point as things got rowdier and the laughing went up a few decibels, after I’d declined yet another offer of a drink, my friends reached over and sprayed chocolate whipped cream on my cleavage and told their friend to lick it off.

Polyamory dynamics.  Partner A wants to to hook up at con. Partner B is cool with that as long as safe sex is practiced and everything is communicated.  Partner A has hooked up. Does oral sex count? Does hand down pants count? Does telling the partner a week later after they’ve had intercourse count?

Ask participants for scenarios and what things they’ve had difficulty with. Work through this to start creating a definition of what consent means in real time. Safe, sane, and consensual from kink.

Consent must be:

Informed for everyone involved poly makes that complicated, and includes risk assessment, disease information, triggers, particular things they like and dislike.  (that last part is a real boon to being good in the sack)

Wholehearted and enthusiastic, a half hearted yes doesn’t count.  This mean that we have to deconstruct a lot of ideas about womanhood being submissive and manhood not having feelings about things.  Finding our voices is important.

Voluntary, this means power dynamics count. This is why tapping an 18 year old when you’re much older is problematic, why being the HPS puts you in a spot that can be isolating, why power isn’t always fun.  This means knowing what you want and respecting what others want.

Competent, which means a drunk person can’t give consent. An underage person can’t give consent, an unconscious person or an asleep person can’t give consent. Bullying, gaslighting, peer pressure are the things that make this important too.  This also encourages beforehand discussion of sex acts, which is a good thing.

Spoken Aloud Exercises

Described below in exerecises section

Wrapping up:

Ask if there are any other questions or ideas, as people to try and describe consent and thank everyone for participating.

Activities:

Consent exercise using hand gestures:

have people pair off and explain that they will be choosing their hugging consent level by using hand signs behind their back.  A closed hand indicates no touch, one finger for a handshake, two fingers for a hug. On the count of three people reveal their hands and act on the lowest preferred touch level.

Afterwards: talk through the experience. Was it weird? Easy? Hard?  What was difficult or strange?

 

Consent exercise using words:

Again have people pair off, and this time have them use words. Make sure that there is focusing on using clear yes and no language.  

Handshake

Touching hair

Hugging

Hugging from behind

Touching shoulders

Side hug

Touching face

Talk about experiences and again let people share what was easy and hard.

References:

https://polysingleish.com/2015/02/25/compassion-communication-and-community-in-consent-culture/

https://shaunaaura.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/harassment-and-boundaries/

https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/11/practice-consent-beyond-sex/

http://wildhunt.org/2014/04/addressing-safety-at-pagan-conventions-and-festivals.html

http://www.free-spirit.org/page-1718001

Pagan Consent Culture by Christine Hoff Kraemer and Yvonne Aburrow

Ask: Building Consent Culture by Kitty Stryker

Did ya love this post? Are you going to run out and teach consent culture?  That’s great!! Please also consider supporting the stuff I do by checking out my Patreon or my Etsy site. Thanks!

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