How One Haunted House in Utah Illustrates Perfectly WHY We Need to Teach Our Kids (and adults) About Consent and Sexual Health
By Kristin Hodson, LCSW, CST
Today’s guest post is written by Kristin Hodson, LCSW, CST. Opinions shared on guest posts may not completely reflect the positions of the blog’s author.
Kristin Hodson is Founder and Executive Director of The Healing Group and co-author of Real Intimacy: A Couples Guide for Genuine, Healthy Sexuality. She is a Certified Sex Therapist and President-Elect of the Mormon Mental Health Association.
It’s another year and another Halloween season here in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake has some of the best haunted houses. Unfortunately, it now has one of the worst in the country as well. One of my favorite things to do as a sex therapist are to find metaphors and everyday examples of things that overtly have nothing to do with sex, yet have everything to do with sex to illustrate principles and concepts.
So when I learned about Asylum 49, Utah’s newest haunted house, and read their “things to know” I couldn’t pass up the chance to discuss one of the most fundamental aspects of a sexual experience using their material: CONSENT.
According to the University of Michigan, “Consent is when someone agrees, gives permission, or says “yes” to [sexual] activity with other persons. Consent is always freely given and all people in a sexual situation must feel that they are able to say “yes” or “no” or stop the sexual activity at any point.” You can also learn more about consent by watching this lovely YouTube video on sharing a cup of tea.
Consent is not a blanket catch all. A “YES” to one thing, is not a “YES” for another thing. Consent is also an ongoing thing. Anyone involved in the activity can change their mind along the way. It’s also not a given in the case where a no is NOT given. And lastly considering the power dynamics at play in a sexual situation. ChangeFromWithin.org says, “whenever one person holds power over another person (whether or not they acknowledge it), consent becomes tricky. Some argue that when structural power differences are at play, consent can never be given and sex should not take place.” I would agree.
Back to where we started with our which are the rules of play for a local haunted house I heard about. Asylum 49 has these “things to know” readily on their website.
- You can be touched, grab, separated from your group, detained in small dark areas and left, straped to a metal bed and worked on by the crazies.
- If you can’t handle rule #1 then don’t come whimpo.
- You can’t touch the actors or the props unless we throw something at you then by all means put your hands up you will look stupid getting hit in the face with a prop.
- We do not recommend small childern or immature adults or prego’s. If you think your kids are too young, then they are too young. Leave them at home nobody wants to see your little kid bawling their eyes out and hyperventilating. What’s wrong with you!!!!!
- There are no refunds you cheap bastard, it’s not cheap building a 38,000 sqf haunt.
- Bring cash we don’t take plastic, oh and hell yeah we sell Asylum 49 tees
- Don’t have somebody waiting in the car for you while you go through thinking you will be right out. We are open for 3 hours on the weekdays and 5 hours on the weekends you could get detained the entire time, and we won’t send anyone in to look for you. You got your dumb ass into this mess get yourself out.
- If you can’t behave we will throw your dumb ass out. SEE RULE #5
Beyond the blatant typos, this is the experience you are apparently agreeing to. However, I will disagree that you are in fact consenting, because this experience doesn’t provide true consent.
In a time where social media is being flooded with #metoo and colleges are potentially at risk for rolling back the definition of sexual assault, understanding what consent is — whether it’s a medial procedure, a sexual activity, or in this case an experience at a haunted house — is more important than ever in making our communities and country a safe place.
Check the blog tomorrow where Kristin will help us deconstruct this haunted houses “things to know” line by line and illustrate how this is NOT a consensual experience.
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST can be reached at natashaparker.org and runs an online practice, Symmetry Solutions, which focuses on helping families and individuals with faith concerns, sexuality and mental health. She hosts the Mormon Mental Health and Mormon Sex Info Podcasts, writes a regular column for Sunstone Magazine and is the current president of the Mormon Mental Health Association. She has over 20 years of experience working with primarily an LDS/Mormon clientele.