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.
Continuing from yesterday’s post:
Let’s deconstruct this haunted houses “things to know” line by line and illustrate how this is NOT an consensual experience.
- You can be touched, grab, separated from your group, detained in small dark areas and left, strapped to a metal bed and worked on by the crazies.
If this is true consent, I would get to ask, understand, and negotiate if I wanted the following: How would you be touching me? What parts of my body would you be touching? How would you be grabbing me? Where would you be grabbing me? How small of an area would I be detained in? For how long? Would anybody else be in that space with me? What exactly do you mean by being strapped to a metal table? How? Both of my arms and legs? How many people would be working on me? Will my clothes remain on? What would they be doing? For how long? And these are just a few of my starting questions.
And most importantly, how do I communicate if I change my mind about ANYTHING I have agreed to NO MATTER HOW FAR INTO THE HAUNTED HOUSE I AM???
- If you can’t handle rule #1 then don’t come whimpo.
No. I am STILL unclear about what I am consenting to in #1. If I want to stop at any point, you don’t get to call me names, harass me or call me a “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.
So what you’re saying here is, people don’t get to touch you, but can touch them and if you throw something at them and they don’t see it, THEY’RE the “stupid” one? If we are talking consent, this is great example of “victim blaming” and an unequal power dynamic.
“I told you to protect yourself if something happened, and you said yes to coming to this haunted house so it’s not my fault or problem.” This is the perpetuation of rape culture and “this was your fault.”
- We do not recommend small children 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!!!!
Which leads me to “immature adults” and “pregos” who are also unable to consent to an experience that they do not have all of the details to nor have the power to change their mind at any given point. In order to say “yes” you have to have the power to say, “no.”
- Bring cash we don’t take plastic, oh and hell yeah we sell Asylum 49 tees
Rather than buy their tees and support this place, you can purchase an “Only With Consent” t-shirt which supports consent education around the country.
- 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.
You have set up this experience to be a powerless, voiceless, non-negotiable experience. Again, see my point in #1. If someone wants to leave, if someone wants to go find their friend, they should have the power to do so.
At OnlyWithConsent.org they state,”Asking for consent should be an expected and continuously occurring step in any relationship whether the relationship lasts for a few minutes or for a lifetime. Accepting a culture that does not value consent is very dangerous and often leads to perpetuating different forms of sexual violence. We need to encourage dialogue about asking for consent because it will promote an understanding that each person knows what is best for themselves. This will empower children and adults alike to respect one another even if the end result is not what they had hoped. We must all recognize that we are not entitled to anyone else’s body under any circumstances.”
Consent is a critical foundation for all healthy relationships including sexual ones. This haunted house is a perfect example of how we continue as a culture to perpetuate rape culture, victim blaming, and power dynamics that leaves one person vulnerable and exploited.
**Use this article to talk with your kids about consent and healthy relationships and teach them skills how to say no, to negotiate and navigate challenging situations, and how to recognize when they have been a victim of assault or harassment.
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.