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Do you have the spoons to read an article about consent?

Updated: Jun 28

By Taina Lyons

What is consent?   Its most basic definition is that it is the practice of negotiating wants and needs in order to come to some kind of agreement or permission.  A whole hearted yes, is consent.

People often connect consent with sex, for good reason. It is an important aspect of having safer, enjoyable and satisfying sexual relationships. A lot of harm results from non-consensual sex.  But that’s not the only place consent work is needed.  The process of being in respectful relationship with life is woven into myriad interactions and contexts.  It’s a tool for causing less harm, having better relationships - and - yes, getting your needs met. 

Sometimes consent violations, boundary crossings or experiences of harm can be valuable opportunities to reflect on the conditions surrounding the harm.  Repair is important in consent work, as is creating a strong foundation for less harm to occur. (Stay tuned for another post all about repair...) Building consent skills into your everyday interactions is part of contributing to an elegant relational environment.

One of my favorite consent phrases is: Do you have the spoons for X... right now? This phrase was coined by essayist Christine Miserandino in 2003, as a way to describe her experience living with chronic illness. She used "Spoons" as a benchmark for whether one has the emotional, physical, energetic resources for a certain activity. This term has since been embraced by various marginalized communities in which folks navigate hostility and discrimination in their day-to-day lives, workplaces, or families. A synonymous phrase is: Are you available for X... right now?

Here's an example of how I might use "Spoons." I may ask a friend when I’m feeling upset about something, if they have the spoons to listen to me, hold space in some way, or give me some kind of physical touch. That way they are at choice about how and when they can show up for me.

My friend could then feel empowered to say "yes" or possibly offer some kind of alternative. "I can't come over, but I have a half hour to talk on the phone." Or "I don't have the spoons today but I could drop off a meal for you tomorrow."

A person's authentic response provides information about them and the nature of a relationship. For example, if a person is often met with "no" when they make a request, they may decide that the relationship doesn't meet that particular need, and consider how to get these needs met elsewhere or do some work personally or in the relationship. There are other reasons a person may give a "no" to a request of course, such as simple preference, or a personal history that makes the need incompatible with what they can give. In this process, both people need to be willing to engage in some self-inquiry. What needs to be tended or preserved? What can be let go of, and what is essentially important to each person and the relationship?

In order to create relationships that are generous and trusting, simple communication tools around consent are a great place to start.

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