Consent. A word we are all familiar with and has become one of the most talked about topics in colleges and work places today. Consent is no longer just a discussion about sex but about any physical contact you have with a person. This is now integrated into our culture and no one asks any questions but how often are you asked this question, “Can I touch you?”
I get asked this question everyday at least twice. I am a performing arts major and work in my schools scenic shop as a painter and carpenter. Preforming Arts, theater specifically, is all physical. Actors are people pretending to be other people so that you can watch a person who does not exist or has died life. Kissing, hugging and sex are every third thought a person has ant therefore those three things drive, on average, a third of our actions. Ok so what you ask? Imagine every night you go to work you are asked “Is it ok if I kiss you and hug you and lay on top of you before the lights go out on stage?” If you are an actor and have an intimate scene with your acting coworker, this question is required to be asked and consent must be given from both people before the show can open.
How is this happening on a college level? Professors at at my college no only are vigilant with asking the question “Can I touch you?” but respect your answer and respect you if you say no and move on. I am currently taking a speaking and voice class to learn how to speak and breath properly for maximum voice volume and range. My professor is amazing, and I have learned so much but only because of the physical contact in the class. Most of the time we are working in partners in class. Typical partner work is one person laying on the ground, and the other putting their hands on your shoulders, head, ribs, stomach, and sides. A few weeks into the class we all have become friends and we have become comfortable with each other, so we started assuming if you showed up to class you were consenting to being touched and stopped asking each other for consent.
This became a problem, people now don’t show up to class if they are feeling uncomfortable with being touched. I was made clear that if this did happen you should still come to the class and observe not skip class. Once this pattern was consistent, the professor corrected it and we formed a new sense of community in our small class of 21.
Consent is not something to be taken for granted nor assumed. Consent in any situation must be asked and given especially in an academic setting. The act of asking for consent is not one that is only encouraged but it is normalized. Consent in performing arts, especially live theater is so important it is worked into professional and union contracts, but it is not required or often thought about in smaller theaters. Consent clauses should not only be placed in every actor contract but every technician contract in every theater around the world.
You are Loved