Consent Space on December 11th 2023

When think­ing of Con­sent the­o­ret­i­cal­ly, I think of it as a com­pli­cat­ed, many-faceted phe­nomen. This is some­thing that I want to remind in this text. In our (pro­duc­tion-based) prac­ti­cal work, it often not pro­duc­tive to start to think of con­sent in its full com­plex­i­ty. With­in an edu­ca­tion­al con­text, I like to remind peo­ple that con­sent is a space. In this arti­cle, I want to present con­sent first from prac­ti­cal point of view of CRISP Con­sent and then from a more the­o­ret­i­cal point of view of Con­sent Space. 

CRISP CONSENT

In prac­ti­cal sit­u­a­tions, con­sent can take forms like CRISP con­sent (“con­sent in per­form­ing arts”) by Inti­ma­cy Direc­tors and Coor­di­na­tors (IDC):

  • Con­sid­ered
  • Reversible
  • Informed
  • Spe­cif­ic
  • Par­tic­i­pa­to­ry

which is based in Con­sent is F.R.I.E.S. acronym (“con­sent in sex­u­al activ­i­ty”) by Planned Par­ent­hood. See below for more infor­ma­tion about this sidetrack.

A realistic risk management tool

C.R.I.S.P. is a def­i­n­i­tion of con­sent that seeks to still be real­is­tic for our prac­ti­cal explo­ration (= pro­duc­tion-craft­ing) in per­form­ing arts. Still, even using the acronym is a bal­anc­ing act:

Which aspects can we in prac­tice “con­sid­er”?
How “reversible” can con­sent be dur­ing rehearsals and per­for­mances?
What much infor­ma­tion is ‘enough’ and not ‘too much’ to be “informed”?
In which ways do we actu­al­ly need to be “spe­cif­ic”?
And what lev­el of “par­tic­i­pa­tion” are we building?

These all ques­tions — and their answers — are very spe­cif­ic to the time we have and spe­cif­ic to the peo­ple and piece of work in question.

As with every side of work safe­ty ques­tion, we are tak­ing risks and try­ing to man­age them with real­is­tic expec­ta­tions. Not all hous­es we build can be low hous­es to make sure nobody falls. There is also always a room for human error even in surgeries.

Even if we try to build work safe­ty struc­tures for per­form­ing arts, it often feels like we don’t have enough resources. In our soci­ety we have more resources for build­ing sites of tall build­ings and open-heart surg­eries than for all the emo­tion­al climbs and falls, or to the open hearts of a per­former in motion. 

Some­body might argue that this should be the case. Even if pok­ing a sym­bol­i­cal­ly opened heart in a wrong way might have less con­crete prac­ti­cal effects than its con­crete coun­ter­part, it is also a mat­ter of safe­ty. It is humane to treat both sit­u­a­tions with grace and con­sid­er­a­tion they deserve.

CONSENT IS EASY AS FRIES

Con­sent is easy as FRIES is an orig­i­nal acronym and mem­o­ry rule by Planned Par­ent­hood to teach peo­ple of Con­sent in Sex­u­al Activ­i­ty. Even if it is not some­thing we use in per­form­ing arts any­more, it is still an impor­tant his­tor­i­cal tool — and some­thing that fic­tion­al char­ac­ters might know and use.

Look at their Youtube Chan­nel at: https://www.youtube.com/@plannedparenthood to learn about real-life con­sent and oth­er sex­u­al and repro­duc­tive health care ques­tions. It is meant for Amer­i­can audi­ences and some ideas are spe­cif­ic to their circumstances.

Consent Space

Con­sent Space is my on-going project idea in defin­ing dif­fer­ent aspects of the con­sent in one table. It is one of my per­son­al inter­ests and a vital part of my own prac­tice to know what all affects the con­sent we try to apply in our practices.

I am using word ‘space’ in a way I would use ‘out­er space’. We can sym­bol­i­cal­ly trav­el there and find new adven­tures, spe­cif­ic plan­ets and stars to stand on. The place is a huge place to be and get lost into (in a good way), and we are real­ly nev­er able to  chart the whole space even if we tried our very best. 

Below you see my cur­rent work-in-progress table (in mixed lan­guages of Finnish, Swedish and Eng­lish) that are my per­son­al notes about things to study fur­ther and define also in an aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly viable way.

Agency and power

With­in Con­sent Space, there are dif­fer­ent con­cepts that tack­le the lev­els of the agency that we can consider.

Artis­tic agency should nev­er rule over some­one’s bod­i­ly auton­o­my. When two lev­els of artis­tic agency are in a inter­ac­tion, things get more com­pli­cat­ed. Peo­ple should still have pow­er over their own areas of respon­si­bil­i­ty, but when areas over­lap, a dis­cus­sion about the fine details needs to be had.

We can speak of all the dif­fer­ent kinds of pow­er struc­tures. The social pow­er types by French and Raven are a famous con­cept. Besides that, there are known inter­sec­tion­al aspects of priv­i­lege that are dis­cussed in today’s world. In a very tra­di­tion­al­ly role-based work­place envi­ron­ment, a dif­fer­ent pow­er struc­ture comes up. I have noticed these kinds of struc­tures often tricky to con­sid­er in practice.

Last­ly, what I am also study­ing in my own research project, the peo­ple in ques­tion will affect any work they do. They might have very per­son­al needs based in their inner expe­ri­ences, and what all affects those needs is some­thing to be aware of. I hope to cre­ate more research around these top­ics in the near future and find new ways to nav­i­gate the world of consent.

This is all I want to take up of the con­sent space just now.

Juuso-Matias forming a triangle with their hands

Juuso-Matias Maijanen

Author has a background in physical acting (Bachelor of Culture and Arts in Performing Arts) and theatre and drama pedagogy (Bachelor of Culture and Arts within Degree Programme in Music and Stage Art). They are also an intimacy director with Intimacy Directors and Coordinators Inc. with a 'certification pending status' and have a vast amount of training with dramatic combat.

Author is currently preparing for their degree projecct within is a MA student at Stockholm University of the Arts (starting autumn 2023) and looking for people to collaborate with.