Consent and London Decompression

As burners we like to think that we understand consent and are only ever respectful in our interactions with each other. However consent violations sadly do still happen at burns and decompressions, and it can ruin someone’s evening – or worse. Consent isn’t just about sex, it is needed before acting on any desires involving others, including non-sexual touching, using other people’s belongings, and taking photographs. Consent is a framework we can all use to ensure no one is subject to the unwanted actions of others.

In the event you experience a consent violation at London Decom and need assistance, you can flag down a D-Ranger, recognisable by their purple sashes and headgear or talk to Welfare. Both Welfare and the D-Rangers will do their best to assist and support you, taking their lead from how you want to respond to the situation. If a consent issue is worrying you before or after the event you can email consent@londondecom.org .

CONSENT AND PHOTOGRAPHY

London Decom participants and their costumes can be extremely photogenic. However, if you wish to take photos you need to ensure that those you are photographing actively consent to having their picture taken and, if applicable, having it shared later on social media. It is also good practice not to tag people in photos on social media, rather let them tag themselves should they wish to.

There are also likely to be some official photographers at London Decom this year. They are expected to abide by the same rules of consent as everyone else and should ask before taking photos of you. If you would rather not have your photo taken you just say no.

HOW DOES ONE BECOME A HIGHLY CONSENSUAL PERSON?

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

1 – Know the difference between what is yours and what belongs to others.

This seems straightforward: my body is mine, and your body is yours. But have you ever had the impulse to pinch a baby’s chubby cheeks, or swat a friend’s bum? You saw it, it seems irresistible, it’s right there, so it is yours to touch, right? No, it is not! Gaining consent is key. The same goes for touching someone’s hair, costume or other accessories. It’s better to check than make anyone feel uncomfortable!

2 – Ask for what you want from a person who is able to consent

Under the law, to consent to sex, a person must be of a legal age of consent and physically be able to consent (not unconscious, sleeping, or too intoxicated). The last one can be tricky, so it is generally better to wait until everyone involved is pretty sober. Next, you need to ask for what you want; because how can someone say “yes” unless you ask? This can be scary, because you might hear “no” and feel rejected or embarrassed. But this gets easier with practice.

3 – Listen to the answer

After you have asked for what you want, you need to wait to hear a response. Silence is not consent. If the person does not respond, wait until you hear an answer. Let the other person know that you will not proceed unless they tell you “yes”. If they respond “no”, accept the no. Sometimes people say “Maybe” or “Not right now” as a “soft no”, because they want to be polite. Whatever kind of “no” you receive, don’t try to talk them out of it or persuade them to change their answer. If they change their mind later, let them take the initiative in letting you know!

4 – Show gratitude for any answer but especially “no”

A true master of consent not only accepts the answer but shows gratitude for the answer. It is easy to show gratitude for affirmative answers, but it’s even more important to show gratitude when someone says no. Saying no can be hard. People often fear being seen as uncool for saying no. We must remember that saying no is part of Radical Self-expression!

5 – Keep checking in

Even after one has received a yes, keep checking in. Check to make sure each new action you take is okay before you take it. Be aware of a partner who becomes still or silent, starts to seem distracted, tense, or otherwise gives non-verbal signals of discomfort; check in and make sure they still consent. Some people become still or silent when they are scared or feel traumatised. You may have done nothing wrong, but the person you are with might suddenly feel unsafe for some reason. Check in, stop what you’re doing, and wait for your partner to verbally confirm they still consent.

6 Stand up for consent

Lastly, as masters of consent, we should always be aware of those around us. We are often confronted with situations that seem questionable. If you feel able to, you can and should check in on others, even strangers. Do you feel safe? Are you okay? Do you need to find a safe place or a friend? Is everyone here fully consenting? These are all good questions to ask in uncomfortable situations. Be willing to help a person in a non-consensual situation get to safety, whether it’s to the D-Rangers or to their friends.

Practice these principles, and soon consent will become second-nature to you. It can take work to be a master of consent, but consensual relations are so totally worth it.