Consent isn’t rocket science

Mother of goo

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

Content warning: This article mentions non-consensual sexual encounters and grooming.

For this month’s Mother of Goo, I felt like getting back down to basics: consent. Planned Parenthood’s FRIES model can help bring clarity for those who are still not quite sure what is involved in comprehensive consent. In this article, I will break down each section of FRIES and contextualize it for you lovely MOG readers.

F stands for Freely Given:

This section addresses coercion, substance use and power dynamics. Power dynamics refer to if a person involved in the interaction holds persuasion or sway over the other person(s) involved. This component of FRIES also refers to age of consent laws. These laws are in place to protect young people who are susceptible to grooming.

The reality is, people have sex while on substances, and this complicates consent. If you plan to use substances while engaging in sexual activity, it’s important to discuss what your boundaries are beforehand. The use of a safe word may help in this instance. Explicit check-ins and boundaries are a minimum. Waiting to sober up is best practice.

R stands for Reversible:

Consent can be revoked at any time during an encounter. The fact is that sex is better when all those involved are tuned in to each other. Reversing consent can also involve the use of a safe word or safe action. Safe words I’ve used include: spaghetti, pineapple, banana and (oddly) Glenn Close (yes, from Fatal Attraction).

I stands for Informed:

Informed means that people deserve to know what they are consenting to. This doesn’t require a person to bare their soul, but necessary information can range from an explicit understanding of what is involved in a specific sex act to actual legalities around sexually transmitted and bloodborne infections (STBBIs). A previous MOG article covers HIV disclosure laws in Canada.

E stands for Enthusiastic:

This section is connected to F. It isn’t really enough to just ask someone for a “yes” or “no.” This is especially true if there is any hint of a power dynamic involved. Being in tune with the people you engage with is necessary. You don’t have to be a mind reader, but if you notice the person(s) don’t appear to be enjoying themselves, check in and ask. Never assume.

S stands for Specific:

Giving consent for one type of sexual or romantic activity does not mean blanket consent for all. Consent must be ongoing and asked for along the way. Examples of this sound like: “How does this feel for you? Can I add another finger?” and “I want to flip you over this way” or “I’d really like to go down on you right now.”

FRIES is a helpful reference tool when approaching consent. Sex isn’t a given. Writing this article is me giving myself over the past 15 years a big hug. I was never taught consent in school, and neither are many adolescents. Consent is an ongoing process that requires active participation and attention. So pay attention! Love you!

Madeline Rae, a University of Winnipeg alum, is a sex educator and writer living in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. She holds a BFA in performative sculpture, a BA in psychology and is studying her masters of clinical social work at Dalhousie University

Published in Volume 77, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 16, 2023)

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