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WHAT IS CONSENT? What is consent culture?

While consent is not a concept that only resides in the realm of sexual bodies, this definition will specifically address consent and sexuality.

Consent is when permission is clearly given by an individual to engage in sexual activities with others. If verbal consent is not able to be given because of the nature of the sex play, then other codes of giving consent must be agreed upon beforehand (ie, vigorous nodding, safe words, other signals). An important factor of consent, is that in order for it to be valid, it must also be able to be revoked at any time. A person may really be enjoying themselves, but if their partner(s) ask them to stop because they are no longer comfortable for whatever reason, then they must stop. Also, if a person gives consent to an activity, but then passes out, or for any reason is not able to convey or revoke consent, then the act is no longer consensual.

Consent Culture aims to transcend the structures of shame that devalue autonomy over our own bodies, and to promote sexual and bodily liberation. It is the pleasure, intimacy, sexuality, and humanity-exalting antithesis to Rape Culture. While anyone of any gender can be a survivor of sexual assault, rape culture in the context of patriarchy is the normalization of the objectification, devaluation, harassment, abuse, and sexual assault of women and femmes. It is also the complicity of silence amongst men and masculine folks when these harms are occurring, and/or the kneejerk reaction to defend men accused of sexual assault, and doubt the testimony of survivors. Again, while people of all genders can experience the trauma and toxicity of rape culture, it’s main target is overwhelmingly women and LGBTQ people. Since rape culture is a function of patriarchy, consent culture can be seen as an intersectional feminist liberation movement.

While we say “no means no” in opposition to rape culture, consent culture affirms that “yes means yes.” The concept of Enthusiastic Consent takes this even further, advocating for a clear and passionate “yes please!!” as opposed to a lukewarm “sure, I guess so.” Enthusiastic consent empowers individuals to only do what they really want to do, and for their partners to help them navigate this territory.

what is bystander intervention?

Bystander Intervention is an essential part of Consent Culture. It creates a radically loving dynamic where we are all accountable for each other. This includes people of all genders, while emphasizing working with men, boys, and masculine folks as we are the population who perpetrates sexual assault the most.

Traditional rape prevention programs used in schools tend to not work. The approach feels like telling boys they are innate rapists waiting to happen. The boys sense this, and tune out. Bystander Intervention approaches from another place altogether. It assumes that if they saw something not cool going down, they would want to intervene. The training would give them tools, and empower them to do so in a creative, and non-violent manner. In my experience, boys and youth of all genders jump into this work wholeheartedly. The arts make it very engaging and fun too. Statistically, the overwhelming majority of people of any age who go through Bystander Intervention trainings not only go on to intervene when harmful dynamics are emerging, they also go on to not be perpetrators of harm themselves.

Bystander Intervention can also be mapped onto any oppressive dynamic, and interrupting it. That includes cyber/bullying, street harassment, trans/homophobic name calling and assaults, and much more.  

What is Healthy masculinity? 

In today's world, there is a dominant story of what a "real man" should be. They should be cisgendered, straight and "have" a lot of women. They should not be "soft." They do not cry. They earn respect by making a lot of money and being in control. They should be able-bodied, and be able to perform acts of strength and sports abilities. This strength and control can be used  to intimidate others if they feel disrespected in any way. Among many others, the image of the CEO, the swaggerific rapper and the action movie star come to mind. We are saturated with images of what this "real man" is. We are told that there is only one way to be masculine.

Meanwhile, there is a counter story of masculinity, one that does not get the fanfare and air time that the "real man" does. When one is asked to think of a strong man or masculine person in their life, very often people cite a very supportive and loving person. Perhaps a pastor, teacher, mentor, father or father-figure. They may cite someone who used their strength to help others. Someone who was not ashamed of their own humanity, or their feelings. Someone responsible and accountable. Someone dependable. Someone trying to grow from old ways. Someone who made a positive impact whether they were rich, poor, gay, straight, able-bodied or not. Healthy Masculinity explores the counter-stories that don't get the props they deserve, and allows us to liberate ourselves from tiny boxes of gendered expectations so we can live our fullest, healthiest, most authentic lives. 

For more on this, see Richard's article: Healthy Masculinity & Toxic Masculinity in Wakanda: An Intersectional Afrofuturist Perspective.  


A socialized set of rules and expectations based on one's assigned sex at birth; an identity located on a spectrum. 


A set of biological characteristics that make up both external and chromosomal determinants. To note: There are more than two sexes, however intersex people are usually assigned male or female at birth. 


A generational and socially defined term that is of or having qualities associated with male people. In US culture at this time, it is oft associated with independence, aggressiveness and physical strength. 


A generational and socially defined term that is of or having qualities associated with female people. In US culture at this time, it is oft associated with being nurturing, kind, pious and both pious and sexual.


 sometimes abbreviated to transmasc, is an umbrella term that refers to those who were assigned female at birth, and whose gender is masculine and/or who express themselves in a masculine way. Transmasculine people feel a connection with masculinity, but do not always identify as male.

masculine of center (MOS):

A term, coined by B. Cole of the Brown Boi Project, that recognizes the breadth and depth of identity for lesbian/queer/womyn and transmen who tilt towards the masculine side of the gender scale and includes a wide range of identities such as butch, stud, aggressive/AG, dom, mocha, tomboi, trans, ftm, and others. 


A term used to describe a person born with anatomical or chromosomal variance from culturally ideal norms; different from medical and scientific data used to define male and female. 


A term used to describe people who transgress social gender norms; often used as an umbrella term to include transsexual, genderqueer, gender non-conforming or cross-dressers. People must self-identify as transgender in order for the term to be appropriately used to describe them. 

Gender Non-Conforming (GNC):

Someone whose gender is either both masculine or feminine, neither, or off the spectrum entirely. 


A term used to describe a person whose gender identity is the same as the one assigned to them at birth. "Cis" is the Latin term for "same as." The vast majority of people are cisgender, although it is unclear how many people are not since being trans is so stigmatized.  


Fear/hate/disdain for trans people or gender variance. Becomes an institutionalized oppression when trans people have to encounter transphobia in health care systems, education systems, using a public bathroom, any activity which requires identification, etc. 


A social system in which men and masculinity are considered superior to women and femininity, and men are the primary holders of power and authority. 


Prejudice or discrimination against women and girls. Becomes institutionalized oppression when sexism prevents women from having reproductive freedom, equal pay, equal representation in political offices, etc. 


A school of black feminist thought developed and coined by Kimberle' Crenshaw, stating that sexism, class oppression, racism, and other forms of oppression are all inextricably bound together. 

Healthy Masculinity:

Constructive expressions of masculinity that are not usually celebrated in society. Masculinities that not only help the individual have a more holistically functional life, but allow them to more functionally build relationships, advocate for others in community, and help make the world a better place. May exhibit empathy, emotional intelligence, comfort sharing power. 

toxic masculinity:

Masculinity that operates through some of the more patriarchal, oppressive, and negative attitudes and behaviors of traditional masculinity. May exhibit lack of empathy, refusal to take accountability for actions, resolving problems with violence. 


When permission is given for sexual activity. Consent must be obtained freely without coercion or deception; the person giving consent must be knowledgeable and informed; and the person giving consent should be able to revoke consent at any time of their choosing. ie, a person who gave consent to sex, but then became unconscious, can no longer revoke consent, therefore sexual activity must stop. 

rape culture:

A society or environment where sexual assault is pervasive, normalized or trivialized. While anyone of any gender can sexually assault someone, rape culture is a violent function of patriarchy and male power, with patriarchal attitudes about gender and sexuality.  Survivors are then blamed and silenced for sexual assault, perpetrators are protected, and behaviors ranging from inappropriate sexual remarks, to street harassment, to sexual assault are seen as a normalized part of everyday life. 

bystander intervention:

A methodology that empowers people to act in creative and non-violent ways to ideally interrupt harm before it happens, or interrupt harm in progress.

consent culture:

A society or environment that normalizes consent in everyday interactions and sexuality. A movement to end pervasive patriarchal attitudes towards personhood and sexual assault. It requires instilling new norms in our families and communities that value our own boundaries and the boundaries of others. 

*some definitions are borrowed in part or in full from BEAM, Yolo Akili, and Holiday Simmons. 

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