Most of you know that I’m in the homestretch of getting my Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The journey has been amazing and pushed me in so many ways. Obviously, the academic and clinical coursework has been necessary to consider myself any sort of up and coming professional in this field. And the hundreds of hours I’ve now spent working with people from all walks of life, are tremendously important as well. However, I feel particularly blessed going into this field, to have been given an insatiable desire for learning and I can say without hesitation that the books I have made a point to read in my own time have been instrumental in my therapeutic formation. These include titles on emotional and psychological abuse, childhood trauma, addiction, attachment theory, grief, depression, parenting and much more. I can’t wait to share some of these titles with you in my annual end-of-year reading digest! But one book that recently came across my path can’t wait that long. It’s called The Consent Primer. This is one of those books that no one wants to read… the likes of which I sometimes promote on this site such as Good Pictures, Bad Pictures and Primal Loss. (By the way, I’m on the hunt for a really fantastic and challenging book on talking about suicide, so if you know of anything to that end, let me know!)
Anyway, with The Consent Primer, I realized right away that no one had ever taught me about consent and I suspect this is the case for most people. Culturally speaking, we think of consent as something as simple as “Yes means yes and No means no.” And this is definitely not the case. The book discusses things that can compromise one’s capacity for consent, power differentials, risk factors, non-verbal cues, and what autonomy means. It includes helpful talking points and things to do if there has been a breach in consent. I sort of conceptualize it as a more in-depth look at some of the topics presented in Boundaries.
What I appreciated about the book is that this stuff is applicable to areas outside of just sexual encounters. Everyone deals with issues of consent every single day of their lives! Another thing I think was invaluable is that this book teaches about the topic of informed consent from the standpoint of both sides, the asker and the receiver, i.e. how to state your position clearly and how to understand the other’s position clearly. It would be really useful for both young men and young women to read before heading off into the world. I think this topic is so important and so misunderstood! We see all over the news how many consent infractions happen and the consequences of them… from the Kavanaugh hearings to the #metoo movement and on, and on. I can’t help but wonder how many dollars would be saved in therapy if both perpetrators and survivors had a better understanding of the construct of consent! Obviously it’s not in a therapist’s business interest to have a world of clearly communicating, autonomous and free individuals, haha! But I’m interested in arming our children with important, proactive information and resources on difficult subjects before they head out into a world which is often a very confusing place.
Nota Bene: There are case examples in this book that discuss some morally objectionable behaviors. Please, please read it before passing on to a teenager, then decide if you want to give it to them or simply distill the information for them.
Also… um, if you’re anything like me, coming from a fairly sheltered background, you’ll need to have a link opened to Urban Dictionary for certain… terms.