Consent Culture at West Cork Flow Festival
People often think that consent is as simple as asking somebody if they want to do something and getting one ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Sometimes though it can be difficult to know what we want and difficult too to communicate that to others.
The team at West Cork Flow Festival want to ensure that everyone who attends has a great time, that they engage in all of the activities and workshops that they want to, that they feel that they can express themselves fully and have their boundaries respected and accepted. This includes feeling comfortable that personal space is being honoured.
This document offers suggestions about the kinds of practices that you can engage in to maximise consent, including what you should expect from others and what to do if you experience anything non-consensual.
Be gentle towards yourself and others
In initial enthusiasm to get involved it’s possible to accidentally overstretch your limits or overstep boundaries agreed with others. Take your time, know that it’s entirely possible to change your mind, you might be happy or curious to try out a new skill or workshop and then find that it’s not exactly what you want or expected – it’s ok to say ‘I’ve changed my mind.’
It’s always ok to do nothing
It’s fine to opt out of any or all activities for the weekend. It’s also ok to start and then stop at any time.
Get verbal consent for all shared activities
If you are initiating something – pairing up for an activity for example or just wanting to sit beside someone you don’t know yet for a chat please ask if the other person is happy with that.
Look out for subtle signals
Unless you get a fully enthusiastic response such as ‘yes please’ then say ‘ok’ and move on. Many people, perhaps the majority, feel uncomfortable saying ‘no’. Pay attention to the other person. Who is doing most of the talking? Is there a sense of enthusiasm? If they look uncertain, make an excuse, or say anything that is not an enthusiastic yes then take their uncertainty as a no.
Consider what kind of state others are in
If you or your potential activity partner is feeling fragile, tired or unsure about their limits then get those facts out in the open. You might want to limit what you feel comfortable to do or request frequent check ins.
Negotiate boundaries together
The ideal situation is a conversation relating to boundaries that covers things like letting others know your limits and asking theirs, determining how you will let each other know if you want to stop. For example, do you want to try some acro yoga positions, but not anything that involves being upside down? Being clear from the start about what you want and what you don’t want gives you the opportunity to practice and learn and who knows maybe next time you engage you’ll want to try some more advanced positions because your boundaries were clear and respected on this occasion.
Consider any power imbalances between you that might make one of you feel under
pressure to do things, or prevent one of you from being able to stop if you’re not enjoying it anymore. For example, if one of you is older or more experienced; if there are gender, ethnicity, disability, or other differences between you which mean one of you is from a culturally more privileged group, or if one of you is a facilitator/organiser/performer at the event.
Consent is an ongoing conversation
Even an enthusiastic yes is just the opening gambit. An initial yes is not automatic approval for everything from then on. Our sense of comfort, safety and enjoyment is always changing. Even if someone said ‘yes’ five minutes ago, pay attention to how you or them may be non-verbally saying ‘no’ five minutes later.
Respect the privacy of others by not staring, not invading personal space, not taking photos without explicit permission.
West Cork Flow Festival organisers may have a roving photographer taking photos of the event – if you do not want to have photos of you included in any future marketing or social media posts please let one of the organising team know.
West Cork Flow Festival will not tolerate any harassment or negative behaviour or speech of any kind. We are an all inclusive community. Please report any negative or unwanted behaviour to one of the organising team immediately.
If you experience anything non-consensual
If you feel able to, communicate to the person in the moment that something is wrong. Use phrases like ‘this makes me feel uncomfortable’, ‘this doesn’t feel ok’, say ‘stop’ or walk away. You do not have to justify yourself in any way. If you prefer not to talk to the person concerned about what happened that’s ok too.
Please feel free to approach one of the organising team and tell them of your concerns. Even if the situation has been resolved it’s useful that the team hear about incidents so they can identify problem behaviour.
If you report an issue
If you experienced something that made you feel uncomfortable please speak to someone on the organising team.
Designated persons include Grainne Carr, Oonagh O'Sullivan & Diane Best.
You can report something whilst at the event or later by email.
When you make a report your identity will remain anonymous and whomever you are dealing with within the organising team will avoid revealing specific information that might reveal your identity unless you give explicit permission.
After the report the organiser will let you know once they have talked to the person and if you wish give you an indication of the outcome.
If mediation seems appropriate or useful for you then this can be organised. As the person most directly affected you get to choose how things progress.
If a report is made about you
If a report is made about you during an event you can expect an immediate conversation with one of the organisers.
The main aim of this conversation is to check that you are aware of the situation, why it was an issue relating to non-consensual behaviour and that you won’t repeat it.
In the case of reports made about you after an event you will receive an email and perhaps a request for a phone call to explain that a report has been made about you.
Dependent on the situation and if the person making the report wishes to engage then the organisers may suggest mediation or discuss with you ideas on what would help the other person see the situation as resolved.