It’s a running joke between a friend and myself: “Here, have a blanket.” It stems from a mutual agreement of blanket consent in how we physically touch and interact with one another. When one of us (usually me), does something (e.g. I start punching him because he’s being ridiculous, because he often is) and then I go, “Shit, we didn’t negotiate that,” he looks at me, smiles, and says, “Here, have a blanket.”
It’s our way of reminding one another how consent works between us.
A couple years ago, my partner helped coordinate a kidnapping scene for me at a camp event. We worked it out so that, when I was in the headspace or available for that to happen, I would wear an orange bandana to signal my consent (and those of you familiar with the hanky code can get a chuckle out of that). Because sometimes my consent is an orange bandana.
My consent doesn’t look the same for every person, situation, or scene. Sometimes, my consent is a long conversation, explicit negotiation, and clear discussion about limits and boundaries. Sometimes, my consent is a “fuck yes!” to a growled question midway through a scene. Sometimes my consent is an orange bandana. Sometimes, my consent is a blanket.
Consent is a messy, tricky thing to navigate for so many reasons. And having boundaries and limits is vastly important. I’m not “no limits” with blanket consent; I just know and trust that person enough to understand my limits, and believe that the ways in which he will interact with me will not violate those.
And if he does… he has blanket consent.
This does not work for everyone. I don’t necessarily advocate this as a way to navigate consent, but it works for me, for this situation, for us. And the key is that I trust that person enough. Not everyone. Not most people. But that one, individual person, I trust. I trust him to read a situation and have good judgement about what is appropriate. I trust his intentions. I trust our relationship and the way that we communicate. And if he crosses a boundary or violates something… then we talk about it and renegotiate.
(Also, so it’s said, he is not the only person with whom I have some level of blanket consent; but the “here, have a blanket” is specific to him and is what got me thinking about this in the first place.)
Let me say it again: this does not work for everyone, for every situation. And if someone else, in a similar situation, wanted to call someone out for violating their consent, they have every right to do so. My trust could easily be misplaced. People have gotten seriously hurt and violated because of situations like this. Does that mean I’m not doing it anyway? No. Does that mean that I support, any less, a person who calls someone out on crossing a hard line boundary in a situation of blanket consent? Abso-fucking-lutely not.
Consent is fucking messy. It’s complicated and tricky, but part of that is because it is so subjective, and entirely based on the specific people involved in the specific situation happening in a specific moment. What might have been ok yesterday isn’t today. What might be awesome with one person isn’t with another. There is a lot of nuance involved here, and in that nuance, it can be really easy to cross boundaries inadvertently (or exploit a situation to cross them intentionally).
Consent is fucking messy.
Because sometimes my consent looks exactly how we talk about how it “should” look: well-negotiated, enthusiastic, explicit, “we are going to do this and this and this and these are my limits and hard lines” (what I call “opt-in” consent). And sometimes, it looks like Mexican Dinner Consent. And sometimes it looks like orange bandana consent. And sometimes it looks like blanket consent.
I imagine I am not the only person who works like this. And I absolutely recognize and attempt to mitigate the risks of these different types of consent models for myself, and I take responsibility when things go awry. (By the way- saying “I take responsibility” is not, in any capacity, intended toward victim blaming or shaming of myself or others. I have had my consent violated in ways that were not my fault or responsibility. I have also had situations in which poorly negotiated consent models meant that my boundaries got crossed, and I recognize that I contributed to that situation. That, to me, is my responsibility. YMMV and your stance may be different, and I support you doing what is healthy and good for you.)
For me, the crux of consent isn’t so much the model you use- fuck, use whatever works for you; god knows, my models shift and change all the time- but about mutually agreeing on the model you’re using with that person, in that situation. Because fuck, if one of you is operating under blanket consent (and let’s be honest, there are a whole bunch of different kinds of blankets) and one of you is operating under opt-in, then shit gets messy, fast (and the risk of violations skyrockets).
So it’s a part of my discussions and negotiations now. “I am operating under this type of consent model for this scene. What model are you working under and what are your expectations within that during and after this scene?” For me, it makes life a lot easier. It keeps me safer and (hopefully) keeps the person I am playing with safer.
Cause consent is messy, and it’s really easy for me to get caught up in the ways that it can go terribly, terribly wrong. Because it can, and it does. And so, I like the friendly banter of, “hey, have a blanket” that reminds me of the model we work under. I like the orange bandana pinned to my wall as a reminder of that model (and future planning for scenes that might utilize a similar method). And I like writings and memories of guttural “Fuck yes!” moments of mid-scene negotiations. And I like sharing space with a friend who I have played with several times before and doing the long negotiations of intent and action and boundaries and expectations.
They all work for me, sometimes, depending on the person and situation. And that versatility, that nuance, that interaction… that’s the stuff that makes consent feel fun and sexy and interesting and enthusiastic for me.