Notes on Consent

Hello, Denver Rope Biters! As those who have attended in the past know, we have all attendees sign a waiver before they start throwing rope around. One of the clauses of the waiver addresses consent. We’d like to go into a bit more detail about that, and what it entails for the Rope Bite Open Labs.

On Establishing Consent

Always Ask Before Touching.
Before you touch anybody, or their rope, you need to be sure that they actually want you to be touching their body, or their rope. You can do this by asking something like:

  • ”I’d like to practice hip harnesses. Would you be interested in being my practice bottom for that?”
  • “Oh, wow, how did you tie that? Is it okay if I touch you (addressed to the bottom) and your rope (addressed to the top) to follow the knots?”
  • “What kind of rope is that? May I touch it?”
  • ”Are you having trouble finishing off that tie? Would you like a hand? Is it okay if I touch you (addressed to the bottom) and your rope (addressed to the top)?”

If you’re teaching, or being shown a demonstration, you still need explicit consent to touch someone or their rope. In fact, if you are teaching to an audience, please use explicit consent as a model for others to follow.

Once you’ve asked someone for their consent, listen closely to their answer. Enthusiastic consent will be just that- “Yes, definitely!” “Absolutely.” “Please do.” The person you’re talking to feels positively about you touching them.

Keep in mind, consent is an ongoing process. Just because a person says yes, doesn’t mean that “yes” is the answer for the duration of the event. If the person giving consent becomes uncomfortable at time time, yes can change to no and those feelings should be respected.

If the Answer Isn’t Yes, it’s No.
Many people are uncomfortable saying “No” directly and instead decline in an indirect manner. Examples of this are:
  • “Well, I don’t know..”
  • “Maybe later”
  • “I’d prefer not to”
  • “I’m practicing with this person”
These statements all mean “No.” That person does not want you to touch them, but is making an effort to be polite. Do not ask them again for the remainder of the event. If somebody indicates that they don’t want you to touch them a couple of events in succession, it is inappropriate to continue asking them at future events.
Established Relationships
Many Rope Bite attendees have known each other for years. You won’t necessarily see them asking before touching one another. It may be difficult to determine what terms you’re on with somebody you’ve practiced with several times in the past. As a rule of thumb, if you don’t have a person’s personal phone number, you probably need to ask before touching them. Consenting to one activity one day does not transfer to other activities, or events in the future.

If Somebody’s Behavior Towards You is Skeezing You Out

If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable because of somebody’s behavior towards you, we suggest you consider directly approaching the person about their actions. Some people don’t understand the impact of their actions, and a reminder can steer them back on course. You can do this by saying something like:
  • ”Can you watch from a more respectful distance? You’re too close to where I’m tying.”
  • ”I need you to stop touching me below the waist.”
  • ”Your touching is making me uncomfortable. Please stop.”
  • ”These sexual innuendos are making me uncomfortable. Can we talk about something else?”
If the person you’re addressing doesn’t back off after being given explicit direction to do so, or if you’re uncomfortable giving that kind of direction, please see an event host. You are also always welcome to contact either of us after an event by way of FL message or via denverropebite@gmail.com. We try to keep an eye out during events, but we can’t monitor everybody all the time. We welcome and encourage feedback that helps us keep the Denver Rope Bite environment safe.

If You’re Given a Reminder About Consent

Try to stay calm, and seek understanding. We want Rope Bite events to be safe and welcoming for all participants- including you! Listen to the feedback you’re being given, and adjust your behavior accordingly.
As a general rule, we give people the benefit of the doubt. We understand that body language can be misread, or intentions misunderstood. That is why we encourage explicit, rather than assumed, consent.
However, if it becomes a repeated problem, the benefit of the doubt is lost. Denver Rope Bite reserves the right to restrict or revoke access to anyone at anytime for any reason, or no reason at all. If you are asked to leave, we expect that you immediately comply with such a request.

Additional Reading

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