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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Consent and Boundaries in Everyday Life

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Author Topic: Consent and Boundaries in Everyday Life
Onionpie
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Hey all!

I want to hear about ways in which you enact healthy boundary setting, and also concepts of consent, in your every day life!

Here at Scarleteen we talk a lot about how important it is to know your own boundaries and be able to enforce them, as well as participating in enthusiastic consent. A lot of the time, this is in regards to romantic or sexual relationships. But of course, these are not the only areas where those things are important!

It's hard to enact boundaries and respect other people's boundaries in a romantic/sexual relationship if we're not doing that everywhere else in our life. So, let's think of some examples in your day-to-day life and relationships where you take part in boundary setting, consent, and respecting other people's boundaries! It's in things as simple as "do you want another slice of pizza?" and accepting the other person's answer at face value.

Can you think of anything you've done today or recently that included boundaries and consent?

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Dovissary
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The way I am integrating boundaries in everyday life in my own actions are:


1. I respect others boundaries by not pushing topics that they just give a simple answer to unless they start to elaborate.

2. I am careful about seeing what people prefer physically, what approach they prefer, if they are totally comfortable being unexpectedly touched, or prefer to have realized the person is there and close enough to touch.

3. I do my best to make sure that anything I repeat has the persons permission to be said.

In regards to myself, something I have recently been doing is asking my closest friend not to touch me if I don't realize she is close enough for that to be a possibility. Just to pass within my field of vision or not coming at me from behind. It is helping quite a bit, and slowly starting to just help me see that my best friends care about my boundaries as more than just little things that I would prefer but don't mean much.

[ 05-17-2014, 11:17 PM: Message edited by: Dovissary ]

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I forgot my purse of laughter when I dressed this mornin'," she told me. "Have you not bought anythin' the last few days? Prices have gone up. Pay or starve, it's all one to me.
― Tamora Pierce, Bloodhound

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Dovissary
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[ 05-17-2014, 11:15 PM: Message edited by: Dovissary ]

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I forgot my purse of laughter when I dressed this mornin'," she told me. "Have you not bought anythin' the last few days? Prices have gone up. Pay or starve, it's all one to me.
― Tamora Pierce, Bloodhound

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Onionpie
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Thanks for your contribution Dovissary! Those are all excellent and extremely important ways to respect others' boundaries! And good on you for being able to voice your own needs too [Smile]
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OhImpecuniousOne
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I'm finding that this is an interesting question to think about, actually. When I first read it I had a think and concluded that I couldn't think of any time recently when boundaries had been relevant in my everyday life, which must mean I'm an unhealthy level of hermit at the moment (wouldn't be too surprising). Thinking about it more, though, I think what actually tends to happen is that we don't talk much about boundaries in everyday life, at least not explicitly; we estimate what people's boundaries probably are, and generally respect them, such that we don't tend to find out what people's boundaries *actually* are because we never get told "Okay woah, you overstepped it."

An example of such (I'm realising that most of my examples involve nudity so, er, I apologise for failing to stick within socially accepted "everyday life" stuff), is that I like to spend most of my time at home naked, especially when it's warm. I also like to leave the door to my garden open when it's warm, and sort of wander in and out at random. At Christmas the fence that separates my garden from my neighbours' garden blew over, and the landlady still hasn't got it fixed; so in an attempt to not overstep my neighbours' boundaries, I've been getting dressed or staying indoors. I'm friendly with my neighbour and I could just go ask him "Hey, do you mind if I'm naked in our open plan gardens?", but as the boundary I'm assuming for him is based on what social narratives say his boundary should be, I'm far too shy to do so and instead just do extra laundry.

In contrast, someone who took a rather more open approach recently was the host of a party I was at, where I was the only vanilla person, and also new to the group. After a few hours people wanted to start doing kinky things, so the host asked me if that would be a problem and if I'd be uncomfortable - and I told her, no, that's totally fine, go for it. Yay, explicit consent and boundary negotiation! Except that the host, someone who's very used to boundary negotiation, was still convinced enough that my boundaries must conform to Standard (Probably Hypothetical) Nilla Boundary Set #379432 that she asked me a few more times (not that rechecking is a bad thing), and then when I bumped into her a week later, apologised profusely for the kinky things.

I wonder if that's part of why boundaries are sometimes problematic in sex and relationships - because we're so used to sort of intuiting other people's boundaries, and assuming that our boundaries will also be intuited in a rough-approximation-but-good-enough manner, that the idea of explicitly communicating boundaries - or even thinking carefully about our own boundaries and how they differ from "presumed" boundaries - is really, really alien.

I have a feeling this is not what you were looking for, Onionpie. Sorry. [Wink] And Dovissary, you're named for an excellent book!

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Redskies
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- my partner and I don't share our friends' personal or private information with each other without their consent. If a friend phones my partner to talk about a personal issue, I don't need to know who it is or what their issue is.

- my partner and I have a code-word for when one of us wants or needs a little time when we're not interacting, and that's respected. A closed door means "don't disturb me unless it's necessary; knock first".

- sometimes I don't want to watch certain kinds of films or TV shows, and I expect people to respect that. They can watch them! And no, it doesn't matter how good you think it is, I have a reason for not wanting to, and I don't have to share that reason.

- I find that people are too often pushy about drinking alcohol. I drink sometimes, but not others, and it entirely depends on simply whether I feel like it or not. And far too many other people excuse that pushiness! Like, "it's a cultural thing" or "they're just trying to be good hosts" or "they're trying to make sure you have a good time" - you know, I don't care, I said "no thank you, right now what I really want most is a soft drink" about six times and they're still going, they're stepping all over my no and they need to stop. It's upsetting when people who otherwise seem great with boundaries do that, because it makes me not trust them and not want to hang out with them, and clearly there's something with boundaries that they don't get after all. I'm great at enforcing my original boundary, as in, nope, still not drinking when I don't want to, but very bad at enforcing my "don't keep pestering me" boundary, which is a sore spot for me and so I get pretty upset, privately. Time to change that! I will say "I need you to stop asking me, it's making me feel uncomfortable". Never mind if that makes them uncomfortable. I am not required to make the people around me 100% comfortable all the time at my own expense!

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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acb
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OhImpecuniousOne, I think what you're saying about assuming boundaries is really interesting. I moved to another country last year and had no idea of what 'normal' was and so I found myself just asking boundary questions about EVERYTHING in a way that probably felt very socially awkward to everyone else but I still reckon was better than me trying to wing it. I feel like my handling of boundaries in general now has got better because I'm less scared to ask questions like 'Would a hug make you feel better right now and would you like one?' when ones like 'Is it me acceptable for me to drink this before the meal starts?' are commonplace.

In terms of boundaries/ consent in real life:

- I don't offer to do things I wouldn't actually want to do just to sound polite.

- When someone is telling me something which sounds like it might be private, I check if it is and if it is, I keep it private.

- I check if it's OK to set an alarm with my roommate before I do. (A lot of shared living boundaries actually, like discussing what in the fridge is up for grabs, who it's OK to bring to the house, where the best place is for a Skype call etc.).

- This might sound sort of silly, but I have rules about who I am Facebook friends with - people with whom I have primarily professional relationships or people who I don't actually like that much are a no, because I like to have some sense of private space online.

I also totally empathise with Redskies' point about alcohol, that is a major dislike of mine.

[ 05-20-2014, 09:21 PM: Message edited by: acb ]

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Onionpie
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Actually, OhImpecuniousOne, you got exactly on-point to what inspired this post from me!

Boundary setting and consent ISN'T talked about much in regards to everyday-life things, people aren't often taught to explicitly state even the most basic boundaries. And I think you're totally right, that definitely contributes a great deal to issues with consent and boundaries in romantic relationships -- as I said in the first post, if you're not practising those things in your everyday life, how can you expect to suddenly be able to enact them well in a romantic/sexual relationship?

So I think it's important for us all to start thinking about the ways we DO enact some kind of boundaries/consent in other settings, to start to sort of identify that behaviour and be more aware of boundary setting, or maybe start thinking about where we're lacking abilities to set clear boundaries. Hence creating this post [Smile] So not only were you not off-track, you were totally on-point with where this was coming from! [Big Grin]

Redskies: I find things like watching TV shows or movies is a BIG area where people really drop the ball with respecting boundaries. "But it's so goooood!" "c'mon you really have to watch it, I'm sure you'll totally love it!" Like because it's "just a movie" suddenly your boundaries aren't important anymore?!?

And yes, definitely alcohol too! BIG time! I get pushed for that ALL the time, because there's an awful lot of alcohol I don't like, and they're the most common types of "bonding" alcohol (let's go have a beer together! YOU DON'T LIKE BEER? COME ON YOU HAVE TO HAVE A BEER). I mean, it totally is a cultural thing, they're right -- our culture trains people to be totally disrespectful of boundaries when it comes to alcohol. Doesn't make it okay though [Razz]

You said: "I am not required to make the people around me 100% comfortable all the time at my own expense!"

AMEN to that, that's something a lot of us all have to really try to ingrain (because it's the opposite of the way our culture likes to make us feel -- we're not responsible for other people's feelings when they're trampling all over ours!!!)

Another area I've noticed people are really bad at respecting boundaries is food! How many times have we been asked (or, admittedly, asked other people) to try food repeatedly after an initial refusal? You just have to TRY it, just once!!!

acb: you bring such an interesting perspective to this conversation! Entering a new country and culture is a really big test of one's abilities to feel out boundaries, as you said, you have to suddenly ask questions about what is culturally acceptable because all of a sudden you have no clue!

I like that you said it's helped you get better at communicating about other boundaries such as hugging -- my theory is if we as a culture were a bit better at explicitly stating and talking about boundaries in everyday settings, we'd all be better at it in romantic and sexual relationships too, which your experience seems to suggest may be an accurate theory! [Big Grin]

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dylan19
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It seems like the time we are most natural, authentic and sociable is when we are young children, exactly when firm boundaries are not in place and not enforced.
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Onionpie
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I don't know about you, but as a child I had VERY firm boundaries set for me and they WERE enforced. Setting boundaries and teaching children to recognise and respect people's boundaries is actually a huge part of parenting and/or being a teacher or mentor to children.

I would also point out that children often hurt each other's, or even older people's, feelings precisely because of not having learned boundaries yet; they say things that they haven't yet learned not to say, or they haven't learned how to phrase things appropriately, or they haven't learned to respect people's wishes. But as we grow up, we are taught, and learn in part ourselves through our interactions, to respect other people's boundaries and to set our own as well. And thus, we end up hurting people's feelings a whole lot less, and trample other people's boundaries far less than we did when we were children.

I think I may not clearly understand your point. Could you explain what exactly you're trying to say here? Do you feel that setting and enforcing boundaries is thus counterproductive to authentic socialization?

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dylan19
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they say things that they haven't yet learned not to say - Here is the issue. We are making a virtue out of 'witholding'. Witholding is a close cousin of lying. I honestly do not know if that is healthy. Perhaps with adults there is too much power and vulnerability and potential violence flying about for us to be completely candid...but moving in the opposite direction also seems problematic. I dont wanna live in a world where small kids are seen as threatening to adults feelings?? maybe adults need to grow a thicker skin by not requiring small kids to spare their feelings all the time?
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Onionpie
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"things they haven't learned not to say" would be things that are, you know, rude and hurtful. Withholding your opinion that so-and-so's dress is ugly or that-person has a big wart on their nose isn't really "unhealthy", you know? There's a big difference between lying and that.

Since there are other people in the world, we have to learn to empathize and treat them decently if we want to be able to get along -- otherwise life is going to be hard. Children haven't learned that yet, and that's how they end up hurting people's feelings: by not considering them at all. But it's a reality that people have feelings, and respecting that fact and being mindful of others' feelings is not a bad thing, in my opinion. In fact, I think it's pretty important, and consider it part of just not being a jerk.

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Onionpie
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I still don't see what exactly this has to do with what this thread is about. Do you think that we SHOULDN'T voice and enforce boundaries in everyday life? If not, and you just want to discuss the role of boundaries in childhood, then it seems like this is a very different conversation than the one this thread is about anyway.

[ 06-14-2014, 04:41 PM: Message edited by: Onionpie ]

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