consent is a conversation, or that time at the gas station my debit card got flagged for fraud

So this other day, I was at an unfamiliar gas station and my debit card wouldn’t go through…

I tried to input my code. Thought I’d mistyped it. But, no, it just wouldn’t work. Finally, I checked my phone, and, sure enough, I’d gotten an email asking me if the purchase had been me or fraud.

Was I annoyed? Sure. I just wanted to pay for my gas and go, with no added hassle. But, then I thought, it’s like my bank account manager (or whoever) and I had a conversation. “Hey, did you make this purchase?” “Why, yes I did!” “Great, then here’s your money. Just wanted to be sure that nobody was taking what belonged to you.” “Thanks!” “Let me know if you have any other issues making your purchase.” “Sure thing, have a great day!”

I know that my bank is doing this for ulterior motives, okay. It’s hardly altruistic on their part, but, still, the end result is an adult conversation with tangible results. When it comes to consent violations, intent rarely- if ever- matters. Therefore, intent should not matter when it comes to asking for consent. The point is that they did it. It doesn’t matter if that asking benefits them. It doesn’t matter if they didn’t do it in the most convenient way that -I- would have wanted. It doesn’t matter that I got annoyed. The point is, they asked. And I responded.

Consent is an ongoing conversation between two or more people.

It’s not some quick, easy transaction. If you try to make it such, you’ll inevitably run into problems. It’s like trust. Some people think trust is this simple, little object that you hold or break or whatever. But it isn’t like that at all. If your trust in a person can be broken by one word, one act, then there hasn’t really been any investment in the trust to begin with…trust is solid, like a mountain, built over a long, long time. Slowly, sometimes painstakingly coming into existence. And it’s this thing that keeps happening.

Consent isn’t something I give once and it’s done. I give it again and again, time after time. I say yes, touch me, hold me. But that consent continues to be spoken between you and me, far after the first time. In all my little gestures and words and actions.

Sometimes it gets almost tedious, but still, what is it worth to do a little something to help make sure everyone is okay?

Sometimes you want to scream at the stupid email about your debit card, “Of course, it’s okay, it’s been okay a freaking million times before, just let me pay the damn amount without going through red tape!” But the unpleasant truth is that it’s always okay for one of the sides to keep up the conversation. If they feel the need, or are even just wondering a little about something. Even if you think everything is fine and don’t need it from them.

Every once in a while, ask yourself: Have I kept the conversation going on my end? And if not, consider speaking up. Ask them if something is okay. Ask them if they’ve changed their mind or have a different preference. Especially if it’s been a long time between conversational exchanges.

It’s sexy to ask, I promise.

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