View the Boundaries and Consent PowerTopic

What’s Ahead:

Boundaries:

  • Examples of healthy and unhealthy relationship boundaries
  • Emotions associated with healthy and unhealthy boundaries
  • Importance of knowing and communicating boundaries

Consent:

  • Defining, giving, and recognizing consent
  • Clearly saying and recognizing “no”
  • What can I do if I am sexually assaulted?
  • What can I do if I experience or witness sexual harassment?

Establishing Healthy Boundaries

Establishing boundaries begins with knowing your worth and your values:

  • Value yourself for who you are – you don’t need to change to satisfy others
  • Take care of yourself and your needs – prioritize caring for yourself mentally and physically so you’re happy and healthy
  • Give of yourself when it is reasonable, appropriate, and feels safe – it’s okay to say no to things that make you uncomfortable or ask too much of you
  • Understand yourself and your goals – don’t rely on others to tell you who you are and whom you wish to become
  • Stay true to your personal values – say no to anything that feels wrong

Examples of Healthy Boundaries

  • Trusting people you know well
  • Sharing pieces of your life with others
  • Weighing the pros and cons of your relationships
  • Taking things slowly (emotionally and physically)
  • Asking if it’s okay before touching/physical contact
  • Advancing the physical relationship only if and when you feel ready

Make sure you recognize behavior that breaks your boundaries and assert yourself when it happens – call out the behavior and reinforce your boundaries.

Examples of Unhealthy Boundaries

Relating to self-worth:

  • Putting yourself down and feeling unworthy of self-love
    Letting other people set your goals or determine who you should be
  • Letting others decide what you should wear or how to style your hair
  • Giving up your values to match someone else’s values

Relating to trust:

  • Never trusting anyone
  • Sharing intimate details with someone you’ve just met

Examples of Unhealthy Boundaries

In choosing relationships:

  • Letting people walk all over you
  • Giving of yourself because others expect it, not because you want to
  • Ignoring the cons in a relationship, even if it makes you unhappy

In pacing a relationship:

  • Rushing yourself and/or your partner
  • Engaging in physical intimacy soon after you meet someone
  • Touching your partner in a way that makes them uncomfortable

Healthy relationship boundaries can be recognized because they bring you:

  • Happiness
  • Hope
  • Joy
  • Contentment
  • Excitement
  • Growth
  • Energy
  • Optimism
  • Enhanced self-esteem
  • Self-respect
  • Encouragement

Unhealthy relationship boundaries can be recognized by emotions like…

  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Feeling stuck/desperate
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Feeling alone
  • Feeling discouraged
  • Fatigue
  • Dread
  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Insecurity

Know Your Limits

Before you can communicate your boundaries to your partner, you must clearly know them yourself.

Take some time to decide what boundaries fit best with your value system and comfort level.

  • It’s best to do this beforehand so your decisions are more rational.
  • Deciding in the moment can lead to impulsive choices.

Types of Boundaries You Should Set

Time spent together:

  • Compared to time with other friends, on activities, or on schoolwork

Online activities:

  • Posting on social media about the relationship
  • Posting or tagging images of your partner without asking them first

Phone/messaging activities:

  • Frequency and length of time spent talking and messaging 
  • Acceptable length of time to respond

Types of Boundaries You Should Set

Intimacy of messages:

  • Agree on a level of intimacy in text messages that you are both comfortable with
  • Never ask for or send nude/partially nude images. Either can have very serious consequences, legal and personal, and is never okay, under any circumstances.

Physical intimacy:

  • Kissing, touching, intimate acts
  • Agree each time. Don’t assume just because consent was given earlier that it is always okay.

Importance of Communication

Once you know your boundaries, and confirm they are healthy, learn to communicate them clearly:

  • It’s easy to say “yes” without hurting someone’s feelings
  • Saying “no” should be clear and not leave room for confusion
  • It takes practice to clearly say “no” without hurting feelings, but do not dilute your “no” message in an attempt to be polite

Have your partner clearly communicate their boundaries and ask questions if anything is unclear.

Talk About It

  • Why it is important to have healthy boundaries?
  • Why is it important to know your own boundaries before they are tested?
  • Can you identify examples of unhealthy boundaries?
  • Have you ever felt bad saying “no” and deflected the question instead of clearing conveying “no”?

Characteristics of Consent

Ask clearly:

“Is this okay?” “Are you comfortable with this?” “Can we ____?”

Be specific:

“Can I kiss you?” “Would you like a shoulder rub?” “Can I put my arm around you?”

Ensure it’s voluntary:

“You can say no.” “I only want this if you do.” “We don’t have to do something you’re not comfortable with.” “Tell me to stop whenever you want.”

Don’t assume it’s ongoing:

“Do you want to keep going?” “Do you want to slow down?” “I know we’ve done this before, but do you want to do it now?”

Ensure coherence:

“Are you sober?” “We can stop at any time.” “Are sure about this?”

The FRIES Acronym

Another Way to Identify Consent:

  • Freely given
  • Reversible
  • Informed
  • Enthusiastic
  • Specific

Importance of Communication

How do you clearly ask for consent?

If you’re too uncomfortable to ask your partner about doing something, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

How do you know if you’ve received consent?

  • There is only Yes and No. If it’s not a Yes, it’s a No.
  • “Maybe” is not Yes, so it is No.
  • “I guess so” and “If you really want to” are not Yes, so they are No.
  • If you are not sure you received a Yes, ask again or STOP.

Recognizing Non-consent

If your partner appears unsure, uncomfortable, intoxicated, or explicitly rejects your advances, that is non-consent. Non-consent can be verbal or non-verbal.

Examples of Non-consent:

  • “I don’t know” “Um…I guess” “Maybe” “If you really want to” “No”
  • Pulling away, tensing up, flinching
  • Becoming silent, failing to respond, laughing nervously
  • Saying “yes” under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol

If you sense your partner is uncomfortable, they most likely are.

How to Hear “No” Respectfully

It is okay for your partner to say no even if they have said yes in the past. Many factors can influence a person’s decision to engage or not engage in physical intimacy, and they have the power to make that decision independent of your desires.

Sincerely respect your partner’s boundaries and be appreciative of their honesty; express that to your partner.

Reassure them that you honor their boundaries and are grateful for their ability to be honest with you.

Talk About It

Role play in pairs: practice saying “no” to each prompt, making sure you leave no room for misunderstanding:

  • Would you like to see a movie?
  • May I kiss you?
  • Come over to my place first and we’ll leave from there.
  • Do you want to stop for ice cream before the party?
  • Let’s go somewhere private to talk.
  • It’s late. Why don’t you stay at my place tonight?
  • Do you want to go skating this weekend?
  • We’ve done this before, don’t you want do this now?
  • Would you like a beer?
  • It’s just sex. What’s your problem?
  • Can I borrow $20?
  • I know you want to have sex, you’re just afraid of what other people will say.
  • Do you want to go to a party with me this weekend?

Do More:

  • Can you think of how you might personally share this information with friends?
  • What activities can we brainstorm today for our club to share this information with others?
  • Can everyone in the room share one thing they learned today and one thing they will commit to doing to move forward?

Sources & Acknowledgments

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