Talking about consent when intoxicated

Community Action Centre brings a series of workshops to students

“As someone coming from party culture I really identify there is a huge conversation that needs to be had (about consent) and is often missed,” says Steff Pinch, the Community Action Centre (CAC) assistant.

To explore the complicated questions and conversations around consent, the CAC is hosting a series of free workshops for George Brown College (GBC) students that will be held throughout the semester.

“Consent + Consumption,” the first workshop of the series, took place at the Kings Lounge on Jan. 21.

“These workshops are a really good way to engage with different constituencies that we represent at CAC,” said Pinch, referring to queer & trans people, women, indigenous peoples, students with disabilities and international students.

Facilitated by The Trip! Project, the workshop started with brainstorming the group agreements.
“Don’t yuck my yum”, accepting something good for one person is not necessarily the same for another, and sharing “stories about SWIM (someone who isn’t me)” were on the list, according to Pinch’s Storify story about the workshop.

The definition of consent as ongoing, freely given, specific, informed and enthusiastic came next.

Participants discussed stigma around the overall concept of consent, both with sober and drunk people, said Pinch. They tried to find answers to whether the person using should disclose it to their partner and does the interaction count as consensual if it doesn’t happen?

Pinch said the CAC, “also wants to reflect the diversity of people’s experiences, the realities of dealing with consent” and its complexity. Brainstorming around the reasons why people have sex while drunk was a good example. Participants named everything from managing anxiety, pain or shyness (especially for queer people) to new spiritual or religious experiences.

The differences in the brainstorming session between sober and high sex were distinctive too. Sober sex was described as being “boring”, “less spicy”, “more focused”, “safer” and “legal.”

Sex when high or drunk was was described as being “less safe” and “embarrassing”  noting that it can involve “regrets”, “false or misleading feelings” and “crossing boundaries”, it can also be “relaxing” and “empowering.”

“Some great points were discussed we hadn’t even anticipated,” said Lori Kufner, coordinator of the Trip! Project. “These topics can be hard to digest sometimes but when everyone is respectful it creates a safe space for folks to explore their thoughts and experiences in really meaningful ways.”

Trip! facilitators talked about harm reduction perspective of consent. Harm reduction, “is a framework that recognizes that our world is full of harms and risks but focuses on meeting people where they are at to achieve any positive change,” said Pinch

“I think this topic is vital for students,” Pinch said. “Especially at college and university campuses where party pressure is so common, there is a huge presence of intoxication culture.”

Even though people who are intoxicated can’t give consent under Canadian Law, folks party and play all the time said Pinch.

“I believe it is important to engage with these questions – how do we navigate these situations and how do we reduce the harm?”


Talking about consent when intoxicated