My Writing Ethics and Consent Culture

My feminism isn’t just a set of political or social beliefs. My feminism permeates every aspect of my life, including my writing. It’s not only a frequent topic of my writing, it also informs how I go about it.

Regular readers may have noticed an increase of personal narratives on this blog. Specific stories from my life that either serve as an example of the need for a specific political or social policy, or to demonstrate how I came to be where I am.

I have a policy–if I want to write about a personal experience that involves another person, I will ask their permission before I post. I write under my own name, after all. I chose that–to be public and open with my identity. The people around me chose no such thing. Even if I use pseudonyms or vague descriptors, which I do, the people in my stories could still be identified. I need their consent before ever taking that risk. If no consent is given, I will not write that post.

So far, I’ve been given consent every time. What has surprised me is the reaction I get from the people I’ve asked. When I asked my father yesterday for permission to write about the divorce in my last post, he responded that it was my life, and that I had a right to write about it. I replied that it is his life too, his experiences that I’m sharing with the world. He smiled, and told me to write.

I was surprised that it seemed so absurd to him that I would ask his consent. Is asking consent so out of our habits? It shouldn’t be. In a way, I’m saddened by his reaction. I’m not disappointed in my father by any means, on the contrary, my father is a great man, and I’m proud to be his daughter. I’m saddened that asking consent does not seem to be, well, just one of those things you do, always, in our culture.

It’s not just about making sure that you have a partner’s consent to have sex. It’s about getting consent before involving others, to put it crudely. It’s about considering the effects of your actions on other people, and involving those people in your decision-making.