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Applying Consent Culture to the Psychedelic Revolution

One of the best things about the 21st century is the rise of consent culture congruent with  festival culture. The essence of this cultural movement is the assertion that anything aside from clear direct consent is considered to be an objection to the action. The conversation around consent often revolves around sex but it doesn’t stop there. Consent can be applied to many/all areas of life from jokes to hugs to engaging in conversation; even altered states have applications for consent. 

If you’re not familiar with consent culture, just remember your FRIES(Planned Parenthood). Consent is: Freely Given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, and Specific. This means that slipping a substance into someone’s drink is 100% off-limits. Let’s explore the less obvious ways that consent is important to substance use. 

Freely Given: Now we all want our friends to join us in exploring the complexities of a psychedelic world, however there’s a fine line between encouragement and peer pressure. Encouragement is consent based when it’s explaining the facts and detailing the safe container you can provide for your trepid friends. Peer pressure, a consent violation, on the other hand, can be anything from continually asking once a no has been expressed, threatening to leave somebody behind/out, name calling, or coercion of any kind. 

Reversible: While it may be impossible to reverse consent with Psychedelics once they have been ingested, it is never too late to decline taking more or additional substances. Consent can be downgraded about anything including: intimacy, adventure location, social activities, or conversation. Consent is reversible for any reason for anyone, no matter how long you’ve known them. Even if they’re a long-term partner, they have the right to say, ‘that’s not okay right now.’ 

It’s important to note that while consent is reversible under the influence of an altered state, new consent cannot be negotiated under the influence. We cannot really know if consent is genuine or a product of the current state of mind. It is safest to follow any consent boundaries stated before the start of a session. Professional boundaries between Sitter and Journeyer even extend past the the session as empathogens can create bonding with an inappropriate power dynamic. 

Informed: Only with completed details and accurate information can a person truly Consent. Knowingly deceiving someone about the identity of a substance is a huge consent violation. “Like LSD” is not LSD. “I’m sure it’s fine” is not the same as knowing pharmacological interactions and safe substances use. When offering a substance to friends share identity (test your drugs!), typical dose, duration, and intent for (or lack of) companionship during the experience that make the decision clear. It’s okay to not be a walking encyclopedia; consent can even be disclosing the lack of information. “I don’t know” and “I haven’t tested it” statements create an opportunity for an informed decision. 

Enthusiastic: A reluctant tripper is a recipe for a troubled experience. Anything less than an enthusiastic “Heck Yeah! I want to alter my state right now!” can be a sign there is a problem with the Set or Setting. When someone’s response to getting altered is less than excitement, inquire into their concerns and needs in that moment. If your feelings are hurt by them rejecting this experience with you, ask yourself why you need them to get altered. If your main concern is being alone in your experience, seek an enthusiastic yes to co-pilot from the sober side for a few hours. 

Specifics: The most difficult part of consent conversations is hammering out the nitty-gritty details of what is expected behavior during a shared psychedelic experience. The more specific you can be in this discussion the better.  Some questions to discuss might be: Is it ok if we hang out together all night? I’m going to need some time alone at some point but want to set up a meeting spot for later. I like hugs and cuddling but not sexually contact when I’m altered. Before taking a substance is the best time to establish boundaries and set expectations.

Establishing and maintaining a respectful, consensual interactions may seem like a lot of work at first. Practicing it in small ways daily can go a long way to making the trickier psychedelic conversations possible and avoid unnecessary problems that take away from the healing potential of altered states.

Learn more about consent, check out these resources and learn how you can be consent positive.

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