TDs and Senators to be offered workshops on consent

Senator Lynn Ruane organising workshops to build understanding of ‘boundary-setting’

Senator Lynn Ruane said ‘generations of people  still struggle to connect with the power of consent, negotiation and boundary-setting in their personal lives and relationships’. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Senator Lynn Ruane said ‘generations of people still struggle to connect with the power of consent, negotiation and boundary-setting in their personal lives and relationships’. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

TDs and Senators will be asked to attend workshops on consent and personal boundaries, which will include exercises on how to communicate with others about consent.

Politicians will be offered 90-minute workshops which have been developed by consent educator Gráinne Carr.

Independent Senator Lynn Ruane, who will ask TDs and Senators to attend the course early in 2020, said there has been a “shift in how we think and talk about sex and consent over the past few years”.

She said there are “generations of people who still struggle to connect with the power of consent, negotiation and boundary-setting in their personal lives and relationships”.

“For this reason, I will be offering consent workshops, which will be facilitated by Gráinne Carr in Leinster House early in the year.

“The workshops aim to empower participants to become aware of their right to have personal boundaries.”

While the workshop normally takes place over a full day, a 90-minute class will be offered to politicians to take account of their working day.

Politicians will be told the aim of the class is to “increase your consent awareness, become more confident in the power of your Yes and No (and) gain an awareness of the pleasure and safety of conscious consensual touch.”

TDs will also “become much clearer on personal boundaries and how to communicate wants and needs from a place of strength” and will “understand the importance of noticing what you want, valuing what you want and communicating what you want”.

They will also be taught about the “wheel of consent” which details four different dimensions of consent and touch.

According to an introductory document, there will be “discussion and exercises throughout the day that will allow you to explore how you have in the past adapted to others and how to instead move forward feeling more in control of your choices, clearer and more confident in asking for what you want, and also more confidently communicating what you don’t want.”

The exercises will allow attendees to “get a really deep understanding of consent and boundaries incorporating touch, eg touching some else’s hands, arms, maybe shoulders.”

“These very short exercises, maximum 3 minutes in length, give you an opportunity to get greater insight in to how to set clear boundaries, how to honour others’ boundaries and also help to develop a better understanding too of how to get stronger and more confident in expressing boundaries.”

Touching is not mandatory in the workshop, however.

“You can participate in this whole training without touching or being touched by anyone. Everything is an invitation and the most important element is self-awareness and the ability to choose what feels right for you.”

Consent classes have become more commonplace in recent years, particularly in settings such as third-level institutions, since the rise of the global #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault.