HAI Standards for Consent
The Human Awareness Institute (HAI) envisions a world where each person’s choices are clearly spoken, heard, and honored. HAI is committed to creating environments where participants feel safe and supported to explore their relationships with love, intimacy, and sexuality; engage in vulnerable communication; take responsibility for their choices; and learn from their experiences. We see mutual care as essential to every interaction in order to create consensual and nourishing connection and intimacy.
HAI is a strong advocate for consent. We seek to create safety in our community and beyond by asking everyone to state and honor their own boundaries, and hear and honor others’ boundaries at all times. HAI encourages and empowers individuals to find and use their voices to speak both their desires and whatever boundaries they may have in any moment.
We define consensual activity as one in which there is mutual and voluntary agreement among all those involved to participate. Consent applies to all kinds of interactions, but especially those which include physical touch.
Guidelines for creating safer space for nourishing interactions
Understanding one’s personal boundaries and the following standards are best practices in life and we ask that you see them as good practices in any situation.
Determine your own boundaries
- Consent starts with you. Check in with yourself before an intimate interaction. How are you feeling? What is true for you about what you want and need? What do you definitely want to ask for? What do you definitely not want?
- For many of us, setting boundaries is new and unfamiliar territory. If you are unclear or confused about your boundaries, ask for help and get support.
Ask before you act
- Establish consent prior to acting, whether for conversation, sensual touch, or anything else that involves others.
- Engage with curiosity.
- Come into every interaction with a spirit of discovery, rather than a fixed agenda and an intent to persuade.
- Invite, rather than demand.
Listen for the CLEAR yes
- Yes means yes. No means no. Uncertainty, “I don’t know,” or “maybe” should be treated as a no.
- Silence or lack of resistance does not indicate consent. “I have no boundaries,” indicates the necessity for further conversation before contact. It is not a safe practice to assume someone has no boundaries. Everyone has boundaries, even if they haven’t identified or stated them yet.
- Pause and listen to your internal voice before choosing to engage in any activity.
- Engaging with others in “clear yes” territory increases safety, intimacy, connection, learning – and fun!
Celebrate the NO
- Stating and/or holding boundaries can be difficult for some. Please honor and support anyone who has the courage to honor themselves in this way.
- Value the gift of your partner’s truth—even when it’s a “no”—more than getting what you want.
Feelings of arousal may impair judgment
- We highly discourage expanding boundaries while aroused.
- Intoxication from medications, alcohol, recreational drugs, and sexual arousal often impairs judgment and can therefore prevent authentic consent agreements
Privilege may create power differentials between you and your partner(s)
- Not everyone has had the same access to resources and education, nor has the same social conditioning and social status.
- Some people have trauma in their histories that can significantly impact their ability to express their needs, especially during a physical encounter.
- Types of privilege include racial, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, class, ability, education, lack of trauma, and more.
- Awareness and communication are essential to treating everyone with dignity and respect.
Consent is temporary and specific
- We encourage each person to speak up if/when their needs and wants change, to the best of their ability.
- Consent can be withdrawn at any time, verbally or nonverbally, even after an activity has started.
- Consenting to one activity does not obligate a person to consent to any other activity.
- Consent must be negotiated with each person. If you observe others engaging in an activity, don’t assume that you can join them or that they will want to engage with you in that activity.
- Consent given at one time does not mean consent is given at any other time after that interaction.
Be an ally for consent
- Check in with yourself, and notice whether you are pushing your agenda over the needs, wants, desires of your partner.
- Help your partner stay in their clear yes. Periodic check-ins with yourself and your partner are recommended.
- If you sense your partner may be uncomfortable, stop. Check-in to re-establish consent if possible.
- If you witness an interaction that feels off, check in with one or both of the parties.
Complete interactions with a check-in
- Check in with yourself, and then with your partner(s), after interactions.
- Speak about any boundaries that were approached, reached, or crossed, and how you each might do things differently in the future.
Mistakes happen – let’s learn from them and clear up any upsets
- Despite our best intentions, boundary crossings sometimes occur.
- Consent mistakes can sometimes be violations
- Respectful open communication, taking responsibility and clearing up issues are the building blocks for learning and growth.
Something not feel good? Do you need support?
- If your boundaries were violated in any way, please let us know.
- During HAI events/workshops you are encouraged to approach any facilitator, producer or team member for support.
- We also encourage you to use our online incident report form and we will respond promptly.
This is a living document, changing as we learn and grow. It is our hope that you will take these ideas far beyond HAI, to every interaction you have with another person.