A Conversation with Isabel Maun: The Components of Consent

Central Considerations

• What is “consent” (definition and components)? 

• How does the framework of informed consent in Bioethics apply to sexual consent and, how can we promote these elements to inform healthy sexual communication?

In the field of Bioethics, informed consent is a process of communication whereby a patient is enabled to make an informed and voluntary decision about accepting or declining medical care or participating in a research study. Informed consent must include the following components…
  • The patient involved must be of sound mental capacity
  • The patient must be free from coercion
  • The patient must have sufficient information about what they are consenting to
  • Consent is reversible

Isabel Maun and I sat down for a conversation on understanding the different components of consent. Isabel and I, both graduates of the George Washington University, and also of the same high school, were catching  up over coffee in the DuPont neighborhood of Washington, DC. We started talking about her thesis project on sexual communication among college-aged students. Given her experience with peers as an undergraduate, she wanted to create and conduct a survey of a heterosexual students population from college campuses. She surveyed students on their experiences with sexual communication and on initiating in casual heterosexual relationships. This audio conversation is the result of an idea we had during this meet up, where we wanted to spread awareness on understanding consent, which can impact and improve sexual experiences at large.

Isabel says the components of consent in a sexual encounter are that it is…

  • Voluntary
  • Mutual
  • Enthusiastic
  • Aware
  • Active
  • An agreement at every point in a sexual experience

There are clear parallels between the definitions of consent from Bioethics and in regard to sex. We explore how these definitions of consent are really comparable. We unpack implications of societal expectations for sex and our takeaways for constructing healthier sexual relationships.  We also discuss how these components of consent are intuitive to our everyday interactions (such as how we order food at a restaurant).

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The guest featured for this conversation is Isabel Maun. Isabel graduated from George Washington University in May 2019, with a degree in Communications. As the previous Survivor Support Co-Chair of Students Against Sexual Assault at GW, she advocated for survivors of sexual assault and educated peers on the elements of sexual consent. In her thesis research, she conducted a study focusing on sexual communications in casual sex and the use of language prompting behavioral scripts. She currently works in New York City at a Technology Communications Agency, and continues sexual health advocacy, to educate herself on and fight against gender-based violence.

Trigger warning for audio content: This content contains reference to sexual assault.
Listen to our conversation here: 

Resources of Listeners:

Sexual Assault Response Consultative Team (SARC)
offers 24/7 emergency support for survivors/community members.

(202) 994-7222

Rape, Incest, Abuse National Network (RAINN)

Online.rainn.org (confidential online chat)
RAINN chat is also good for secondary survivors and people who are having difficulty processing an event.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
24 hours a day/7 days a week free hotline

Call: 1-800-799-7233 or Text: 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

Safe Horizon

Provides support, information, and legal council to domestic violence and sexual assault survivors
Sexual Assault Hotline is Available 24-Hours a Day, Seven Days a Week.

212-227-3000 or 1-800-656-4673 (Survivors Outside of NYC Call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline)

Or use their Safe Chat Monday – Friday from 9am – 6pm ET here: https://www.safehorizon.org/safechat/

Image source: https://www.aitrends.com/data-privacy-and-security/ai-helping-consumers-to-gain-more-control-over-data-permissions/attachment/entry-in-dictionary-or-encyclopedia-consent/

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