Can We Talk About Consent?

My latest book is Can We Talk About Consent? It’s a book about freedom, choices, and agreement. Where you can learn about how to actually do consent, rather than just being lectured about how important it is. The illustrations, by Fuchsia Macaree, are amazing. Like with everything at this website, it’s for over 14s.

Can we talk about consent a book about freedom choices and agreement
Can we talk about consent?

Consent is more than just a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. It’s about freedom, choices, and agreement in our everyday lives (it’s not just about sex). It’s about self-consent, how you can work out what you want for yourself (via choosing a pizza) and why that is tricky, even when it’s just you. 

There’s a lot of practical advice on how to do things more consensually with other people, like what TV show you want to watch together. There’s lots about on-going communication and how to make sure that you are happy with your choices and having a nice time. You will learn how to give the best (consensual) greetings – no more awkward hugs or missed high fives. There is a bit about sex but it’s not a sex book and there’s a lot of warning before you get to the sex bits: hashtag consent. 

Me chatting about the book

Then we have a section on how to do consent in groups, like deciding who plays in goal (not just the person with the biggest hands). It’s also about politics and how we can use our freedoms and choices to help everyone else in the world have more freedoms and choices. At the end there are worksheets for you to think some more about power and privilege, as well as figuring out what chocolate bar you buy next time you’re in a shop.  

Sometimes the book is pretty serious but it’s also friendly and helpful. Also the illustrations are beautiful and really funny. It’s available now for pre-order worldwide at your local bookshop, or online at the usual places. More detail on this here. If you need convincing you could read some really lovely reviews by some excellent people.

A bit more info about the book

Here’s a bit more of a summary of it so that you can make your mind up about whether you buy it (or get someone else to buy it for you).

I went for a pizza. Taken from can we talk about consent. Text © 2021 Justin Hancock. Illustrations © 2021 Fuchsia MacAree.
I went for a pizza

As you can see a lot of this is about pizza, I just really like pizza. When I found out that this book was going to be published I went for a celebratory pizza. I was thinking that freedom and choices starts with us – self-consent. So the first chapter is about why tuning into our own wants and needs is important. The second chapter expands on that to talk about agency – which is our power to make decisions and how that is interlinked with other people and society.

Agency Taken from can we talk about consent. Text © 2021 Justin Hancock. Illustrations © 2021 Fuchsia MacAree.
Agency, or clout, or ooooompf

Most of the book is about doing this with other people of course. In these chapters we learn about how we can help everyone to tune into what they want and need. Then thinking about the many ways we can do things together more consensually. This is my favourite illustration in the book.

Consent with others

Doing things with other people. Taken from can we talk about consent. Text © 2021 Justin Hancock. Illustrations © 2021 Fuchsia MacAree.
Doing things with other people.

From eating a pizza with someone else, or watching something on TV. Rather than just say ‘consent is important’ or ‘consent is non-negotiable’ I give practical examples on how we can actually do it and what consent might feel like.

There’s a chapter on how to ask

Taken from can we talk about consent. Text © 2021 Justin Hancock. Illustrations © 2021 Fuchsia MacAree. How to ask
How to ask

and also (sadly) a chapter on ‘no’ (both saying and hearing a ‘no’).

About no. Taken from can we talk about consent. Text © 2021 Justin Hancock. Illustrations © 2021 Fuchsia MacAree.
About no

And one on how to do more consensual interactions. No, not the sex bit, I said I’d give you a warning when we get to that bit. This one is about greetings. Shout out to everyone I’ve done the handshakes workshop with at school (I came up with that with my mate Meg-John).

Consensual greetings. Taken from can we talk about consent. Text © 2021 Justin Hancock. Illustrations © 2021 Fuchsia MacAree.
Consensual greetings

And then yes, here’s the bit about how you can put all this into practice if you ever decide (or can) have sex with someone. Just like on this website, there are lots of practical ideas about how you can communicate before, during, and after sex. You don’t have to read this bit if you don’t want to, just skip on to the next chapter.

The sex bit. Taken from can we talk about consent. Text © 2021 Justin Hancock. Illustrations © 2021 Fuchsia MacAree.
The sex bit

Then there’s the bit about just not doing something, even when there’s so much pressure to do something. Often it’s best just just shrug and be like

Meh, let's not. Taken from can we talk about consent. Text © 2021 Justin Hancock. Illustrations © 2021 Fuchsia MacAree.
meh, let’s not

How do you put all of this into practice when you’re doing things in groups? If you’re going to the pictures, or playing football, or just organising yourselves generally.

Consent in groups. Taken from can we talk about consent. Text © 2021 Justin Hancock. Illustrations © 2021 Fuchsia MacAree.
Consent in groups

Consent and the world

Then at the end of the book we look at politics and identity and how these are barriers but also opportunities for freedom and collective agency. Firstly looking at the different messages we receive about our own freedom depending on our gender.

Gender. Taken from can we talk about consent. Text © 2021 Justin Hancock. Illustrations © 2021 Fuchsia MacAree.
Gender

Then looking at how inequality and oppression means that ‘agency’ is not fairly distributed in society.

How 'isms' make consent harder. Taken from can we talk about consent. Text © 2021 Justin Hancock. Illustrations © 2021 Fuchsia MacAree.

Which means that if we act in solidarity with other people we can increase everyone’s freedoms and agency.

Empower each other with consent. Taken from can we talk about consent. Text © 2021 Justin Hancock. Illustrations © 2021 Fuchsia MacAree.
Empower each other with consent

There’s also a set of worksheets at the back to help you to put these into practice. Also there’s a glossary where I explain some of the key phrases and really bad Uncle jokes I make throughout.

Where to buy

It’s published on 5th January 2021 in the UK and 26th January 2021 in the US and will be available at all good bookshops, on and offline. You know, in real life. It costs around £8.99.

It would really really help me and the popularity of the book if you pre-ordered it. Just search for ‘Can We Talk About Consent?’ using your favourite internet search engine. You could also find it at these websites that share out their sales with independent book shops: like Bookshop or Hive. Or you can get it at the usual places like Amazon (please review it there) and Waterstones.

You can also find more information at the publishers website Quarto.

Also if you could please share it on social media with everyone and help me get the word out there I’d be very very grateful.

Reviews

“Can we talk about consent? Yes we can, when Justin Hancock is carefully and creatively showing us how. Beautifully illustrated, each of the twelve sections engage and support the reader to negotiate what consent means to them, and how consent can be communicated with others, and not just with words.Putting the complex workings of power and agency at the heart of these communications and how they play out across a range of  interactions and relationships, from a handshake to a sext, is what makes this guide to consent a must read. And while this book may be a guide to empower young people, it’s especially relevant for those who are teaching about consent in schools, youth groups, colleges and universities.” Professor EJ Renold – author of AGENDA: Supporting Children and Young People in Making Positive Relationships Matter. www.agendaonline.co.uk Cardiff University

“A triumph. Justin has created an essential guide for young people to navigate consent with confidence. I only wish it had been written sooner so I could have benefited from it as a teenager!” Ruby Rare, sex educator

“‘Can we talk about consent?’ is the perfect antidote to awkward sex education classes and is a book I wish I’d had access to as a young person. The book covers consent in beautiful technicolour and shows how consent relates to the world around us just as much as it does to our relationships with other people.  

It is refreshingly honest about the realities of navigating consent and shows how talking about things (pizza, movie choices, greetings, feelings, sex, and more) however awkward it might feel to begin with, can make things easier and better. There are some great practical tips about how to practice consent; from checking in with ourselves, expressing yes’s and no’s, creating space for more consensual and mutual decision making in sex and in other situations.

Over the course of the book, you see how the plus-minus scale from ‘hell no’ to ‘meh’ to ‘hell yea’ can really help in all kinds of situations. Funny and factual, this book will resonate with lots of people who are thinking about what consent means to them, and how to do it. As a consent researcher and educator it has made me think, made me laugh and most importantly made me want to talk about the ideas and activities with everyone (with their consent of course!). ‘Can we talk about consent?’ covers so many of the things that young people always ask about and want from Relationships and Sex Education. I can’t wait to be able to share it with young people and adults I work with.” – Dr Elsie Whittington, Manchester Centre for Youth Studies.

“Can We Talk About Consent is a smart, thoughtful, and lovely book that gets into the nitty-gritty of consent. It helps young people understand and negotiate consent, agency, and power — all in a relaxed, chatty style. It doesn’t patronise, but it empowers, with concrete examples and lots of lively illustrations. A much-needed and brilliantly executed book.” Katherine Angel, author and academic. ‘Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again’ Verso, March 2021

“This book is fun, funny and approaches the topic of consent in a necessarily nuanced and yet clear-cut way. An excellent resource for teachers, parents and young people.” Natasha Devon MBE

“Beautifully illustrated, full of invaluable information, and written by someone who has real experience in explaining this stuff! This book is essential reading for all young people who want to live a happy and safe life, and gives them amazing insight into a subject that many grown-ups find confusing. It’s SO needed right now. I only wish it was around when I was younger!” Dr Ranj Singh, NHS Doctor & TV Presenter

“Can We Talk About Consent is more than a book about consent, it is an exercise in it. Justin Hancock introduces readers to the possibilities that consent opens up, and how it can be considered whether we are choosing a greeting, a movie, a pizza, or deciding whether or how to have sex. It shows readers how we can consider power, privilege and improve our relationship to those around us and ourselves. It is that rare thing, an informative, inclusive and thoughtful book, that is also kind, entertaining and funny. I cannot recommend it enough.” Dr Eleanor Janega, Sex Historian 

“As a longtime campaigner for positive and inclusive relationships education, I’m thrilled that this book is here – it is warm, witty, fun and full of colour, and a fantastic resource for the sector. As a parent to boys currently traversing their adventures through adolescence, I’m thrilled to be able to leave this around on the table to be browsed, when the time is right. Everyone should read this book – unless of course they don’t want to, because that’s fine too.” Ally Fogg, writer & journalist

“Can We Talk About Consent is the much-needed straightforward introduction to consent that we’ve all been waiting for. This book is engaging, entertaining, and full of great visuals and helpful activities. Justin takes the reader gently by the hand – with consent of course! – and guides them through the tricky terrain of how to navigate sex and relationships consensually, as well as how to consider the impact of such vital aspects as power, ‘ism’s, ‘should stories’, and experiences of non-consensual behaviour. This really is a vital book for young people, and – I would say – for people of all ages.” – Author of Queer: A Graphic History and A Practical Guide to Sex, Meg-John Barker.

Text © 2021 Justin Hancock. Illustrations © 2021 Fuchsia MacAree.

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