Consent! And Spam. And calm down everyone.

A few weeks ago, a very special cheese entered my life, and that of my coworkers. It was a chive goat cheese, made on a local farm by a friend. You could taste the happiness of the land, animals, and people involved, I swear, it was that good. A few jars made their way into the office and were immediately pounced on and claimed, my coworker putting this note on hers:


This prompted me and Alison to make a lot of inappropriate consent jokes:

"Well, it's just sitting there."

"It didn't say no."

"I want it really bad so clearly it wants me too."

"Look at that see-through jar. It's showing me all the good stuff, of course it wants me to eat it."

This was happening in the wake of #yesallwomen and it was both funny and sad because it was true. Actually, it eventually just made us sad, so we stopped.

Fast forward to a different consent issue. The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation that is telling businesses that they cannot email people promotional materials without consent. Small businesses are freaking out: "How will we be able to stay in business? I don't have time to get consent!"

They are making it about Nigerian Princes and body part enhancers, saying that those are the problem, not their emails that they are sending because of "implied consent" (something you give if you bought something from them within two years and they have your email address - otherwise known as malarky).

Not true, folks. Every decent email provider offers a fancy spam filter that will get all those testosterone pills and Russian brides to a magical folder you never have to look at. You, small business owner, are the problem. You know why? Because implied consent is not consent. It is the email equivalent of our terrible "it didn't say no" consent jokes.

Just because I bought something from you and had to give my email address or happen to work in your industry or am a living human with an email address or you really really want me to want to buy your stuff does not mean you have consent.

The whole reason this legislation came through is because people don't want YOUR emails. And you know what? If you actually get permission, you'll find that a lot of people do want to hear from you. And those people might actually turn around and buy your products or otherwise respond to your promotions, as opposed to getting incrementally more annoyed every time they have to delete your email from their inbox.

The moral of the story: if your sales strategy or sex life relies on assuming people want something you're offering without them actually telling you so, you need to adjust your approach.

Note: I realize that my putting the issue of sexual harassment/assault and spam in the same message might be offensive to some.  I am not trying to reduce the horribleness of sexual assault or make small business owners equivalent to sex criminals.  I just noticed that the same arguments were being used in both situation, specifically with regards to the term consent.

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