It’s probably safe to assume that over 90% of people are not over the age of consent.
I’m not talking about the arbitrary age set by the law of whichever land you happen to live in. I’m talking about the age at which we have learned how to authentically give and receive, understand when we are doing and when we are being done to, and most importantly to know who any of this is for!
Are you giving, receiving, doing, or being done to?
In intimate situations (including sexual ones) we can often allow ourselves to be coerced into something in the mistaken assumption it is consensual. We can often misconstrue something we do to another person as something we do for them.
The fundamental idea behind Dr Betty Martin’s ‘Wheel Of Consent’ (on which this pathway of work is based) is that in any exchange in any relationship there is a giver and a receiver, and there is someone doing and someone being done to. But (and here’s the bit you may not be used to) the giver and doer are not necessarily the same person.
For example: when I massage someone, I am in Service (doing) and the person getting the massage is Accepting (being done to). But when I hug someone without asking, I am Taking (doing) and the person I hug is put in the position of Allowing (being done to). Even something as seemingly simple as a kiss, can be experienced in very different ways depending on the clarity and intention of those involved in the kiss.
What happens when there’s no consent?
When any of these actions is not consensual (i.e. assumed, unconscious, or even forced), the impact can be negative. If I move your piano without you allowing me to, I become a thief and you become a victim. If you insist that I help move your piano, and I agree to it without really wanting to, you may be suffering from a sense of entitlement, and I may end up feeling like a martyr.
If this sounds extreme think of how many times you may have experienced intimate situations in this way, and ultimately how it made you feel – for most of us it’s not hard to find a few examples of these unconscious distortions in our past.
Pleasure and consent in bed
The most common example, in an intimate or erotic situation, is that many of us do to our partner what we would actually like them to do to us, as a means of communicating our desires. But this may well not be at all what our partner would like done to them, and they often then end up ‘tolerating’ something they don’t really find pleasurable, or even want, simply to please us!
Working with the Wheel of Consent allows you to fundamentally reposition how you approach touch and interactions (both erotic and non-erotic), and will have a profound and life-changing impact on the clarity of your relationship both with yourself and others.
It’s not always easy, and we may not always get it right, but when there is authentic understanding between everyone involved in an exchange about who that exchange is for, and whether or not it is consensual, then our relationships can truly begin to be healthy and reciprocal.
Working with me on a Conscious Consent pathway involves learning how to understand and feel pleasure, how it feels to inhabit all 4 quadrants of the wheel (Taking, Allowing, Serving, and Accepting), and exploring how to communicate authentically what you do and don’t want.
This is ideal work to experience with a partner, with my guidance, but it’s also possible to experience it as a solo coaching pathway with me – consequently this work can be done just as effectively fully clothed and with non-erotic touch.
24 May, Forest Row, East Sussex. With Michael Dresser & Sarah Davies. What does consent look and feel like on a dancefloor? A 1-day exploration for those who love to dance and are interested in the dynamics that can arise when we dance in a group with people.
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If you’re feeling overwhelmed the Wheel Of Consent can provide a great framework for helping you look at how you make decisions about what you do or don’t agree to – and why.