So much of my work focuses on consent, because most of us are doing it incorrectly. Yikes!
Consent is much more than a simple yes/no, and yet this is the simplistic version most of us learn. Consent is so nuanced, and in this article we’ll talk about new ways to think about consent, and how to get better at touching.
I spend a lot of time talking in workshops and in client sessions about consent, because what most people don’t understand about consent is that to truly give touch well, you need to be very clear about your own boundaries and desires. And you need to understand when you’re giving, and when you’re taking. Finally, adding attention and intention to your touch makes it more meaningful and impactful, and more juicy.
Consent is Really Self-Expression
Consent is more than boundaries and limits—it’s actually self-expression. Knowing what you want and need is the start of great consent conversations. However, most of us don’t know what we want. This has been a really common topic in my work lately, and I love teaching practices so that folks can learn to find their HELL YES or FUCK NO (and making space for the sacred pause that helps them feel into their answer). It is powerful when we learn to speak our desires (sexual or otherwise). Most of us have never been given space to figure out what we really want, and if we have, we probably haven’t ever asked for it. Knowing is the first part, and learning to ask is the second part.
If you don’t know what you want, you might have said some of the following:
- 🚩“Whatever you want is fine.”
- 🚩“I like everything you’re doing.”
- 🚩“I don’t care, just do your thing.” (ouch)
Now imagine someone saying these phrases back to you—how would you respond? It doesn’t give you a lot of information about what to do, and you can’t really know what they might want next.
If you don’t know how you want to be touched and where your limits are, can you really consent to touch? It’s a hard question. How will you really KNOW if someone is crossing a boundary if you don’t know what you really want? How will they be able to feel into their own limits and desires if they can’t trust you to know your own? Being unclear about (or permeable within) our boundaries can create confusion in your sexual dynamic. Consent is a negotiation—you both (or all) get to ask for what you want, and discuss what’s available in the moment within each other.
The benefit of doing this work is to better know yourself, and to build trust between yourself and others. When we trust that our lover knows their desires and limits, and knows how to say yes/no, then we are free to ask for anything we want.
Take the time to map out your wants and desires (via fantasies, Yes-No-Maybe lists, and conversations with your partner). You can then decide what you want to enjoy together. Determine your limits (for now) and review/reconsider your desires often. Have the hard conversations and learn to express your needs without over-explanation or excuses. Practice saying no without guilt (oh yes, I know it’s very HARD). Lean into your ‘hell yes’ and be firm about your no. Your sex will be better because of it!
Ask Yourself, “Who is this Touch For?”
At first, this seems like a simple question. I’m going to touch you, therefore the touch is for you. But this is not always true.
Most of us touch other people FOR US but pretend it’s FOR THEM. If you’ve ever gotten a creepy massage from a coworker, had a masseuse get a little too close for comfort, or been in bed with someone that is touching you in a way that shows they clearly didn’t listen/honor your requests, then you can probably FEEL what the difference is here. This is a foundational teaching of the Wheel of Consent: knowing who the touch is for speaks to the direction of the gift of touch. It’s simple yet profound.
Once I mention this dynamic to people, it’s usually a revelation. Men and women alike are surprised by how this resonates in their bodies. They take some deep breaths. “Oooooooh, I get it now.”
They understand how they’ve been touching others for themselves, and maybe how they have been receiving touch that they knew, somehow, didn’t feel right in their bodies.
If your partner asks for a back massage, and you then decide to touch their genitals, how does that massage really feel in their body? This can erode trust between people, and create static in the dynamic. I have an ex-boyfriend who would say to me, ‘tonight is all about you’ and then proceed to touch me for him and would always decide to make it about his own pleasure. Not only did he not actually offer touch FOR ME, he ended up TAKING for himself. It was awful, but I didn’t have the language to understand the dynamic. But I knew it FELT bad.
That was a long time ago, before I learned about gaslighting, emotional abuse, and boundaries. Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot since then, and I’m better at both giving and receiving touch within these nuanced boundaries of serving/receiving and taking/allowing. Of all the work I’ve done, the Wheel of Consent has been some of the most powerful to learn, practice, and to teach. I’m so grateful.
How to Get Better at Touching
To be clear, there’s no one RIGHT way to touch because we all need different types of touch at different times. But touching is about the intention behind your action, and how you touch your partner can make a big difference in how the touch is received.
I’m certain your partner has some beautiful preferences and desires around touch. What if you took the time to ask them, softly and kindly, what kind of touch they need at this moment.
Sometimes I really need a forehead kiss to feel tender and loved; sometimes I need something a bit more grabby. We all have our moods.
Here’s a pro tip from your favorite sex coach: ask your person what they want. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes. Then give them the type of touch they ask for. Don’t elaborate, or change, or do their request for one minute then start doing your own thing. Stay with them; stay with their specific request. Do ask refinement and calibration questions. For example, would you like this harder/softer, faster/slower, lighter/firmer? Notice when you shift from giving into taking energy; notice when it becomes about you and your desires and not about their request (then go back to their request, stay with it.
How else can you practice a more mindful touch?
- ✋🏼 Giving touch with attention and care: don’t always touch mindlessly
- 🤚🏿 Pay attention to your intention when giving touch: do you want to connect, arouse, tickle, engage?
- ✋🏽Breathe into awareness: sense their skin, their scent, their energy. Practice attunement; learn their body.
- ✋ Stay present for them: focus, breathe, and drop into this intimate moment. You get to fully give, they get to fully surrender.
- 🤚🏾 Learn what’s for you, and what’s for them.
Come explore with me … how to work with me.