While much consent work is black and white and is mostly about ‘no means no’, the Wheel of Consent (WoC) offers a brilliant way understanding the many nuances of consent with clarity and ease.
The Wheel of Consent is a body of work created by Betty Martin which explores all the roles we can take in our relationships- giving, receiving, taking and allowing. Originally designed around touch, it applies to our everyday life and every interaction we have, from who does the dishes to who is this blow job for.
I got really excited about clarifying these roles at a recent Wheel of Consent workshop I attended, facilitated by Corinne Diachuk*- we explored the roles using consensual non-sexual touch. I loved how clear it all was, how freeing it was to be in full consent with the folks I was interacting with. We talked about the difference between ‘wanting’ and ‘willing’ and the difference between a request, an offer and an invitation. We talked about the generosity of giving and the passion of taking, the gratitude of accepting and the surrender of allowing, and how when I can trust you to say no when you feel a no, I can trust you are feeling a yes when you say yes.
It was a day of playing with the idea that it’s okay for me to receive and to take. That it’s okay for me to say no. And yes. That I can tell the difference between yes and no in my body, that I can recognize what I want, and that it’s okay to change my mind. I experienced how having clear boundaries can be so freeing. It was exhilarating and expansive and so damn much fun!
It was amazing to let myself trust the people in the room. To trust that they were there in their full authenticity, exploring the same as I was. To trust that they were being real in their yeses and their nos so that I could focus on what I was feeling. To trust that they were taking care of themselves so that I could focus on me.
But this was a workshop, a playlab where we were all in consent about exploring these ideas together, not the real world where I don’t know the intentions of everyone I interact with and I can’t assume they’re all good. So how do I apply the WoC to the real world?
In order to fully immerse myself in exploring the WoC, I had to assume that everyone in the room was taking care of themselves. Whatever role they agreed to in an exercise, I had to trust that they actually were in consent. And by letting go of any responsibility for their consent, I was able to focus on my own.
It was a leap of faith- not just faith in the others, but in me. Especially in me. Turns out I know what yes feels like in my body. I know what no feels like. I can tell if the person I’m interacting with me is being real by how I feel in my body. When I let go of being responsible for other folks stuff the world is bigger and brighter and I’m free to be me.
*Corinne Diachuk is a Yoga Therapist, Somatic Sex Educator, Wheel of Consent Certified Facilitator and Priestess of High Pleasure. Check out her website at www.corinnediachuk.com