Boundaries and Consent
I am in the fortunate place to be able to run many workshops and conduct lots of beautiful private sessions of an erotic nature in many wonderful places around the world. The first thing I cover in any erotic workshop or with a new client is the topic of consent and boundaries. Can all present say “no” when they need to? As well as being important skills in erotic settings, these are also essential life skills that sadly, most of us haven’t had a chance to learn.
Why is our world so sexually and emotionally lacking when it comes to our most beautiful means of interacting, human sexuality? That’s a rhetorical question but if you can answer it you’ll transform the world. Meanwhile, let us talk about the most essential of all erotic skills: consent and boundaries.
Questions We Should ask Ourselves
- How should I approach a potential play partner to ask for an interaction?
- How can I be really clear when I answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when I’ve been asked for an interaction?
- Am I allowed to change my mind after I’ve said yes or not to something?
- Can there be a ‘maybe’? What does it look like?
- What if my heart says ‘yes’ but my mind says ‘no’? (and do other body parts get a say?)
- How can I take hearing a ‘no’ and turn it into a positive feeling rather than feeling rejection?
Sadly in an erotic context, most of us were never really taught how to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with clarity and we’ve had to learn how to negotiate our way through this on our own. In some places in the world some of us were taught to always say ‘no’ but what is the point of that? We are here because we want to live more fulfilling erotic lives and get to know ourselves better.
As most of us didn’t receive essential boundaries and consent skills during sex-ed class, most of us will find that we default to answering either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to any erotic proposal that comes our way. Often the reasons we will answer a particular way will be unconscious. It’s worth taking a look at a couple of examples just to wrap our heads around what we’re dealing with; e.g. we have the woman who always answers ‘yes’ to erotic proposals as she unconsciously feels that’s the only way to get any much-needed love. Likewise we have the man who always answers ‘no’ before things kick off for if he’d said ‘yes’ he wouldn’t be able to say ‘no’ later on for fear of hurting someone.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with defaulting to a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ if that is your genuine truth; but the goal is to give ourselves more choices and to at least know where our default behaviour comes from. The intention of conscious sexuality is it to have a more expansive and more fulfilling sex life as well as to gain more self-knowledge along the way. Knowing why we do the things we do is a big part of that.
A big challenge most of us face is that we have never been taught even the simplest of techniques of how to ask for consent so usually our approaches for interactions are clumsy and awkward and as a result we get told ‘no’ a lot. Our well-intentioned erotic proposals to others can come out very clumsily and we can be socially awkward around those we wish to connect with.
Many of us have been told to hide our sexuality from the world completely and so when we approach people, they usually aren’t even seeing us in our magnificent erotic power. No wonder they turn us down!
And on the nasty side of all of this, as many of you will know, there are groups of men who have learned ways to deliberately exploit a woman’s inability to say ‘no’. It’s a bit tragic but it’s worth knowing that there is a whole PUA (pick up artist) movement that revolves around the deliberate crossing of women’s unexpressed boundaries in order to get sex.Yuck!
For your own personal safety and for a more fulfilling and engaging sex life, It’s essential that you learn conscious and powerful ways to know your boundaries and to be able to express them.
If you are going to any kind of erotic, Tantric or kink workshop, your teacher should cover the basics of consent and boundaries before they tell you to dive in and jump on someone. At every workshop, you should have the guilt-free option of saying ‘no’ to every exercise. If the workshop teachers don’t cover this, maybe ask them why not? Safety comes first.
Sometimes I am invited to run advanced-level workshops. In such events, I will assume you already know how to express an authentic ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and be able to navigate your own ‘maybe’… In advanced workshops, I will still cover consent and boundary-negotiation skills to ensure all workshop participants have a common event-specific language but in the advanced workshops I will assume you are fully comfortable saying ‘no’ when you need to.
Sadly, accidents in the realm of consent and boundaries can and do happen. Sometimes we think we have consent to do things with our partners but we don’t. Sometimes our partners make assumptions about but and don’t realise they need to check in. Sometimes we trust our partners to express their boundaries when they need to but for various reasons they don’t.
Sometimes we don’t express our own boundaries at the actual time they are being crossed. Many people are not socialised to express their boundaries in the moment. Sometimes people feel massive pressured not to express their boundaries. This pressure can be external or internalised as in “I don’t want to hurt their feelings”.
Sometimes we might not even know our boundaries are being crossed until it’s too late and we say nothing. But it’s really never too late to say something. This is key.
It is absolutely essential that we all have conscious skills when it comes to connecting with others so we can avoid these accidents. Accidents in the arena of erotic interaction can cause massive heart-ache and misery leading to feelings of massive blame or guilt. We can feel violated, full of shame and if not dealt with healthily, many of us might go on to close down our erotic impulses completely.
If the after-effect of any erotic boundary accident is not dealt with consciously and lovingly, the pain can, in some cases, cause massive long-lasting trauma. It is paramount that such accidents are dealt with consciously, beautifully and ethically. If someone approaches you wanting to tell you about being involved in an accident around consent with you, please listen lovingly and do your best not to get defensive. It’s important and very healthy to provide the spaces where accidents can be learned from to ensure they don’t happen again.
Stay Safe, Have Fun, Shine On
Hopefully this brief article has given some insights into the beauty and power and necessity of becoming more empowered with your own negotiation skills around consent and boundaries. Get skilled up and you will have a much better sex life. These are some essential life skills and they also apply to fields beyond sexuality too: e.g. saying “no” to your boss.
Of course, some erotic fantasy which can be amazing to explore involve consciously and deliberately giving up consent but ‘consensual non-consent’ is the topic of another article for another day.
Thanks for reading. Please feel free to comment below or share this page and also I’d love for you to add any educational resources in the comments.
Much love, Seani <3 x x x
With extra love and thanks to the amazing Rebecca Lowrie and Barbara Carrellas for showing me some amazing techniques when it comes to negotiating and teaching boundaries and consent skills <3 My workshops would be very different if it wasn’t for their expert input.