consent.community.connection.culture

Consent Writings & Workbook

Conversation seeds, recommendations, solo/group exercises, journal prompts

in the process of transforming into ebook // zine form - stay tuned ~

read the creators consent history and why the { safe loving touch } bodywork / connection program was created


 

updated 2.4.17


 

 

The purpose of this book

To allow you to learn more about your personal preferences and boundaries, and in so doing understand your needs and speak them to others with clarity.

Remove shame for having needs, finding unexpected ways to get them met – not being attached to a certain activity but going after a feeling or emotion (such as intimacy or feeling loved).

Inform you of unique healing modalities and ways of interrelating being pioneered by the radical bodyworkers of the bay and squish squad*.

After reading this book you will be

an expert in your own body language signals – you will have a clear sense of when you are attracted and repulsed to various offers.

You will be more aware of the signals that you are giving off to others.

You will be aware of your boundaries, needs, and edges, and know when you are approaching them.

You will be more comfortable vocalizing your no/yes/more/less/pause/refresh.

You will understand the unique physical communication signals of your partner – especially when they are in non=verbal subspace and may be unable or unwilling to speak.

You will have the tools to connect deeply and quickly with physical playmates in a platonic touch container.

You will know how to set up a platonic touch container

You will accelerate your trauma release process and learn the ‘secret’ techniques that will have your touch playmates looking forward to playdates.

You will have no shortage of dance and massage partners.

You will feel more connected, whole, and abundant in physical love – no longer projecting hungry, grabby, or needy vampire energy.

Less internal social stress and pressure to make sure all goes well with that special someone.

 

 

Introduction – background / history

Why am I writing this?

I am driven to create this work as information I wish I had access to in my youth. I was sheltered and naïve in the realms of my own dis/likes and had near-zero sexual experience when my virginity was taken by rape at the age of 20. Releasing this work is my actionable wish for a future in which all interpersonal interactions (both platonic and sexual) have been enthusiastically consented to. Had I practiced these exercises in a low-pressure environment (before being alone with a man I did not know) I would have developed my confidence in defending my boundaries vocally and I would not have been violated. Post-rape I realized that I needed to develop internal understanding and confidence in communicating my boundaries in a clear, compassionate, and graceful manner.

I sought out exercises to practice consent and found the landscape lacking, as much of the content assumed a high level of self-knowledge about dis/likes, and a well-developed voice – neither of which I had developed in my sheltered bookish Midwestern upbringing. As such a developed a complete program that goes builds sequentially, starting with the foundational tools that many other teachings assume to be present. This also has the added benefit of unpacking cultural assumptions and gendered indoctrination we take for granted. Therefore, I have compiled and generated exercises that can be done outside the context of an intimate partnership beginning with the foundations of connecting to one’s body, knowing what you are not/interested in, developing your voice, and how to practice consent (with an emphasis on exercises being amenable to solo inquiry and situations with friends to provide an abundance of situations in which to practice).

Why the Workbook Format ?

We all agree that consent is important, and the public consciousness is gaining clarity about what is non/consensual (thank heavens!) thanks to material such as *consent media vault* .

I thank these consent pioneers for blazing the trail, and found a gap between the abstract understanding of consent and practicing this skill in-vivo before we need it in low-stress scenarios. I felt a responsibility to meddling in the timeline and providing those potential ‘future mirror selves’ with the tools to prevent predators from preying on their naivete.

Thus I decided to aggregate the most impactful exercises that have helped me in my development as well as designing some of my own when there was not an exercise that stressed the development of a skill I found essential to practicing consent or boundary regulation. A related, foundational skill to consent is not only knowing what you re consenting to through ‘risk aware consent’, but also what you don’t/want and dis/like. I found no program including this fundamental material – developing self-knowledge - knowing where your boundaries are so you can speak to them to another person who wants to play with you.

Below find the guide I wish I would have had inside (before being terrified…freezing…and being taken advantage of). Skip to the Consent Workbook Section below if you are primarily interested in jumping into the exercises *.

Why bother spending so much time on the body – what are the benefits ?

Our sacred task is to reconnect to our bodies so that we may understand ourselves (and therefore by proxy, others) more deeply. This increases the bandwidth of sensory/emotional/subconscious experience available to us and expands our physical play palate. In so doing we access increasingly profound levels of connection/understanding to self/other and in so doing exponentially multiply the love that we are able to give and receive.

Frozen trauma requires psychic energy to maintain and guard. When we process and let go of trauma, this bound energy is liberated for used in service of constructive pursuits (such as expanding the bandwidth of sensation and being present to a greater depth of feelings).

How we got here – why are we so disembodied ?

There is a strong thread of disconnection from the body running through the dominant culture of the US deriving from a confluence of factors including – body as base, lowly, source of sin, to be transcended, inherently impure from birth. Some people have been traumatized at a young age and due to this have internalized the notion that their body is not a safe place for them to be (because when they are within it, they have been hurt or made to feel violated). Some people are in frequent or constant physical pain in their bodies. Some judge, critique, and compare their bodies with those of others and feel that they are lacking. Advertising reinforces this notion – that you are incomplete or inferior in some way, but that their product or service will correct that deficiency. Even if not blatantly negative or critical advertising still implies that you could be better and that you are not enough as you are in your current state.

We are taught that the body is base - the source of shameful impulses that need to be transcended. Many around the world have received an oppressive dose of religious judgement for enjoying physical sensations (‘catholic guilt’).

Female-bodied people are also culturally socialized to be self-sacrificing and demure, subservient to the needs of others – forfeiting their bodies to the desires of males.

Boundaries Philosophy

Children and Boundaries

Often, our boundaries are ingrained in an unconscious way – through well-meaning adults telling us that ‘no-one gets to touch us in our bathing-suit area except parents and doctors’. We model societal and cultural norms unquestioningly. Unfortunately, our society has room for improvement in the realm of teaching healthy boundaries and the consent that goes along with respecting the boundaries of others.

We are often taught that we do not over our own bodies at a young age – such as when parents tell their children to hug someone or give them a kiss. Often this person is either a trusted friend or relative of the parent/child, however, the child may have good reasons for not wanting to engage physically with someone else at that time. Children are also often forced by adults to share their toys or play with other children even when they do not want to. Even though these actions are well meaning they all proclaim the message that the child’s body is ultimately not their own, and is subject to the desires of others regardless of what the child wants.

If children are taught in an age-appropriate way about consent and that they are the sovereign masters of their own bodies this greatly reduces the likelihood of predation upon them because they can tune into their own personal truth in the moment regarding contact with another rather than acquiescing to what they perceive to be societal or relational norms.

Philosophical Aside – From Whence Do Boundaries Come?

At this juncture, it is relevant to explore the underpinnings of boundaries, namely, where do they come from? Babies have no boundaries and only learn the concept of self as distinct from mother over time (or so goes the current party line in developmental psychology). In our current society boundaries are useful for long-term survival – knowing where I end and the tiger begins, but western personal boundaries seem especially rigid and self-focused compared with other cultures that are more group-focuses (for example eastern nations such as china and japan). This also extends to the sense of responsibility we feel for others situation, and why we espouse ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps’. Is it possible we would live in a more loving community-supportive culture if we were to care for our neighbors as ourselves? In this reframe we could also include the earth as our mother, treating her with respect, reverence, love, and gratitude.

There is yet another possibility in the formation of boundaries to consider – that perhaps a boundary primarily serves a protective function to defend an area of the psyche that was damaged in the past. In this model a person initially starts out as a blank slate – open to experience and others manipulation and effect on their experience – until the psyche is damaged by a certain action or viewing a certain piece of media. At this point the psyche shouts “I don’t want this to happen to me (again)” and a deflecting boundary is created to keep others from getting close enough to that sore, sensitive place to inflict pain upon it again. In this way a boundary is like a guard, taking up psychic or mental energy to be watchful for any potentially dangerous approaches.

In this way, boundaries only exist because they have been crossed in the past, resulting in registering a violation in the psyche and seeing up a ‘safe zone’ to cushion the blister from future irritation. Thus, the understanding encoded in the idea of ‘breaking all of your usual rules for someone’. Ideally, the subtext of this phrase means the other is reading you so deeply that they are in tune with the needs underneath the boundary (usually safety). Thus, if the needs which created the boundary in the first place are listened to, this removes their need to exist.  So, have hope! It is possible to unpack boundaries that no longer serve you in a loving relationship/partnership (such as therapy).

How Trauma affects the body

Although trauma can affect people in a diversity of ways, through my experience as a bodyworker I have found, as a coping mechanism, most people freeze trauma inside their bodies. For example, someone who has experienced a sexual violation may have very stiff hips that are closed off to the full range of motion. When receiving a massage in this area (such as the outside edge of the hip or the glutes) the receiver on the mat may have memories float to the surface or cry without knowing why. One theory as to why this occurs is that ‘in the moment’ of acute trauma the body/brain cannot handle and to ‘survive’ packs away the for a time of greater resources able to process the event.

Compounding the difficulty of unlocking frozen trauma inside the body is the tendency of some to dissociate and ‘remove’ themselves from their physical experience (such as through ‘watching from the ceiling’) when overwhelmed. I have a personal tendency to dissociate when I experience trauma, especially when it occurs to my body. When I lost my virginity to rape at the moment of penetration my consciousness dissociated from my body and I watched the proceedings from above. When I tore my ACL after falling down a ladder while being attacked by bees I also dissociated from my body.

Learning from animals -how do they handle trauma?

Seeing as we are animals ourselves, observing the rest of the animal kingdom and how it handles trauma is in service to broadening our understanding and provides potential models for clues as to how we can release trauma. When one of a pack of deer is killed, after the rest have found a safe space they shake to remove the remnants of the trauma of being pursued from their system. If you have house cats or dogs and they are reprimanded, you will often see them ‘shake it off’ with head motions.

The animal ladder of trauma reaction is often abbreviated as :

Fight/flight/fawn/appease/submit/attach

Safe Loving touch as human right

I propose that we make safe loving touch a human right. Touch is essential for growth, development, and life. This fact came to light when babies in an orphanage who were being well taken care of in every way but receiving touch were dying from the lack of human contact.

Your body is a gift to be enjoyed by the wearer

Pleasure is our bodily birthright. We are born sensate, sensitive, and wide open – but over time we close down, protectively veiling ourselves behind shells and masks due to the psychological blows of not being seen, met and supported as we are. We are taught that sensitivity is weakness, to ‘toughen up’ to the harshness of ‘real’ life and so we guardedly shut down in self-preservation. Your body is the sole thing that you can truly possess, and the ultimate playground of your sovereignty. Your body is yours to share with those whom you choose in the way that you choose. Experimentation and self-inquiry allows you to track your inner experience, what you do/not enjoy, and know your boundaries.

De-sexualizing Touch

Compared to other cultures, we do not engage in as much platonic touch – why is this? In western culture, platonic touch culturally acceptable is reserved for babies, young children and their parents, lovers, close friends, and massage therapists / healers. Oftentimes, although platonic touch is reserved for these groups many who have these relationships do not engage in platonic touch anyway ! Most touching we see occurs between those who are in a monogamous sexually intimate partnership. In this way there is a lot of ‘attention’ around touch, meaning that it is highly monitored because it signifies a strong (often exclusive) connection. Often any touch between peers becomes equated with sexual interest. Due to this insipid assumption, there are often implied or unstated (shadow/subliminal) intentions behind touch.

Dangers of Implicit Intention behind touch

When the intention behind touch is not made explicit, unconscious fears and assumptions create uncertainty and can allow manipulators the space to blame lack of specificity or speed for a victim’s violation. This smokescreen allows the perpetrator to distract rather than speak the damming truth and deny their disinterest in whether their victim was enthusiastically consenting to the acts in question. Thus, the accused can blame the situational context and lack of understanding for the gap that allows them to fulfil their selfish desires without consideration for the victim’s satisfaction or clarity. When the impetus behind the touch becomes explicit and the onus is on constant consent excusing nonconsensual behavior with “I didn’t know what they meant” or “it all happened so fast” will soon become a thing of the past.

Solving this pernicious problem involves encouraging communication frequency, clarity, and breadth. This can be done through encouraging constant check-ins (including verbal and physical communication (eg. pausing the action momentarily)), increasing the vocabulary and specificity of terms, and dilating receptivity / increasing attunement to encompass greater information density. The responsibility lies with all parties engaged in the touch – the giver to check in, monitor communication channels, and acutely calibrate / adjust and the receiver to express their inner experience with depth, clarity, and timeliness.

 

You don’t have to be a mind-reader, but your lover will think you are

If this feels overwhelming (constant check-ins ?!?) know that it is a skill set that can be learned and practiced like any other.

Examples of those who have developed this skill set include : accomplished therapists, bodyworkers, empaths, parents with infants, animal whisperers and renowned lovers (either historical or personal).

Benefits to honing this skill sets include : people thinking that you can read their mind, understanding someone’s unspoken motivations, knowing when people are telling you the truth, increased understanding of babies / children / pets,  being an unforgettable lover.

 

When Over-communication becomes under-communication

One may think of this change as a shift in the current status quo towards a penchant for over-communication. What is currently considered ‘over-communication’ may indeed in the future be seen as laconic (especially when as we collectively reach the point at which we can mind-meld and communicate through consciousness itself).

Through expanding opportunities for communication we also increase our opportunities to practice this skill and in so doing gain the additional benefit of raising the general communication skill level of all. This common communication skill will serve us especially well when we are interacting with those whom we have not yet established rapport / patterns, interacting with those who challenge us, and when engage in activities in a small or compressed time frame (high speed/pace).

Everyone needs touch

All humans need touch to thrive. Babies even need touch to survive! An orphanage* was befuddled when their infants who were otherwise taken care of (food, shelter, warmth, etc.) ‘failed to thrive’ and were dying. Once the babies received physical affection each day the trend reversed and all the infants lived. Engaging in platonic touch releases endorphins and oxytocin (the bonding, love hormone) into the body, increasing feelings of well-being and connection. These compounds decrease stress allowing the immune system to operate at highest efficacy.

Today many people are touch-starved including most males and vulnerable populations such as the elderly and infirm. It is my personal belief that many ‘crimes of passion’, rapes, and violence against women is due to an unfortunate majority of males being touch-starved. *Men who travel on business hire prostitutes just to touch them lovingly.  The shadow of a touch-starved and touch-judgmental culture is dark, depressive, and deprives us of the potential of bountiful daily connections.

Teaching healthy boundary management

Unspoken beliefs around touch (such as ‘it is only appropriate within a monogamous sexual relationship’) constrain the situations in which people are socially supported in engaging in touch. With good intentions but negative unforeseen outcomes we have tried to protect vulnerable populations (such as the young) from manipulative or exploitative touch by making all touch with them suspect. A common example of this is an adult making a big deal of children wrestling or enjoying their bodies which instills shame in the children who had pure intentions rather than the perverted projections onto them by adults. The clear downside of this method occurs when a predator gets a child alone without the protective scrutinizing gaze of society.

A strong solution to this issue is teaching children (and all people) strong boundary management. This includes lessons on how to know where boundaries are, what common healthy boundaries look like, how to know if someone is respecting your boundaries, and how to communicate (vocally and physically) when someone is approaching a boundary and how you feel most comfortable proceeding.

 

Re-conceptualizing Touch - Touch activism

My purpose as a touch activist is to re-normalize platonic touch as a pathway to intimate connection and wellness. Touch activism bridges the realms of dance, bodywork, massage, deep platonic connection, physical communication, and consent.

My personal passions as a touch activist include : non-verbal communication, dance-floor consent, creating body-supportive spaces, translating the physical embodied realm of dance & bodywork into evocative / explanatory language, and developing new bodywork tools, techniques & styles (and engaging in bodywork { everywhere } ). As an educator I seek to make safe and consensual platonic touch supported in all spaces and expand our physical language to increase the range of ways that we can touch each other to mutual satisfaction.

 

Consent Workbook

 

Level 1 – Connecting To Self-Body

 

  • Boundaries

Boundary Flavors

There are three main types of boundaries : hard, soft, and conditional boundaries. Each term denotes the flexibility of the boundary based on context and comfort. Boundaries (aka limits) are discussed during negotiation with all participating playmates (more on negotiation later*). Within the context of this lesson, ‘bottom’ means receiver of sensation and ‘top’ means the giver of sensation.

Hard boundaries are never to be crossed and a respectful distance should be kept from even approaching them out of courtesy (eg. no penetration, not hovering your hand at the entrance to their intimate openings as if ‘testing the waters’).

Soft boundaries are “things that the bottom has indicated that under normal circumstances they do not wish to do, however, under certain specifically negotiated circumstances these types of play may be permitted provided they are approached delicately by the top”. (eg. no spanking unless I stick my bum out and beg you, you ask me, and we start with light nail strokes and caresses to warm up the area) http://www.bdsmwiki.info/Boundaries *terminology - thuddy, stingy, top, bottom, dom, sub

Conditional boundaries are boundaries that need a certain criterion to be met before they are approached (eg. verbally ask me before touching me below the waist).

Boundaries may change or relax when trust between partners builds or a partner becomes more adventurous. Gently pushing (probing) boundaries - when done by a comforting, compassionate partner with great care - can be a beautiful way to enrich and evolve a relationship. http://www.bdsmwiki.info/Boundaries *how do you know you can trust someone

How do you know what your boundaries are?

Often you can tell If someone you are playing with is approaching a boundary when you start to feel uncomfortably nervous – wanting to move away and have them leave you alone. You may freeze or shut down because as your body is being encroached upon, it is no longer a safe place to be feeling inside of.

If you find this happening in a SM session and you clearly realize what the boundary is (eg. don’t touch my face) you can clearly and directly articulate it in the moment even if you omitted it during negotiation.  If you didn’t realize that you had a boundary there ever before, stick with the sensation and try to pinpoint its cause - this is a big learning experience! Signal to your partner to slow down by giving your ‘slow’ physical sign or saying ‘yellow, you’re approaching a boundary and I want to get clear on what it is – can you do what you were just doing in slow motion and explore the surrounding area while I get a clearer idea?’. If you can determine why this boundary exists (eg. partner running sexual energy, unfamiliar partner, distracted partner, low energy, body state, soreness/injury, not feeling stretchy…) this will add to your self / situational awareness and aid in communication with other play partners in the future.

Yes/No/Maybe Lists

There is also an abundance of yes/no/maybe lists to peruse to determine what you are interested in, and I am going to create one specifically for the bodywork style I developed called Somatic Magic **

Feather pulled across skin (neck, face, side of ribcage)

Head scratched

Hair pulled (back of neck, full scalp, body har)

Nails dragged across skin

Muscle/skin grabbed, pulled away from body (top of shoulders, biceps, thigh, stomach)

Chest sat on

Face touched (eyebrows, cheekbones, eye sockets, around mouth)

BDSM Yes/No/Maybe Lists

(In BSDM a scene simply means a negotiated play space – who will participate, what will they do, where will it happen, how long will it take place)

“After the list is made, give yourself some time to think. Go back over your "yes' list, and mark with an N those items that you feel you NEED in a scene, that without these things the scene is not worth doing. For instance, for some people a scene needs to include some orgasmic activity, or a scene may not be a scene for you without pain, or without bondage, or without service. Your needs are the items that are essential to you, and are not negotiable; if a prospective Top does not want to do these, you probably wouldn't have enough in common to play with that person.

You can mark the remaining items, including some in the 'maybe" column, with a W for WANT - these are the fascinating challenges that constitutes the icing on the cake, and while we can get along fine without any one or two or three of them, without icing at all that cake may become kind of, well, plain. Try writing all the items on your 'maybe' list  on cards and putting them in order from what feels safest to what feels scariest. You may learn something about yourself and when you are ready for some risky exploration, start with the easiest item.”

http://isthisbdsm.blogspot.com/2013/04/negotiating-scene-necessity-or-option.html

Confounding Boundaries – Journal Prompts

Journal : What are your boundaries? Are they context dependent? What are the contextual factors that cause your boundaries to dramatically change (what makes you put down or raise up your boundaries or ‘make more space’ – increasing the width of the buffer around a hard line)? How have your boundaries evolved through time? What caused them to change? How did you learn what your boundaries were? What was it like before you had a boundary? What happened to cause you to make a boundary? Have your boundaries become more general or specific over time?

Were there any signs in your body/mind the moment before your boundary was crossed that were red flags? These are your personal intuitive signs - mark them well, for monitoring them enables you to check in with yourself regarding your inner state. The following exercise can help clarify your internal process and help you identify your personal signals.

Knowing internal personal Boundary Approach signals

Exercise : Approach & Body Monitoring

People pair up, and stand 10-15 feet away from each other in two lines. One side designated the approaches moves toward the still line holding an intention (ex. Friendly, threatening, inquisitive). The partner standing still and being approached holds their hand up when they feel a reaction in their body, to which the approached stops where they are until the feeling in the standing partner dissipates and their put down their hand.

Discussion : How close was your partner able to get? Did the distance change depending on the intention the approaching partner was holding? How do you check in with yourself? What are your subtle signs? Does each sign increase in volume (does the feeling become more intense) or do you have a series of sensations that occur in an order that signals an increase in parasympathetic response?

Some examples of physical signals that someone is approaching your boundaries are : coldness in stomach, heat rising, discomfort, desire to back away, wanting to freeze, breath getting tight or shallow.

Exercise : Learning the language of your unconscious -  bodily non-verbal signals

Partner tries to cross more intimate boundary (such as touching the neck) - notice physical sensations and instinctual actions that occur when a boundary is being approached (near, far), at the edge, and penetrated.

How to know you can trust someone ?

An integral part of knowing if you can trust someone is being able to tune into your body’s own innate system for communicating trustworthiness. The unconscious receives significantly more bits of information then what is filtered and presented to the conscious mind, and the unconscious speaks through the body, a relationship summarily encapsulated in the phrase ‘the body never lies’. First you must trust your own body and know the personal language of your inner voice to be able to receive messages from the body about other people. This process is often called intuition, having a hunch, or listening to your gut. Each body’s language will have its own patterns and idiosyncrasies, and the ‘two lines’ exercise can help you begin to explore the subtle signs of your body’s language. *  Approach & Body Monitoring

When you are deciding how much to trust another potential playmate notice how the person interacts with others – watch them play with others and attune to your body’s communication regarding what it is feeling. Ask the wider community about the potential playmate’s reputation – ask others within their friend group or social group if they would recommend you playing with them. Notice if the potential playmate remembers what you have told them – especially if they ‘forget’ anything (goes double for important issues such as boundaries).

 

1.2 Finding your voice

Although it can be most difficult for ‘shy’ or ‘quiet’ folks to be proactive and vocal about their desires it is especially important for us to not only be advocates for our pleasure, but also to extend invitations/advances to those whom we fancy. If we do not, we continue to silently support the status quo of dominant / aggressive individuals being rewarded for their forwardness and persistence. Much like power, the person who deserves your attention is the one who is honoring it and is aware of the responsibility of requesting your most precious resource – your time and attention.

Exercise –

Warm up your throat – Own your Own pleasure

To start with, in a mirror, or out loud, get comfortable vocalizing each of the five main directives - no/yes/more/less/refresh. Practice all the different flavors of conveying the same message : pleasant, gracious, graceful, forceful. Note the areas that you are least comfortable or direct and focus on developing more vocabulary and inner awareness of what causes the discomfort and brainstorm ways to convey the message while diffusing the tension.

Make juicy sexy noises. Start by yourself, and work on incorporating them into your life any time you are feeling pleasure, really let it rumble and tumble out from your belly, letting your jaw relax and soaking in the easy delight. Then move on to letting your sounds out when working with a partner – such as in a context of receiving a massage. Not only do your noises convey a wealth of information to your play partner, but they are they often quite rewarding for your playmate and those within earshot!

Discussion

What does your yes / no sound and look like ? Does it change based on the situation ? What carries over into all situations – what are you preferred channels of communication?

 

Level III Communicating with Others Consensually

Beyond the Verbal – Types of Communication

Communication happens on many levels – verbal, physical, energetic, situational. Many consent educations teach that a verbal response is the gold standard and the only way to have ‘true consent’. However, when I examine my own behavior, solely focusing on the verbal does not always acknowledge the whole picture. Some people prefer or are more fluent in physical communication (such as those who often work in non-verbal modes – children, dancers, bodyworkers). Additionally, being in loud or silent places can remove the possibility of communicating verbally. There are times when I have been dancing (alone or with others) for an extended period of time and I am in a non-verbal physical/mental space – being called to speak (social chatter) takes me out of the depth and richness of experiencing the precious and exquisite now-ness that I am immersed in.

Why has the verbal been placed above non-verbal as the ‘only true way’ to establish consent? Possibility this is due to the clarity that utilizing the verbal form of communication attempts to reach. Perhaps because speaking invokes a verbal agreement - holding people to their word. Alas, using the verbal causes us to pop into our minds and can alter the natural and easy flow that energy in the body had been enjoying. Although disruption is often seen as negative, if it is in service to seeking clarity and checking-in this is a noble pursuit that demonstrates the attentiveness and caring of the individuals.

Non-verbal consent

In due diligence I wish to preface this section by proclaiming that this is an advanced technique and should only be used when all partners are confident in identifying and expressing their boundaries, know each other’s signals well, are deep listeners, and have pre-established trust.  Non-verbal consent should only be used after a verbal conversation (or several) establishing that non-verbal consent is appropriate, welcomed, and constitutes an enthusiastic yes.

I have certain play-mates with which I have established a container of non-verbal communication and consent. I have given verbal ‘blanket consent’ for them to touch me in certain ways and that I am a pre-approved yes unless I state otherwise in a future moment. As an example, a frequent blanket consent I give is for hugs, although I occasionally turn down hugs even from people I love because I am too hot or sweaty for such close contact. I also turn down hugs if I am feeling horizontal and giving a hug would require me to stand. There are some people I turn down hugs from if I am in an emotionally tender place and do not have the resource to give that energy to them.

While learning and practicing the skill of non-verbal consent it is even more important to be obsessively attentive to what your partner is communicating and to go slow. Due to the dearth of teaching the language of the body in traditional schooling, a useful comparison to make is as though learning you are leaning a new language through visiting a foreign country. As in the case of visiting a foreign land - be careful, courteous, and curious !

Consent killing the mood

A common cultural example to pull in here is the often-heard sentiment from many initiators (most often men) I have spoken to who believe that consent kills the mood. ‘I don’t want a girl to ask me to kiss I would rather have her just do it”. I have heard the mirror sentiment from the receiver that they “don’t want to be asked to be kissed, just do it”. The subtext is that the receiver does not want their play partner to verbally ask them and discharge the sexual tension that has been building, however, the receiver does want to be listened to and communicated with on a physical, animalistic level. The trope that ‘consent kills the mood’ has a big underlying assumption beneath it – that consent can only be given verbally.

Negotiation and Consent Communication is not all verbal

Although in our mainstream the only way you can get concrete consent is through verbal channels (it would be informative to look up the legal president for this **) I disagree with the assumption that ‘consent can only be given verbally’ on several points – the first being that someone may agree to something verbally but when their body is saying no, that does not give you the opportunity to say ‘haha well you agreed so here goes’. If you receive a no, you have a responsibility to honor it, no matter what level it is given on. If you are receiving mixed signals stop the action and check in with a physical pause (and verbal conversation) as it often means the person you are playing with is inwardly conflicted. Your attentiveness to your playmate will build immense trust in them for you and allow them to more deeply surrender into your contact and help avoid any snarly non-consensual potentials. See the ‘Mixed signals’ section below for more detailed analysis.

In summation, consent has to do with clarity in the question and giving the other person the time and space to respond without pressure, not the form the question comes in.

Non-verbal consent in practice – the Prolonged Pause

A common physical escalation point is a kiss – there is a larger jump in intimacy during this act and provides a prime place to practice non-verbal consent. For example, if you are the initiator/giver going in for a kiss, you can make lingering penetrative eye contact and slooooowly lean in (as if you are the umpire determining whether a player is in or out), pausing again about 10% away from physical contact between the lips of your receiver. This prolonged pause is the initiator non-verbally ‘asking’ a physical question through body language, allowing the receiver space to physically respond. If the receiver leans in to complete the kiss, in my view this clearly constitutes consent on their part, as they were given the choice to lean in.

A good rule of thumb is that if you have been reading the body language signs of your partner and getting strong yesses and you would like to know if they would enjoy receiving a new sensation of [ insert activity here ] –go 90% of the way towards/into the action slowly and then pause, waiting for them to meet you the rest of the way. Through this method the engagement becomes a conversation and you are not simply impressing yourself and your wishes/desires onto someone who is reluctantly acquiescing. The amazing side benefits of this method is that the slow pace can increase sexual tension and therefore build arousal !

‘But what if I have to touch them somewhat for them to understand what I want to do?’

For example, let’s say the initiator is feeling inspired to do an activity that the receiver may not be able to see before it occurs, such as hair pulling. I would recommend to start at a less-risky activity, such as resting your hand on their hair, or combing your hands through their hair to see how they respond first. Then you can begin with slow light pulling at the base of the neck and read their body signals as you accelerate the pressure. Remember, you can always verbally ask as well!

When signals don’t match

Additionally, there are times in which someone may verbally be saying yes, but their body signals are saying no. This is a prime opportunity to check in verbally explaining what you are observing and sensing with your partner, which opens the conversation and engagement to a deeper level. Noticing and voicing the mismatch of signals demonstrates attentiveness to your partner, and deepens their trust in your ability to tune into them and speak up when the situation does not feel right. Additionally, discussing the conflicting signals verbally can allow for deeper understanding of personal dynamics/past trauma and unconscious body signals that the receiver may not be aware of (others may have simply steamrolled them in the past).

In general, an upstanding principal to follow is that a no on one level overrides a yes on other levels. This helps honor the principal of pursuing the path of highest hell yes of all participants.

Discussion

What type of consent do you prefer? What do you do when verbal and physical do not match? What do you do in situations where you cannot obtain verbal consent (eg. a loud place, silent place)?

Specificity is Splendid, and has no end

Another reality that is not frequently spoken about by those advocating that ‘verbal consent is the only way consent can be given’ is that not only can you never discuss every possible nuance of a particular activity, but also that specificity in asking has no end, as the following ‘may I touch your arm’ exercise illustrates. Verbal consent is not an ironclad assured safety mechanism, as manipulators will always find ways to twist words, hence the need for practice in affirming and defending boundaries through both verbal and non-verbal means.

Exercise : May I touch your arm

Pair off, one partner asks the other ‘may I touch your arm’ or something equally innocuous. The touching partner is to be in a manipulative, extractive, penetrative mindset, pushing the boundaries of akin to a misbehaving child wishing to get away with treating their younger sibling poorly as revenge for a previous slight. Beginning touching the arm in an expected ‘normal’ way, the toucher can them begin caressing in a laviscious, uncomfortable, or painful way (such as by pinching or twisting the skin on the arm in opposite directions such as an ‘Indian burn’). Allow the receiver to clarify what they do/not prefer, with the giver trying to look for loopholes, ways to manipulate, or cause pain. In subsequent rounds, asking more difficult questions such as ‘may I kiss you’ (here is an opportunity to gain comfort in vocalizing no or counter-offers for the receiving partner as well).

Discussion : What did it feel like to be the receiver? The giver/manipulator? What was enjoyable about being the manipulator (feeling smarter than the other person at finding a loophole)?

Non-verbal/Physical Language/Communication Common Translations/Basics

Although each individual is different, below please find some trends I have observed for how to interpret physical movements.

Moving towards : yes / more

Moving away : no / less / slow down / refresh

Speeding up : yes / more / increase energy, pace

Slowing down : no / slow / refresh

Tensing up : no / slow / decrease energy, pace

Yielding : yes / surrender

Other aspect to note are : eye movements – open/closed, eye contact, breathing changes (heavier, deeper, quicker, shallower, swallowing), repositioning

Additionally non-linguistic sounds are a wonderful way to communicate and stay in the bodily experience : moaning, heavy breathing, animal noises – grunts, growls, yelps, purrs, squeals.

Showing your cards – Radical Honesty

When playing with a new partner, making the intention behind the intended touch explicit allows all those participating to fully understand and agree to the activity and subtext. Although ‘showing your cards’ and letting others else know of your romantic / sexual interest in them can be scary for the ego, there are a plethora of benefits to making this commonplace.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Most often conveying deep feelings is scary because of the fear that the other’s feeling will not align and the revealer will be rejected. The extreme terror that rejection can cause is bound up in fear for survival – when being accepted by others was a prerequisite for inclusion in the tribe during a time when aloneness equated death. The ego’s oversized fear is outdated - a symptom of the inflated alarm over a potential social gaffe, an overblown obsession with saving face and sparing embarrassment. Failing early and often allows you to build stronger relational prototypes that allow you receive your deepest desires from those who delight in fulfilling them.

Worst case scenario

Although there may be a moment of awkwardness or discomfort in vulnerably sharing what you want if the other does not share your sentiment, you are able to know right away rather than wasting energy in courting this person sexually (no more unknowingly being in the friend-zone!). You are then able to divert what would have been wasted energy chasing the un-interested into pursuing others who are more likely to enthusiastically meet (and even celebrate) your needs.

Both ‘rejector’ and ‘rejectee’ can then decide if they would like to engage on a more platonic level, leading to a trusting friendship that is borne of evidence that both parties will communicate authentically even when uncomfortable or difficult. As the common date night movie trope often lead us to believe it is even possible that the organic deepening and growth of the platonic relationship over time may result in feelings of attraction blossoming from the romantically uninterested that were not there initially. However, I strongly caution that this should not be the primary goal when agreeing to be friends 😉 !

Working up the courage to clearly communicate how you feel allows you to seize the reigns of your life and avoid wasting opportunities that present themselves out of fear of rejection. This confidence translates into having more power and proactivity when interacting with others. The more frequent the rejection, the more effective the inoculation against fear of failure – for ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. There is wariness of saying or receiving a ‘no’ as well as a stigma around rejection that we as a culture would do well to dissipate – for ultimately our yes is only as strong as our no. Normalizing saying no without judgement and making rejection an acceptable and commonplace occurrence would also break our distended fear of receiving these as answers.

Best case scenario

Upon revealing your undying love you may find that they have a crush on you too – and you would have never known had you not bared your heart!

Receiving a No – counter offers (cunt her offers)

Receive a No graciously, and if it feels genuine you can thank your partner for expressing their boundaries. Allowing the receiver to make a counter offer, or making one yourself allows the connection and play to continue and models ‘a no does not mean the end of play or the relationship’. Very young children are only able to say no to their parents or caregivers when they feel secure in the relationship that they will not be abandoned/still be loved if they say no or express their body sovereignty. See how you can get creative within the boundary, for ‘a no just means a yes to something else’. My friends Catalina and Michael actually invented a new type of play called ‘Energy Sex’ because Catalina expressed that she did not want to have sex with Michael (a relatively new friend) with whom she was attending a sex party that evening. The pair got creative within the boundary and through circulating their sexual energy non-physically, they birthed a new way of relating !

Promiscuous Flirting :

Flirting is a great place to have fun practicing with expressing physical attraction in a low/no pressure scenario and engaging more with others in the world. As I learned in a flirting workshop, ‘flirt with the world, and the world will flirt back at you’. Flirting is also an excellent space to practice saying no while continuing to engage someone in a socially interactive dance. Practice flirting anywhere it is appropriate – grocery store, on the phone, at events. Flirting works well to spice up places that are traditionally ‘boring’ such as the grocery checkout line, post office, or DMV. Make sure your flirting is clearly playful fun for all involved – keep it lighthearted and unattached to outcome. To increase the pool of potential flirting candidates, flirt with people you are not necessary sexually interested in (eg. senior citizens). By flirting with those you are not sexually attracted to you gain valuable ‘practice time’ to try out your personality before a ‘high stakes’ scenario in which you genuinely fancy the target of your flirtatious banter.

 

Comfort Receiving Nos

Bus Stop Backrub Exercise :

Offer someone a touch that you are certain that they will say no to (eg. ask for a massage from a stranger at the bus stop) Consciously practice comfort with making a fool of yourself, and be surprised at the range and style of answers you get to your offer (this is also a good way to learn the variety of ways that you can reject someone). Propose a counter-offer or invite them to suggest how they would like to be interacted with. Be open and receptive to their response and whether you want to engage with them in the way in which they offered.

 

Pure Play

Occasionally, such as with children, pets, or friends, one may find a play partner who will simply enjoy the touch for what it is – an exploratory gift of the moment. Holy Hedonists! If you are so lucky to find this rarity, they may be a good candidate to explore what kinds of touch you enjoy without obligation or shyness (excluding children / pets for lack of informed consent). With such a partner the delight comes from the exploratory play itself – relishing in the journey without attachment to destination. The focus of the session can be falling as deeply as possible into the ‘now’ of the body experience, drinking deep of the delight of the moment. When I am blessed by such a relationship all the actions within the session become a pure gift and I am welcome to show up fully as my silly, sound-full, sacrilegious self (such as by laughing when invariably gas gets loudly squeezed from my intestines).  I am fortunate to have many bodywork friends in the bay area who help me to develop Somatic Magic positions and moves through our untangled, sloppy, highly experimental play.

 

Ragdoll Cradling Exercise (credit to Karen Moriarty) :

Form duets, one member as rag doll the other as the cradler. The cradlers prompt is to love, hold, nurture, and demonstrate physical affection for their beloved rag doll. Cradlers - this is your worn out, favorite doll, the one that has been with you from the beginning, the best friend always dangling from your arm – you have never gone anywhere without your beloved doll soul twin. How close and entangled can you get with your doll? You may want to stroke you dolls hair, whisper secrets into their ears, or tell them a story. Ragdolls – how physically inert can you get – you are an intimate object, limp, yielding, and receptive. Switch.

Discussion :

Receiver : How does it feel to receive such childlike love? What are your memories of being held tenderly? Notice when you do not trust them to hold you – where do you tense up? When / how does your body tell you they are trustworthy? What was the hardest aspect to receive (true surrender, their secrets) ?

Giver : What was the hardest thing to believe or to trust your doll with (secrets, that they would not leave your side) ?

 

Listening to Heartbeat Exercise :

In this simple exercise you will lay your ear over another’s heart and listen to their heartbeat. Switch.

Discussion :

Notice how your breathing changes – do you end up in sync? Where are you holding tension – in your neck, not wanting to fully let your head sink into their chest? In your shoulders, not trusting their body to hold you head?

Human Blanket Exercise :

For 3 minutes you will have your partner lay on top of you as a human blanket. Decide if you want to be face up or down. Do a short 10 second trial with your partner on top of you (with them facing down) and see if you need to assemble any squish or pillows you may need to feel comfortable being compressed on the floor. Switch

Discussion : what memories came up for you? Did aspects of the experience change over time? What was the experiential story arc?

Level III Advanced Topics - BDSM, Boundaries, and consent

I was fortunate to connect to BDSM in my young adulthood and was drawn to it through the detailed practices around boundaries and consent, applying many of the principals I learned in my teachings and embodiment coaching practice. Due to the intensity of many of the acts, scenes, and the possible unfamiliarity of new play partners to each other’s preferences, out of necessity BDSM has developed a host of skills, techniques, and terms to create an extremely well-woven safety net. BDSM culture emphasizes personal responsibility over ‘idiot’- or ‘baby’-proofing potentially dangerous scenarios and this focus forces a comprehensive ‘covering all the bases’ negotiation style. Negotiation means the pre-emptive verbal dialogue between the people who are going to ‘play’ or engage in a ‘scene’ (activity) to establish their interests and boundaries before any action takes place.

Negotiation

Negotiation is a word that comes from BDSM culture, and I have found it is a useful model for communicating needs, desires, and plans between potential play partners. “In the D/s or BDSM environment negotiation is one of the most basic building blocks of a power exchange…it is agreeing when and where to meet, what limits might be imposed or explored…physical and health considerations, emotional landmines, the use or absence of safe signals, [and] how and when the scene begins and ends.” (http://chicomunch.com/publ/basic_info_about_bdsm/basic_bdsm_negotiation/1-1-0-21)

A great tip to enhance clarity and make sure no topics are forgotten during negotiation is to preemptively write out your boundaries, desires, and other pertinent information to convey to your playmates in advance. This also provides an individual check in as to whether you are “able to discuss sensitive topics openly and honestly”, for if you cannot, you must seriously reconsider your status as “emotionally mature enough to engage in these activities with this person if you are not even able to speak about it openly”.

One style of negotiation involves the use of white lists or black lists. “Whist list only indicates you will only perform activities that are explicitly negotiated as a “YES, please!”. Black lists indicate that you will do anything that is reasonably safe and sane, and isn’t indicated as an “I very much do not want to do this”.” For new-to-you playmates or activities, it is recommended to operate with a ‘white list only’ status until you get to know them over time. Even under a ‘white list only’ status, it is helpful to know their black list so that you can more deeply respect their preferences. http://www.bdsmwiki.info/Negotiations

Beginning Verbal Discussions

Use I statements, clear, concise, and assertive speech ( “I want” and “I do not want”) to express boundaries. Start small and simple with negotiations and don’t be afraid to speak up if clarification is needed (especially if the point is particularly salient for you) so that your wishes can be properly followed and reinforced. Leave nothing up to interpretation at first and gradually negotiate as it become appropriate for the developing dynamics (over several scenes or near the end of negotiation if you are comfortable with them). Experienced players find clarify and honest in negotiations more valuable than someone claiming to have ‘no boundaries’ and pushing past their comfort zone and ruining a scene. This is not a race, you will always have more opportunities to play! Start with a light and respectful scene, which allows for trust to build with additional conversation over time.

Do not agree to anything you aren’t enthusiastic about doing.

If you aren't comfortable and 100% sure if you want to play with someone, don't play.

http://www.bdsmwiki.info/Negotiations

 

How to proceed when verbal negotiation is not possible

If you are engaged in low key physical play within the container of a class or a well-held workshop, extensive negotiations to practice a skill or prompt may not be necessary. Additionally, in pick up play, such as in a non-verbal dancefloor situation, verbal negotiation may not be possible.

A good rule of thumb for situations in which verbal negotiation is undesirable, unlikely, or impossible is to start by watching to gain more information about the players and the scene. If you feel as though your interaction would contribute to the situation and be welcome make eye contact and make a physical gesture of ‘asking’ (eg. eye contact, hovering hand over arm to  physically ‘ask’ permission to touch, making light contact and waiting for them to press their body into your touch as a ‘yes more’). **how to consensually enter group play

Start a type of touch ‘low and slow’ – with low intensity, pressure, and pace, and only increase if your partner shows signs they desire more stimulation. It is also recommended that you touch them places they can see first (not staring out by sneaking up and smacking them on the rump unless they have expressed their desire and delight at this sudden shock). In these scenarios monitoring your partner’s body language is additionally emphasized.

http://www.bdsmwiki.info/Negotiations

Having a physical safeword is highly recommended, such as the ‘two tap out’ sign. In wrestling when a combatant is pinned and they admit defeat the pinee give two smacks of the ground with an open palm or on the body of the pinner to signal to the pinner that they have ‘won’ and to release them.

 

For a thorough Negotiation Short and Long Form please see Appendix *

Negotiation Prompts:

Do you want to be in one role (dominant, submissive, switch) for a portion of time, or the whole time? Do you want the switching to flow back in forth in longer periods of time or like quicksilver whenever the feeling rises?

How to make negotiation Safer

For people new to a particular place or entering into a new community, there are several ways to make choosing playmates and having negotiations safer. These guidelines are particularly geared for those who are more submissive or have difficulty appraising if others may do them harm, reducing exposure to predators though relying on community reputation and visibility during vetting.

  • Play in a public place such as a dungeon, jam, or event.
  • Have a neutral party observe the negotiation and play such as a friend, event host, dungeon monitor, or even an attentive audience.

When new playmates are watched (especially the first time people are playing together) they are much less likely to do something unethical, dangerous, or abusive which will reflect badly on their reputation.

  • Find a protector / mentor and have them select a play partner and negotiate with or for you.

Ideally this person is more experienced then you with the type of play you are wanting to engage in and is “a very trusted friend who very thoroughly knows your intimate desires and boundaries” with skill in choosing good play partners. (http://www.bdsmwiki.info/Negotiations). This person may have been in the shared social circle longer, or generally respected as a good judge of character. Regardless of what others say, the safest bet in the end is to trust your personal instincts above all.

When playing in private - Set a check-in alarm

Pre-arrange with a friend that you will call them at a certain time to check in and make sure all is well on/after your first ‘play date’ with a new partner. Make sure that this friend has the address, name, and contact information of your new playmate. Tell your potential playmate that you are doing this (you can also recommend that they do the same). If they react with anger or judgement, note that as a huge red flag and reconsider playing with them, or proceed with additional caution. Be sure to set an alarm on your phone so you do not forget to check in with your friend.

Evil Monk had this to say about the check-in alarm :

“I've talked with many people -- mostly submissive women -- who have survived [first time playmate] assaults, and I make it a point to ask them "if your partner had been certain that a third party knew where you were, what you were doing, who you were doing it with, and that you would be checking in with them later, would this assault have taken place?" In every single case so far, the reply has been "no." Some have also reported that the prospective partner called off the play date entirely when they insisted that such a mechanism be in place.”

Remember – the first play date with a new partner is the one most likely to go wrong.

http://www.evilmonk.org/a/jay.cfm

BDSM Consent

BDSM ‘Best Practices’ advocate for informed (risk-aware) express consent rather than implied consent (eg. inferred from silence). Informed consent means that all parties involved have a “ clear appreciation and understanding of the facts, implications, and future consequences of an action” and are aware of the potential risks of any action. Informed consent can be “given in writing, by speech (orally), or non-verbally, e.g. by a clear gesture such as a nod”. (http://www.bdsmwiki.info/Consent – this page is highly recommended reading and I will be pulling, paraphrasing, and adding to the concepts presented within throughout this section).

More specifically consent :

requires a clear, enthusiastic, resounding yes; can never be assumed, it must be granted;

when given does not constitute blanket consent, it can be revoked at any time;

is ongoing -  requires continual communication between all parties;

only capable of being granted by someone who is fully capable, fully informed and not coerced;

and each person involved is responsible for respecting, maintaining and/or communicating consent.

(http://sunnymegatron.com/consent-sexual-boundaries-yesnomaybe/)

Many of the terminology, concepts, and practices of BDSM have helped me immensely in understanding and navigating platonic touch situations. For example, due to many BDSM folk’s interest in power play BDSM makes explicit the often hidden power dynamics present in many interactions (more on this later) and gives us detailed vocabulary to provide delicately nuanced detail.

Due to new playmates initial unfamiliarity with each other and the potentially intense nature of interactions consent is crucial and trust is built up through reputation, skill, and clear negotiation.

There is a strong BDSM current of preparing ‘elevator speeches’ in which each person’s preferences (‘yuck/yum’) are expressed and last test date / STI status stated. This sharing is part of the cultural fabric of informed consent and the radical unabashed honesty of the revelations allows mutually compatible play partners to find each other quickly and easily. When I encountered my first elevator speech sharing session I felt as though I had hardly explored my interests compared to the compressive and specific answers that many provided!

The emphasis on lack of judgement in BDSM is conveyed in a common phrase ‘don’t yuck my yum’ abbreviating the notion that we all have preferences and just because you don’t share someone’s penchant / perversity does not allow you to judge them. BDSM’s emphasis on deep sharing of personal preferences and proclivities provides a refreshing model for the clarity that comes from radical honesty.

The lack of coercion and openness to ‘no’ and ‘stop’ in BDSM provides a strong model for healthy relationships (nonconsensual coercion that is - 😉 ). People only play together because they want to and they can stop at any time, for any reason (such as needing to go to the bathroom). Immediate intimate self-disclosure allows compatible playmates to find each other rather than trying to manipulate or mold someone into playing a role they are unsuited for or uninterested in. The protective nature of throughout preemptive discussion and agreement puts personal responsibility and agency at the forefront before any action occurs. Combining this with BDSM’s cultural emphasis on checking in during play and ‘aftercare’ once the scene has ended make it a model worth studying for anyone who cares about the wellbeing of their playmates – platonic or otherwise.

What BDSM can teach us about boundaries

When playing with a new partner it is good to have an exploratory conversation to establish your hard and soft boundaries, your rules/preferences around them, and what your intensions and desires for engaging with the person are to see if you are a good fit - having common ground to engage with harmoniously to mutual satisfaction. This may sound like sharing hard boundaries (not wanting to be touched in a certain place, no penetration, no kissing on the mouth) and describing moments that you want to be checked in with (check in before you slip under my clothing or taking anything off, check in when you increase the pressure beyond a firm handshake).

This is an apt moment to establish words that signify stop, slow down, keep going, increase the pace, and decrease the pressure (for example, red, yellow, green, yes, more, lighter). Some ‘safe-words’ are used to stop the action outright, while others can communicate a willingness to continue, but at a reduced level of intensity (such as slow down or yellow). Pink is coming into vogue as a sign to take a non-scene related break – such as going to the bathroom.

Additionally, if you are engaging in pressure play it can be useful to have an intensity rating scale of 1-10 and asking your partner where they want to be within that chart (eg. I would like to be at a 5-6, starting by building up from a 2, with a few moments at 7, with a maximum of 8).

Pro dommes are deep listeners

Pro dommes are highly respected and sought after because they are consent specialists and are clear and thorough in their communication. Through the domme’s ability to listen attentively to their sub before the scene (as well as translating the physical signals that are unspoken during) they weave a safe container for those they are playing with. Through the magic of attentive presence, the strong container created by the domme allows the sub to submit to the domme’s control with confidence. Thus the prerequisite for trust in order for the sub to surrender to their deepest desires is fulfilled. The feeling of submission, or ‘sub-space’ is immensely pleasurable and relaxing for the sub, who feels cared for and attended to on a level that is infrequently found after infancy. Many dommes enjoy the Godlike rush of being in power, providing an intimately curated experience in which the sub can surrender further than they ever imagined through reading (and often enjoying!) the subtle communications of the sub’s body language.

Part IV : Somatic Magic

Body Domming **

Body Domming is shorthand for body domination – the practice of using one’s body to allow a partner to act as a submissive and surrender into their physical experience. Some schools of BDSM call related practices ‘body handling’ and it occasionally bears physical similarities to ‘wrestling’ (if wrestling was slow, nurturing, deep, and caring). Body domming is acting as a dominant (active agent creating/curating experience and sensations rather than passive receiving agent) within the container of the play space. In this format when the body domme is physically under the receiver (receiver meaning the player closer to the ground, with their center of gravity lower) the domme is acting as the carrier wave, the sea upon which the receiver is buoyed, floating on top of the domme. The body domme needs to concentrate attention on cushioning and cradling joints and other exposed points (eg. bones) of the submissive receiver. Of special note is to cradle the neck and maintain control of the skull so that it does not unceremoniously thud to the floor (and in the process lose precious trust in the ability of the domme to track the sub).

An advanced practice of body domming occurs when the body domme is surfing on top of body of the receiver. This requires a level of listening several degrees deeper then ‘flying’ or ‘floating’ someone on top of you, as the receiver is receiving significantly more weight. Additionally, the receiver would need to be able to dislodge themselves from under the ‘rock’ of the weight of the domme in the situation that the weight reaches a point where the receiver’s body goes into a protective ‘contractive’ state as a physical safety boundary is being guarded (eg. the receiver’s body is ‘maxing out’ and the domme needs to ease up and move to another point).

The body domme is to concentrate on keeping an appropriate amount of tension and pressure in the point of contact. If there are several points of contact between bodies, the point that is holding the most pressure has attentional priority. Finally the domme is to keep a mental awareness of which point is furthest from the ground as it has the farthest to ‘fall’ (or ‘flop’) should a sudden shift of weight of movement occur. Keep in mind that the roles of giver and receiver are flexible in the somatic magic style – thinking of a domme as the one who is guiding or ‘responsible’ in the session. In informal play this can fluctuate widely, and indeed this flexibility allows for dynamic flow between the players, and as you become experienced you will realize who holds the power in any given moment without thinking.

While being surfed the receiver is to concentrate on directing the touch and pressure to the points that they desire through physical motions such as twisting, shrugging, and using their hands and feet to push up from the floor and create ‘ramps’ to guide the domme to particular places, towards the natural flow / resting point of gravity. The receiver is to breathe into the embrace of gravity to create space in previously tight and constricted spaces.

Although the onus of responsibility for self-care lies with each participant, emphasis of care is on listening to the player on the bottom, the player in the most receptive role, and the player receiving the most weight. This can be translated into shorthand that you are always listening to the other person a little bit more then following your own inner desires (although your own needs are a close second). Through the conscious manipulation and listening to the sub’s body the body domme can lull the submissive into an altered state of surrender and trust, allowing them to receive deep nurturing love and reprogramming the physical patterns that no longer serve them.

A surprisingly deep level of trust can be reached in a relatively short time when the animal body is able to relax, the fear-seeking warning systems can power down, and the unconscious is allowed to speak through the body.

The magic in somatic magic**

Squishcraft – witchcraft in a cuddly buddy body realm

Trance states – who is responsible for putting who in a trance

Allowing other beings – aspects of yourself to move through you

Respond to contraction with retraction (of pressure). Purpose is to flex boundary not break or puncture**

Attention is magic

Casting spells, prayers at the moment of org

 

How BDSM healed me of my rape trauma

BDSM was a crucial piece in the puzzle of what allowed me to heal from the trauma of losing my virginity to rape (other formative pieces found in the Why the Somatic Magic practice was created section *). In the container of BDSM I gained detailed knowledge about the diversity of sensations and types of play possible. Negotiation and communication were encouraged and helped me feel safe and secure in knowledge in what I was enthusiastically agreeing to with clear terms of exchange, disrobing my fear of ‘owing’ an unknown debt to my play partners. Educating myself about BDSM allowed me to uncover the power dynamics unconsciously operating behind broader social structures and interpersonal interactions.

In BDSM spaces I found partners who went slow, read my body language and checked in. I also encountered ‘fluffy service tops’ like myself who often simply wanted to provide newbies with novel experiences. I had found a realm in which I could romp and relax, feasting at the buffet of sensation play without feeling pressure to be pushed into sexual waters – my luscious reactions and vocalizations providing all the tribute required to the giver of sensation. In dungeons, I was deeply apricated for my embodied gifts, body handling, energy sex, and splashy vocalizations and moans. I particularly appreciated the emphasis on reputation which filters out abusers and manipulators quickly. Due to the extensive emphasis on workshops and classes creeps can be educated, rehabilitated, and released into the wild as respectful play partners. I love the nuanced vocabulary that has emerged around BDSM, such as describing the giver of sensation as a ‘top’ and the receiver as a ‘bottom’ and allowing for a wide range of nuances that can include ‘topping from the bottom’ (more on this later*).

 

Checklist - Before playing in a scene

  1. Do a self-check :

Am I in a good mental state?

Have I taken a bio break (gone to the bathroom, brushed teeth, etc.)?

Am I properly fed, hydrated, and rested?

Is my judgement in any way impaired? *consent and intoxication

  1. Vet your partner

Watch your potential play partner play with someone else first. This gives you an opportunity to see their style of play and read your bodily signals as to whether you are comfortable with their methodology. Ask others about this person’s reputation, level of skill, and any recommendations to keep in mind when playing with them. Ask the potential play mate about their reputation, level of skill, recommendations to keep in mind when playing with them, and be sure to include a miscellaneous catch-all question such as ‘anything I may not think to ask but would be important to know about laying with you?’ *how to know if someone is trustworthy

  1. Make sure you know the anatomy / sequence of the scene, and are clear with your & the other player’s boundaries.
  2. Make sure you have safety gear appropriate for what is happening and everyone knows where it is : first aid supplies, emergency shears for rope play, fire extinguisher, flashlights, locations of the nearest two exits (natural disasters do happen!)
  3. Do you have your aftercare kit ready ? (like planning a vacation or a gift to your future self)** **aftercare kit

 

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This is a Living Document – please email x {at} alexarazma {dot} com : with any additions, recommendations, or corrections. Discussion space is here *

 


Appendix I - Negociation