I gave a brief Introduction yesterday to The Wheel Of Consent for Glasgow’s Embodiment Circle. This is a lovely group of practitioners who are all concerned with the body, in its widest sense. So, we had a shiatsu practitioner, a qi gong teacher, a contact improvisation teacher, amongst others.
it was a chance for me to try things out for the two daylong workshops I’m giving at The Wee Retreat in November: a day long Wheel Of Consent Workshop on 16 November, and a workshop for Couples, which I’m running with my friend and fellow Sex Coach Alison Pilling on 24 November, who will be in Glasgow anyway to compère The Glasgow Sex Lectures at the CCA the previous evening.
One of the fundamentals of The Wheel Of Consent is an exercise called a The Three Minute Game. In this game, people pair up, and take turns to ask the other a question. This question is either:
”How would you like to touch me?”
”How would you like to be touched?”
The other then answers the question by saying, for example “ I’d like to stroke your hair”, and, subject to clarification and – critically: it is The Wheel Of Consent – informed by a consent which is positive, enthusiastic, in the moment and readily withdraw-able, the participants then engage in this for three minutes, then swop over.
The game is simplicity itself, but it’s also very deep. It challenges us to say what we actually want, rather than say what we ought to want, or what we feel won’t upset the other person, or what we feel is appropriate, because we can have confidence that the other person will say no if they can’t give their enthusiastic consent, and will tell us when that consent lapses.
But here’s the thing: what we ask for is obviously restricted to what we think is possible to ask for, and that in turn is restricted by limiting ideas that we have about what touch is and what it’s for, and more generally, what the body is, and what it’s for.
Something which Alison and I will do in our workshop for Couples is try to teach how to expand our touch vocabulary. We will talk about how to touch with different parts of the body ( the hair, the fingernails, the palm of the hand and so on), how to touch with a particular intention (nurturing, seductive, enquiring etc) and various other things, but I’ve recently come to think that there’s something more fundamental: when we restrict touch to being about body sensation alone ( and hence regard the body as being a kind of sensation machine) we miss something absolutely fundamental, not just in our intimate lives, but everywhere: the body is the soul. What I mean by that is that our body, all of it, is the repository of our dreams, our images, our feelings, our imaginings: everything. And touch is – or should be – one of the gateways to this vast world. And when we restrict our idea of touch to physical sensation alone, that’s when people sometimes go blank, claiming not to know what they want.
When I was working with Caffyn Jesse in Belfast the other week, it was clear – and this is one of the reasons why I’m so drawn to her work – that she’s had similar ideas, as one of her suggestions in a touch based exercise we were doing was for the person choosing touch to be able to say-
Touch me like-
Touch me as if-
You see the difference? It introduces infinite scope. I can ask for you to touch my cheek like an exultation of starlings. I could ask you to touch my chest as if you were a rhino proceeding carefully across thin ice. I can ask you to touch me like an alien incarnated in a body for the first time. I can ask you to touch me as if I am your mother, that you are seeing for the last time. Infinite.
I’ll explore these ideas further in the November workshops. If you’d like to explore them with me, come along.