Consent and Power
Content warning: mentions of non-consensual touch, gaslighting, sexual assault
Just as in many other areas of life, stories have emerged about teachers of tantra, yoga, spirituality, sexuality, and personal development who have abused their power. Listening to these stories, it becomes apparent that the same unhealthy power dynamics - from the relatively minor to the seriously abusive - are played out again and again, in many different organisations and schools.
The Art of Consent offers workshops and other resources to support workshop participants to keep themselves safe, empowered, and in consent in new and unfamiliar learning experiences. We also aim to help facilitators avoid the pitfalls of falling into shadow power dynamics with their participants, which is often not included as part of their training.
We are currently collaborating with Wilrieke Sophia on two core topics:
abuses of power by some facilitators at intimacy and sexuality workshops and festivals.
the role of bystanders and enablers in the perpetuation of abusive dynamics and non-consensual practices
We have facilitated workshops on both these topics, and have produced a pdf booklet on the first. A second booklet, on bystanders and enablers, is currently in preparation.
The first booklet is entitled: Consent, Power and Abuse - Healthy and Unhealthy Power Dynamics at Sexuality Workshops and Festivals and is available to download below.
There is no charge to download the booklet, however, we welcome donations towards the time-consuming and emotional labour of putting these kinds of resources together.
What this booklet describes:
We find it useful to frame this material by introducing a system of coloured flags:
Red Flags - Serious malpractice, avoid. Signs of criminal, abusive or highly manipulative teaching styles and group dynamics.
Orange Flags - Approach with caution. Major issues and/or teaching styles which might be okay for some people if they know what they’re getting themselves into, but might be upsetting or traumatising for others.
Yellow Flags - Room for improvement. Many well-meaning teachers and schools operate within a ‘murky’ zone of vague agreements, lack of transparency, and unclear boundaries. Most teachers have a few yellow flags!
Green Flags - Best practice, including: awareness of power dynamics, including cultural oppression, trauma-awareness, gold-standard consent practices and clear ethics and accountability.
The flags are intended as a starting point to encourage awareness, provoke discussion, empower participants and offer self-reflection for facilitators. If a school or teacher only has one or two flags, you may consider that acceptable, whereas if they have many flags that would be a problem. Also, many flags are subjective: what might feel like a yellow flag to one person might be an orange flag for another and even a red flag for someone else. However some flags are less subjective, and here we would include many of the red flags, in that they are objective examples of abuse of power.
Rupert and Wilrieke are not ‘experts’, but we both have some experience in this field.
We encourage and support self-care when approaching this often challenging material.
Thank you for having the courage to look into it...
Our workshops last anything from 1 hour to 3 days. Please contact us to find out more