Core Messages of the Wheel of Consent
The Wheel of Consent describes the four basic dynamics of consensual touch. It also invites you to experience each of these four dynamics by sharing some simple, non-sexual touch exercises with another – typically on the hand and fore-arm.
The four dynamics arise from asking two key questions: “Who is Doing?” and “Who is it for?” If we separate them out, then either I am doing, or the other is doing, and what’s happening can either be the way I want (it’s for me), or the way they want (it’s for them). This creates the four dynamics - or ‘quadrants’ - of the Wheel:
The other is touching me the way I want – I am ACCEPTING
I am touching the other the way they want – I am SERVING
I am touching the other the way I want – I am TAKING
The other is touching me the way they want – I am ALLOWING
As we practice these four quadrants, whilst fully honouring each others’ boundaries, we are invited to ask ourselves a question in each one, as follows:
“What does it feel like in my body when I am being touched by another in exactly the way I want to be touched? Not 90% there, or even 99% there, but when the touch is focused entirely on my pleasure, and is 100% how I want it (within the other person's boundaries)?"
Most of us have experienced touch from a partner, or a friend giving us a massage, which was good, but not quite 100% the way we wanted it. Most of us, most of the time, go along with that, because we feel we should be grateful we’re being touched at all! And we’ll only ask them to stop or do something different if it’s really awful. And sometimes not even then.
By contrast, the Wheel of Consent invites us, just for the few minutes of doing the exercise, to keep seeking after what we actually, really want, and attempt to get it 100% on the mark. This is not always easy to achieve (which is why the Wheel of Consent is a practice!) but when it happens, people often experience a moment of knowing, deep in their body, that they are truly worthy of receiving the touch they want. This can be a profound moment.
“What does it feel like in my body when I am touching another in exactly the way they want to be touched? Where I’m not left guessing, or hoping for the best, but am fully and attentively giving them what they actually want (within my boundaries)?”
In the moments when this is achieved, as the Server I can feel a deep embodied knowing that I am capable of creating joyful and meaningful experiences for others, and that the gift of my touch and presence can be transformative for another.
“What does it feel like in my body when I am touching another person in exactly the way I want to touch them (within the boundaries they have set for the exercise)?"
In consensual Taking, I get to honour and celebrate my ability to act for my own pleasure. To know in my bones that my desires are valid and beautiful. And I learn that others can place their trust in me, because I won’t take more than has been consented to.
“What does it feel like in my body when someone is touching me purely for their own enjoyment, without feeling any pressure to please or satisfy me, while fully honouring my expressed boundaries?”
I learn that my boundaries matter and are important. That without needing to do anything for anyone else, I am already a gift in this world. And that I, and only I, get to choose when, how and with whom to share that gift.
THE MESSAGE OF EACH QUADRANT
So the Wheel of Consent has four key messages, one from each quadrant. These are not just theoretical ideas or verbal affirmations, but something that through practice we can come to know deeply in our body:
I am 100% worthy of receiving the attention and care of another.
I have the capacity to create profound meaning and joy for others.
My desires are valid and beautiful, and I am a trustworthy custodian of them.
I get to choose when, how and with whom to share the gift that I am.
These powerful messages might go further than most people’s definition of the word ‘consent’. But only by considering each of the four quadrants - and knowing which one we are in at any particular time - can we really get clear about what we are, and are not, consenting to with another. And it turns out that doing this can also open up some profound realisations about what it means to be human...
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