A former bodyworker, Betty Martin has shared her years of wisdom by teaching us to focus attention on the direct route to sensory pleasure: from our hands and skin to our brains.
The Wheel of Consent is made up of four quadrants: GIVE/RECEIVE/ TAKE/ALLOW. Through various experiments, you explore giving and receiving touch in each quadrant as a way to deepen your felt awareness, strengthen your boundaries, lean into your pleasure, and negotiate your agreements. The practice is designed to take you through an inner journey in order to feel yourself, each other, and the life around you from the inside out.
Playing in each quadrant can highlight many pleasurable pathways, but they can also show you how you get stuck, frozen and disconnected from your experience.
Self-awareness is stressed as as “notice-trust-value-communicate” with insightful directions like “listen for the pull, not the push” and “pleasure is accessed in a relaxed state.”
Wake Up Your Hands. Start waking up your hands with small objects. Cradle a tiny kitchen tool and track the sensations of cool and warm, smooth and rough, firm and soft, and slowly awaken the sensory nerves in your hands and fingers. Surprisingly, as you relax, notice how other parts of your body awake too
The remarkable practice is illuminating. Slowing down enough to feel into sensory awareness takes time and patience. In a quiet, calm, non-goal-oriented atmosphere, listen to the sensations through your hands, like a hidden language.
As your intimacy experiment deepens, move into partner work. Use quiet whisperings of “may I feel your hand” and “how would you like me to touch your hand” and “what would make this better for you?”
Rest your hand into y0ur partner’s palm and ask for how you wish to be touched, feeling into my pleasure. Used descriptors like “slower”, “softer”, “here” and “that’s just right.” Then switch. Gently take your partner’s hand in yours and listen attentively for their moment-by-moment requests. Hour by hour, you will learn to relate to each other in a brand new way, through the magic of your bodies.
Experiment with the Four Quadrants. After connecting with each other via hand experiments, move into full body non-sexual touch. Always explicitly honor and encourage choice. You are always given the freedom to choose.
Move into deepening your experience. Discuss boundaries, set limits, and create living, fluid agreements with each other.
This require more communication and negotiation, plus more risks.
In the giving-receiving quadrants, I realized that asking for what I want and receiving it is not always as easy as it sounds. I was surprised to become aware of my discomfort around my worthiness to receive pleasure.
Paying close attention to your own experience and receiving without worrying about you partner is a form of yielding, requiring the utmost trust and safety.
In this exchange, the action is done by my partner for my benefit – all for me. This required me to slow down, listen deeply to my body, use my voice, and feel into my personal sense of trust and safety.
I was able to let go into trust so much, knowing that I was allowed to change my mind at any time.
At one point, I asked for my feet to be bathed. To ask for this, and then to be honoured and served in this way, shifted something inside me. I can only describe it as delight met with deep surrender.
You learn how to be in charge of how you wantto be touched.
As the giver, you give touch in service to your partner without self-sacrifice. Ask, “How would you like to be touched?” and then listen. It is crucial to know your own limits as the giver. Giving without considering your own limits is self-denial. In this exchange the action is done by you for your partner’s benefit within your own comfort zone.
You will learn about generosity, gratitude and selflessness minus self-denial.
Next, play in the taking-allowing quadrant with your partner. As the allow-er, become aware of offering yourself for your partner’s pleasure without enduring. It is crucial to know your limits as the allow-er; i.e., know when you’re allowing and staying present with a full heart, not merely tolerating.
In this exchange you learn self-responsibility and self-confidence.
As you move in and out of these exercises, you will see that you want to go deeper and touch more. You whole body is alive. Twirl soft, sweet-smelling hair through your fingers; feel the sharp buzz of a shaved head; smell different skin smells; rub up against rough sweaters; rub your cheek against a smooth leg. Smell dominates your awareness. Inhale the smells of skin and hair, caress soft and rough skin. May your enlivened sensations in the moment be your guide!
Allow your partner to caress you with their eyelashes, a memorable experience of grace and beauty.
Practice communicating in detail your limits and agreements. Deepen the felt sense of your boundaries. Explore your “yes”, “no”, and “I change my mind.” Explore feeling into your own pleasure, feeling into giving pleasure, asking for what you want, and giving without self-denial.
You do not ask permission; rather, you creat consent moment-by-moment in a slow, deliberate, embodied experiment. The Wheel of Consent could be looked at as the Wheel of Empowerment. It highlights the importance of both parties moving slowly enough to feel into their mutual embodied experience to equally bring forth their preferences to formulate a moment-by-moment experience.
This work is active rather than passive, powerful rather than powerless. Mostly, when it comes to practicing consent, the body is the key place of change.
The skill of embodied consent helps with communication. You get to choose words that match your pleasure. Boundary setting is also a skill, not only strengthening the confidence to say yes, no, or maybe but also the ability to receive a yes, no, maybe.
If you have ever experienced boundary violations and/or sexual trauma, embodied consent offers a new healing modality in which you learn to choose. Indeed, the act of choosing becomes a personal triumph.