‘Since I started asking for consent every step of the way I don’t seem to get to have sex any more’, a conscientious friend confided in me a year back. Is asking for consent a turn off?

There has been a huge learning curve over the past forty years since women started to speak out about everyday violations of their boundaries. In recent years, with the rise of the #metoo movement, men – instead of laughing it off – have been forced to listen. Because NOT asking for consent could land them in jail.

As a Certified Cuddle Party facilitator, asking for consent has become my second nature, and it’s an invaluable skill for my client sessions, especially if they involve intimate bodywork, as in a Sexological Bodywork session.

More than just Body Language

During a recent discussion at a cuddle party a woman wondered about everybody asking for consent, querying: ‘why not just read body language?’. It’s true, the importance of body language in communication is crucial: if someone doesn’t look open to an invitation you’ve made, it’s probably best not to go any further.

And yet, I am aware that I err on the side of caution, even on the question of how to hug. If a friend comes toward me (Huggaholic!) with open arms, ready for a hug, there is probably no need to say ‘a hug perchance?’. Even so, at the very last minute, I do tend to ask anyway. It’s just about being consistent, and reminds everybody that another one’s body is theirs alone, and that they have agency of the touch they allow.

Culture of Consent

Creating a culture of consent is good practice, especially when it comes to being aware of what your hands are doing. Absentmindedly stroking or touching your partner? They might hate having their physical boundaries violated on a daily basis, especially if you are living together. Having a chat about touch might shed light on this.

Another lady described a couple asking for consent to join her and her boyfriend at a cuddle party. ‘Didn’t they notice that we were clearly not interested, and it felt awkward to say no?’. Well, it might have been a little awkward, but at least they DID ask for consent, and didn’t just join them without asking, which would have been even more disastrous!

How to say No

At a Cuddle Party we learn how to make saying no less awkward, for example by responding to a polite refusal: ‘thank you for looking after yourself’. It takes guts to say no. Here are a few tips in the art of saying no:

  • First thank them for making the offer.
  • Then say no, that doesn’t work for me/us.

Keep in mind that we tend to assume other people have the same likes or dislikes that we have. I remember consensually stroking a participant’s face at a Cuddle Party, with very light finger tip touch, something I adore, and later learning that he much prefers strong touch, even on his face. I would never have guessed.

Discovering what you like gives you clarity

Let’s speak out and learn not to take offence, so we can navigate our world, and not constantly have to second guess people: ‘Is she just saying yes to please me?’, ‘What does she really like?’. This also means embarking on our own hugely exciting journey of likes and dislikes, which is a true journey of discovery. Speaking out means gaining clarity for ourselves. Welcome on board, and Thank You for Looking After Yourself!

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