Consent is an integral factor in almost everything we do, especially when considering sex and intimacy. Consent is often misunderstood as passive agreement, when in fact consent is a dynamic and active process. It seems that the consent workshops couldn’t have been developed at a better time, in light of the recent attempt at conflating a teenager’s thong as consent for a non-consensual sexual assault in Ireland. Hopefully these workshops can further understanding of consent as a concept and promote safe and satisfying sexual interactions, where communication is central.
After volunteering to help out as a steward at the workshop, I ended up participating as we had an odd number of attendees. The workshop took place in a warm and welcoming queer space in central London. There were an array of different people present; couples, individuals, groups of friends or partners, as well as a mixture of kink-orientated and vanilla people, and individuals spanning across the LGBTQ+ community. The workshop began with a getting to know you session where each individual told the group their names, their preferred pronouns and a fact about themselves, which acknowledged and respected peoples differences and identities in a way that is not always incorporated in such workshops.
Taking part in the exercises devised by Blake and Felix was a fun and interesting experience. They effortlessly facilitated a comfortable environment that promoted closeness, touch and communication, whilst providing skills that could be translated for use in sexual and intimate situations.
The paired activities allowed us to experience getting to know someone, what makes them comfortable and uncomfortable in a space where there were no expectations or pressure. These exercises encouraged us to be vocal about what we wanted in terms of touch and proximity, and to actively listen and appropriately respond to our partners wants. It was quite liberating to be encouraged to say “no”, “yes” and “Maybe” intuitively! It was also incredibly funny at times, at no point did I expect to have my partner ask to tickle my feet, hold my hand or stroke my face. However, this was a comfortable experience as I had given my consent and was able to retract it if I changed my mind. This was another message that was championed in the workshop, that it is okay to change your mind, regardless of what you had agreed to before. Something that my partner, myself and other people in small groups had discussed as an area of difficulty in previous encounters.
The workshop allowed us to convey and share a plethora of past experiences, some positive and some negative, some BDSM and some Vanilla, some consensual and some non-consensual. The workshop provided a platform for attendees to share with and ask each other and the facilitators questions for clarity, reassurance, advice and support.
I feel that many people would benefit from attending one of these workshops with Blake and Felix, to allow themselves to be trusting and open in a non-judgemental space, to learn to communicate exactly what they do and do not want, and to learn to actively listen to both verbal and non-verbal ques given by their partners. Each workshop has 30 spaces, so the workshop is quite large but small enough that everyone has a chance to contribute and be heard. The next workshop is in January, if you would like to attend please keep an eye on @BacklashUK and @PandoraBlake for updates, as tickets sell out fast. For more information please see the consent workshop leaflet.