What were you taught about consent?
What do you wish you had been taught instead?
Content Warning: This post includes stories of Abuse, Assault, Survival and Consent Breaks
If you’re not sure what consent in sexual encounters means, and you’re triggered by stories of assault, you can scroll to the bottom of this blog post and click on a humorous video about this very serious topic. Click on the “Tea Cup Consent” link.
(Above is an example of gaining your consent. I’m letting you know a little about what you’re going to read, so you can choose to continue or not. Feel into your body right now and see if you are a “Yes” or a “No”. Then, make a choice. If you’re an, “I don’t know,” take that as a “No” for now. You can change your mind later when you become a “Yes.”)
When I was a little girl…
I was taught that women did not have a choice. My dad’s favorite Bible verses were about obeying the man of the house.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”
He chanted this verse daily, “Wives are supposed to submit to their husbands!”
I’m not sure of the intent of this passage in the Bible, but my father’s intent was to make sure that we did what he said at all times. I learned to fawn in order to survive a very dangerous man.
I was frequently forced to hug family members when I didn’t want to. I was touched and kissed and pinched when I didn’t want to be. I would hide at family functions because I didn’t want these things and was made fun of for being shy.
What I learned about consent:
- I have no voice as a woman
- Obey the man
- Submit (and not in a kinky, good conscious consensual way)
- My body is not my own and other people have the right to override me, I’m just a shy person and that is bad
Fast forward to my late teens…
I got deeply involved in the Tantra community.
I was very “spiritual” at the time and I wanted to become “enlightened”. In the community, we were taught that the path to bliss, ecstasy and enlightenment was to dissolve all boundaries.
Boundaries were bad. Boundaries needed to be healed so that I could become free.
I remember early on being at a community event; there was no discussion ahead of time about what was about to happen. I was blindfolded and led to my partner for the exercise.
I was laid down and he started to touch me and feed me and play with my body.
There was no conversation about consent.
Then they told the men to switch. Panic coursed through my body.
I didn’t know who was there. They kept switching, stranger after stranger touched my body.
I froze. I couldn’t speak. I cried quietly underneath my blindfold as sounds of ecstasy surrounded me.
I was 19.
The next morning we were digesting the exercise and I spoke up about how scared I was and how I couldn’t speak and that I was crying, and the workshop leader said to me “That’s your issues”.
I remember going into the bathroom crying, wondering what in the world was wrong with me – why couldn’t I get rid of my boundaries so I could become enlightened and attain ecstasy like everyone else?
When I became a Tantra teacher I ask why we didn’t let people know what the exercises were going to be ahead of time. I was told that if we did, no one would do the exercises or show up for the workshops and all kinds of resistance would show up.
I spent almost a decade trying to get rid of my boundaries.
What I learned about consent?
- Boundaries are a bad thing and unhealthy. You will not attain enlightenment or ecstasy without freeing yourself of boundaries
- If I have an issue when men are touching me freely and I don’t enjoy it, then I am broken and need to overcome my fear
- Asking for a consent conversation, or telling people what you are going to do, ruins the energy and causes people to not show up for your workshop or do the exercises
Fast forward to just after my 30th birthday…
Several women and clients share with me that a “Sexual Healer,” a leader in my Tantra community violated them and even raped them.
I confront this man. He begins screaming at me. Verbally assaulting me and threatening me, demanding that I tell him who is making these claims.
I refuse, because the women told me in strict confidence, asking me to keep their identities secret for fear of reprisals from this man or others in the community.
He continues. Telling me I am triangulating and making false accusations. The threats continue.
I talk to other people in the community for support, but I am told to “heal my heart.” and that if I speak out against this leader that I will ruin the Tantra community.
One other “healer” even told me that I would affect his livelihood if I spoke out because he “heals” all the clients that the other healer is hurting (it disgusted me, he knew that this man was hurting women, but he was banking off of it).
What I learned about consent?
- If there is a consent violation and you speak up about it, you will be shunned by the tribe
- If there is a consent violation, many women will hide in silence or turn around and blame themselves for the violation occurring
- If there is a consent violation or even a lack of a consent conversation it is the client’s fault
- I would no longer stand for the poor ethics around sexuality that I had been taught and I wasn’t going to find a consent conversation in this particular Tantra community – so, it was time to leave and really learn about consent
The women in this community, for their own reasons at the time, refused to come forward and pursue justice.
Most members of the community refused to confront the ugly truths of what was being done in the name of “enlightenment” and “healing.”
A couple of people took their own stand and left this tribe, and soon after these events transpired, I left.
Ultimately, it was a gift, because it was then that I committed to the practice of consciously getting and giving consent.
Conscious Consent Conversations: a practice that has become mandatory in our modern culture as movements like #Metoo have emerged, forcing us to confront the unspoken harms, injustice and emotional carnage that has been swept under the rug for far too long.
What I wished I had learned about consent:
- That my body was my own and I had a right to say “No” if I didn’t want to hug, be touched or have sex.
- That consent conversations were the most powerful way to create safety for myself and for others.
- That boundaries were healthy and “maybe” means “no,” because a clear “Yes!” is the only thing that means “Yes!”
- If there is a consent violation it is your right to be heard, it’s not okay for someone to threaten you to keep you or others silent.
- Consent violations can be cleaned up by acknowledging the truth, taking responsibility for the break, being held accountable, having care and compassion and taking steps to make sure the violation never happens again.
- Consent is more than a conversation just about sex. Consent is woven throughout our daily actions.
Since I left the Tantra community over a decade ago, my fierce commitment to consent has become a foundation of my work.
It is consent that creates authentic safety in our intimate and sexual encounters, allowing us to open fully to transcendent orgasmic bliss.
It is the safety created by conscious consent that opens the door to true and lasting “Enlightenment!”
Where are you unconsciously giving consent where you don’t want to?
Where are you breaking your own boundaries or allowing them to be broken?
How can you begin to establish the healthy boundaries that keep you safe?
As promised, here’s the Tea Cup Consent Video. A lighter approach to a very important and vital topic.
If you or anyone you know is suffering, get help!
You can reach out to:
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
Contact them here:
We have an ongoing and personal relationship with ‘Women Helping Women’, based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Every year we raise thousands of dollars to help them with the crucial work of Abuse Prevention and Victim Advocacy.
Please help the cause and make a donation by texting: ‘JAIYA’ to ’41-444′