Class 1 – Collisions and Coercions

If we want to live in a sex-positive culture where we are free and safe to celebrate our sexuality in the ways we choose, it is up to us to build and support a culture of consent.

We are living in an unprecedented time. #MeToo has generated amazing public discussion about sexual coercion and violation. We do indeed need to deal with what is not working. 

We are looking for transformational solutions. These classes are a space in which we can explore possibilities, work on developing solutions, and think about which might be useful in our lives.

During the course we’ll be asking you to do a lot of personal sharing. With a strong focus on self-care we will practice the skills of speaking painful truths and getting heard in situations where others may not be eager to listen. In Class 1, Coercions and Collisions, looking at the roots of Rape Culture, we will begin practicing ways to take care of ourselves while finding the strength to share our experiences.

We will look at some of the cultural impacts of sharing our stories and practice some tools to help us take care of ourselves and each other when we may have experienced some very painful things.

Throughout the series we will be working to let go of shame, embrace our strength, explore our boundaries, and practice naming them.  All of which are powerful ways to claim our consent.

Class 2 – Roles We Play

“Why are we talking about roles in this class series about consent?” This is a question that has come up a number of times over the years of holding these classes. 

We each play many roles in our lives. Whether they come from our family or friends, religion, the media, or some other source, we all have stories and our position in these stories. These roles are often assigned in childhood by our families and the society we grew up in. 

We will be spending some time thinking about various parts we have been trained to embody, such as partner/wife/husband, community positions, sexual roles, and fantasy roles. Looking at them can tell us what we automatically expect from ourselves, and others. These expectations can exist without us ever having consciously agreed to what these roles mean. This is a set-up that leaves us vulnerable to many potential consent collisions.

We also have a relationship with our own bodies including our socially assigned gender. Many things about our body’s size, shape, and gender can have a huge impact on our assigned “roles”. 

Who do we think we have to be in order to be a “sexy person”? How does that affect our approach to consent? With regards to personal relationships many of us enjoy playing a fantasy role. There are as many roles we might embody as there are turn-ons. We will discuss how we can more safely explore these exciting possibilities. 

Join us for class 2 when we will practice communicating about what you do and do not want. We will examine the impacts our ideas and experiences with roles have had on our lives with discussions and exercises, supporting each other as we think about and practice clarity about our limits and our consent.

Class 3 – Communication and Conflict

We will work on speaking your truth about sex and intimate relationships, exploring our emotions and how they are expressed in our bodies. We will also discuss ways communications can get derailed and practice things we can do about it.  

When it comes to relationships, the emotional costs and realities for people are often at the heart of issues arising from the vulnerability of intimate sexual interactions. This may be particularly true when things didn’t work out very well, or when there was a disagreement between partners.

We are especially going to look at how to speak with openness and with boundaries, when we are in pain about something that has happened. We will practice offering difficult feedback about sexual behavior. We work on self-care when we need to speak about something that has hurt us or when we are trying to navigate our consent.

We have been, as a society, frequently deprived of a clear language for our feelings or sexuality. So part of our task is to develop a language for ourselves that works to describe our limits, our desires, and for expressing how we feel when something has been painful or difficult.

Join us for Class 3 where we will be practicing and exploring these topics to help us strengthen our ability to both share and listen to our partners in these vulnerable conversations. It can feel scary to share our emotions. At the same time, it is our experience that intimacy is created by shared vulnerability.

Class 4 – Negotiation and Consent

How easy is it for you to talk about sex? Can you easily and clearly name what you would like to do and specifically where and how you want it to happen? Naming body parts and sexual actions, in addition to what kind of setting and scenario you might want to experience, can feel particularly difficult.  Acting on sexual desires without clear communication is prime territory for consent violations and collisions.

At Navigating Consent we define consent as “an active collaboration for the pleasure and well-being of all parties concerned, including some who might not be in the room at the time.” For us, an active collaboration means we both (or all) put our limits, our desires, and our abilities on the table. 

In class together we will develop a language for negotiation skills, noticing factors that can impact safety for ourselves and our partners. We do somatic exercises and rehearse receiving different responses to our negotiations and in the midst of a sexual encounter. We practice knowing our sexual desires and speaking them.

In particular we will look at the values of safewords and at skills for interrupting an interaction to deal with any problems and then, when appropriate, and only if it really feels right, address the possibility of a return to sharing joyous intimacies if you are with a trusted partner.

It is often said that nothing increases intimacy more than shared vulnerability. This is where all that practice of mindfulness and self-compassion comes in handy: you won’t need to run away from the intimacies of a vulnerable consent discussion. You can collaborate for a really wonderful sexual adventure.

Class 5 – Making It Better

In our first four classes we focus on prevention, both establishing, & maintaining, safety & consent. Classes 5 & 6 are focusing on what we do after a consent collision, rupture, or violation.

Depending on the nature of the problem we need a repertoire of responses that are proportional to different types of offenses.

We will be exploring pathways to change and ways of being accountable.

What is accountability for survivors? First is honesty. Pretending everything’s okay when it isn’t leaves your partner to think you like something that in fact you do not. Only with honesty can we create constructive paths into the future. We are not doing anyone any favors when we remain silent. 

Speaking our truth, even in the most painful and awkward situations, can be the healthiest practice. It supports our own strength and our self-worth, while opening an opportunity for a transgressor to mend the violation, if that is what you want. Also, speaking our truth about violations promotes safety and consent in our communities.

It takes practice and we will be continuing to work with ideas for self-care, communication tools, and our own emotional awareness in exercises and discussions.  

Class 6 – Recovery and Resilience

How are we going to survive as a sex-positive culture and find new safer ways to be in community? How can we deal with our anger when our boundaries have been violated? What does Resilience look like?

First and foremost, even when we are enraged about something that hurt us, we can start healing by treating ourselves very kindly. We will work together on ways we can affirm that we are people who deserve respect and pleasure in our bodies.

As we have done throughout the series, we will continue practicing communicating about what happened with people you trust. Our goal is for us to support work on developing language and fluency in talking about these difficult problems.

When someone treats us badly, our self-esteem takes a big hit. Why did this person think it was okay to mistreat me? In class we will delve into potential ways to obtain support from others that will nurture you, and your partner’s, healing, and self-care when facing a consent collision or violation. We examine both the personal and the community aspects of the issue and share tools for ongoing work with accountability.

Support your own inquisitiveness and curiosity. Curiosity is the enemy of shame. Value what you’ve learned from this experience and forgive yourself. Open your heart to your ability to heal, and thank yourself for being who you are.