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How the Wheel of Consent Changed my Life (and the importance of play)

Several years ago a attended a workshop with Betty Martin and learned about the Wheel of Consent. It has changed my life and my relationships. I was already studying sexuality, which intellectually and intuitively, I knew I needed at a core level, but was pretty much in my head with it (longstanding habits are hard to break, and I had approached most of my life from a cerebral perspective, disconnected from my body and her wisdom).  

Looking back on all my relationships, I have always had a difficult time identifying my needs and desires (never mind expressing them), and often ended up feeling unsatisfied or even resentful, and I attracted people who (seemed to me) were takers. I had no skills for communicating my desires, and little experience in noticing them, living from the neck up as I was.

The exception to this was a couple years when I was exploring kink and poly -- I let myself just explore with curiosity and playfulness, and I had a blast. I went in with the attitude that it wasn't a serious thing, it was just play.  Perhaps that's part of the reason why it was easier to let go and enjoy.  Since then, I've learned that play is perhaps the most important activity I do (outside of rest).  In the kink community, I also found a wonderful emphasis on education, negotiation and consent, and encountered role models -- wonderful, very wise, compassionate people talking about consent, negotiation, and desires (I particularly loved The Ethical Slut, by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton, and totally recommend it!! I got to meet Dossie at a kink event; that was sweet).  

After a couple years of kink and poly exploration and play, I judged it and went back to serial, vanilla monogamy, hoping that I would find the "right" person for a "real" relationship (sigh... oh, the detours I have taken in my learning journey).   I went right back to fear-based scarcity behavior, manipulative and withholding, really.   People pleasing, focusing on giving the other person exactly what they wanted so that they'd stay...never making a request or expressing a desire, lest I be too "needy," and the other person walk away because I was "too much." Ugh. You can guess how well that worked.

I hadn't yet developed a strong sense of my own self worth.  Fortunately, I availed myself of spiritual/emotional tools and resources and did the work (another blog), and eventually grew to a place of greater self worth and acceptance, and not only put my toes back into the kinky waters, but also embarked up my studies in sexuality.

Back the Wheel of Consent .... In the workshop, Betty presented a clear process that precedes touch, or any mutual physical activity -- the process of Noticing, Valuing, and Communicating my desires.

What a stunning revelation!!   It felt like the missing piece.  Obviously, I had never been engaged in that process, focused as I was on what the other person was thinking.  It was SUCH an Aha moment for me; I remember thinking "WOW!! This is what I want to teach!   This changes lives!"   Then she provided specific language to use when stating a desire and making a request -- it was amazing!   Studying the Wheel, especially the part about who the touch is for, helped me realize how my own communication (or lack thereof) had kept me in unsatisfying situations, and how people-pleasing was actually not a generous or loving way to act.  

The Wheel of Consent provides a framework and specific language for relating differently, and more effectively, with others, and I am SO excited about sharing it with others.   I include it in every workshop I host. As the saying goes, we teach what we need to learn.

Want to learn more? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Betty provides free resources on her website:

  2. At each of my workshops here in NYC, I provide a brief intro and some practice. Upcoming workshops are posted on the workshops page of this website (home page, scroll down).

  3. For a deeper dive, I TOTALLY recommend a Wheel of Consent workshop!! If you're here in NYC, there's one coming up April 4-5, 2020, The Art of Receiving and Giving: A Wheel of Consent Workshop, Hosted by School of Consent and Robyn Dalzen:

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Wheel of Consent, and talking about desires and noticing them. Please comment! And I'd also love to hear your desires for future blogs .... please reach out any time.

Blessings and love,


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