I’m ready to remove fear from our conversations on pleasure. I’m ready to work to help others heal their trauma, to rewrite their scripts, to enter into relationship consciously, to both seek out pleasure beyond sexuality, and to dive into bliss within sexuality. To use eroticism to generate compassion and love. I’m ready to stop infusing my touch with Worry. I’m ready to live in world where every single persons autonomy is respected, valued, and all touch is touch that is desired, wanted and needed. I’m ready to take touch off the pressure cooker of Only Within Sexual Containers and even then Not The Touch I Was Looking For. I’m ready to bring consensual, enthusiastic Happy Touch into my life, into the world.
I’m ecstatic to be on the forefront of this new healing modality. I’m ecstatic to change the landscape of touch interactions in our culture. Let’s bring pleasure, delight and bliss back into our bodies. Follow the Happy Touch Movement on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“How would you like to be touched?”
The Happy Touch Movement is a global phenomenon. Pleasure is your birthright. Consensual and pleasurable touch is an inherent component of our wellbeing and thriving health. Every body is capable of experiencing ecstatic joy and abundant bliss. We are committed to changing the landscape of pleasure; in your body, in your relationships, in the cities and cultures around us.
With training and tools from The Somatic Sex Educators Association, the Institute of Sexuality Education & Enlightenment, the International Professional Surrogates Association, and the brilliant Betty Martin, Happy Touch offers workshops, services for individuals and couples, and group retreats; all with the goal of bringing more pleasure into your life.
Our work is client-centred, trauma-informed and encompasses one-way touch (the practitioner is always fully clothed and only uses their hands). We use research from scientific studies, the innate wisdom of the bodies biology and physiology, communication and boundary exercises, embodiment practices, playfulness, consensual touch, and relaxation techniques to aid you in building and enhancing your daily experience of pleasure and happiness.
I have felt the build up of unwanted touch stick to me and follow me for weeks, an infringement on my personhood. The texture of my body not being My Body, and pulling all resources I could find within myself to rebuild and defend my boundaries.
And in this acknowledgement, I also want to acknowledge that I have been on the other side of the coin. I have been the person to take advantage, to cross boundaries, to touch in ways that were not spoken about or agreed upon beforehand. I have felt the looming weight of understanding that I was the person to make someone else feel unsafe, and knowing that as much as I apologized and held myself accountable, I can’t take back that experience for the other person. Messages given to me by a culture I hadn’t had a chance to critically analyze, nor knew how to do so. Messages that because I was a small, female human, that I could touch in whatever ways I wanted to touch; that my touch could never be predatory.
I am now a person who has been professionally trained to touch people for a living. I can see how much information and education is missing from our culture, from our systems. How my assaulters were acting in accordance with the only examples of masculinity and touch interactions given to them. How even if they didn’t feel good about how they were acting, the actions for alternative engagement had not been provided to them. I see my acquiescence, my enduring, my tolerating, and not understanding how my voice in certain situations could be the pillar for personal autonomy as it is now. So often I didn’t even know my assault was happening until years later in reflection… and if I didn’t know it was happening, the chances are high my assaulter didn’t either.
This is not all interactions, this is not everyones experience. This is just a particular expression of this particular learning and noticing. I want to be accountable to myself, I want to showcase that these actions of my past allow me to be the person who chooses to facilitate consent workshops, who chooses to not let those experiences fade into the background as Mistakes I Made, but Grand Learnings that Ensure there will be Love in My Actions moving forward.
The most effective teaching of consent structures I have found is the Wheel of Consent by the eminent Betty Martin. Betty offers numerous free resources on her website, bettymartin.org — To those who are asking how they can do better, how they can be accountable, I would highly recommend checking out this diagram.
I mean, we all know I like to put myself on a pedestal when it comes to the information I hand out in my sexy time blog. But seriously, this one thing I learned and have been stewing over since I have learned it, has impacted not only my sex life, but everything to do with relationships. Most of this information came from a woman named Betty Martin, who is way more experienced and bucketloads more appropriate to be teaching you things about sex as opposed to some chick who’s your friend on Facebook…
What is it?
Oxford dictionary online thingamobob:
permission for something to happen or agreement to do something:
no change may be made without the consent of all the partners
What it’s not?
It is not the same thing as permission. Although the definitions of each ‘consent’ and ‘permission’ might make you think they are the same, they come with different emotional and mental constructs when used in everyday conversation. How Betty put it:
When you ask your mum for permission to go to the movies, she won’t say ‘yes’ because she WANTS you to go (most likely), she is saying ‘yes’ because she DOESN’T MIND if you go.
Which is when we need to learn the difference between these words:
This is when things get sticky and a little bit confusing. But if you trust me (which some of you must… for some reason you keep coming back here and that the reason you’d come back is obviously for my sharp writing talents and wondrous thoughts[ignoring the fact that there are naked chicks all over my website]), then PLEASE, keep reading.
When your partner says:
“Hey, I’ve never been to a strip club,” while drinking his coffee and glancing back and forth between his phone and a newspaper, you, as his/her partner might take this as:
A request: OH, He/She would like to GO to a strip club! This means I must be a compliant and awesome boyfriend/girlfriend and take him/her to one even if I don’t really like them!
An offer: Does he think that I want to go to one? He must be offering to take me. I better say yes so he knows I appreciate him.
An invitation: Is he/she saying that he wants to go and he wants me to come with him because he thinks I enjoy them?
Here’s the thing: Very few of us are mind-readers. A lot more of us make really vague comments that we expect everyone around us to interpret in the way we mean them, without actually giving any information.
This can be as simple as a co-worker saying to you, “Man, I really don’t want to work tomorrow.”
What do you want? Me to come to work for you? Do you want to call in sick? Are you just complaining? VAGUE COMMUNICATION GETS US NO WHERE.
But Caitlin! I hear you exclaim, sighing of confusion and asking yourself if you were mistaken and this is a philosophy blog rather than one filled with smut and boobies, WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH SEX?
Fucking everything, is what. What I going to tell you right now is going to fix all of the mis-communication happening between boys and girls, girls and girls, boys and boys. Whenever there is someone who wants one thing, there is someone who wants it a little bit less. It’s the power game. Once a boy stops pawing and kissing at me, I quit ignoring him and I immediately start pawing and kissing at him.
In this situation, I am hereforth going to refer to the specific personality that generally wants to go further, as the male personality. BUT WHY, CAITLIN?! ARE YOU NOT A FORWARD THINKING FEMINIST WHO REALIZES THAT CHICKS CAN BE JUST AS DOMINANT AND AGGRESSIVE IN BED AS MEN CAN BE?!
Yes yes yes. Don’t get your knickers in a knot. BUT, I just so happen to be a straight female who has experienced more boner-happy-‘lets-fuck’ boys than I have girls. And it’s my blog. So. There.
THE BIGGEST PART OF MIS-COMMUNICATION IS THAT NO ONE SAYS WHAT IT IS THEY WANT. We all want to know what the other person wants so we can make them happy and please them, but we never stop to think about what it is that WE want.
Betty, in her lecture about consent that I listened to five times, works with a woman in sexual therapy healing type of thing and she asks the woman, “How would you like me to touch you for two minutes?” (Or something along those lines) and the woman lies on the table for 45 minutes not saying a word. Near the end of the session she says, “I want you to put your hands on my feet”. Betty does so. After the time is up, the woman tells Betty, “I never knew it was my choice before…”
When you are about to touch someone and you can’t tell if they want it or don’t want it, SAY what it is you’d like to do to them. And then ask them what they want or if it’s okay if you follow through with your intended actions.
If you are on a first date and would like to kiss this datee, but they are shy and reserved and you can’t quite tell if they are into you: lean into them slowly, not touching them yet (if they don’t back away this is usually a good sign), bring your lips close enough to their ear so that they can feel your breath hitting their skin, and say: “I would really like to kiss you right now. Would you be okay with that?”
If you are in a long-term committed relationship and you would like your partner to give you a back rub, say “Pookie Pie, I had a really long day, I would really love it if you rubbed my back for ten minutes. Would you be okay with that?”
Granted, the former is much sexier than the latter, but I just wanted to show you how it works in different settings.
By stating what it is you want, you have filled your part. You have taken full responsibility for your end of communication and have now opened the line for the other to take responsibility for their communication and any actions that follow.
This is when the ability to say ‘No’ becomes crucial. What happens if you say ‘yes, of course’ all the time, even if you don’t want it? Because even if you don’t want it, you will receive it, because you have allowed your partner to believe that it is okay to do, but you will then hold resentment for your partner for not recognizing that you really meant ‘no’.
YOUR ABILITY TO SAY ‘NO,’ GIVES YOUR PARTNER THE ABILITY TO ASK FOR WHAT THEY WANT
When there is a CONSCIOUS CHOICE and VERBAL CONSENT, each party takes responsibility, each party releases resentment. Each party is happy with THEIR choice and we can all go on being sexy, life-loving monkeys.
But Caitlin! My girlfriend comes from a family where she grew up thinking that she was just supposed to please everyone else. Even when I ask her what she wants, she never knows. How is it my fault if I accidentally do something that hurts her when she has never said it wasn’t okay.
A) Wait for her to say that it IS OKAY.
B) Keep waiting.
I’m not saying don’t continue to move forward in your relationship, but be patient. All of us started out with having someone else touch us in ways we didn’t give consent for. People changed our diapers, people bathed us, people clothed us and fed us and held us without us saying “I want to be fed Cheerio’s, now please”. Intrinsically, we are wired to accept other peoples touch, and it will take time and awareness to find the ground of how YOU, as an individual, WANT to be touched. And don’t want to be touched.
So. Patience. Ask the question, don’t force an answer. In fact, don’t say a fucking thing until in your partners mind, they have come to some form of decision and verbalize their answer.
It’s harder to stop a moving train than it is to decide where you’re going once you’re on the track.