Consent is quite possibly my all-time favourite subject in regards to sex and relating. Until I studied it in earnest, I didn’t realise how hot consent can be. Since then, I have continued to learn that consent is about so much more than behaving right; it is a path to glorious pleasures. In last season’s blog, I covered how we can better notice our nos and develop boundaries that liberate us. In this blog, we’ll look at how we can explore our delicious yeses and ask for what we want.
So, what is a delicious yes?
1. For another’s benefit
A delicious yes is unequivocal. It’s hungry. It’s utterly welcoming. It’s joyful. It has no hint of putting-up-with. It involves generously and full-heartedly giving to another person. In other words, a delicious yes is:
A full-hearted yes to giving pleasure to another person is wonderful, for us as well as them. But it’s not the only kind of delicious yes...
2. For our own benefit
There is also the delicious yes we give to ourselves, enabling us to acknowledge our own desires and to courageously ask for what we want.
So, the delicious yes has another key component:
This blogpost focuses on the second kind of delicious yes – the permission we give to ourselves – and explores how we and our lovers can better communicate our desires and respond to each other.
Why we don't ask for what we want
There are many reasons why we don’t always ask for what we want. Amongst the most common are: fear of rejection or being judged, feeling that we don’t really deserve pleasure, or not being sure what we want (perhaps only knowing what we don’t want).
We might instead manipulate, or hope it will magically come to us, or we might bargain, or sneak, or we might substitute for something that’s easier to ask for, or we might just give up and shut down.
But, valuing and expressing our own desires is an important part of sharing pleasure.
So, how can we learn to better recognise and communicate our desires?
Noticing what we want
Similar to what’s needed to notice our nos, we must take time and we must listen to our bodies:
When a lover makes you an offer, take a moment to notice what your answer is. Or when you want to ask for something, take time to form the words. It’s that simple. It can feel difficult to slow down when many of our lives are so hectic. Yet, slowing down is key to noticing what we really want, and can help with finding the words to communicate.
A great way to deepen that moment of noticing is not just to take time, but also to actively turn your attention to your body to see what it can tell you:
How do I most desire to be touched? Or, what part of my lover’s body do I most hunger to stroke, or move against, or lick?
Taking one slow, deep breath is a great way to create a moment and notice what’s going on in your body.
Ways to improve communication about desires
The more we can notice and communicate our nos and have them honoured, the more enthusiastic, adventurous and delicious our yeses can become. The more we can trust our lovers that they are honouring themselves, the more we can dare to ask for. We are all responsible for creating the conditions in which nos are welcome and yeses become delicious. These conditions include communication with clarity, kindness and boldness:
Be bold, be clear
Take a deep breath and try asking for that thing, that thing you never asked for before. Most people want to give pleasure and it’s an honour to be trusted to hear a desire. For those with partners who may sometimes struggle with hearing desires, remember that it isn’t personal. They may be expressing a limit, or they may be thrown by something new. Give time, and talk about it outside of a sexual context. There is nothing inherently shameful about desire. In fact, giving voice to our desires can help us to tackle any shame or self-consciousness we may feel, even when our requests are not met with a yes.
Say what you liked, rather than what you didn’t
Rather than focusing on what you didn't like, encourage more of what you did like, e.g. “I liked it when you ran your tongue over the crook of my elbow. Would you do that to the backs of my knees too?” The direct positive approach is much more motivating.
When okay isn’t okay
“Is this okay?” is fine to ask of the person whose seat you’ve just plonked your bags next to on the train. But “Is this okay?” is a low bar to set when it comes to sex. Relationship coach and sex educator Marcia Baczynski calls ‘okay’ a four-letter word. It might be intended as a gentle way to communicate, but really, who of us would want our touch to be just okay for the person we’re with? Open questions give more information and will elicit more than a yes/no answer, e.g. “How does this feel?” or as one of my teachers, Chester Mainard, recommended, “What would make this feel even better?”
If you’re not sure what’s being requested of you by a lover, ask for clarification. Understanding what’s being asked for enables us to notice if we have a delicious yes in response, and if so, enables us to meet it.
Give more attention to picking up on subtle cues
If we and our lovers can bring more attention to picking up on each other’s subtle cues, we can notice what offers we could make that might hit the spot. For example, someone who holds on to the pillow or braces themselves against the wall during sex may appreciate the offer of their arms being held down; someone who makes jokes about spanking may actually like to try it. Thoughtful offers will support choice.
Follow the pleasure
Follow where the pleasure leads – it’s a dance that deliciously demands our attention. Sometimes a no becomes a yes. Sometimes a yes has caveats – communicate clearly when things change and what your limits are. A yes with caveats is not less enthusiastic, and a no that becomes a yes is no less authentic (but do be aware if alcohol or recreational drugs are involved as this can impair judgement.)
Explore the erotic within
We may have our own personal work to do in order to accept ourselves fully as erotic beings. Building sexual self-esteem involves learning that we needn’t be reliant on the validation of others to find pride and joy in our own unique erotic expression. Mindful masturbation is an effective way to cultivate erotic self-awareness and self-acceptance, and this can have a positive effect on our sexual relationships with others.
Exercise: Practice asking for what you want
A fun exercise I learned from consent mastermind, Betty Martin, is a game where two people sit back-to-back and practice saying what they want. None of it is acted upon – or at least not in the context of the game – and what emerges can be fascinating. It simply involves taking turns to make statements that begin with “I want to…” or “I want you to…” For example:
Person A: “I want to make eye contact with you while I think about all the things I want to do to you.”
Person B: “I want you to kiss my thighs.”
Person A: “I want you to suck my toes.”
Person B: “I want to pour oil on your body and slide all over you.”
Person A: “I want to go down on you but just use my hot breath until you beg me to put my mouth on you.”
Person B: “I want…I want you to…go down on me but just use your hot breath…until I beg you to put your mouth on me.”
Being back-to-back helps with saying things that might be harder to say face-to-face. It can quickly escalate in to the ridiculous, or as the example above shows, into sexy baiting, and surprise discoveries of compatible desires.
Explore your delicious yeses by taking time to notice what you want and communicating clearly. Follow the pleasure and see where it takes you…
For support in learning how to ask for what you want, or to find out more about somatic sex education, check out the rest of my website, and do get in touch if you would like to discuss sessions.
Autumn 2016 - Skilful Touch: The direction of the gift