complete consent culture

Our bodies are the vehicles through which we come to know ourselves, and by extension, our world. Our minds, spirits, hearts, feelings – it is not saying these things do not exist or irrelevant to note that we know them, feel them, experience them in neuron-firing glory, through our incredible bodies.

Much about our culture discourages us from feeling safe and joyful in our bodies. Cultural messages that encourage body shame, discourage pleasurable body exploration, and dismiss bodily autonomy are pervasive even from childhood. Many of our earliest experiences of sexuality or touch involve abuse, violation, and fear, traumas forced on us even by those who have been entrusted with our care and safety, our love and nurturance. For queer and trans people, our relationships with our bodies are complicated not just by dysphoria, but by cultural messages that tell us our bodies are wrong or shameful, that we are unlikely to be fully seen in our bodies, or that we are not trans enough if we don’t hate our bodies.

And for many of us, our adult relationships have been peppered with consent violations, violations of our trust, and disappointing sexual experiences in which we have not felt empowered to learn what we like, claim it, ask for it, and expect it. We have been shaped into submission to cultural dialogues that privilege male pleasure, the male gaze, and male sexual dominance, while minimizing femme pleasure and empowerment. The end result harms people across the gender spectrum, creating unhealthy power dynamics that emerge through selective silence, submission, misunderstanding, and expectations.

My writing, teaching, and coaching about consent culture and sexuality:
– Aims to empower people to speak out about their needs and set boundaries – without apology! – to achieve more balanced relationships and healthy sexuality.
– Is trauma-informed, with an emphasis on supporting those whose past sexual experiences have been traumatic, painful, or confusing.
– Addresses sexual safety, practices, and needs directly, without shame or embarrassment.
– Is body-positive and uses a social justice framework.
– Empowers parents to speak clearly and openly with their children about bodily autonomy, consent, and sexuality, and people to speak clearly and openly with their partners about their likes, dislikes, and needs.
– Strives to be gender-aware and trans-inclusive, acknowledging the varieties of expression of gender and bodies and how we use our bodies and experience them.
– Is queer- and polyamory-friendly, recognizing that different relationship and partnering models work for different people.
– Addresses both individual and sociocultural influences, strengths, and drawbacks in how we understand and approach our sexuality.

Since 2009, I’ve worked in rape crisis – answering hotlines, providing in-person hospital and police accompaniment, and facilitating support groups to help survivors reconnect with their bodies and explore safe, consensual, healthy sexuality after sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse. Before that, I worked as a childbirth educator and doula, and I currently work in sexual violence prevention, response, and policy at the statewide level. I enjoy working with people to tease out and build upon the areas they can find safety in their bodies in ways that allow newly discovered and developed communication strengths, boundary-setting, and experiences of sensual pleasure to radiate outward to other areas of life and sexuality. I also coach parents on how to talk about sexuality in open, candid, and healthy ways with their children, and consult with festivals, organizations, and communities on building consent culture and policies/practices that encourage safety and accountability.