Going Beyond Consent

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We all have a few well-practiced consent competencies. We get lots of experience consenting to touch we don’t want. We allow medical procedures. We accept and offer touch as a way to manage everyday social situations. We somehow survive our childhoods. We learn to endure. We all get lots of training, too, in embodying dominant culture norms. Based on social status, we become well-practiced in offering unconscious appeasements and exercising unconscious entitlements. Wherever we have privilege, we know how to receive the gifts of others’ service – often without even noticing what it is we are receiving, or getting curious about whether or not it is given with full heart. In all the places we have less privilege, we get a lot of practice giving others what they want. We know how to numb awareness of the costs.

I don’t want to demean these awesome consent competencies we already have! I celebrate them. And I want more for us. How can we support each other in getting brave enough to reach beyond consent? How can we co-create space, encouragement, and embodied practice, so that we can bravely notice, and give voice to, the cost of enduring what we don’t really want? How can we love our awesome impulse to endure, and celebrate how often we choose it, because we want space and peace enough for love to grow? Can we get brave enough to vulnerably inquire as to just how we are receiving others’ service, instead of just swimming in unconscious entitlements? Can we simultaneously begin to notice when the unacknowledged service we offer others has corrosive costs?

Going beyond consent requires neuroplastic change. Sometimes this biophysical requirement is just too much for us. We face real dangers, and sometimes we want the peace that comes from just consenting. We do what it takes, to create solidarity, so we have companions to face real dangers with. Other times, our consensual and non-consensual navigations of appeasements and entitlements really does make us deeply dangerous to one another. Even though all this is true, can we keep on wanting, and co-creating space and time, to play in the neural learning zone within and between us? Can we want excitement and ecstasy, along with peace and solidarity? Can we get safe-enough-to-be-brave? Where can we be in an ongoing learning, about living outside of threat-management responses and well-practiced cultural scripts?

Even though I have all my little tools, graphics, and understandings of the psychobiology, and even though I have Betty Martin’s Wheel of Consent to guide me, I need help. I need the companionship of friends who help me co-create brave-enough space and time, in the relationships between us, so we can keep on learning. How can my brave learning keep on coming true, today? That vulnerable inquiry doesn’t get easier, and it’s never ending. What am I not getting? What do you want me to know, about what it’s like to be you? What do I dare to vulnerably share, about what it’s like to be me? How do we manage the uncomfortable impacts of courageous inquiry, on our souls, and our relationships? Can we get uncomfortable, and still belong to ourselves, to each other, and the process?

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