Thoughts on BDsM / Kink – quite normal really…

In their book Rewriting the Rules, Meg-John Barker quotes Gayle Rubin (1984):

Most people find it difficult to grasp that whatever they like to do sexually will be thoroughly repulsive to someone else, and that whatever repels them sexually will be the most treasured delight of someone, somewhere… Most people mistake their sexual preferences for a universal system that will or should work for everyone.

What it’s not

Before continuing, it will be probably be helpful to dispel a couple of myths and misconceptions about BDsM/Kink.

Many will have heard about, if not read, or seen, the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. Here we have Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey entering into what we are led to believe is a BDsM relationship. It is not. It is an abusive relationship. Consent is missing. There is no full consent between the two.

Also, BDsM is not psychopathological. It’s normal. It’s okay. It may not be your “normal”. You may not be “okay” with it. And that’s fine for you, so long as you don’t impose those thoughts and ideas on to others. Reread the opening quote, from Gayle Rubin, if you’re in any doubt about this.


BDsM is a term which covers a wide range of behaviours, generally involving the use and exchange of power in an eroticised relationship. Informed Consent (, the leading website about BDsM in the UK, defines BDsM as ‘a catch-all phrase’. I use ‘BDsM participant’ or ‘SMer’ to describe those who identify with BDsM as a lifestyle or as an activity, and ‘kink’ and ‘kinky’ to describe both BDsM practices and practitioners.

BDsM – Bondage and Discipline (B/D), Domination and Submission (D/s) and Sadism and Masochism (S/M) – is a term used to describe a range of practices or a lifestyle that is characterised by the consensual exchange of power, role play and often intense sensory stimulation (or deprivation). It is a kind of umbrella term for forms of sexuality that include restraint, pressure, sensation, and elements of power exchange between people.

“Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors” so also in BDsM. It should though be noted that not all BDsM/Kink is sexually based. Some practices / scenes do not engage in sex at all.

The body is involved in the physical aspects, as are the emotions with relationships. For some, participation brings greater sexual desire, as interplay of relationships are managed, along with power and control. Amongst everything communication skills are vital. BDsM/Kink can also help in recovering from shame, which is where the brain comes in. Plus the mind can be caught up with the challenge BDsM/Kink brings to social, cultural and religious beliefs, sexual preferences, desires, attractions, tastes, along with the impact of societal censure, not being seen as a “normal” pastime.

A distinction can be made between the sexual and the erotic. There are many practices and activities that are not sexual, though may be experienced as highly erotic. An example, being restrained and put on display need not involve anyone’s genitals or any actual bodily contact, but can result in an intensely pleasurable and exciting experience. For those who do engage sexually with BDsM/Kink, the following quote on sexual health is relevant:

Sexual health: “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.”

In 2005, Margie Nichols wrote, “in many ways the BDSM community of the early 21st century resembles the gay community of the 1970s, and individuals who struggle with BDSM desires experience a similar internalized shame about their sexuality” (2005, p. 292). Similarly, the limited research done, as that of early LGBTQ research, has been based on single troubled individuals in a specific situation, unrelated to being LGBTQ, that are then, unfortunately, applied across the board.

Although recently de-pathologised in the DSM V, and is now viewed less critically in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) ICD-11, BDsM/Kink continued to be pathologised in the WHO’s ICD-10, so unfortunately myths still continue concerning the BDsM/Kink practice/lifestyle within society and even parts of the therapy community, as it can take a while for new approaches to be accepted. Here I hope to further break down some of the myths.

Much of society and culture sees the world in a binary way. Right and wrong. Good and bad. Female and male. Likewise gender and sex can fall into this viewpoint. So that many see BDsM/Kink as wrong, as being bad. Questions come as to who decides this? However, if we can move away from a binary view, towards a much less restrictive view of human sexuality, we are more able to embrace a diversity of the sexual and erotic. It is my hope readers will gain encouragement toward reflecting and exploring their own belief systems around BDsM. I examine some of the BDsM and kink practices and consider the meanings these may have for people. I concentrate more on the principles, than the specific practices. Before getting into what BDsM/Kink is about, I want to clarify guiding principles that underpin BDsM/Kink.

Safe, Sane and Consensual

Safe, Sane and Consensual – title of a wonderful book, also a crucial strap line for the values of BDsM and kink. I look at each separately, though like a lot of things when looked at individually something is often lost, as they overlap considerably. As well as values and actions being focused on behaving in ways that are “Safe, Sane, and Consensual” (SSC), an alternate phrase is “Risk-Aware Consensual Kink” (RACK) and more recently, “Caring, Communication, Consent, and Caution” (4Cs).


This is about the safety of all involved. Physical safety. Emotional safety. Psychological safety.

Some may wonder about safety, when aspects of BDsM/Kink can be about pain. The type and degree of any pain is though consensual. It is sought after, rather than being imposed on someone. I recognise that may seem bizarre to anyone not familiar with BDsM/Kink. Some may also worry, not only about pain, but about bondage or restrictions on breathing, breath play and asphyxia.

Safety though is a relative concept, as even what is termed, vanilla sex carries risks. Penises can get damaged through vigorous thrusting and then ‘snapping’ if one hits the pubic bone rather than entering the vagina, resulting in Peyronies, and people often have injuries from falling over or off the bed, or bruised throats or tired jaw muscles from vigorous oral sex. Any sex poses risk.

People need to consider risks and consent. Which is perhaps why SSC has fallen out of favour for some, with more people talking now about RACK or 4Cs.

As mentioned, BDsM/Kink is not necessarily sexual. Sometimes it can be about power. Though not power over, in the way power is often viewed, as that would be abusive. Whilst from the outside BDsM/Kink may be thought of and viewed as abusive, the BDsM/Kink community are very keen to protect participants from any kind of abuse. BDsM/Kink is where one participant submits willingly to another. They are not submitting because another wants them to, but rather because they wish to be submissive (often referred to as being a submissive or slave), having sought someone who is willing to dominate (often referred to as being a Dominant or Master) them for a specific activity and time period, commonly known as a scene, wherein a particular type of “play” occurs. Power is exchanged. The submissive hands over some control and yet can take it back at any time. Trust is crucial here. Safe words are crucial in this.

A submissive needs to be careful when choosing a BDsM Dominant. They need to be sufficiently educated, trained and aware to notice if a submissive has some unresolved trauma that may be behind the desire to be dominated or be caused pain. They would then not start the scene, signposting the person to an understanding counsellor / therapist. If this does not happen then the possibility of abuse is present. There are though times where abuse survivors find BDsM/Kink extremely helpful in processing their emotions. An example shown later.

A Dominant should not be out to inflict pain on others for their own satisfaction, more as a service, only as wanted, having deep concern present for their submissive, there being what might be termed genuine or perhaps great empathy and compassion between all participants.

Whilst you may not see any pleasure in pain being administered to yourself, it is certain, that for some there is pleasure, even ecstasy from receiving pain. It should be noted that because a person delights in pain received in a DBsM scene does not mean they appreciate all types of pain. Like many the pain often experienced having a root filling at the dentist is not enjoyed!!

Three quotes from submissive practitioners, show differing perspectives on the pain received:

I use the word ‘intense sensation,’ it’s more than pain, it’s the energy in the sensations. It has always been an amazing spiritual connection with myself, blissful. It’s beyond pain. There is a ritualistic aspect which is very spiritually charged. (Interview, slave L, 2016)

The pain is there, but, within a short time it morphs into an embodied meditation. But it is not like a mental meditation, it’s both out of and in the body. I am flying, free, ecstatic, but fully in the body. (Interview, slave C, 2014)

I came across an online group who called themselves ‘The healthy self-masochist.’ Seeing the spin on the use of words healthy with masochism gave me an insight to affirming my experiences in a positive way. I was able to affirm for myself, yes I enjoy these things, these things come from a healthy place. (Interview, slave L, 2016)

A comparison, that works for some people, is the marathon runner. There comes a point in the running, breaking through an initial pain barrier, when things can start to turn blissful.

Abuse Prevention

To Check against possible abuse there are questionnaires to aid in this, such as the Shahbaz-Chirinos Healthy BDSM Checklist, where there is a set of questions that can be used to help determine if abuse is present. BDsM and abuse are not the same. It is unfortunate that books and films such as the “Fifty Shades” series imply that it was Christian Grey’s youthful abuse that contributed to his desire to be a BDsM Dominant, which he doesn’t do well at.

It can be difficult to detect when BDsM is being used in an abusive fashion, particularly if the activities involved are ones that ‘squick’ a therapist.” This being where another person feels discomfort from hearing about another’s pleasure. This is why it’s helpful to see a BDsM/ kink aware therapist.

Two sayings:

  • Don’t Yuk someone else’s Yum
  • Your kink is not my kink, but your kink is ok”.

Part of staying safe is being aware of the equipment being used. Is it in good condition? Is it well designed and constructed to fulfill its purpose? Also, an awareness of surroundings. Is anything likely to get in the way? Plus, an avoidance of alcohol and drugs that would inhibit a person’s awareness of everything. This applies to both the Dominant, so they are in control of themselves and the submissive so they know if things do go too far for them, so they can appropriately use the agreed safe words.


This is where fantasy and reality are kept separate. People ideally will not confuse any exercise of power exchange negotiated within a BDsM/Kink relationship outside of that context. Part of recognition of this difference is what can make a play scene transformative. This may not work for everyone. Quoting from Safe, Sane and Consensual, to show the possibilities of BDsM:

We can script a scene so we get to be child, parent, brat, hero, bully, betrayer, cops, criminals, prisoners, interrogators, priests – the possibilities are endless. We can also get to feel a particular emotion: rage, pathos, grief, shame, cunning, predatory, helpless, hapless, omnipotent. A friend of mine once set up a scene with four gay men she knew. She asked them to tie her firmly to a padded table so she could struggle as hard as she could while they flogged her and shouted every insult they could think of that men have shouted to women – cunt, bitch, on the rag and so on. What she wanted to experience fully was her rage, and so she did, screaming and struggling, yelling back, a burning ball of fury safely tied to the safely padded table. They played it through till they were all exhausted, and my friend felt she had accomplished her purpose to completely express her rage at the sexism she had been subjected to all her life. Note that she specifically chose gay men as her tormentors – hetrosexual men might have been a little too threatening.”

“Sagarin and his associates (2009) also reported findings that BDSM practices contribute to health benefits related to stress management, evidenced in decreased cortisol levels. They suggest the “flow” described by BDSM practitioners is similar psychobiologically to the “high” described by athletes and spiritual “peaks” meditators experience. In attempts to further explain these results, Sagarin and his team propose that BDSM may be transformative.”


People talk about consent being a crucial part in all relationships. However, within BDsM it is treated with a level of seriousness and detail not always present in many other places.

If consent is not present, it’s not BDsM, it’s abuse. Without full consensual understanding, by all participants in a scene, it’s either abuse of another or self-abuse.

On her Sexplanations YouTube channel, Dr Lindsay Doe interviews Midori regarding sexual negotiations that take place within BDsM/Kink relationships. See the video below. A 17 minute introduction on the topic, outlining communication skills applicable in all sexual relationships.

Another help towards consent is the Yes-No-Maybe list. The link opens a four page PDF of things to consider. This list is specifically for BDsM/Kink.

Mentioned here, Betty Martin’s Wheel of Consent website is another wonderful place to learn about and further develop ways of consent in relationships.

For some BDsM/Kink practitioners this discussion of consent is very arousing, along with anticipation of what’s to come. Compared to, what might be termed regular sexual consent, which is often a yes or no to having sex in general, without much specifics, Kink consent is vastly different. As portrayed in the video above, not only what is going to happen is talked about, there is also the how, where, when, plus length of time.

Take flogging, for example. What type of whip. Soft, gentle, hard strokes. Where, as in which part of the body, buttocks, back, front. When, as in the first part of the scene or later. Length of time, 1 minute, 2 minutes, longer or perhaps how many strokes. Also, there are safe words chosen, which when used the Dominant will immediately slow down or stop whatever they are doing. Often yellow and red.

Such discussions are had about every aspect of a play scene, continuing throughout. If they are not then I’d have concern as to whether the participants are experienced or trained enough. If a client mentioned not having such consensual discussion prior and during a scene I’d offer a caution toward looking for a different Dominant or submissive or getting further BDsM/Kink education.

After care

Following a scene after care is crucial, for both the submissive and the Dominant. Physical care may be needed. Also emotional and psychological support. Perhaps just a hug is needed. Sometimes greater support is required. Water, food are helpful.

Kink – what exactly happens?

Here are a couple of non graphic SFW (Safe For Work) introductions. A 5 minute 44 seconds video, BDSM 101 by lacigreen, interviewing and displaying some BDSM/Kink equipment.

And a slightly longer, 17 minute 38 seconds video from Dr Lindsay Doe, with Amp from Watts The Safeword:


Many studies suggest that counsellors who have negative misconceptions about people involved or interested in BDsM/kink, are largely unfamiliar with key research findings on BDsM/kink relationships and practices, plus there can also be a lack of basic clinical skills needed to provide adequate care for people involved or interested in BDsM/kink. Unfortunately this can result in unethical clinical practices and ineffective or harmful therapeutic outcomes.

In an article Y. Gavriel Ansara identified five essential clinical skills for trauma psychotherapy with people interested or involved in BDsM/kink:

  1. understanding and identifying BDsM/kink relational roles and headspaces
  2. distinguishing BDsM/kink from abuse
  3. understanding and identifying key components of non-abusive BDsM/kink relationships
  4. determining the clinical salience of BDsM/kink
  5. and identifying and managing freefall

There isn’t space here to detail this. If your interest is sparked here’s the article.

When someone comes to see a counsellor regarding BDsM/Kink one thing to determine is are they BDsM/Kink aware or perhaps a practitioner themselves.

As a client are you the partner of someone involved in or who wishes to be involved in BDsM/Kink. Are they hoping you’ll perform some kind of reparative therapy for the partner who wants to or is engaged in BDSM/Kink? We, of course, do not engage in reparative therapy.

The book When Someone you Love is Kinky can be helpful in helping the partners to understand each other more.

Something to take into the counselling room, is that if a client/s comes to see us regarding their experiences with BDsM/Kink, we must not make assumptions about their motivation or be dismissive and try to “fix” them, by implying that what they may have experienced or desire is wrong. We do though need to be thoroughly aware of the possibility of abuse and check that is not occurring. See above for a checklist to assist in this.

As counsellors/therapists we need to decide early on if a client comes to us about some aspect of BDsM, do we or do we not feel able to work directly with the BDSM/Kink community? If not we need to be aware of counsellors who are experienced working with the BDsM community who we can signpost a client to.

Communities and finding one

The sites below are BDsM/Kink communities, some in the UK, others elsewhere. They are NSFW (Not Safe For Work). There are also educational and enlightening.

If you want to get invloved in BDsM / Kink take your time. Maybe see a BDsM / kink aware therapist, to explore your whys and wherefores. If looking for a Dominant here are a couple of articles to help – How Do I Find a Dominant? and How Do I Find a Dominant Partner (in a Nice Way)?


BDsM/Kink is hugely complex. This blog post is but an introduction. If this has sparked an interest in any aspect of BDsM/Kink, or you feel a personal desire to be involved, I’d recommend further study. The books listed in the references will be helpful, plus courses, such as those from Pink Therapy. Don’t rush. Take your time. Enjoy yourself 😊


  • Rewriting the Rules, Meg-John Barker, Routledge; 2 edition; Mar. 2018
  • Becoming a Kink Aware Therapist, by Caroline Shahbaz and Peter Chirinos, Routledge; Oct. 2016
  • Life Isn’t Binary, Meg-John Barker and Alex iantaffi, Jessica Kingsley Publishers; Mar. 2020
  • Safe, Sane and Consensual: Contemporary Perspectives on Sadomasochism, D. Langdridge (Editor), Meg Barker (Series Editor), Palgrave Macmillan; 2007
  • Williams et al., 2014
  • squick – combination of the words ‘squeamish’ and ‘icky’.
  • Margie Nichols, 2005
  • Life Isn’t Binary, Meg-John Barker and Alex iantaffi, Jessica Kingsley Publishers; Mar. 2020
  • Sexual Outsiders: Understanding BDSM Sexualities and Communities, David M. Ortmann and Richard A. Sprott, Rowman & Littlefield; 2013
  • Trauma psychotherapy with people involved in BDSM/kink: Five common misconceptions and five essential clinical skills, Y. Gavriel Ansara, PhD Psychol, MSc Soc Psychol, MCouns, BA Intl & Cross-Cultural Health with African Studies, Dip Adv Clin Family Therapy, CCTP-II, CFTP, Ansara Psychotherapy & Imanadari Counselling Melbourne Branch;
  • When Someone you Love is Kinky, Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt, Greenery Press; 2000

Review of an article regarding being gay and celibate

Review of an article published in the August 2020 edition of the Ensign magazine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Promoting celibacy as being the answer, it’s a problematic article for many who are LGBTQ+ and a member of the Church.

Why bother? Why not just let things be? Three initial reasons come to mind.

One. I have lesbian, gay, trans, nonbinary, queer friends who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I want them to feel loved, supported and accepted for who they are.

Two. Such an article can, and no doubt will, be weaponised. It’ll be sent to families with gay children, telling them not to worry, their son or daughter just needs to be celibate and everything will be okay. Similarly it’ll, no doubt, be sent direct to a gay person, telling them they just need to be celibate!! All followed by “See this guy called ‘Jacob R’ in the Ensign did it!!

Three. I’m mid way through writing an essay, for the Pink Therapy foundation certificate I’m nearing completion. Titled “Reconciling Being LGBTQ+ and Mormon“. I was hoping to find a way to bring the two together. Yet, the more I try, the more articles such as this one appear, making it harder and harder, if not impossible to do.

Being celibate and single may work for Jacob R which is wonderful, if that’s what he wants. The concern is when one way is put out as the way for all gay members of the Church. What about a nuanced viewpoint, looking at varying perspectives of being gay and a member of the Church? A more detailed exploration of celibacy was undertaken by Thomas Montgomery here.

Yes, there may be a few individuals who can remain celibate throughout their lives. Such people are most likely to be asexual and/or aromantic, having no or little interest in sexual or emotional relationships. For the majority the toll on their mental health will be tremendous. For some so bad life seems pointless, worthless.

The Church, when talking about the need for gay celibacy seems only to share stories of individuals and couples, who on the surface, seem to make being celibate or in a mixed orientation marriage work. One such couple was Lolly and Josh Weed. Not seeking such a position, they ended up as a kind of poster couple who had a loving and successful marriage, having four children, with Josh, openly gay, married to Lolly, a straight CIS woman. After years they explained why everything had to end. This is the same with many of the LGTBQ+ people on the Church’s website. Everything initially fits the Church’s agenda, then after time their position becomes untenable.

The article itself

I’ve linked the article below if you want to read the whole thing. I’ve quoted a few paragraphs, followed by my comments in italics.

Digital Only: Young Adults

Why digital only? What’s the issue with publishing this in the printed version of the Ensign? Don’t want the general membership to read it? It has been suggested ‘digital only’ makes it easier to remove from publication, if Jacob R ever changes his stance.

My Experience Living the Law of Chastity with Same-Sex Attraction

An improved title: “My Experience Living the Law of Chastity and being Gay”? There seems a persistence, from the Church, in using the phrase “same-sex attraction” which appears to reduce being gay down to something sexual, missing completely the close, intimate relationships gay couples develop.

By Jacob R.

Where’s the person’s full name? I can understand the person’s reluctance to publish their name in full, with there being still not yet full acceptance of the leadership, or the general membership of someone being gay and Mormon. Maybe times will change, so one day it’ll be fully acceptable to be LGBTQ+ and a member of the Church.

Sometimes the law of chastity can seem difficult to understand and reconcile…

When pursued from a strictly binary view, it is. Why not apply the law of chastity equally to gay and lesbian couples as to heterosexual couples? Once married what goes on in the bedroom is no one’s business, except the couple.

Editors’ note: This article is part of a series in the August 2020 Ensign regarding having a positive view of sexuality, sexual intimacy, and the law of chastity. The term sexuality means different things to different people, but in this context, we are talking specifically about our sexual feelings and identity.

Have to disagree – this article is not “a positive view of sexuality, sexual intimacy, and the law of chastity”, nor “sexual feelings and identity.”

There are two things I knew to be true about myself while I was growing up:

  1. I was a Hebrew-speaking Hasidic Jew.
  2. I am gay.

Being a Hasidic Jew this person has already had years of hearing that being gay is against God’s will. Joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a gay person seems like stepping out of the frying pan into the fire or perhaps the other way round?

But I’ve learned that regardless of what we may experience, when we trust God’s will above our own, our lives can turn out better than we ever imagined for ourselves.

May be so. Is God’s will being imparted directly? Or someone else telling us what they think God wants for us?

Finding the Truth

I moved to New York to go to school when I was a teenager. I started noticing a beautiful chapel near my school. I was really drawn to it, and as I took a closer look at it one day, I saw the words, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Because I was Jewish, I decided I probably shouldn’t go anywhere near it again, but I never forgot how intriguing it was.

“I started noticing a beautiful chapel”?

Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. Yet describing, as beautiful, chapels of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seems a stretch, which adds to the thought this is by a ghost writer. Temples described as beautiful, I can understand, plain brick Chapels, not really.

I ended up reaching out to missionaries in my area. The thing that intrigued me so much about the Church was that instead of being told what was true and having beliefs forced on me, I was encouraged to pray and receive knowledge and a testimony that it’s true for myself.

And I did.

After I gained that testimony, I asked to be baptized. The missionaries asked me, “Are you willing to endure to the end and keep the commandments?”

I said yes, even though at the time I didn’t fully understand everything that question entailed.

Saying yes, though he “didn’t fully understand everything…entailed”. Something that frequently happens. Happened to me. Especially for children baptised aged eight. How can they really understand all that will be required throughout their life? There’s something about full consent missing in such decision making. I began exploring consent here.

Because I experience same-sex attraction, sometimes I struggle to comprehend what Heavenly Father has planned for my life in the gospel. For me, the need to live the law of chastity can be difficult to understand and painful to apply at times, because it’s hard imagining I might be single throughout my life. I don’t know if I will have the opportunity to get married or have children in this life, but I want to, and I keep my mind open to being sealed in the temple if that is Heavenly Father’s plan for me. But regardless of when, I know those blessings will be fulfilled eventually if I follow His will and not my own.

Eternity is one thing, but what about joy now? Because a person is gay they have to wait for family and children in eternity?

As I have learned about His eternal plan, I truly understand that we can experience godliness in many ways, not just through sexual intimacy.

Back to sex. Intimacy is much more than sex. What about talking, holding hands, cuddling, hugging, going for a walk together, kissing, sharing time together, doing a puzzle, playing a game together, etc., etc.?

I Remember That the Lord Hasn’t Revealed All Things

I’ve often wondered why I experience same-sex attraction. I’ve prayed for answers so many times. And as I’ve spoken with stake presidents and bishops and with Heavenly Father over the years, I’ve come to understand that we don’t know all the answers yet. He hasn’t revealed everything to us. God is perfect, but as we see in the Book of Mormon, He doesn’t reveal everything at once.

Avoiding the word “gay” again. Let’s hope Heavenly Father reveals that marriage between people of the same sex and gender is okay sooner, rather than later.

Our souls are wired for connection, and that longing to connect is often at the heart of sexual feelings. Connection, close bonds, and friendship are such an important part of finding joy, and fulfillment as a member of the Church in this life, regardless of your circumstances.

Absolutely. Our souls are wired for connection. What about connection for those who are LGBTQ +? Allowing marriage between gay and lesbian couples helps fulfil such wiring for connection.

I know it’s true.

When I am wholeheartedly in the gospel and when I look through the lens of an eternal perspective and spiritual progression rather than a limited perspective, I feel such incredible peace and joy that doesn’t compare with anything else. The blessings I experience from the gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessings I am promised outweigh anything else, and they are worth everything.

Great for you. Don’t expect everyone else to feel the same.

And that is one of the main concerns with publishing such an article in an official church publication. The implication this is for all.

What is Consent?

What is consent? Saying yes or no to something? Well, yes, partly. Surely, it is something more though? Giving and receiving consent feels vital, where all involved know exactly what’s happening, to be expected and with whom. This, for me, is really the fuller aspect of being consensual, with everyone knowing, agreeing and happy with what’s happening, may happen and with whom. Though, not just in regard to any type of sexual relationship, but every aspect of life.

Being consensual for me is not just saying yes. It must be an informed yes. All parties being fully aware of everything that they are agreeing to. Regarding sex, fully understanding any potential health risks (STIs, pregnancy, HiV, etc.) involved, both to themselves and their partner/s. Plus, respecting any religious, moral and cultural views of their partner/s, all of which need discussing and negotiating.

I lay in bed one night pondering over what makes full consent so, so important to me. I feel it relates, at least in part, to abuse.

An experience

Consent has always been an important part of how I lived. Well, I thought it was. Sometimes I’m oblivious to things. I appreciate when people call me out on something. Consent was/is one such thing. I guess I’d always connected it solely to sexual activity. That without consent sexual abuse was occurring, which it is.

I share this experience with the consent of the other person involved. On the first or second day of a residential for the Pink Therapy diploma I’m currently studying, Sue taught me the expansiveness of consent (for further insights into Sue’s work, I recommend visiting their website Students were all involved rotating in pairs asking each other questions. At the end of the two minutes together with Sue I reached out, in my mind, gently to hold Sue’s hands as a gesture of thanks. As my hands lightly touched theirs, Sue stepped back, saying, as far as I recall, “please don’t touch me, I haven’t given you permission”.

I admit at the time to being completely floored, embarrassed, unsure of what I’d done wrong. I think I apologised, certainly resolving to speak with Sue later, which happened. They explained about Betty Martin’s wheel of consent, which was new to me, covered in more detail later in the week. A light bulb went on. I’m grateful for the initial awkwardness I felt, that allowed me to be open to learn and change. Both consenting we hugged. 

A small example. Later in the week there was something in my room Sue wanted to see. A book or handout. Reaching my room, I walked straight in expecting Sue to just follow me. They waited at the entrance. Seeing that, I remember thinking “Sue’s waiting for consent to come in”. I said “come in”, specifically adding, “…if you want to”. Following the whole wheel of consent discussion and workshop it seemed appropriate to add that last part of my sentence, something I probably would not have thought about doing before. To me, it seemed to then be more of an invitation, a choice, which could more easily be declined, rather than any type of command. This leads to more thoughts on many aspects of wider consent, that there isn’t space or time today to write about here. Maybe another day.

For further insights into Sue and their work, I recommend visiting their website –