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I Do Consent Podcast episode 3 is a conversation with the wonderful Betty Martin, we explore sexuality and consent; the power of giving and receiving consent – and separating out those two feelings; consensual sex work; and an introduction to the core principles of Betty’s concept: The Wheel of Consent.
Dr. Betty Martin has had her hands on people professionally for over 40 years, first as a Chiropractor and upon retiring from that practice, as a certified Surrogate Partner, Sacred Intimate, and Somatic Sex Educator. Her explorations in somatic-based therapy and practices informed her creation of the framework, The Wheel of Consent®.
As part of her work with the School of Consent, Betty travels around the world teaching practitioners how to create empowered agreements in their client sessions, in her highly sought-after training “Like A Pro: The Wheel of Consent for Practitioners.” Originally developed as an offering to teach much-needed consent skills to sex workers and touch providers, this training is now attended by somatic therapists, massage therapists, sexuality educators, medical and health care workers, activists, human resources folks and the spectrum of touch-based professional providers – all of whom complete the training with a clear understanding of how consent starts with our own bodies, and then expands outwards into all forms of human relating, with or without touch.
Jenny Wilson 0:01
Hello, and welcome to this episode of The I Do Consent podcast. We’re recording in November 2021, in the run up to the International Day of consent, and my guest today, I’m very pleased to announce is Dr. Betty Martin. Betty’s had her hands on people professionally for over 40 years. First as a chiropractor, and upon retiring from that profession, she became a certified surrogate partner, a sacred intimate and a somatic sex educator. Her explorations in somatic based therapy and practices, informed her creation of the framework, the Wheel of Consent. Welcome, Betty.
Betty Martin 0:50
Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Jenny Wilson 0:53
I have had the great pleasure of learning a bit about the Wheel of Consent from someone who trained in your School of Consent. And it was a whole two day workshop. Yeah, I know, we can’t kind of get into that level of detail. But for for people listening who don’t know, the Wheel of Consent, can you tell us about about what, what the core principles there are?
Betty Martin 1:21
Yeah, I’d be happy to. Yeah, we, for practitioners, we teach it in the five day workshop, and we taught it in a one year training one time, so it does does take up more space. And I also want to add that, in the introduction, the things that you describe that I’ve done, the sacred intimate, and so forth, is really sex work. And so I, I want to give credit to sex work as the lineage of where this work came from. Um, so the Wheel of Consent, you know, when you’re, when you’re touching someone, maybe your hand is going down their back? Is it because you want to? Or because they want you to? Or are you doing it the way you want? Or are you doing it the way they want? And the Wheel of Consent notices that there’s a difference between those two, and that both of them are needed, at different times, depending on what your agreement is. So I can ask you, for a backrub and ask you, you know, this deep and this much pressure, and you’re doing it the way I want, that’s one thing… or you can ask me for consent or permission to feel up my back. And then your hands are doing something entirely different. They’re still on my back, but it’s for you now. And you’re feeling around exploring, having a great time using my back. And that’s a different dynamic. And it’s just as important, a dynamic and just as real a dynamic. It’s gotten a lot of bad press. But with consent with agreement, it’s a very important dynamic, especially for lovers or partners who want to be intimate, and maybe sexual together, being able to feel and explore and play with someone else’s body. There’s nothing finer, it’s just great to be able to do that. And, and look, the Wheel of Consent talks about is the difference between those two dynamics and how to find each of those two dynamics and the richness that each of those two dynamics makes possible. So it’s a it’s a practice, and taking receiving and giving a part. So that you are giving a gift, meaning you’re putting your desires aside for now. Or you’re receiving a gift, meaning you’re putting your desires first. And by taking them apart, so you’re only receiving, you’re only giving, instead of trying to mush them together – by taking them apart, you have experiences that are possible, no other way. They’re experiences are that are available when it’s just for you. And it’s all about what you want. And you still respect the other person’s boundaries, of course, but it’s all about what you want. There’re experiences possible there that are not possible when you’re trying to mush them all up together, and make sure everybody has a good time… and vice versa. There’s experiences possible when you set your desires aside, temporarily. You respect your limits, but you set your desires aside and you give the person what they want – both of them, receiving and giving, both of them feed your heart in a different way. And the differences are very significant. So the Wheel of Consent is a practice and takes them apart. And and in particular, those two dynamics.
Jenny Wilson 1:24
Yeah. So yes, there’s the Win Win, isn’t there of giving pleasure in the way somebody wants to receive it which, feels great. And taking pleasure in someone else’s enjoyment? (Yeah.) So although you kind of describe it as a separating out of those two things. It’s a making conscious of those two things, perhaps. And they can, can they happen simultaneously?
Betty Martin 5:51
Well, not really. Because if no, they can’t in the practice. It’s about taking them apart and being kind of strict with, ‘okay, I’m in this role, and I’m going to stay in this role for the agreed upon time that we have’. And then you learn some things, you have a great time you have some feelings there. It’s challenging. This is very challenging for people. Usually on the receiving on when you’re receiving a gift it tends to be challenging. And yeah, because it’s vulnerable. Of course it is. But if my hands are going down your back, if it’s for you, I’m going to be going the way you want me to. If it’s for me, I’m going the wayI want to, and that’s not going to be the same. It may look the same for a while. But at some point, you want my hand to go this way. And I want my hand to go this other way. Which way is it going to go? So it does. Yeah, it does separate out
Jenny Wilson 6:58
Yeah. And I guess that’s that intentionality of that is really very, very different from the social scripts and messages that we get in formal education and in our culture, about what sex should look like.
Betty Martin 7:19
Yeah, yeah. And we have this idea that the ideal lover is always thinking of the other person’s pleasure. And, of course, you want your lover to be attentive to your experience. And not just using you. But there are times when, when you agree to, that all the attentions on your pleasure. And that’s very challenging, mostly, because it’s vulnerable, of course it is. You can be seen in pleasure. You now your desires are out there in the open. You can’t hide behind what someone else wants, because it’s all about what you want. So, yeah, it’s a challenging practice. It’s a liberating practice. And it’s very fun, often. Yeah.
Jenny Wilson 8:12
I’m really interested in that thing about the the vulnerability and and the awkwardness, which I can imagine, of being in the position of taking a pleasure. (Yeah.) And yeah, that’s perhaps harder. That’s perhaps a harder place to be than the giving pleasure. And I think, you know, I’ve talked with various other people around this idea of the challenge is, we’re kind of socialized to not ask for what we want?
Betty Martin 8:45
Oh, hell, yes. Yeah, I think
Jenny Wilson 8:50
and actually asking for what we want, especially for people who were socialized as women, especially in a sexual context. I think it’s really hard. (Yeah, absolutely.) Because we’re taught that we’re not, you know, you’re supposed to “lie back and think of England”.
Betty Martin 9:08
Right? Or, or pretend you like it. haha lie back and think of England. Oh, my gosh, yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah. And asking for what you want is hard for almost everybody. Yeah, what I started noticing this when I was working with clients doing sex work and sacred, intimate work and surrogate work, that I would ask someone, how, ‘how would you like me to touch you right now for just a few minutes, kind of get acquainted touch?’ And very often, they had no idea or, they’d say, ‘Well, I don’t know. Whatever you want to do is okay, I guess’, which may be true, but it’s not the question that I asked. Or they’d say, ‘Well, I don’t know. No one’s ever asked me that’. Which is probably true. No one’s ever asked them that. Or they’d say, ‘Oh, gosh, I don’t know, I’m always the giver’. Or they just look at me like a deer in the headlights, you know, just like, ‘oh my gosh, I have no idea’. Or they would say, ‘Well, I don’t trust that question. You know, because no one has ever asked me that in real honesty’, you know, all kinds of interesting responses. And, and it is working with many, many people over the years taught me how vulnerable it is. And you know, when you work with people in an intimate way, if you’re honest with yourself, you have to start recognizing that, oh, I have the same problem that they do. Like, they have trouble asking for what I want. Oh, now I’ve looked at where do I have trouble? Asking what I want. And then you see it in yourself. And you go, Oh, shit, you know, I, I, I have these problems too. So I think that’s just part of working with people if you’re going to be honest with yourself.
Jenny Wilson 11:02
Yeah Yeah, that work is is really hard to, to own it, to ‘own your shit’ as they
Betty Martin 11:11
Oh, yes. Yeah. Yeah.
Jenny Wilson 11:15
For sure. I’m really, I’m really interested. And this isn’t necessarily something that we talked about as part of the plan of what we were talking about. I’m interested in your frank and deliberate intentional description of what your work is/ was as ‘sex work’. And why you want to make that point, because I can imagine why you want to make that point. But I think there’s something that that our listeners, maybe would want to hear.
Betty Martin 11:50
Yes, I’m a big proponent of consensual sex work, of course, not trafficking, which is an entirely different thing. And because it’s useful, I’ve just seen it be so useful for people, both myself as a client and myself as a practitioner, that when you have somebody who can hold you, emotionally, in a place that’s vulnerable for you, and have spaciousness for you, and accept your desires, that you think are terribly weird, that may not really be all that weird, anyway, and I’m not sure there any are really weird desires, they’re just desires… then there’s a, there’s a tremendous healing that’s possible by having your desires accepted, even if you don’t act on them. And sex is one of the ways in which, sexuality is one of the ways in which we are very confused and messed up in our culture. And we have so much shame about it. And you know, we’re just kind of a mess, you know, sexually… and repressed and everything. And so, being with someone who can hold that space for you, is just incredibly useful and powerful. And there are there are many kinds of sex work. I, I consider that if you’re working with human sexual arousal, that’s sex work, so strippers, Cam people and, you know, obviously escorts and the erotic massage and all kinds of porn actresses and actors. So I define it very broadly, which most people do.
Jenny Wilson 13:46
Yes. Yeah No, I would tend to agree. I hope my dogs barking in the background being picked up too loudly on this recording. Yes, I absolutely agree with what you’re saying. And I think also that the stigma attached to sex work, and people who use sex workers … I think it’s harmful because like you say, though, once something’s shrouded in shame and secrecy, that’s where the non consensual stuff starts to happen.
Betty Martin 14:21
Jenny Wilson 14:22
Because there’s no openness and there’s no honesty. Integrity. Yeah, that’s when people coerce and lie, and cause harm.
Betty Martin 14:33
And unfortunately, as long as sex work is illegal, then sex workers can’t go to the police for assault or something. And that’s a big problem. The decriminalization movement says “sex work is work”. It’s just work. It’s just like any other kind of work. Yeah. I know if if there were…if there were trafficking in among accountants, we wouldn’t outlaw accounting. You would outlaw trafficking. It’s already illegal.
Jenny Wilson 15:09
Or, let’s take it an example of a profession where there is trafficking, for example, working in a nail bar. You know, where people are trafficked into, you know, pathetically appalling wages and living conditions and coerced to work in a Nail Bar
Betty Martin 15:17
Jenny Wilson 15:29
We’re not shutting down nail bars, because you know people, or criminalizing people for going to the nail bar… That’s not the problem. The trafficking is the problem. ..absolutely. Yeah. So why should sex be any different? Really?
Betty Martin 15:45
So yeah, I’m a big proponent of decriminalizing, of course.
Jenny Wilson 15:50
Yeah, of course. Going back to the Wheel of Consent..
Betty Martin 15:56
Well, that, you know, that’s, that’s a great example of, of consent or a lack of consent.
Jenny Wilson 16:04
yes there’s the stuff isn’t there, outside the Wheel, and you talk about being the shadow side of this beautiful, intimate dialogue of give and take and do and done to and that’s very beautiful. But what happens? Yeah, so to just tell us a bit more about that.
Betty Martin 16:23
So if I am doing something for you that you have requested, maybe I’m scratching your back, or bringing you a cup of tea, or picking you up at the airport, or giving you a blowjob. If I’m doing something for you that you’ve asked for, then I am serving you. And that’s a good thing. It’s also possible that the dynamic can happen. But without consent, so I could be coerced into doing something for you that I don’t really want to do. And I’m not willing to do, but I’m afraid that if I don’t do it, I will be beat up or lose my life or something horrible. So, so each dynamic, it’s possible within consent, and that’s where it’s fun and joyous. And there’s a true gift that’s given and a true gift that’s received. And it’s also possible to have that same dynamic without the gift element. Because there’s no agreement there. And that’s what I call the shadow, which is very loosely defined, it’s not meaning ..it just means that the same things happening, but we didn’t agree to it. And so it can be just mildly annoying, to truly egregious. And the same thing, if I’m doing something to you that I want, and you’re giving me the gift of your body, maybe I’m playing with your hair or exploring your arms or legs or something. And you’re giving me this gift of your body. That’s terrific. A lot of fun. But if I’m groping or assaulting or stealing, that’s not so fun. And that’s, that’s outside the Wheel of consent. That’s outside consent. Yeah.
Jenny Wilson 18:22
In the FRIES model, which I’m sure you’ll know, but for this Freely given, Reversible Informed .. the E in the Planned Parenthood model is enthusiastic consent. And then Specific, I’ve changed the FRIES model, because for me Enthusiastic consent isn’t always the most helpful term. I can be fully consenting – a good example: I am not remotely enthusiastic about going to the dentist. But I am consenting to have the dental treatment done, because it’s good for me. And I want that to happen. So yeah, so it’s definitely inside of consent. The E, I have changed to engaged -its an affirmative, yes. So you’re, you’re you’re still inside the Wheel and kind of pushing up to the edge of where that line is where you are not engaged anymore. You’ve moved over into a coercive, into a place where it’s beyond my boundary and my permission. So its, quite clear.
Betty Martin 19:29
Yeah, that makes sense. I like the FRIES model. And there’s many ways to look at any of those things. And that makes sense to me. I think, though, that we… it is possible to be enthusiastic about something.. it’s possible to, I think it sort of depends on how you define enthusiastic. Because I can’t, you know, if you want to do this thing to me, that doesn’t really thrill me. But it doesn’t.. I’m okay with it. I’m happy to do it because you want it. I don’t mind. I’m willing. That’s.. that counts is enthusiastic, to me. It’s like, okay. Yeah. Am I willing to let you do this? Huh? Yeah, yeah, I am. Okay. Yeah, let’s go. That counts as enthusiastic to me. It’s not ‘Oh, hell yeah, let’s go’. But it’s, it’s full hearted. It’s, it’s engaged. So yeah, that might, that might be a better word. And I think what they’re looking for they’re.. the Wheel of Consent… Again, it’s about taking receiving and giving apart, so that we’re either doing what you want, or we’re doing what I want. And taking those apart is what the practice is. It doesn’t mean that you live your whole life that way. It doesn’t mean that every interaction you have to take them apart – God, no, I hope not. But as a practice, then you have experiences and learn things that are not possible if you don’t take them apart. So it’s about taking them apart. But I imagine that what the FRIES model is trying to get at is finding those things which we both want, just so that we’re both there for our own enjoyment, and not simply to go along with what somebody else wants. Going along with what somebody else wants is an important human skill. And it has its place, thank goodness, or we’d never get anywhere. And it has its place in it in an erotic life as well. And that’s one of the gifts that we can give is like, ‘Okay, I don’t really, I’m not wild about that, but I’ll do it because you want to do it. Sure’. That’s wonderful. Unless it’s your only way to do anything, then that’s coming from that. Yeah, but I imagine that the FRIES model is trying to get to where Okay, we’re for finding something that we’re both excited about.
Yeah, or both engaged in
Both engaged in Yes.
Jenny Wilson 22:19
For me, it’s, it’s for me, the FRIES model gets us past a simple yes means yes or no means no. Into that place of where we’re feeling, where we feel we’re inside consent. And we feel that we’re not. Yeah. And that that place is very contextual. It’s very specific (the S of FRIES) to any given situation. But it’s, you know, when that line’s been crossed? Yeah. So that’s what FRIES does. For me, it kind of defines where the line is.
Betty Martin 22:54
Yeah. Yeah, I’d like to, I’d like to take take a swing at defining consent. Because, because most people when they say consent, if you listen to the way they use it in the same sentence, they’re confusing it with permission. (Yeah.) Or they think it means the same thing. (Yeah.) And permission means it’s okay to do the thing that I want to do. Like, if I want to build a garage, I go down to the courthouse, and I get a permit that allow that permits me to build my garage. I’m the one that wants a garage, not the city. Yeah. So permission means you did you can do what you want to do. (Yeah.) But what if I ask you to please scratch my back? Where does permission fit in that dynamic? It doesn’t. There’s no, it just does not apply that dynamic. But consent applies. (Yeah), You know, after I started teaching this consent for, you know, 10 years, I thought, I should look this up in the dictionary and see what the dictionary says about consent. And it essentially says, “agreeing to do what somebody else wants”. So when I consent to x, y, z, I’m consenting to what you want XYZ or I consent to do XYZ. Again, it’s based on what you want. So consent means agreeing to what somebody else wants, which is an important skill to have. And it’s certainly not the whole picture.
Jenny Wilson 24:51
See, I see it as, and the dictionary definition that I found was, yeah, permission. “Permission for… Or agreement for something to happen”, and agreement for something to happen, could be a much more mutual process – we agree together to proceed in this way. I agree. And so for me consent isn’t so much this idea of somebody being allowed to do something. (Yeah.) And is more about reaching consensus?
Betty Martin 25:30
I totally agree. Yeah. And when someone says, get consent or give consent, I pause there, I think what’s really true is that we arrive at consent together, and really a better word is agreement. I totally agree with that. But consent is the word that’s out now. And so, you know, but, but I imagine that the reason we started talking about consent, as a culture in the last X number of years, is because things were happening that people did not agree to. And they still do, of course. And so, and I, I am, I don’t know if this is true, but I imagine that somebody wants to do the thing to somebody else’s body. And so, in that situation, consent is the appropriate word, like, I want to do this thing to you, and give me consent to do this thing to you.
Jenny Wilson 26:34
It’s Something you’ve got to get
Betty Martin 26:36
So yeah, and so that’s kind of the.. our cultural, erm, cultural norm around sex, you know.. that ‘I want to do this thing to your body. Is it okay with you if I do this thing to your body?’ (Yeah). And so that was the word that
Jenny Wilson 26:55
yeah. Whereas actually consent is a is a practice. (Yes – absolutley). Or, you say arriving at agreement, and that applies in intimate situations.. but it applies in you know, going to the dentist, as I say…Or at the level of society, you know, did I consent to.. Brexit? No, I didn’t, actually. But I also have the right of protest. So we’re in systems that are quite coercive; patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism, etc. And those, those systems are not really very consensual. And so this is where our, actually it really matters that we’re practicing consent on an individual level, because that’s how, you know, we can be the change, isn’t it that we want to see in the world and change that cultural paradigm? (Yeah.) Yeah. I mean, that’s how, that’s why I came to this work, I guess, because I’m radical, and I want to change the world and I see that in you too.
Betty Martin 28:02
To Yeah, I think it’s also true that when we really feel it in our bodies, what consent feels like and what non consent feels like and what it feels like to ask for what we want and what it feels like to say yes or no, and, and what it feels like to respect the other person’s No. When we really get that in our bodies, we start seeing it everywhere. And we and the whole world starts looking different. And we become more effective in in building a world that’s based on consent.
Jenny Wilson 28:51
Yeah. Absolutely. Well, it’s been a total pleasure talking with you, Betty, thank you for your wonderful insight. If people want to learn more about the Wheel of Consent, and the training and the skills that that you’re that you’ve, you’ve brought, how would they go about that? And we can put some links but tell us more
Unknown Speaker 29:15
Yeah, well, on my website, bettymartin.org there’s about eight or 10 hours of free video that just lays it all out to help yourself. There’s also a book, the wheelofconsentbook.com , but it’ll all it’s also on bettymartin.org. And there’s some free things to download about how to get started. And, and also, these days, I’m training other practitioners in using the Wheel of Consent in their, with their clients, and you can you can find it all there bettymartin.com (that’s great). Yeah, but the book goes into this a lot of detail and walks you through experiences where you can find what each of the quadrants are and what they feel like.
Jenny Wilson 30:04
Yeah. And, and the videos as well, you know, just just the three minute game is a really great way to get inside it for anyone listening that doesn’t know it. The three minute game is is a basic kind of touch game, isn’t it, that separates out that give and take. So it really doesn’t take long to get a feel for this. (Yeah. It’s a lot of fun). Thank you very much, Betty. Before we go, I’ve been asking all my guests on the on the podcast in the run up to the International Day of Consent. If you had one message for the day of consent, what’s your one message?
Betty Martin 30:46
Oh, my goodness. The one message is that … if you want to become more generous? The thing to do is not to push yourself, but to be very mindful and respectful of your own boundaries. Yeah, when you when you are very responsible and respectful for your own inner No, then you relax. And then you have a lot more fun. Instead of trying to push yourself ‘oh, I should be okay with this. Why aren’t I okay with this?’ doesn’t work that way.
Jenny Wilson 31:28
Great. Yes. Learning to say no. That’s a whole other conversation.
Betty Martin 31:33
Yes. That’d be a different series.
Jenny Wilson 31:35
Yeah. Thank you, Betty Martin. It’s been wonderful to talk with you today.
Unknown Speaker 31:41
You are welcome. Thanks for doing this project
Transcribed by https://otter.ai