Consent. Permission. Harassment. Abuse. These are just a few of the words dominating the cultural conversation around sexuality right now—as they should be. But as we collectively aim to build a safe, fair, and mutually enjoyable environment for sexual expression, how can we move ahead in a healthy way? Here, expert and relationship coach Lila Darville, a Well+Good Council member, explains how the rise of the #MeToo movement can lead us all to a stronger, more powerful sexuality.
As the saying goes, nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. And right now, we're seeing the power of the liberated woman—she is unstoppable. Since the ignition of the #MeToo movement, my social media feeds have been continually flooded with new stories of women and men calling out sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse. Finally, these shady happenings are finding their way into the light. Finally, everyone can see that these experiences didn’t disappear with the women's rights movement 50 years ago.
How do we stay connected to our sensuality and not shut down when faced with all this ugliness around sex?
As women, we’ve been dealing with unwanted sexual advances and harassment for all of recorded history. Unfortunately, silence and repression has been the prescribed response—but we are gradually shifting that, one voice at a time. The outrage we are experiencing is a vitally important step in swinging the pendulum closer to equality. Now we need to turn all this energy into real change.
I’m a sex and intimacy coach. What I enjoy more then anything is feeling—and helping others feel—juicy, sensual, and sexually ignited. Unfortunately, that’s become really hard in this climate of distrust. So the question I want to pose is this: How do we stay connected to our sensuality and not shut down when faced with all this ugliness around sex?
Obviously this issue is deep, complex, and won’t be fixed with any single solution. However, I want to offer a few things I've learned about what it takes to create a safe space and culture of consent in a highly sexually charged environment.
Consent is sexy—here's how to talk about it in a way that is, too.
Creating a safe (sexy) space
I was invited to co-create the Magic Mike Live stage show in Las Vegas. My job was to take a show of 13 half-naked, muscle-bound male dancers and a stadium of over 400 turned-on women with different desires and levels of comfort and make it a truly safe space for everyone, while still allowing everyone to get what they came for: a totally liberated sexy experience.
It quickly became clear that we couldn’t do anything until we had created an environment of trust. That meant really looking at our assumptions about sex and rebuilding from the ground up, creating a collective lexicon around sexual boundaries.
Communication became our mantra. Healthy relationships (whether they are physical, emotional, workplace-based, or otherwise) are built on open, respectful, and ongoing communication. That includes setting mutually-agreed-upon parameters that allow everyone to feel comfortable, so they can fully let go and play within the safety of those agreements.
We tried to shatter the B.S. notion that a man asking for permission is somehow less sexy—because it really is the sexiest thing he can do.
With Magic Mike Live, we tried to shatter the B.S. notion that a man asking for permission is somehow less sexy—because it really is the sexiest thing he can do.
I found that the best way to have our dancers ask for permission to enter a woman’s space was to always lead with “How would you feel if I…?” This invites her to check in and tune in with how she actually feels in her body, rather than asking “Is it okay if I…?” which makes the assumption that she should be okay with the proposition. Subtle, I know, but the small things make a big difference.
The concept of consent had to be expanded beyond something you just get once and then treat like a contract; it's an organic and ongoing conversation that lets someone change how they feel at any point—without consequence.
My desire was to have everyone walk away from the show with a crystal-clear understanding that they don’t owe anyone anything for being sexy. Even if they flirted and used their sexuality in a situation, if their body isn’t screaming a "full yes," it's a "no." There are no maybes, no explanation necessary.
What is a "full yes"?
A full yes is when you have alignment in all four centers of your body and mind. There's your sex center: Am I sexually attracted to this person? Your heart center: Am I emotionally connected to this person? Your mind center: Is it a good idea to have sex with this person? And your intuition—that little voice that just knows!
Before deciding to be intimate with someone, go through each center like a checklist. If it's a "no" in any center, take note. It doesn’t mean you can't still choose to be intimate, but if you do, you enter with a clear understanding of the choice you’re making and what level you are operating from.
We all deserve sexual empowerment—to wear it proudly, to celebrate it, and to feel safe and respected in it. We humans are sexual beings and any repression of our sexual energy will only lead to more dysfunction and pain. These conversations need to be had, so initiate them with your partner, your lover, or friends. Listen and communicate. Educate and elevate. And never let the ugliness dim the light of your sexual fire!
An expert on sex and intimacy, Lila Darville is a professional relationship coach who brings her body-positive, real-talk approach to stadiums full of women as the pleasure director of a show in Las Vegas called Magic Mike Live.
What should Lila write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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