This is a question that came up recently and I’d like to answer it.
The Wheel of Consent is a diagram of what happens when 2 (or more) people make an agreement about touch. It’s also more than that. It describes dynamics that occur between people who have not agreed, or who maybe think they have but their partner doesn’t think so. And it describes dynamics between groups of people, like nations. When your nation (as mine does) dominates another nation or group, for material gain, cheap labor, and so on, that’s described by the Wheel, mainly the shadow of it.
The Wheel of Consent separates the who-is-doing factor from the who-it’s-for factor. The doing person may be doing for their own benefit or doing for the benefit of the done-to person. And vice versa.
So – why does it take 2 (or more) people?
I think this has to do with the nature of Receiving and Giving. When you Give a gift, you set aside what you want, and keep responsibility for your limits, and you do both of those at once. You set aside what you might prefer, in order to go with what your Receiver wants.
When you Receive a gift, you put your desires first, and respect the limits of your Giver, and you do both of those at once. You are asking your Giver to set aside what they might rather have happen, in order to go with what you want.
Both of these are true no matter who is doing and who is done-to. You can Give and do, and you can also Give and be done-to. You can Receive and do, and you can also Receive and be done-to.
So yes, the Wheel of Consent describes what happens between 2 (or more) people.
That said, it can be quite interesting to play with it with yourself, which is really all in your head. When you touch yourself you can imagine that your hand is Taking, feeling for its own pleasure, or you can imagine that your hand is Serving, doing for the pleasure of whatever part it’s touching. What you are really doing is moving your attention from the pleasure in your hand to the pleasure in your body part, and back to your hand, and back to your body part. It’s interesting to see what you notice as you change where you put your attention.
But that’s all in your head, which is fine. Is that really the Wheel? Nah, but it’s interesting!
- Betty Martin