Consent & Power
Content warning: mentions of non-consensual touch, gaslighting, sexual assault
Exploring Deeper is collaborating with The Art of Consent on an ongoing project to provide education about situations where power dynamics can undermine consent. Our current focus is on abuses of power by some facilitators of intimacy and sexuality workshops and festivals.
Just as in many other areas of life, stories have emerged about teachers of tantra, yoga, spirituality, sexuality, and personal development who have abused their power. Listening to these stories, it becomes apparent that the same unhealthy power dynamics – from the relatively minor to the seriously abusive – are played out again and again, in many different organisations and schools.
These materials are freely available to use and share. If you want to support us creating these free materials, you are welcomed to send us a donation.
Consent, Power, and Abuse (1): A system of coloured flags that are intended as a starting point to encourage awareness, provoke discussion, empower participants and offer self-reflection for facilitators.
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Workshop 1: Consent, Power, and Abuse in Sexuality Workshops and Festivals – Introducing a System of Flags
This workshop is offered to support workshop participants to keep themselves safe, empowered, and in consent when they step into new and unfamiliar learning experiences. It is also intended to help facilitators avoid the pitfalls of falling into shadow power dynamics with their participants, which is often not included as part of their training.
We find it useful to frame this material by introducing a system of coloured flags:
- Red Flags – Serious malpractice, avoid. Signs of criminal, abusive or highly manipulative teaching styles and group dynamics.
- Orange Flags – Approach with caution. Major issues and/or teaching styles which might be okay for some people if they know what they’re getting themselves into, but might be upsetting or traumatising for others.
- Yellow Flags – Room for improvement. Many well-meaning teachers and schools operate within a ‘murky’ zone of vague agreements, lack of transparency, and unclear boundaries. Most teachers have a few yellow flags!
- Green Flags – Best practices. Including: awareness of power dynamics, including cultural oppression, trauma-awareness, gold-standard consent practices and clear ethics and accountability.
The flags are intended as a starting point to encourage awareness, provoke discussion, empower participants and offer self-reflection for facilitators. Depending on the size of the group, we may use optional breakout rooms to facilitate sharing opportunities in smaller groups.
Rupert and Wilrieke are not ‘experts’, but we have some experience in this field. In our workshops we describe each of the flags, giving real-life examples from our experience. There is also space for questions, reflections and group sharing.
Workshop 2: Consent, Power, and Abuse in Sexuality Workshops and Festivals – Networks of Complicity
In our previous workshop, (‘Consent and Power: Healthy and Unhealthy Power Dynamics between Facilitators and Participants’), we introduced a system of flags to help us assess healthy and unhealthy workshop power dynamics, both as a guide to help empower participants, and also as a self-check for facilitators.
In this followup workshop, we now direct our attention to those who find themselves in abusive or unhealthy group dynamics, but who are not the perpetrators or victims themselves. These are the “networks of complicity” which so often surround abusive teachers, and which includes: active enablers, passive bystanders, and those who benefit socially or financially from being associated with the teacher who is abusing.
This workshop is in part inspired by the words of Karen Rain:
“I’ve told my story to mainstream journalists several times about how Pattabbi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga yoga, sexually assaulted me and many other students regularly while “teaching” yoga. But all the articles left out the most important message I hoped to convey: The essential role of bystanders, enablers and beneficiaries in all sexual violence.”
We will also consider the consequences and challenges of being an Ally or Whistle-blower in these circumstances.
In the first half of the workshop we will share with you some observations about how these different roles arise, how to spot them in others, and how we might proceed if we realise that we ourselves have stepped into them, either now or in the past. We will refer to work by Matthew Remksi, who is doing excellent work into these dynamics in the yoga world. We will also discuss a recent real-life example of these dynamics in the sex-positive/tantra world, with space for questions.
In the second half of the workshop we will use a breakout room to offer you a choice of:
(1) diving deeper into the theory of these dynamics with Rupert, or
(2) further sharing and discussion space with Wilrieke.
About our workshops:
Our workshops are psycho-educational and sharing spaces, not a therapeutic ones. We will encourage and support you to practice self-care both during and after the workshop as we delve into this challenging material. We also recommend asking for personal support or aftercare if you might need it after the workshop. We will provide links to further resources, and we may follow this workshop with further workshops, sharing circles, and/or a survivor support group. We are open to requests and feedback on all aspects of our workshops.
Find upcoming scheduled workshops in the events calendar!
Hi! My name is Wilrieke Sophia.
I’m an Intimacy Coach & Educator, Facilitator, International Speaker & Entrepreneur. I can help you take charge of your love life by attracting what you really desire in life: love, sex, friendship – from mild to wild, from monogamy to polyamory, and everything in between.
I will take you from feeling lonely, unworthy, and disconnected to feeling more connected with yourself, others, and completely turned on by life.
I also train facilitators to run a trauma-informed, inclusive, and consensual intimacy-based business like mine. Keep on reading to find out more about all the exciting workshops, products, and online courses I offer!
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