There’s an aspect of consent that is sometimes overlooked. Beyond the basic human-rights level of whether or not one has consent, there’s an aspect of the process of gaining consent that offers better sex and better relationship dynamics.
The following is an example of the ‘gamification’ of consent, drawn from my experience of running hundreds of sexuality workshops for thousands of people …and, of course, from my private life – I love this structure!
'Switch' is a game for two (or more) people to play, and it's a sweet little way of introducing a lot more adventure and pleasure into your sex-life. It's deceptively simple, often fun, and surprisingly profound.
How to play!
The rules are easy: One person starts by issuing an instruction or request to the other person. If the other person is agreeable, they carry out the instruction or request. If the request is not something they're into, they instead say 'switch', and it's their turn to issue an instruction or make a request.
The game can go for five minutes, or longer; my personal best is a month.
'Switch' will teach you how to get really good at working out what you want, and asking for it. This simple little piece of self-development is a revolution in itself, and one of the essential skills of good consent practice; you’re unlikely to get what you want if you can’t articulate it.
You’ll probably start with some fairly safe and conservative requests; "Massage my feet", "kiss me gently on the cheek", or "make me a cup of tea". But once you find your groove with whoever you're playing with, you'll start to match each other's escalating requests; one instruction will lead naturally into the next, regardless of who's doing the instructing. It keeps you in step with each other.
Pretty quickly, you'll get your confidence up. Maybe you'll even throw in a few things as jokes, or to see what happens if you ask for something adventurous or taboo. Sometimes, you will be stunned to discover the things you're up for, or that your partner is interested in. And the worst that will happen is that it’s about to be your turn to receive an instruction.
Consent is firmly built into this game; in fact, the whole game started as an experiment on how to make consent – the process of knowing what’s going to happen and agreeing to it – easy and fun to work with. From the perspective of the person making requests, it’s assumed you’ll only ask for something that you’re into. And from the perspective of the person receiving the request, if you don’t like something, you just say ‘switch’. And then you take things in a direction that’s more interesting to you. (You can also negotiate for something slightly different, of course – you won’t always want to give up the role of being the one receiving instructions!).
The instructions you issue can be purely verbal (“Tell me why you like me”, “Tell me what you’re hoping I’ll ask for next”), through to directions on what you’d like to receive (“Massage my shoulders”, “Slowly lick the insides of my thighs, starting at my knees”), through to requests for things you’d like to do (“Allow me to look at you all over”, “Allow me to kiss your belly”). Let your imagination run free!
Pro-tip #1: Always say ‘thank you’ when your partner asks for something, even if it’s not something you’re into. It makes it easier for them to ask for things in the future (and vice versa).
Sometimes you’ll want to get sexy, and sometimes not. Sometimes, you’ll take it in hilarious directions. I fondly remember one game that turned into a rolling series of comedy routines (“Show me what I look like when I’m dancing”; “Let me blow raspberries on your chest”), and another that deteriorated into a delightful series of dares, complete with impossible circus stunts.
Sometimes you’ll have forgotten you’re playing, because you get so pleasantly distracted fulfilling an earlier request. Then after a pause, someone will say ‘switch’, and it’s all on again.
Pro-tip #2: You can use a ‘passive’ voice (“Would you be able to massage my g-spot?”) or a more ‘active’ voice (“Get the lube, and massage my g-spot. Now!”). Both are perfect, and in either case, the other person will either do what they’re told, or simply say ‘switch’.
This game is a great leveller – and therefore very empowering – for relationships where one person tends to be more active, and the other a little more passive. ‘Switch’ is great therapy for anyone that’s been shamed for asking for what they want, or for being sexually creative. And it’s one hell of a fun way to get to know a partner, whether it’s a first date, or your twentieth year together.
Many of the games I teach in my workshop ‘Fun Little Sex Games’ carry a similar feel to ‘Switch’; they aim to bring together good communication, solutions to the sexual problems we all face, and lots and lots of fun. ‘Switch’ actually appears in the workshop ‘Kink 101’, but it’s applicable to all forms of sexual expression.
Have fun switching it up!