At Burning Seed, we’re super keen to build a space where people can create, explore, discover, connect, transform and express themselves as openly, safely and respectfully as they can — whenever, wherever and with whomever they choose. And that means sex too.
Yep, we’re gonna talk about sex and the big C.
Say cheeeeeeese – body banquets at Burning Seed 2014.
Why? Because consent is the key to creating a space for both no and yes..yes…oh god, YES! And in this petri-dish of possibility called Seed, that means evvvvvvvvvvverrrrbody gets what they want or need — commonly known as a win-win-win-win-win-win-win situation.
To understand consent’s winsome ways, I hit Rog up for some of his wise words. Say hello to Rog. “Hello Rog!”
Rog is a manager of a Melbourne sex-positive workshop venue, professional counsellor, co-founder of the peace-keeping initiative, ‘Pt’chang’, at Confest, and one of the people helping to serve up the fantastic body banquets at Burning Seed last year. (Now THAT was a cheese and fruit platter!)
I chinwagged with him about consent’s ambidextrous role; its importance for Seed as the new kid on the experimental block; the dangers of focusing on the fear factor; and what Seed can learn from the sex positive community.
According to Rog, consent is the ultimate multi-tasker. “On the one hand, consent is a safety, protection mechanism, and on the other hand, consent is an enhancement, expansion tool.”
And these tools are crucial to the development and evolution of Burning Seed as an experimental space.
“Consent as a safety, protection mechanism is crucial because Seed creates an environment of freedom and opportunity where people are exploring themselves, willing to take risks and go over their edges,” Rog says.
“However, it all happens in the broader context of our larger culture. All of the difficult and challenging behaviours around sex are still at play. So what you wind up with potentially is people with their guard down but still in a risky cultural context.”
Up close and personal. Photo by Shaan Ali
But according to Rog, consent is also essential for the transformational possibilities of sex and the Red Earth City.
“There are a lot of people ready to have new experiences and learn new things about themselves, and one of the things people look for are more sexual experiences,” says Rog. “In terms of getting what you want, becoming empowered and having some really interesting experiences, there is an opportunity to say, ‘well here’s an amazing tool that will take you to some amazing spots’.”
What makes it such an amazing tool? Well, basically Elvis got it wrong. A little less conversation, a little more action? Pfft! More like: a little more conversation, a lot more action.
“There is a model out there that says we should magically know how to touch each other and magically progress in a direction that is good for us. I think that works for a small percentage of people a small percentage of the time. For the rest of us, we benefit a lot from a bit of dialogue and communication about how we like to be touched or what we’re looking for or how far we would like things to go,” says Rog.
“So when you start to do it like that, you start to get into the detail about what you’re after, and you very quickly arrive at something which is far far better than what would have happened if you had just turned off the lights and hoped for the best.”
Best cuddle EVA. Photo by Shaan Ali
According to Rog, the consent conversation between individuals, and within the broader community, can help lay the breadcrumbs for people to find their way out of the dark, and discover a more enhanced sex life and relationship life.
Unfortunately, our community conversations often place too much emphasis on protection over empowerment and passion. And if you’ve spent any time on social media lately, it can sometimes seem as if there is a potential predator on every Seed corner and we need to wo-man the ramparts against the baying hounds. Winter is coming. Winter is coming!
What’s the problem with framing consent just in terms of protection, and particularly protection of women?
“I think sometimes we can get so caught up in all the things that are wrong about sex that we start to become sex negative. You can develop a dynamic where people are so scared of violating each other, even though they have the best of intention, that the place becomes a battleground rather than playground,” says Rog.
“Obviously, the ‘no’ or ‘don’t’ message is crucial, but if we don’t also use our ‘yes’ and ‘please do this’ messages, then things don’t really improve.”
And it doesn’t do women any favours either.
“There’s a tendency to not trust that women are powerful, empowered people. And when we constantly look at how the situation negatively impacts women, we’re not giving a lot of credit or seeing their power,” he says.
Temple of Surrender at Seed 2012. Photo by Onur Ka
So with sex on the Seed agenda and the need to both empower and protect, where can we look for inspiration and role models?
One of answers: the sex positive community and, in particular, the kink community — whether you like to walk on the wild side or prefer your vanilla with only a little extra sprinkle on top.
“The sex positive community, and in particular the kink community, have done incredibly good work on how to put these ideas into practice. The reason being that when you get into more nuanced and specialised areas of sex play, you can’t just dive into an activity and hope for the best. Safety mechanisms need to be much more elaborate sometimes,” says Rog.
“These communities are also a shining example of how to use basic consent tools to take you to an amazing level of complexity. The self-expression within the sex positive and kink community can be profound – miles away from the norm. And that’s basically thanks to these consent tools.”