- The Wheel of Consent is a model invented by Dr. Betty Martin.
- It helps individuals and couples explore the four qualities of giving and receiving.
- Consent also has a “shadow side,” less healthy responses that we’re all susceptible to.
- The best way to learn the model is by doing the Three Minute Exercise regularly.
- The concept can help men feel more confident in bed, even when dealing with erectile dysfunction.
Mark loved giving oral sex. In the early years of marriage, his wife Cathy had enjoyed it, too. Then something changed. Mark couldn’t understand why. His wife started avoiding oral at first and later found every possible excuse not to be intimate.
“She must have met someone else,” Mark thought, worried this was the beginning of the end of their marriage. Luckily, the couple found counseling and got to the root of their problem.
Cathy didn’t have an affair. She just hated beards. No, not the way they looked. She hated the way they scratched her private parts. When Mark grew a beard, oral sex became unpleasant. But Cathy didn’t want to upset her husband, so she stayed silent.
Mark kept offering oral stimulation to Cathy, thinking he was doing her a favor. And she had been quietly accepting the painful sensations, thinking she had to. “He was trying so hard to please me,” she said. “How could I spoil the fun for him?”
Betty Martin’s Wheel of Consent
Mark and Cathy’s marriage was saved by the Wheel of Consent. When they learned about the dynamics of giving and receiving in bed, they were able to solve their misunderstandings. They started talking about how they did and did not like to be touched. Today, Mark occasionally shaves his beard to give Cathy the best oral of her life.
The Wheel of Consent is a theoretical model and a set of accompanying exercises. It is aimed to help individuals and couples understand the complexities of giving and receiving. While it proves useful in the sexual context, its implications are broader.
The author of the model, Dr. Betty Martin, revolutionized the discussion about consent. According to her theory, consent is not about one person giving and the other agreeing to something. It is about two or more people coming up with a decision together.
Learning those principles helps us become more effective in what and how we give. We also learn to receive with gratitude and an open heart. “This is an instruction manual for enduring love,” says the foreword to Dr. Martin’s book “The Art of Receiving and Giving,” written with Robyn Dazlen (Luminare Press, 2021).
Let’s learn the basics.
Four Quadrants of the Wheel of Consent
The Wheel of Consent is a circle divided into four quadrants. The best way to understand those different spaces is to experience them through touch exercises. The four quadrants are:
You do the touching because someone else enjoys it. The trick here is to know exactly what your lover wants — and that is not easy. When you are in that space you are giving a gift to your lover.
You touch someone because it gives you pleasure. In this part, trust is an important factor. On the one hand, you need to trust yourself. On the other, you must trust that the partner knows his or her limitations. This quadrant could not exist without permission and curiosity.
This is a part where you are touched for your own pleasure. It has nothing to do with tolerating something or sacrificing your own comfort (like the oral sex in Cathy’s story). It’s about knowing what you really want.
This is where your partner touches you for their own pleasure. This is the least explored aspect of intimacy. As someone being touched, you are giving access to yourself. The hardest thing to remember is that this is not about you but about the other person.
Understanding Your Shadow Side
Being a good lover means understanding your limitations, too. Outside the Wheel of Consent, there is its shadow side. It can show up in many ways, such as:
- Acting like a martyr
- Being passive
- Being abusive
- Feeling entitled to receive a certain kind of pleasure
The more you learn what it feels like to be in the safe space of giving and receiving, the less you will turn to unhealthy patterns in life and in the bedroom.
All this may sound vague. That’s why Dr. Martin recommends learning about her model in practice. To better understand it, watch the instructional videos.
Play The Three Minute Game
The basic exercise to learn about the Wheel of Consent is called The Three Minute Game. It is a simple practice, done at first in a non-sexual context on more neutral body parts, such as the hands.
If you are single, you can play it with a friend. Be mindful that gender will have a role in touch dynamics. Men are often better at some aspects and women at others.
For the practice to be effective, you need to create a safe space, free of judgment and distractions. You can close the door, light a candle, or say that now is the time to explore giving and receiving.
All you have to do is take three-minute turns. Each will have a chance to ask the two questions:
“How do you want me to touch you?” and “How do you want to be touched?”
The purpose of the exercise is to explore four qualities of the Wheel:
- You are doing, and it’s for you (taking)
- You are doing, and it’s for them (serving)
- They are doing, and it’s for you (accepting)
- They are doing, and it’s for them (allowing)
You can do all four in one session or choose a short exercise where you take turns experimenting with one of these. Make sure to have a conversation afterward. Share your feelings, doubts, and discoveries.
How Men Can Benefit from the Wheel of Consent
While the model was not designed with one gender in mind, men can benefit from learning about giving and receiving. Our culture expects men to be great lovers, always ready to have sex and give their partner the best orgasms.
What To Do When You Have ED
The Wheel of Consent can help relieve some of that pressure. You can enjoy “just” touching without expectations. This is especially important on those days when your ED symptoms kick in and you can’t get hard.
Some men with erectile dysfunction avoid intimacy because they are afraid of “failure” in bed. Understanding that you can please your partner even without intercourse can be a great relief. It expands your understanding of what a good lover is.
Remember that ED is not the end of a happy sex life. With the right treatment, you can quickly go back to satisfying intercourse. And ordering ED medication has never been easier. Fill your prescription online directly at eDrugstore.com, where shipping is always free, or call 1-800-467-5146 today for a free medical consultation.
Anka Grzywacz is a sexologist, reproductive health expert and Certified Sex Coach™. In her online practice she helps busy women and couples solve their intimate problems.