The sweetness of the orange
Updated: Aug 31, 2022
I was teaching recently alongside Seani Love at the "Erotic Mysteries Deep Dive" - a week-long, intensive exploration into sacred sexuality, conscious kink, and shadow work. As you can imagine, a BIG focus of this work was communication around consent.
One of the things that feels really aligned between Seani’s approach and my own is the emphasis on communication being something that ADDS to the potential enjoyment of all parties. Rather than seeing this as an obligatory checkbox that needs to be “completed” before play can begin, it’s an integral and rich part of the whole exploration before, DURING, and after play.
I’ve found in kink spaces and more generally when people speak about their intimate experiences, there is an inherent resistance to communicating verbally with their partner/s once things are "underway".
I want to challenge this. I hear so many times that people don't communicate with their partners or lovers during intimate moments for fear of “killing the vibe", disrupting the rhythm of whatever is happening, or because it feels awkward. I question how can there really be a vibe if you're not enjoying what's happening? If you’re physically uncomfortable? Or if there's something bugging you and distracting you from your felt experience?
Another perspective I often hear on this is that verbal communication is unnecessary because there are so many non-verbal cues. Now, of course, we communicate a huge amount of information non-verbally, but I think it is unwise (and potentially dangerous) for us to believe that we can entirely comprehend another’s experience from this alone. After all, one person’s flinch of (unwanted) discomfort may be another’s ripple of orgasmic bliss. And what may be deliciously enlivening to a partner one day may be excruciating the next.
It feels as though a lot of the resistance is around creating a pause in proceedings. And where does this fear come from, really? Do we worry that the spell might be broken if we return to reality for a moment, in which case wouldn’t it be helpful to realise there and then that something isn’t an enthusiastic yes?
I imagine a lot of this resistance comes from the deeply conditioned narrative of intimacy being a one-way escalator towards the end goal - usually orgasm or ejaculation. The pause doesn’t make sense when we have our blinkers on and are solely engaged in a race to the finish line.
Another common side effect of not communicating is that we slip into ambiguous roles in relating. This often plays out where we think we are doing something that the other party loves (as an act of service), whereas they think that they are allowing us to do something that WE love. This can lead to a lot of time and energy being spent on something that nobody is enjoying or really benefiting from, and over time resentment can build from both parties when their “generous act” is not reciprocated.
In our silence, we reduce our capacity to be fully present, we miss opportunities to know each other and engage on a deeper level, and we compromise pleasure for false politeness.
One of the many tools we used to support this during the Deep Dive was the traffic light system. This is a commonly used system in kink/BDSM spaces, where it is used in place of or alongside safewords with the intention of providing a clear, universal language around what is OK or not. It is most commonly used as follows:
GREEN means that something is OK or can continue.
ORANGE (or sometimes amber/yellow) is most often used by the person on the receiving end (who may be referred to as a “sub” or “bottom”) as a way to let the person doing the action (who may be referred to as a “Dom/me” or “top”) know that they are getting close to their limit. It is often used as a way to ask for the action to slow down or ease off a little.
RED means stop. This can be for many reasons but it is the equivalent of a safe word that will bring whatever is happening to an immediate end.
Some of the great ways in which I have seen Seani’s presentation add to this are:
“Green” being used as a question. An example of this might be if someone wanted to remove an item of the other person’s clothing. They may say or show that they are about to do this and ask “is this green?” to which the person on the receiving end could then respond.
“Orange” being used as a pause in whatever is happening to introduce communication that might be outside of the roles or dynamic that are being played out. For example, if someone has been asked to kneel but needs a cushion to support their knees, they might say “orange - I can do that but I would like to grab a cushion for my knees first”.
I am a big fan of the “orange” in all intimate scenarios. For me, this means - can we pause for a second to address this thing so that I can return to being fully present with you and this shared experience. It creates an opportunity for all parties to articulate contextual boundaries and desires, remain in enthusiastic consent, and to take care of their needs.
There's a lot we can take from conscious kink into other intimate contexts and into life in general. I think the use of "orange" is a practical first step into a more conscious way of being intimate with others.
Let’s celebrate the pause to take a breather, to grab some water, to take a moment to check in with yourself and each other, to have a loo break, or to ask for a change of pace, intensity, or focus!
What would it be like to utilise the sweetness of the orange today? It may feel awkward and unconventional at first but trust me, with practice this can lead to connections that feel deeper and far more satisfying.
Here are a couple of examples of how you might language this:
When engaging in a conversation with someone: "I'm really interested in what you’re sharing and I would love to hear more. I'm also aware that I'm getting thirsty and would like to pause for a moment so that I can take care of that."
In a sexual context: "I am feeling a little self-conscious about the potential of ejaculation if we continue. I find that if I put some towels down I can relax more. How would you feel about that?"
I’d love to hear your examples of pleasure-oriented pauses!