The Touch&Play festival is one of my favorite festivals where people are building intimacy, not just sexy adventures, but vulnerable, creative, intentional connections that nourish each other and the whole community. How? One of the ways we create this is by asking each other some core questions before starting an intimate exploration. I’d love for these steps to be shared widely, whether or not you join us at Touch&Play. May these support you and your communities!
These questions were inspired by Reid Mihalko’s Safe Sex Elevator Speech and co-facilitating play spaces with ZigZag Panther Peery-Wolf. You don’t have to want to have sex with someone to use these 8 steps! I noticed that play parties often have a protocol for checking in before having sex and that we could have a version of this that would support more conscious connections. These steps are designed to expand our sense of what’s possible in intimacy and to clarify our own desires and limits. They also support us to consider how our one-on-one connections may impact the whole community and the culture we are building.
Some of us at Touch&Play are building chosen family that we want to grow with over the years. Some of us see this festival as a powerful place to explore your erotic truth. These steps will support you to clarify what’s most important to you and how to have the conversations that lead to the explorations you love.
- Are you clear and present to make aligned choices in this moment? Consider if you are using substances that may impact your choices. Also consider if you are in a life transition, perhaps ending a relationship or just moved or lost a loved one or simply didn’t get much sleep last night. Look and see if this is the moment to make a clear choice about connection. Is there something you would like to name about your state of mind that would be valuable for the other person to know before connecting? For example, you might share that you had a recent break up and you’re still grieving and would like to connect with gentleness and a slow pace.
- What’s your intention for connecting? What would it mean to you if we…? Big energy likes clear intentions. Perhaps your intention is to expand your confidence that your body can be turned on and feel safe. Maybe you are looking for a life partner. Or you want to expand your connection with your own eros, or dismantle how you relate to gender or power. Perhaps you are interested in spiritual connection, increasing a sense of possibility and play, finding a friend, bringing a new level of eros to your dancing… What would make this meaningful for you? It really helps to know what intention is motivating each of you. It reframes what success might look like and it also gives you a heads up if you have incompatible intentions. You might decide not to proceed or to redesign what you’d like to explore. Sometimes simply sharing your vision for the partnership you would love can be deeply vulnerable and intimate.
- What power dynamics are present? Power dynamics are always present. Recognizing them and naming them together is important. For example, is one of you part of the racial majority and one of you part of the racial minority at the festival? Is one of you trans and one of you cis gendered in a mostly cis gendered space? Simply pause to name this and to see the courage someone has to show up in a community that may not know a lot about their experience. Ask if there’s something they want to share about that or to request. Or is one of you newer to the community. If so, would it support you to arrange for someone else in the community to check in after connecting so your main support person isn’t the one you just went on the ride with?
- What are your desires and limits with this person? This is where specificity can be really sexy and gives your playmate a better chance of providing what you desire. You might say, I love my hair pulled, my neck bitten, I like impact play if you start soft… I’m curious about anal penetration but I don’t know if I like it yet so please wait for me to ask for it. Or you may say, I had a traumatic experience in the past and I’d love to explore guiding you slowly in how to touch my body with my clothes on. Or you may say, I’m a seasoned poly slut and I’m really desiring a deeper heart connection where I feel seen. I’d love to cultivate a long term relationship so I’m desiring to share where our life passions intersect because I sense you and I could really be important people in each others’ lives. It’s important to name at least one thing you are a NO to, this creates trust and demonstrates that you know your limits and can speak them. For example, you might say parts of your body that don’t want touch or names you really don’t want to be called. You might also express your time limit so you are on the same page about when you need to close your connection. You might also have a limit around only playing with people who have a spiritual relationship to their eros or only playing with people who will be available for a follow up conversation the next few days.
- If you want to explore genitals, what is your health status? When was the last time you were testsed for STDs/STIs? What specifically were you tested for? What were the results? Have you been sexually active since then? (Remember it takes 3 months for most STDs to show up in many tests.) What barriers have you used and do you want to use? This essentially communicates to your playmate that you care about your health and their health enough to have this conversation before intimacy. It’s also a good time to share if you have other injuries that would impact your mobility, or your mental health. Consider if birth control is needed, how you’d like to address it and how you might respond if you conceived. (And hey, if you’re kinky make sure you check in about asthma or pacemakers, any health information that may needs to be considered before diving deep. This article won’t really cover the full scope of kink negotiations.)
- How do you experience gender? Will you introduce me to the body parts you want me to touch and what you’d like me to call them? It’s really awesome to ask this no matter how your playmate presents or appears. It gives them the opportunity to step into a supportive space of no assumptions. I’ve had the delight of witnessing many people explore an energetic cock or energetic pussy for the first time. It’s really liberating to share what experiences you have or would like to have rather than limiting the conversation to your “identity.”
- What relationship agreements do you have? (Here’s a guide to creating relationship agreements with your partner.) Do we overlap in intimate partners or relationships such that we may want to create different choices? Consider the impact on your community of you two connecting. Do you know each others’ past lovers, bosses, or clients? Would it be valuable to the community to check in with specific people before connecting?
- What would you like for integration? Some people call this “aftercare.” Many people are nourished by stillness, embracing, or dropping into a deep peace together before getting verbal. It can be powerful to share gratitude, moments of highlights, new things you discovered you love or you now know you don’t like. You may experience the ripples of the connection over the next few days or weeks and ask to have a follow up conversation to share how you are feeling about each other after you have time to rest, talk about it with your friends, and journal. Sometimes the integration and reflection is the most intimate part!
Consider that you may have a clear and empowering conversation and you still may not enjoy the connection or you still may get an STD. This is not a violation of consent, this is simply a risk you are willing to take if you say YES to exploring together… a well informed risk. Regardless of if you chose to play together from here, simply having this conversation builds intimacy and community.