The field of intimacy is a tender field. Because we work with areas of ourselves that potentially store trauma, we do what we can to create spaces as safe as possible (‘safer space’) for our participants to explore themselves in a way that feels expansive, exciting, and empowering. Tools we use are building knowledge of, and expertise in, communicating boundaries and desires, clearly communicating the intention and design of our workshops.
The following document is the Code of Ethics which everyone working with or for Wilrieke Sophia is aware of and works in alignment with. We publish this Code publicly for transparency. This code may be adapted from time to time, but will always acknowledge power dynamics, and separating our function in service to our participants from nourishing our own intimate needs and desires.
This document applies to people supporting workshops, including play parties, of Wilrieke Sophia, Exploring Deeper, and Cuddle Workhops International. By stepping up in the role of (guest) facilitator, co-facilitator, assistant, helper, organizer or in any other agreed position, you agree to act according to the agreements as well as the code of ethics.
We work with different roles in the team, to which different agreements apply. In these agreements we attempt to intercept power dynamics and their undesired consequences for safety of both the room and the team.
Facilitator / Co-Facilitator
The Facilitator is the main responsible person in the room. They are responsible both for the content of the events, as well as for the team.
The Organizer organizes the practical aspects of events like venue, food, lodging and possibly finances. Besides this, the organizer also initiates and continually contributes to promotion, informing participants, dealing with questions, etc. Basically, this persons does everything except taking care of the content of the workshop.
Assistants are present during the events and help holding the space. They may be invited to participate in exercises, for example when the number of people doesn’t match the exercises, or when a participant would benefit from doing an exercise with an assistant. The assistants participation is always at the service of the participant and/or the group.
Being assistant is a valuable opportunity for learning, giving service and being part of community. Being assistant is a voluntary job. Whenever possible, we will prevent assistants from paying for their services, and whenever possible you will receive value through getting insight in group dynamics, the process of facilitation, etc.
Helpers are participants that get a reduced price (at least 50% discount) or free participation in exchange for practical help like doing shopping, setting up the room, cleaning during and after the workshop. Helpers will not be openly mentioned in the circle, as to prevent power dynamics as much as possible. Helpers are not team-members, not part of co-creating the workshop, emotional space-holding, emotional preparation etc. Although they are participating in the exercises, we acknowledge that power dynamics may still arise, and therefore this Code of Ethics also applies to them.
Alternating between team roles
Team members can switch role, e.g. from assistant to helper to participant over different workshops, but not within a workshop. Guidelines and ethics are the same for all team members, regardless of their role in the workshop (including being in the role of participant).
Team members won’t individually meet or date persons they have met within the construction of a workshop. Exceptions can be made after checking in on power dynamics and/or blind spots with at least one other team member.
Team members will not have any form of fluid exchange with participants (open mouthed kissing, oral sex, or intercourse) and no touch of genitals during workshops, regardless of their role in the workshop. Exceptions can be made for non-sexual exercises, like massage or (emotional/physical) dearmoring.
Code of Ethics
Most experienced members of our communities have a pretty good knowledge of the basics of consent around intimacy and sex practices. However, things take on a different dimension when we’re involved in some kind of leadership, teaching, or therapeutic role within our communities.
These guidelines are meant for everybody in the Exploring Deeper who has a space holding and creating role: facilitators (including guest facilitators), co-facilitators, assistants and organizers.
The behaviour of anyone in the team reflects upon the whole community. As a platform for intimacy, it is my highest goal to continually grow (and keep) this community as a place that is known for its feeling of safety. Building a great name takes time – ruining it happens in a second.
These guidelines provide an overview of some of the key things to be mindful of once you have taken on such a role.
Acknowledge the power difference that is present between yourself and people you are teaching, leading, organising, or working with as clients. This may complicate the ease with which the others can freely consent to sex, play, or a relationship, with you. With great power comes great responsibility! Even if you don’t feel very powerful, and you are aware of all of your flaws and imperfections, simply having this kind of role means that other people may look up to you. They may feel flattered by any attention from you, be keen for your approval, or put themselves under pressure to do what you say even if you tell them it’s okay to say ‘no’. They might be concerned about disappointing you. Also your role may mean that you have less time and energy available than others, for example if a person needs more aftercare than anticipated, or if anything challenging happens during an encounter.
Be aware of cultural power differences that may exacerbate any dynamic. For example if you are older or more experienced than the other person; if there are gender, race, ethnicity, class, financial, education, language, disability status or other differences between you which mean that you are from a culturally more privileged group; or if there are differences which mean that they are somebody who is generally deemed less culturally ‘attractive’, is less able to find partners, or has lower self-confidence or mental health struggles.
Be conscious of how these dynamics might advantage you and disadvantage others: For example as an organiser or facilitator you may have more status than the other person in the community; people may be less likely to flag your behaviour than they are to report the behaviour of others; the community may be more likely to believe you than someone else if anything goes wrong; if someone is your employee or workshop demo-person they might be afraid to offend you for fear that you or others might withdraw money, support, or access to networks from them.
For these reasons it is worth being extremely cautious about embarking on sex, play, or a relationship under these differences in power and role. If in doubt it is better simply not to. For example, many facilitators make a point of only playing or meeting people outside of the communities in which they are known as a teacher/leader or professional – sometimes even only in other countries! Another possibility is to specifically look to other people in similar roles to play with or strike up relationships with, perhaps creating specific online and offline spaces for such things.
For these reasons, we use a no-dating policy between team members and participants. Exceptions can be made on an individual basis, based upon factors like position of the participants, possible power dynamic, blind spots of team member, etc. Supervision, second opinions, a cooling down period (time before meeting the participant is possible) or a conversation with mediation can be possibilities.
Dating between team members is accepted, as long as transparency is honored (as within-team dynamics can influence events).
Definitely avoid viewing workshop attendees, clients, students, and the like as your pool of sex/play partners. Concerns can get raised about leaders and professionals who regularly embark on relationships with their clients or students, or who consistently play with attendees directly after leading an event or running a workshop.
Consider letting others initiate. One good way of encouraging the power dynamic to be shifted somewhat is for you never to be the one who initiates possible play or relationships with these groups of people. But remember that some difference in power and role still exists even if you let others initiate. Letting others initiate also means: don’t find participants on Facebook or other Social Media. When they find you, it’s more appropriate.
Bring the difference in power out in the open. Before you do anything have a good chat about the dynamic between you and the possible impact it may have with the person involved, and the team. This is generally good practice whoever you are. Can you ensure that both/all of you will really feel able to say ‘no’ to something or stop something they are uncomfortable with? If not then it’s better not to go there.
Don’t imply that you know more about what a person wants/needs than they know themselves. This is creepy! It can’t be done consensually. By all means endeavour to empower someone in what they say they want, but to imply that you know better about someone else’s desires or body is disempowering and not consensual.
If you’re unsure of any of this, seek support. If you feel like you might already have unwittingly engaged in non-consensual behaviours, or if you’re not clear about the boundaries or the positions of power that you occupy, then seek support before going any further. Wilrieke can put you in touch with independent supervisors who can help you finding support, assistance and what else you may need.
If you are accused of anything, also seek support. If you have done all of 1-9 and still somebody accuses you of non-consensual behaviour this can feel very tough indeed. You’re highly likely to be triggered initially and to need some time to process. Support is available to help you to reflect on your practice, to figure out the most compassionate way forward (for yourself and for the other person or people concerned), and to mediate if that is appropriate. Don’t immediately dismiss anyone making an accusation. Avoid using social media (eg friending people or liking posts) as a subtle way of connecting, building your case or apologising. Be cautious about making any immediate public response without yourself having obtained advice (see 9) on how best to proceed. It can be incredibly hard for people to openly admit that they’ve experienced something non-consensual. So if community members get shut down or doubted when they make such statements, it can put other people off from making reports about non-consensual behaviours.
Workshops and exercises are part of intellectual property of a business. As team member you may become inspired by what you learn in the workshops.
It is not okay for team members (neither for participants) to copy exercises or full workshops and facilitate them as your own. To create your own Cuddle Workshops under the name of Cuddle Workshops International, you can get certified by following the practitioner training (see www.cuddleworkshops.org). When in doubt about using your inspiration, check-in with Wilrieke.
These guidelines are based upon open sourced Consent Guidelines created by Pink Therapy, The Summer House Weekend, Kinky Salon London and others.