I never like to get on my high horse and it’s part of the reason I’ve kept quiet up until now but silent I can no longer be. This is a growing issue not only in my own local community but across the whole of BDSM communities alike. It’s an issue that is increasingly giving me pause in attending events and placing myself within reach of certain individuals.
Have a seat and let’s talk about consent.
Yes, we’re having this talk. Yes you need to pay attention. And yes, you might have already violated someone’s consent (I had) without realizing it.
Let’s get the basics out of the way…
What is consent?
It’s the permission or agreement to do something before it happens.
Notice that tricky word ‘before‘ it happens. Imagine you went to the dentist for a routine cleaning and the dentist attempted to begin pulling a tooth of yours. You did not consent to an extraction, he has attempted to violate your consent. Shame on you dentist. Likewise when you play with someone you need to ask them what is and isn’t okay before you do it. Not after. Not during, which isn’t really fair, and defintely not at all. Before. If you didn’t ask before you can’t do it. A recent survey published in The Journal of Sex Research found kinksters are less likely to believe myths about sexual assault, blame sexual assault victims, and exhibit benevolent sexism yet it is still happening in our community.
Consent is mandatory not sexy.
I’ve seen people say the phrase ‘consent is sexy’. It’s not sexy, it’s mandatory. Saying it’s sexy is dressing it up to be fun and palatable but really, it’s just necessary. It doesn’t need to be anything more. Consent is mandatory because everyone has boundaries (yes, even those ever abundant submissives who say they have no limits), and this includes tops and bottoms, subs and dommes, and everyone else who plays together. We all have limits. We all have boundaries. We all have things we don’t want to see, hear, experience, give, or receive and it’s important that the people we play with know what those are. A lot of times when I see people negotiating I see the top leading the charge getting all the info on the bottom but they forget, even they too have limits. I have certain things I won’t try, certain phrases that if uttered will take me out of my topspace, and explicit play that doesn’t appeal to me in any way, not even playfully.
Permission can lead to assault
Yes still means yes but ‘banana’, ‘red’, ‘cabbage’, ‘Please Mistress’, ‘I can’t remember’ and ‘seriously no’ can all mean NO. It all depends on what you’ve agreed upon. During negotiations it’s important to get a safeword. I call this a fail-safeword. It’s there for the moments when things aren’t going the way you expected, you need to slow down, or you’d like to stop because things are going beyond what you agreed to. If you have negotiated a face slapping scene with someone and then begin to choke them while slapping, you’ve assaulted them and you’ve violated their consent. You have no way of knowing if this person has a medical condition that you may exacerbate that or worse trigger them into a headspace they might not want to be in—both in turn ruining what could have been an enjoyable experience.
What about blanket consent?
I aspire to this logic with one of my two kinky partners because I’ve only negotiated this with one of them. This is a mutual agreement that consent will be voluntarily waived. In other words, comprehensive consent is given, ahead of time, for all acts and situations that will arise in the future. These factors mean that this type of consent requires an extremely high level of trust and understanding between everyone involved. This is a controversial and well debated arrangement in our community. Yet, nonetheless it is still a form of consent. For us participating in our 24/7 D/s relationship we happily operate under an agreement of blanket consent, which some have even argued is inevitable for most long term, TPE, or other D/s BDSM relationships.
…But they’re submissive…
Yes you may meet the most lowly, wanting, selfless submissive ever to lie at your feet. But you’ll still need consent. I come in contact with quite a few D/s couples who operate under the ‘no safeword’ rule. They are of the mindset that because they are so committed, so psychically in tune with each other that there’s no need for a safeword or consent. Read the above section if you want my opinion on the pitfalls of that. No matter if you’ve been together for 1 month or 10 years, I think there’s a need for consent (even if blanket) and a safeword in all dynamics. When you get comfortable you make mistakes and that’s how I violated a submissive’s consent.
I violated someone’s consent.
When I first started out on my kink journey I wanted to seem much more dominant and in control than I actually was. That’s one of the downfalls of being the dominant one, a lot of the burden is put on you to just ‘know’ what you’re doing. Despite doing some research and watching (but not really understanding) others play I thought I’d “give it a whirl”. Yes, those are the words I use to use when I played with someone. I was giving it a whirl but the only thing I needed to whirl was my own self back to some classes. So here I was, in a crowded club in San Francisco, wet behind the ears and a brand new paddle in hand for my first meeting of a submissive I’d met online. This was still the days when I played on first meetings, which is a no-no for me now. I usually avoid pick-up play when I can.
So there I was and there he was, waiting as promised. We didn’t negotiate much as this was just a spanking scene for us both. He wanted to receive 150 hand spankings over my knee (again, another very intimate form of play I don’t do with just anyone now) and I was happy to give them…despite not ever giving more than 20 spankings to any one person before. We started our scene hastily with him begging to strip. and flopping down in my lap I didn’t know if I was hitting too hard and didn’t want to stop and ask for fear of killing the mood. I wasn’t looking for nonverbal communication clues because I hadn’t been taught what those were yet. Around number 70 of the 150 spankings I realized my hand was getting tired so I decided to use my brand new small wooden paddle instead for the rest. He took it like a champ, there was no aftercare and we didn’t play or speak much after.
It wasn’t until a couple years later I realized…
I had violated his consent and there wasn’t any excuse for my behavior. I later sought him out, made a clumsy but heartfelt apology and he accepted insisting no harm had been done. We both chalked it up to being newbies and since then went our separate ways. But, to this day it’s something I try to keep in my mind at all times. Even with the best intentions I did something potentially harmful to someone. And that’s why consent isn’t something you can think about once. It’s not something you can gloss over and it’s certainly not something that you can fail to be aware of. Consent violators are everywhere in world but they prey in our community. Often times members of the BDSM community only say the right things about consent and negotiations but we have a nasty habit of turning a blind eye and ignoring our very own rampant consent violation problems. We are the only ones who can hold each other accountable and enforce the consequences for those who cross (or ignore) the line. I haven’t met a kinkster yet who doesn’t know someone who has their consent violated and that is heartbreaking to me. When it comes down to it, we don’t follow through on all that we preach and until we consistently do so victims of consent violations will continue to come forward.
I’m willing to put in the work to have fun….are you?
*Read more about consent violations in data form courtesy of The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom