BDSM 101: Consent
Let's talk consent with a quick primer to how this applies to kink interactions.
Coming as no surprise to most of you, the basic tenants of consent are the same in the world of kink as they are everywhere else: your consent is required, you can revoke that consent at any time, and you can't consent to something you're not fully aware of.
Really, them's the basics! Just because we run around calling ourselves fancy, kinky names and wielding cool, ouchy toys doesn't change any of it.
Consent can just be a bit more complicated in the world of kink because there's more unaware risks to work with. While most of us know most of the risks of vaginal intercourse, you might not be aware of the risks of using a single tail whip. While most of us know how vaginal intercourse would make us feel, we don't necessarily know how we're going to feel when a single tail whip strikes our back. You might expect pet names during intimate, non-kinky times with a partner, but you might find yourself having uncomfortable feelings when your kink partner tries out "disgusting piss pig" on you for the first time.
All of that can add an extra layer of uncertainty to kink interactions - and a further need for deeper negotiation, more check-ins, and an attention to detail to ensure everyone can consent to some of the things that can pop up during a kink scene.
With that in mind, let's talk about some of the basics of consent - and how they might pop up in kink interactions.
Your Consent is Required for Any Interaction
Just because a dominant is a dominant does not mean that they are owed any special treatment. Just because a submissive is a submissive doesn't mean that they are owed any special treatment.
Any, and all, interactions between people have to be negotiated and consented to ahead of time.
If a random stranger you've never met demands certain treatment or activities because they identify as a dominant, you're under no - literally, zero - obligation to do them. Really, the block button might be your best friend here. Anyone who does not take your own personal agency into account is not going to be a great person to pursue a relationship with.
Any and all interactions aside from basic, non-sexual conversation need to be negotiated ahead of time.
The easiest way to think of it is like this:
"Did you agree to this?"
If the answer is no, don't do it. Determine if you even want to continue to talk to anyone who expects things from you that you've never agreed to.
If the answer is yes and you still want to do it, go on with your bad self and have a great time.
(There is one caveat to this piece of advice: group events. There are certain places you may go to - online or offline - where certain behavior is expected. You "consent" to the expected behavior and protocols by attending or going to the event. This does not override your ability to say no - or to leave the space. As we'll note in our next point, you are under no obligation to do anything you don't want to do; if any of the expected behavior in that space makes you uncomfortable, you are free to leave at any time.
Why do those groups and spaces exist? Having protocols and rules that every participant is expected to follow can build up a kinky power exchange environment that's hard to create in any other way.
Let's take this random play party for an example. At this imaginary play party, all submissives are expected to be naked - and all dominants are expected to wear leather vests. By putting in this simple rule, everyone's roles are instantly brought to attention in a way that co-mingling in t-shirts never would have done. This can lead for interactions that are kink-forward in a really fun way. That being said, if you were someone who was uncomfortable with the rules of required dress, you would want to skip the party or leave the event as soon as you felt like it was beyond your comfort level. Not every party will be a good fit for you, and that's okay!)
You Can Revoke Consent at Any Time
Consent isn't written in stone. It can be given - and revoked - at any moment. It can be revoked if circumstances change – but it can also simply be revoked if you find out that the expected activity isn't as fun as you thought it'd be. You don't need a reason to revoke your consent. “No” means “no”.
You own the agency to your own body - physically and mentally - at all times. Even if you're mid-scene - or even if you're ten seconds away from simply setting up the scene, you can still choose not to participate.
And that's okay! A good partner will respect any changes in scene plans or activities. Most of us want our partners to want to do these things - and to feel amazing while they do them with us!
That's not to say your partner won't be frustrated. Most of us get excited and really look forward to things - especially fun, sexy, kinky things. When those things are changed a moment's notice, it can leave even the best, most-respectful person a bit frustrated.
But all of that pales in comparison the requirement of everyone wanting to participate in an activity or scene. If one of them doesn't want to, no one's frustration or annoyance changes that equation.
While a lot of discussions around consent focus on the submissive in a kink partnership, the same applies to a dominant partner as well. If any activity isn't comfortable, consent can be revoked at any moment. Try to honor your own preferences instead of feeling pressured into finishing the scene.
This also applies to group sex or group kink scenes as well.
Your Consent Must be Informed
You can't consent to what you don't know about.
For example, let's say that a submissive asks their dominant for a rougher-than-usual spanking session. The submissive is pretty sure they're going to cry - and they want to cry from it - but they don't disclose this information to their dominant when requesting the spanking. Mid-scene, the dominant feels extremely uncomfortable with the sudden burst of tears and chooses to stop the scene with their own safeword.
In this case, the dominant may not have agreed to the scene if they had known about the likely appearance of tears. Both partners may have negotiated something differently - or discussed that the tears were wanted - and how to handle them - instead of catching the dominant off-guard and uncomfortable with the widely changing circumstances.
And as we talked about above, note that the dominant revoked their consent (via their safe word) mid-scene - because that's always okay to do.
Anyone within any exchange can only consent to what they know about what they're consenting to. This can apply to anything and everything.
One person within the exchange may have hidden motives they aren't disclosing. One person may be hoping to “escalate” the scene once they start the scene. One person may be hiding some of the risks in order to make the activity seem safer than it is.
Most importantly, especially for beginners, in the spirit of Risk Aware Consensual Kink, you can only consent to an activity if you're fully aware of the risks. If a dominant invites a submissive to a suspension rope scene - but leaves out what the potential risks are, the submissive doesn't have the full picture to fully consent to what they're participating in.
Most of us are familiar with informed consent in a medical context.
Let's say that you're offered a magical surgery that will fix everything you're insecure about.
Uh, yes. Most of us would take that. Yes please.
BUT our willingness to instantly say "yes" will change when we finally get some of the details. Details like:
- It costs a million dollars.
- This is the surgeon's first time doing the surgery.
- You'll be bedridden for the next year.
- There's a 0.5% risk of death.
That instantly changes up the entire equation. Something that may have been a "hell yes" becomes something that might be a "hell no" - or at least, something you need to think about.
It's the same in a kink context. Whenever possible, when negotiating and discussing scenes, disclose as much information - including your own experience level and comfort with the activity - as possible. This is especially vital when you're new to playing with someone. You both may not know much about one another.
If your partner says no, that's a-okay! Yeah, it sucks that you may not get to do the scene you wanted, but it's much better than placing someone else into a horrid situation where they're unlikely to enjoy themselves anyway.
Bonus: Consent Discussions Should Have Good Intentions
"Okay," you say, "but I can't predict everything that's going to happen sometimes."
And that brings us to our final point: negotiations preceding consent should have good intentions behind it.
No, none of us can predict exactly what's going to happen during our scenes. And as the popular saying goes, "we don't know what we don't know". And if we don't know we don't know it, how can we possibly disclose those things to our partners for informed consent?!
But discussions around consent should always be made with good intentions - even if things go sideways from what was planned. Like everything else in kink, we do our best to reduce the risks and ensure everyone has a great time - but none of us can plan out every single detail.
If you get the feeling that any potential partner is intentionally leaving information out during your discussions, that's a red flag. More realistically, if any potential partner brushes off your requests for more information to be able to fully give your informed consent, that's a giant red flag too.
If you ever hear something like, "I didn't think you'd say 'yes' if you knew", please cease playing with that partner - at least until they're able to fully explain why it was wrong - and prove to you that they won't do it again. That's manipulation - plain and simple. It's impossible to give consent in situations like that; someone else is hiding what they're trying to get from you.
Consider Further Reading
There's a whole lot out there to read on consent. There are entire books - and researchers who are doing research into consent and how we navigate it. There are training programs to help those whose consent was violated, and there are entire committees out there who deal with consent violation reports.
All that's to say: all of this is complicated, and we're all constantly learning.
If you can, try to add to your knowledge of consent regularly. How can you better negotiate to ensure someone isn't hesitating to speak their objections? What are some sexy ways to check in with a partner mid-scene and ensure they're having a great time? Can you include discussions of what to do if things go wrong mid-scene - and how your partner wants you to handle it?
There are lots and lots of ways to be consent-conscious during negotiations and play.
And if we all are, it reduces the mental and physical harm consent violations cause - and it helps everyone have more fun. It's a win-win all around.
Mistress Kay lives in the world of sexuality and kink. With a house that's quickly running out of space for things that aren't sex books and sex toys, she spends what free time she has writing femdom help articles (http://kinky-world.net/category/bdsm-advice/femdom-advice/), trying the latest and greatest in sex toys, and exploring the sexual universe with her partners. She can be reached at Kinky World (http://kinky-world.net/).