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BDSM 101: Consensual Non-Consent

By CAGE Staff​(staff)     June 11, 2023

Today, let's talk about Consensual Non-Consent. 

It's a mouthful, right? That's probably why you've seen it abbreviated as "CNC" when kinky people are talking about it. 

In the past, you might have heard it called "ravishment". 

What is Consensual Non-Consent?

CNC is any type of play where one person pretends not to consent. We're not talking about the "Oh, no, I spilled the tea! I deserve a spanking!" tongue-in-cheek banter that some of us do in our scenes.

Instead, we're talking about realistic scenarios that bring up your fight or flight response - even though the activity was agreed to ahead of time. Fighting, scratching, and injury aren't rare in CNC play; part of the enjoyment for the people within the scene is that their unconscious brain may react to the consented experience as if it's unwanted. 

Common CNC scenes include rape fantasies, blackmail, sex while asleep, kidnapping, and sex while intentionally under influence of drugs or alcohol for purposes of the scene. 

Why Do People Enjoy CNC?

A lot of people have fantasies about being "forced" into something.

That isn't to say that they'd enjoy it if it wasn't consensual. Just like you might like the idea of eating an entire cake to yourself when you're hungry, someone forcing you to eat an entire cake – even when you didn't want it – would be downright unpleasant. Our brains simply fantasize about things that might not necessarily be a good thing if they did happen. It's human nature; our brains tend to focus on the positive while ignoring all of the negatives that could go along with it. 

However, when it comes to CNC scenes, we can have our cake and eat (a reasonable amount!) of it too. You can roleplay some of those deep, hidden fantasies while simultaneously ensuring that it's done in a safe, protected space where you can minimize the physical and mental danger.

Let's say someone's fantasy includes being kidnapped. While waiting for the ransom money, the team of horny kidnappers gets bored, and they start ripping off the captive's clothing. As the captive is more exposed and as each of the kidnappers egg each other on, it escalates, and soon, the captive is being taken advantage of. 

Obviously, this scene in real-life would be extremely traumatizing and leave years and years of lasting mental scars – and that's before we talk about the potential physical danger.

However, CNC allows someone to roleplay this scene while minimizing the risk of physical or mental harm. They can discuss when they'd be open to being kidnapped, what would happen when they were kidnapped, what would be okay (and what would be too much), and what safer sex barriers they'd need to be comfortable with group sex. 

During the activity, since everyone agreed to a safe word, anyone is free to communicate if things have gone too far with their safe word. 

And when everything is said and done, the captive can expect to be returned home without any intentional injury. 

Is CNC Edgeplay?

Yes. 

Consensual Non-Consent blurs the lines between "yes" and "no". That is, after all, the entire point of the activity. Consent was given, but at the same time, the turn-on is that consent isn't freely given during the act itself. 

This can make it very, very dangerous. Safe words help, but some CNC players believe that the ability to safe word has no place in CNC. After all, everyone had given prior consent to whatever is going on - and for some, there's a large turn on in the fact that the activity is entirely "unescapable" once it starts.

This can make edgeplay very risky because sometimes, clear communication can be difficult without ruining the essence of the scene.

To help alleviate some of the risks, we recommend:

  • Only doing CNC with trusted, very familiar partners. CNC should NEVER be part of pick-up play. 
  • Agreeing on a safe word and understand that play stops if the safe word is stated. 
  • Having multiple in-depth conversations about the CNC activity you both want to do. You both should fully understand what you want to happen - and what you don't want to happen. Before you ever start the scene, there should have been literal hours of conversation about it.
  • Discussing how much struggle is expected. What can the two of you do to reduce physical injury during the struggling? 
  • Ensuring you're both in a good physical space if struggling is expected. A recent ankle sprain might not be the best time to play with CNC; you may make it worse. 
  • Discussing how both partners might handle the experience. If someone has always fantasized about kicking and screaming, it's time to check in if they go entirely non-verbal. 

Even with these safety additions, CNC is edgeplay. While it can be dangerous physically (especially if struggling is involved), it's even more dangerous mentally. It's easy to overstep a boundary or walk yourself into unexpected trauma responses when playing with CNC.

There's also the legal aspect to consider. In the eyes of the law, CNC may be illegal - even if the two of you verballyagreed to it ahead of time. Especially if miscommunication mid-scene leads to someone getting injured, a CNC "scene" that ends up in front of the justice system could lead to lasting legal consequences.

A CNC scene should not be undertaken lightly. 

Negotiation Points for a CNC Scene

CNC scenes require thorough, lengthy, in-depth negotiation. Anything less is increasing the risks of CNC play. 

Some starter negotiation points include:

  • What is your general fantasy?
  • Why do you like that?
  • What would turn you off if it happened during this fantasy?
  • What is the most important aspect of this fantasy? What are your "must-haves" if we acted it out?
  • Have you thought about how this fantasy would play out during a CNC scene? What would it entail?
  • What words/phrases are off-limits or may throw you out of your headspace?
  • What can we talk about or do that would make you more comfortable topping this scene?
  • Do you imagine a struggle happening during this scene?
  • If so, what can we do to make it realistic while reducing the chance of physical injury?
  • Do you want to be unaware of when the scene will start? 
  • What times would work best for you if you wanted to be caught unaware? What times are off limits?
  • Where would this scene happen?
  • Are there places where this scene shouldn't happen?
  • What safe word are we using?
  • How will we communicate if something small is wrong without breaking the headspace?
  • What are verbal/physical signs that mean that something is wrong?
  • What injuries do you have? What about past injuries that may be prone to reinjuring?
  • What physical conditions do you take care of on a daily basis?

Many of these questions should be asked of the top partner as well. Especially with CNC play and our societal viewpoint of the activities involved, there's a high chance for tops to need to safe word as well. 

Remember: this list is NOT the be-all, end-all list of negotiation questions. We highly recommend adding additional questions and discussion points to make this negotiation best reflect your kink life and your needs. 

Aftercare is Vital

While aftercare is important for all types of BDSM, it's even more vital with CNC scenes. 

CNC scenes bring up the potential for a lot of unexpected feelings - even if you both agreed to the scene and did everything by the book. 

The top may feel confused and upset that they had the potential in themselves to do any of this.

The bottom may feel confused and upset about enjoying it - or feeling ashamed about asking their partner to do it in the first place.

Aftercare is where you both need to come together and talk about the scene, reassure each other that you still care about one another, and talk through what happened. This is a great place to practice open communication and asking for what you need. If you're feeling uncomfortable with what you did, speak up. If you need your partner to reassure you that the scene was okay, let them know.

Because aftercare is so vital, don't forget to build in time for it while planning the scene. We recommend at least an hour or two after CNC scenes for aftercare and to come down to real life. CNC scenes can be very, very intense.

Final Advice: Go Slowly

There's no rush to jump straight into a CNC scene. We highly recommend taking weeks (or months!) to plan and think about the various contingencies in your scene. You need time to discuss the scene, mentally sit with the idea of the scene, and plan the scene. Erring on the side of more time (rather than too little!) along with the steps we mentioned above can help minimize some of the risks of CNC play. 

Since this article is intended to be an introduction to CNC play, we recommend further reading on CNC before jumping into a scene as well. 


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/).

CotrolYourHole
Good overview for those of less who haven’t done CNC yet but want to & will soon. Can’t wait to find a sub that loves the idea of this too- my sub would love watching but the pain & roughness would scare her lol
Jun 12, 2023, 4:30 AM
SweetheartSadie​(sadist female)
This is absolutely fantastic advice. Triggering the fight or flight is absolute gold. You're absolutely 100% on the thrill of not being able to escape or consent AT THEMOMENT of the scene. Thank you for taking on such a big and potentially controversial subject. I love CNC and it's great to see it talked about openly.
Jun 18, 2023, 5:34 PM
HarveyDom​(dom male)
This is an excellent informative article. I have done several CnC scenarios and the points made and pointed out can really enhance the experience so both parties walk away smiling and amazed at how thrilling it event was.
Jun 21, 2023, 9:45 AM
Alxxxxander​(dom male){No}
I am new to CNC and eager to start soon. I have always fantasized about being a Dom, ordering my Sub to service my every request. I assure and ensure 100% safety (and the agreed upon amount of comfort) for my Sub. I will make the experience enjoyable for both of us.
Jul 25, 2023, 5:23 PM
Williamd
It really comes down to trust and on a higher level than most relationships. I would love to trust someone to the point I am comfortable with CNC. The implications of that trust would extent on all levels.
Nov 24, 2023, 1:24 AM
LatexHer​(dom male)
I have been getting educated in D/s, B&D, and fetish play since I was in my 20s. Now over 7 decades old, am pleased to say still learning! Much has changed since the late 60s when I bought my first set of handcuffs, showed them to a few girls at school, and LOVED it when they asked to wear them! Since that time long ago, I have been quite lucky to have had 34 long-lasting relationships with submissive women. Yet today - once again single and open to enjoying perhaps one more fun-loving woman to explore our sexuality with. CAUTION is Advised! DANGER can be avoided by scrutiny and being educated in the many aspects of this community! Today, just as back then, a girl can scream Rape and may cause an unwelcomed intervention of the police, with a greater danger of incarceration. I don't know if this may help - but for several decades now I have used a system that will help us AVOID instances of women crying rape, should at a later time after the fact of a consensual meet-up she decide to contact the law. Protecting yourself from legal issues should be paramount on everyone's list. A friend of mine (Criminal Defense Attorney) who knows my passion for D/s, B&D, and fetish play suggested long ago a system to protect his clients from women who after the fact of a consensual romp in the hay - change their minds about the very essence of the sex they had. Without PROOF of Consensual sex - we men are often at a loss with the courts! The system he came up with is called a PROVE-UP ( Court Term), to be used before consensual B&D. S&M, Fetish or sex is to take place! 1. Ask your potential partner to write a formal statement, indicating what she is about to act upon, explaining her desires, limits, and kinks. 2. Videotape the writing and signing using your camera or cell phone. This accomplishes TWO important aspects. A. It is a reminder that the fun will be 100% consensual. B. Should things go south after the play, you will have a record of her stating her desires should the law become involved! Guys, this may sound dumb, even crazy, but spending years in prison and costing thousands of dollars for legal help can be the result of not protecting your ASSets! I have lost out on many fun games with women, as many do feel that it is below them to accommodate this Prove_Up! Allow me to reflect upon a thing that happened, and this SAVED my life and freedom. I was contacted by a lady who was interested in a PLAY KIDNAPPING FANTASY. We agreed to meet up have a drink, and discuss her fantasy. I never drink on a play night! As we continued she indicated that she had many fantasies about being grabbed off the street, forced into a car, gagged, handcuffed, taken to an unknown area restrained, put into a harness, and used as a sex toy. Well, I did not do a background check or copy her DL, and planned to meet with her one afternoon at a local Starbucks. During our preliminary meet-up, I had her sign a letter of desire, and videotaped it with my phone, with her agreeing to be tied gagged, and taken to my place in my van. As we left Starbucks I took her hands and cuffed them behind her back and led her to my van! To add some reality to her play plight, I opened the side door, and pushed her in, not knowing that a bystander looked upon our interaction as a kidnapping and called the police. When I got pulled over - guns were out, 3 squad cars made the stop, and I about shit my pants! Laura (not her real name ) was removed from my van, and I was thrown to the ground and handcuffed! Although The woman angrily told the police what we were doing, explaining that we were just PLAYING. By the time a detective arrived and helped straighten things out using my video and her agreement letter. We were both embarrassed and I could have been charged with causing a public disturbance! You see things can go south fast! THE PRECEDING RENDITION of the kidnapping IS NOT REAL, BUT ONLY A REFLECTION OF WHAT COULD EASILY HAPPEN. The PROVE_UP procedure is real and I still use it today! So boys and girls - be careful what you wish for and always expect that things can and will go wrong! Play nice, play safe, play consensual, and enjoy Life!
Dec 21, 2023, 4:57 PM
analbottom​(sub male)
This is awesome. I've had a CNC fantasy for years and this has helped me with some of my questions and may be of help when interviewing tops to carry it out. Much of this is useful for other acts. Thank you for posting it.
Feb 8, 2024, 12:02 AM