BDSM 101: Consensual Non-Consent
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?
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/).