Negotiations & Consent

ne·go·ti·a·tion /nəˌɡōSHēˈāSH(ə)n/noun

  1. discussion aimed at reaching an agreement

con·sent /kənˈsent/noun

  1. permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.

Thank you to JerseyJenny for editing and significantly improving the readability of this post and tying up my loose end!

In order to have informed consent in BDSM, there needs to be a negotiation; a discussion, a mutual building of a framework of expectations. We all know (hopefully) the importance of informed consent*, and how it is a key to safer BDSM. There is an important need to talk, and to discuss what we want out of a scene relationship. Whether it is a one time interaction, or a lifetime relationship. These negotiations can sometimes be formal written affairs like a master and slave contract. Typically written contracts are used for a long term relationship. Perhaps the biggest advantage of a written negotiation is the extra thought and consideration that is involved. With written contracts and negotiations there is also the record for everyone which can be reviewed in the event of a issue or concern. On the other hand the most common negotiations tend to be verbal negotiations, and are usually for a single scene. Here are some of those types of verbal negotiations and some challenges they may present.

-Fluid active negotiations

This type of negotiation Is where you start playing and, by doing you determine what is alright in the here and now. This doesn’t allow for anyone involved to be able to make good decisions, the heat of the moment can lead to regrets later as it has very few laid out clear negotiations in advance and leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation. This sort of negotiation is often where most consent violations occur. This is about as bad a method of negotiation but, it’s one that happens, in fact a lot more often than most of us would like to admit. I personally have been there and luckily it’s worked out. I think this is only because I choose to have and follow limits, you cannot count on all your play partners to be as ethical. So consider when negotiating why you want to be able to  honestly and openly discuss what you want or need from a scene or relationship. Many assume we all think the same way. We really do not. So often consent violations come as a result of boundaries not stated that were erroneously assumed.

-Negotiating by limitations

This isn’t a great way of negotiating in BDSM, but it is a method of negotiation; Harvard Law school talks about how limitations can be useful to build a framework. The reason this isn’t an effective method for a BDSM negotiation is that it lacks details. It is like a negative; it gives you an outline but lacks in depth and detail to truly understand what is allowed. This style of negotiation is better than no negotiation and is really only useful as a baby step in growing towards being an effective negotiator. It is a start but by no means a destination. 

-Honest open negotiations

This is the goal, the sweet spot the best we can hope for. Everyone involved is able to honestly discuss what they want from a scene or relationship. We manage to tell others just what we want, and hear what they want and are willing to do. “I want you to spank me with a feather boa, while singing and dancing to ‘Time warp’ from Rocky Horror, while dressed as Dr Frank N Furter. After that I want to you pile drive my ass until I start to cry then cuddle me for 20 minutes until I stop crying” Okay so that is my attempt at funny, but I hope it goes into how details are so important. Rarely will a scene be this exacting and detailed, and even if it is then the odds that it is enough to satisfy everyone would be unlikely. Maybe you want the excitement of surprises so you don’t want to define every single step of the scene, that’s cool. Talk about the overall goals you have from the scene. “I want you to shock my body all over, except for my feet and belly button. Tease me, make me happy with all those endorphins, then once I am squirming, and moaning I want you to use that dom probe and go to town on me and fuck me like the dirty slut you want me to be” but if your scene partner does not know you well enough to know these are things you enjoy, you need to articulate them. They cannot be assumed. 

Once we have negotiated what we want to do, now is time to get to what we negotiated for and consented to! This is where ‘the rubber meets the road’ and where power exchange really lies. We have laid out in broad strokes or minute detail what we all want from the scene, and now we have given our consent to do it. This is where the ethical players show their true colors, this is where you find the good safe play partners who stick to the road map you have drawn out together, They follow through and stick to your consent, and respect your wants and your limits. 

Have all the fun and do not be afraid to slow or stop things if you feel what you negotiated is not translating to what you laid out. Chat later and post mortem what went well and what did not. Did go how you envisioned? What was different? Was it welcome or not? Take notes for your own help in future negotiations.  

Expressed, Implied, Informed

*Informed Consent This is where there is a discussion of the risks and potential mishaps possible involved in agreeing to perform certain actions in a scene.

FetLife post on reporting consent violations NCSF Incident Report Form

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