(Daddy and Kitten have teamed up on this article, since consent is pretty much the same for everyone!)
Consent. It’s a topic that has been in the news a lot lately, especially surrounding the new “affirmative consent” rules at schools in California. Consent is a mandatory aspect of any physical or sexual encounter you have with another person, and it’s definitely a relief to see it taken so seriously by our legislators and school officials.
However, consent in the context of kink goes well past the measures set forth by affirmative consent laws.
An enthusiastic and on-going yes is only one part of consent in kink culture, and hardly encompasses the specific physical and mental realities of a kinky encounter, also called a “scene.”
Though not all kink is sexual, and not all kink is dangerous, it can be either or both. Additionally, when engaging in scenes, it’s not uncommon for the participants to be affected quite powerfully in mental, emotional, and physiological ways. If consent is not carefully handled, those powerful affects can turn very negative, very quickly. Thus, the kink community has created its own protocols for consent, protocols that can vary based on important mitigating factors, such as the danger of the activity, the level of trust and comfort between the dominant (dom) and the submissive (sub), and much more.
How this plays out will vary dramatically based on how much the dominant and the submissive know one another, how often they’ve played, the levels of trust between them, and etc. From the dominant’s perspective, negotiation is about learning the submissive’s limits, comfort levels, physical and mental state, levels of experience, and desires. Because of this, the activities that the dominant engages in are defined by the submissive. For example, if I feel like caning my submissive fifteen ways, but my submissive is in the mood for a flogging, then the canes stay put and the flogs come out. A responsible dominant must learn when and how they can push their submissive, but will never push a sub past their hard limits. That’s not sexy kinky dominance—it’s abuse. But consent must also be given by both parties; a dominant might want to flog you, but might feel uncomfortable whipping you. That’s their call—consent is, by nature, a two sided thing.
On that same note, consent can’t be coerced.
If you would like to engage in something, and your partner seems unsure, uncomfortable, or refuses, cajoling them about it isn’t okay. No, “But I think you’ll enjoy this!” and certainly no, “Please?” or “If you loved me…” Consent is something that is given freely, openly, happily, enthusiastically, and without any form of coercion whatsoever. Ever. Once consent is given, it can be revoked at any time. If someone was all “yes!” ten minutes ago, but now they seem unsure, or concerned, it’s time to stop and check in. Anything aside from enthusiastic “yes!” is 100% no.
A part of negotiation is setting up safewords. Much has been made of safewords—that they are necessary, that they are crutches, that they are not all they are cracked up to be—and all of these things are true, to an extent.
You should not perform scenes without safewords. You simply shouldn’t.
The system I’ve found to be best is a “stoplight system” wherein red means stop, yellow means check in with the submissive, and green means keep going. But as a Dominant, you can not rely on safewords either. The tricky part is knowing when to check in with your submissive, even when no safeword is uttered. With a new partner, it’s best to err on the side of caution. If you’re concerned, find a simple way to check in that doesn’t break the scene, or ask for the color…if the submissive says “Green,” then you’ll know it’s good. Gags and hoods can be great fun, but if you’re using them, work out an alternate system in advance. We’ll explore the specifics of non-verbal safewords and safety issues more when we talk about those types of play.
Once you’ve learned what you can do, what you can’t do, and how to know if you can keep going, then you’re ready to engage…almost. There’s one more thing to consider.
Is your activity safe, or inherently risky?
This is important because there are different types of consent in the kink world. SSC stands for Safe, Sane, and Consensual, meaning that the activity is reasonably safe, both partners are of sound mind (without intoxication or coercion of ANY kind), and both have consented. Then, there’s RACK: Risk Aware Consensual Kink. If the activity you’re doing comes with some sort of inherent risk that goes beyond the risks of the everyday, its important that both parties are equally aware of that risk and the best practices to mitigate it. Rope bondage, for example, is one of the most physically dangerous common kinky activities because of the very real danger of nerve damage. Two parties can consent to a rope scene, however, if the top isn’t aware of rope safety and/or the bottom doesn’t know how to tell when nerves are in trouble, you could end up with a lifelong injury. RACK acknowledges the risks of things that aren’t particularly safe for both parties.
Understanding exactly what someone is consenting to, where your boundaries lie, and the full safety protocol of your activities is the first step to any incredibly hot scene. There’s a lot of fun to be had for tops of all types, but consent must (MUST) always come first.
Until next time, you kinky bastards.