Negotiating Kink Scenes
Nonkinksters seem awful peculiar to Kinksters sometimes. Take this affirmative consent discussion everyone is having right now. The basic idea is a good one. The California “Yes Means Yes” law proposes that students of universities that receive federal funding should obtain "affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.”
Well, well. Year 2015 and we have finally decided that being drunk, unconscious, or otherwise unable or unwilling to say no does not mean that you’ve given consent to be some frat-boy's fuckdoll. Seems reasonable.
But here’s the curious thing. Even if you say “yes,” what exactly are you saying “yes” to? Sex? What kind of sex? Do you consent to dirty talk? Anal sex? Fellatio? Cunnilingus? Do you consent to sex with or without condoms? What about a dental dam?
Just saying “yes” to sex leaves a lot of room for assumptions and confusion. However, kinksters have a lot of practice talking about consent. We are masters at this. You kind of have to be when you are engaging in potentially dangerous activity. The thing is, all sex is potentially dangerous activity. It’s just not as apparent when someone isn’t hogtied and taking stripes from a bamboo cane.
To get the most out of sexual or kink experience, you have to start with effective negotiations. The one thing I wish vanilla-sexers learn from kinksters is this: how to communicate about the kind of experience you want.
That’s all consent or negotiations are. It's a conversation about what you want, and what you don’t want. Like all communication, it takes practice, and there will be people that you naturally communicate with better with than others. There are some basics to keep in mind, and a crap-ton of resources to pull from.
Arguably the best text on sadomasochism for beginners, which includes chapters on negotiation is Jay Wiseman’s SM 101: A Realistic Introduction. The following is an adaptation of Wiseman’s 16 points of negotiation.
Hit the High Points
Once you have chosen a partner you’re comfy with, decided on a play-space, and any power exchange roles (top/bottom, Dom/sub, Master/pet, Daddy/boy), now you get to talk about the fun stuff.
What do you want to do? Is there something you’re curious about but haven’t had a chance to explore yet? Is there a skill you want to practice or refine? Is there a headspace you want to get to? What is the goal of your scene? Is it to have a black and blue bottom? To reach subspace? Put on a show for voyeurs in the room?
This is where you tell your partner what you want to happen in the scene. This is also where you listen - without judgement - to what your partner wants from the scene. Just saying what you want isn’t an agreement to do those things. It’s just a place to start.
You should also discuss the experience both of you have doing the activity that you want to do. If you are brand spanking new to spanking, its going to help the Top to know that so that he can adjust and make sure to keep an extra careful watch on how you react to the pain your receiving. Likewise, if you’re a superstar with eletro-sex, this might be a good thing to bring up during negotiations. It may never have occurred to the bottom as something they want to try until you suggest it. So throw it out there, and see what sticks.
Boundaries and Limitations
Partners should also discuss any physical or emotional limitations. Things like an old injury, poor circulation, or plastic surgery could all be potential hazards to avoid in a scene. You definitely don’t want to be whipping silicone breasts, or doing predicament bondage with someone with deep vein thrombosis.
Emotional limitations would include any “triggers” that may cause unwanted emotional distress. BDSM scenes often include some form of emotional masochism (otherwise known as humiliation), and this is something that should be negotiated very carefully. Come to the conversation aware of words or actions that might cause you grief, and make them known. You don’t have to spill the whole backstory. Just saying, “I’d really prefer not be choked because it’s a trigger for me,” is enough.
People usually have some limitations around sex itself. It’s the whole enchilada for Vanillas and the cherry on top for Kinksters. Lots of Kinksters are willing to do all kinds of depraved things with other Kinksters, but won’t consent to penetration except with their partner. Or sometimes, the limit is human penetration (meaning toys are okay). Sometimes people are okay with oral but not vaginal sex. All the details about sex, what kind of sex, how safe you want to be with sex, should all be discussed here.
Besides sex, other boundaries you might discuss is whether the scene should include marks (like bruises, cuts, or blood), humiliation, the type, amount, and duration of any pain exchanged, safe words that will be used, and any after-care that is required.
Before continuing, each partner should feel confident that the other will respect limitations and are playing in good faith. If there is any doubt whatsoever, stop. Checking references and taking it slow when it comes to a first scene with someone is totally reasonable and will probably get you a nod of respect from safe-minded Kinksters.
In Kink we have soft limits and hard limits. Soft limits are things we are saying no to right now, but we might be open to exploring it, or at least discussing it, in the future. It’s the fuzzy gray edging around our comfort zone. Hard limits are ALWAYS NO. They cannot be negotiated. If someone tries to negotiate around your hard limits, walk away.
Sometimes, there are cute little newbie kinksters who claim to have no limits. If you find this person, ask them how they feel about an amputation scene. I think you’ll discover that everyone has limits.
A standard line I repeat when I negotiate with someone for the first time is this: "My hard limits are no bodily fluids exchanged, no permanent marks, and I won't be involved with anyone that can't consent."
This covers the taboo fetishes and kink that truly wigs people out, intoxication, or activity that is actually abuse misconstrued as kink.
What if you don’t know what you want?
This was my stumbling block as a newbie kinkster. I didn’t know what my boundaries were, and I wanted to try everything! Because of this I picked kinksters with reputations of sadomasochistic mastery.
“The Old Guard” in the community, though they rarely like to be called that, were my first choice because they had earned the respect of many others by being honor-bound. I felt safe enough to play dangerously.
Reputation goes a long way in the Kink communities, and hands on experience is the best way to learn. Trying to understand kink if you've never done it is like trying to understand a song if you've never heard music.
I have happy memories of exploring the toy bag of such a Master, "ooo’ing" and "ahh’ing" over his prized implements of torture, and listening to him explain their functions and sensations with a prideful smile and mischievous eyes. There's also no shame in asking a more experienced person with similar power exchange roles (Dom/sub), kinks, or fetishes to show you a few things. The best thing about Kink is that you're never alone if you don't want to be. There is a community of teachers and learners, disciples of Kink, within reach.
There’s also no shortage of videos, articles, erotica, and pictures (who knew there was so much smut on tumblr?!) that you can send to your potential play partner with the message, “I want to know how this feels,” or “I’d love to try this with you.” A rite of passage for many new kinksters is to go through a BDSM checklist and pour over terminology you’re not familiar with yet. All of this is important to kink education, and foundational to effective negotiations.
Bang Out The Bottom Line
Getting what you want out of a sexual or kink relationship is as easy and as difficult as communicating those ideas to your partner. We don't need an app for this. We just need to see each other as human beings. All of us are vulnerable, curious, and strange.
I worry about you Vanillas out there. Without a community there is no one to circle the wagons when someone is playing dangerously with the lives of others. I feel fortunate to be able to share my strange love addictions so openly. That almost any sensation I want to experience is at my fingertips - that all I have to do is dream of something, and then say please.