Negotiation and Consent in Kinky Sex

Written by on 07/03/2013 in Kink/BDSM, Sex

What to discuss before kinky sexIn my experience, one of the biggest differences between the kink and vanilla worlds are the different approaches to negotiation and consent.

In a way, whether or not something is kinky can come down to what you label it. Is having your hair pulled kinky or is it just rough sex? Or maybe you don’t talk about it or think about it at all, you just do what feels good.

When I half-jokingly invite a vanilla friend to join me at a dungeon party, I invariably get a wide-eyed response. I can only imagine what images the term “dungeon” must conjure for people whose only point of reference is horror genre torture porn.

I go on to explain–and people have a hard time grasping–that when I’m alone I feel more comfortable walking into a kink event than I do into a bar. Most women of drinking age will know what I’m talking about. In nearly every crowded room where people have been drinking a casual grope is almost inevitable. Whether it’s a hand on your lower back as someone slides by to get to the bathroom, or something more blatant, many women know the feeling of having their boundaries pressed in public.

That doesn’t happen in kinky spaces. Or, if it does, the person responsible is escorted out and not welcome to return. In kink, issues of consent and negotiation are front and center. (That’s not to say nothing ever goes wrong, people are still people, but it’s part of the dialogue in ways it isn’t in most spaces.)

In fact, it’s not uncommon to see sign proclaiming not to touch without asking. At the very least this kind of warning appears in party rules. Classes on negotiation are also common. People new to the scene are trained to ask for what they want and how to speak up about what they don’t want. Because saying “no” may be a kink for some, safewords are also common. “Yellow” for slow down and “Red” for stop are standard.

I’ve been on dates with supposedly vanilla men who pull my hair, hold me by the throat, and spank me. These are all things I’m quite fond of–with a trusted partner–but the fact that they occur without any prior discussion in some circumstances is amazing to me. In a kink space most people will ask permission before they even give you a hug.

If things progress to negotiating “play,” the conversation will get more serious. Both parties will discuss what they like and what they don’t like, as well as any hard limits and health concerns they have. Also, sexual contact isn’t a given–it’s something that is negotiated as either being a part of the scene or not.

These kinds of negotiations often baffle newcomers and seasoned players alike. As a culture we’re not trained to ask for what we want. Some of us even have a hard time knowing what we want.

I’ve had many sexual encounters that didn’t end in an orgasm for me and the vast majority of the time I don’t comment on it. Getting in the habit of negotiating for my needs is changing that. I can now say at the beginning of an encounter what it would take for me to leave satisfied–and satisfaction doesn’t have to mean an orgasm. The point is that I get to decide what it does mean, and I get to ask for it.

Some things to think about when you’re negotiating, whether with your partner or a relative stranger:

  • Will sex occur? If so, what safer sex practices do you expect?
  • Do you have any injuries or physical limitations your partner needs to know about?
  • What safewords will you use?
  • What level of intensity are you used to or would you like to try?
  • Consider bruises and other marks.
  • Do you have any triggers around parts of your body or around words/names your partner might use?
  • What are the parameters of the scene? (Getting tied up in rope and then spanked, etc.)
  • What are your aftercare needs? (A glass of water, a blanket, and a snuggle are typical.)

This is just a beginning. There are checklists available online to help you start thinking about what kinds of play you might like to try and what you might like to avoid.

For more information on kinky sex, read Kinky Sex: A BDSM Primer.

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Stella Harris

Stella writes stories that celebrate the many flavors of love and lust. She has a special interest in poly, kinky, and queer characters both in her writing and in her life. When she’s not reading or writing smut you can find her teaching or making trouble at the local dungeon or haunting bookstores and coffee shops dressed impractically in high heels.Visit her online at www.stellaharris.net.
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