This is an important topic and one that I don’t see discussed enough. Many misunderstandings that happen in a scene come from people looking at things in different ways and not realizing it. What’s normal and obvious for one person, might not be that plain for someone else. When you think you’re on the same page and you aren’t… that’s when things can go wrong.
A Top can be thinking they are doing everything right, and still have the bottom walk away feeling like they were hurt, abused, or neglected in some way. The Dom can be shocked to find out later that the sub felt like they didn’t get aftercare, or they felt like things went too far, or like a line was crossed. I’ve known people to never speak again because a scene went sideways and both of the people involved were good and experienced players who thought they were well-matched only to find out that they had some very different ideas when it came to playing.
You don’t want to be in the middle of one of those misunderstandings because you and your play partner had different views. So first and foremost, you need to make sure that the person you are playing knows what you expect, knows what you want, and knows your limits. Even with that things can still go wrong, but the more communication you have in advance the less chance of that happening.
So, is it necessary to negotiate before playing?
No. In my opinion negotiation in advance isn’t always necessary. I play by RACK rules and if you don’t know what those are than you should check this out: We’ve outgrown Safe, Sane, and Consensual (SSC)
For those who don’t want to go look RACK is: Risk Aware Consensual Kink and that means that I am informed and knowledgeable about the risks of what I’m doing. No matter what anyone tells you, kink does have dangers. Everything has danger, even rough sex is dangerous. The important thing is to know what you’re getting into so you can consent fully and freely to what is happening.
Now, how that connects with this topic is that you need to have an understanding that if you don’t negotiate in advance things have a higher chance of going wrong. Some people prefer the element of surprise. They want to feel the domination is real, like they have no control and sitting down to discuss a checklist in advance ruins that for them. And that’s fine if that’s how you want to play you can absolutely do that. Your risk level will be a little higher, but you are consenting to that.
But the person on the bottom is the one who needs to be making that decision. The Top in the scene doesn’t get to tell the bottom they won’t negotiate in advance because frankly they aren’t the one being put in physical danger. Since the Top controls the scene they also have the ability to steer it away from areas they might have a problem with; the bottom doesn’t.
So while I don’t think it’s necessary for every person, I do think that some people should incorporate negotiation even if they don’t want to. Do you have allergies that might come up during a scene? Do you have asthma or some other physical issue which might suddenly pop up? Do you have mental issues like PTSD or Panic Disorders? If you say yes to any of these than at the very least those things should be discussed.
Physical or mental limits
Sexual contact (and what constitutes sexual contact)
The word ‘negotiation’ puts some people off. But this doesn’t need to be a two-hour conversation where you go through a five-page checklist. Negotiation can be as simple as “I don’t do canes. Keep an eye out if I seem to freeze and stop reacting because sometimes I shut down. All the aftercare I need is to make sure I’m not dizzy and maybe some water.”
That’s it. I can be done in passing as you’re being tied up if your requirements are fairly simple. Sure, if you’re a complicated person than it might take a little longer, but the more complicated you are the more necessary it is to work things out in advance.
Now, I’m going to address a real issue in the scene. It’s something I’ve run into more than once and that is people who assume that if you don’t negotiate sex or sexual play off the table in advance that it’s okay. It’s really really not okay to initiate sexual stuff with someone in a scene unless you check first. And by first, I mean you should probably ask before the scene even starts because once the endorphins start flowing and subs are feeling floaty some of them will agree to things they would not normally agree to.
It’s not as bad as slipping someone a date rape drug, but it’s up there with ‘had too much to drink and made poor decisions’. Don’t do it. As a Top, for your own reputation I would not recommend initiating sexual touching of any kind without advance consent unless you are absolutely sure the sub knows what they are doing. Some submissives are able to pull it together and answer questions fine and some are not.
Years ago things were different. People didn’t tend to discuss or ask this stuff in advance and if the sub looked turned on then it often went right into sexual touching because obviously they wanted it, right? Well, sometimes they did yes, but sometimes the physical arousal didn’t match what they actually wanted to happen and they left feeling really uncomfortable.
Times have changed, and we have a better understanding of consent now. People should no longer be making those assumptions. As a society we have moved forward and what was accepted then is no longer okay. It’s your reputation on the line so…
Do you really want to take that risk?
Because believe me if you switch from bdsm to fingering or something in the middle of a scene while the sub is too blissed out to say no, they will remember it afterwards. Some will be fine with it but others will feel like you took advantage.
And remember that what you consider sexual might not match with what your partner considers sexual. There are a lot of blurred lines here. After all even the most basic of scenes will have you touching or interacting with parts of the body that are usually considered personal and off-limits. A man touching a woman’s ass on the street is outright sexual harassment but in a scene it would probably be hard to do much without that contact.
People still have defined lines on what they consider sex and you need to know what those are.
I’m going to tell you a little story that might put this into perspective for you. Years ago, I was at a club with a group of people. At the time I had a sub I shared with someone else and we were all there together. A gentleman I didn’t know came up and asked if he could flog our girl, and she was interested so we said yes.
Now this submissive was prone to blissing out so we would never have let her play with a stranger alone. This took place in an open area of a club while we watched, and everything was going fine at first. She was really enjoying herself, soaked panties and happy sounds as she floated away under the lash of a suede flogger.
He got her ass, thighs and then moved around to the front and got her breasts and all of that was fine. They were both obviously having fun and we were enjoying watching.
Then he started aiming the flogger up between her legs which was starting to hit borderline because he hadn’t asked about sexual stuff in advance. If you want to know where I draw the line on what is sex and what isn’t, well hitting the genitals is on the edge, but we didn’t say anything at that point.
However, then he flipped it up between her thighs, caught the end of the tail and began to saw it back and forth between her legs, which for me is no longer casual play. Stimulating the clitoris, even if it’s not directly with your fingers is something where you should check first. This sub was clearly not in any shape to say yes or no, which is why we were there.
She was monogamous with someone. She had Doms mostly for discipline and didn’t do sex stuff, so we very politely caught his attention and said no to what he was doing. We explained she didn’t do sexual. Frankly both of us were a bit shocked that he would even do that with a girl he didn’t know without asking first, but we weren’t mad, and he stopped so it was fine.
Or so we thought. Later we found out he told people that we’d ruined his night and caused him to go into Top drop and he was so depressed that he had to go home, and further that we had no right to interfere because having given him permission to play with her she was his for the duration of the scene.
What. The. Fuck?
Seriously. I’ve played in a dozen clubs, I’ve been to munches, and play parties. I’ve had subs and Doms and I’ve never been told that when you play with a stranger you belong to them and your Doms have no right to interfere if something is going on that they know will bother the sub later, but apparently there are a few people out there who are under this impression.
I’m not sure where they got that idea but it’s not a standard in the scene and it will get you blackballed and banned if you try it in a club and people complain. I was furious, just absolutely furious. Not that he did something without communication, because I considered that handled, but that he seemed to assume he had a right to do it and that we were in the wrong for interrupting.
If I consider someone my sub you better believe I will interrupt any scene I feel crosses their boundaries and any Dom who would just let that happen would lose respect in my eyes.
This is one of the dangers of playing with a stranger without sitting down in advance and discussing things. This was years ago, and things were a little less focused on consent back then, and even though we were upset we didn’t really say much about it after it happened. Now there is a much better grasp of consent which means something like this wouldn’t be a small issue. I have seen people banned from playing at locations because of this kind of behavior so if you intend to introduce any kind of genital contact you really do need to discuss it first.
Of course, a sub can also put no sexual touching out there as a limit too, but in this case it’s not something you should just assume you can do if they don’t mention it.
But what about playing with people you know? With your own Doms? Should you be discussing scenes in advance with them? Well, that’s entirely up to you.
Consider it like this, you have a certain amount of risk any time you enter a scene of getting either physically or emotionally hurt. So, let’s say you start at twenty-five points and add a point if you get tied up. Another point if you get spanked by hand, two if it’s with a light implement and three if it’s with something with heavy impact.
More points when you add verbal abuse, or knife play, race play, humiliation, fire play, suspension, piercing, etc. You have the idea.
So, when you total up your whole scene you might end up at forty points. Now, take five points off if you are playing with people you know. Take another five points off if you use safewords. If you’re playing with a stranger but have a spotter to keep an eye on things take off two points.
Playing with your Dom who you have been with for a long time and knows you very well? Take off fifteen points. If you fully negotiate all aspects of the scene in advance take off twenty points.
You see where I’m going with this? It’s just a matter of adding up the number of risk factors you have and then trying to mitigate those risks however you can. This is just an analogy you do not have to do math every time you agree to a scene, I promise!
Some people want a lot of risk; the danger is thrilling for them. Other people are more cautious and want to know exactly what is going to happen so they can relax and enjoy it. Both of these styles are fine, but everyone involved in the scene must be on the same page or you risk things falling apart.
I do want to mention that at least some negotiation can be done without actual words. I mean if someone shows up to play and what they have in their hands is a hairbrush and a coil of silk rope than… I mean you probably don’t need to discuss the fact that you hate bullwhips. And likewise, if they show up carrying a cane and you don’t do canes, well, then it’s obvious that you need to say something.
Don’t let movies and fiction trick you into thinking that everything has to be this big dramatic thing. It really is that simple sometimes. Negotiate or don’t, just make sure that the people you play with are coming at things from the same angle and you’ll be fine.
Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay home if you can!