It’s amazing how so much of what we do in the lifestyle turns on a single word:
It seems simple.
I consent to a surgical procedure.
I consent to you preparing a meal as I selected from the menu.
I consent to kiss you.
I consent to giving you a hug.
I consent to you leaving my ass to be a bloody mess.
It’s an extremely powerful, seven-letter word. In lifestyle terms, it is the most sacred word we use. It establishes an agreement – an understanding – and gives permission for us to move forward in doing something. It’s the green light and the antithesis to “Red!,” “Stop!” and “Quit using that &#$@% thing, dammit!”
Consent is at the heart of the things we do to one another.
In the outside world, we keep assuring the vanillas that, because there’s consent, there’s nothing else to worry about. “I know what I’m doing; it’s okay.” Even if it seems to them that we’re completely insane for doing something, if we’re consenting to it, it’s okay. We sometimes compare ourselves to the likes of those that partake in extreme sports (e.g., skydiving, climbing tall buildings or radio towers, motorcycle jumping and other daredevil antics). “We are doing the same thing. We know what we’re getting into, therefore, my vanilla worriers, it’s okay. I know what I’m doing. I’m a trained professional.” 🙂
Definition problems: I’m not a boxing or ultimate fighter championship fan. I don’t see how the goal of beating your opponent into submission (or death) is an adequate sport, and this would be why I wouldn’t last very long in a gladiator ring. The opponents agree to, and consent to, engage each other to the brink of brutality. No problem, right? As long as boxer A and boxer B consent, we should get our rumble on and let them duke it out, right?
That’s when some folks start to question the sanity of the decision to consent. That’s where folks start questioning whether or not we’re capable of deciding – if we’re sane enough to consent. It goes back to “no self-respecting person would allow themselves to be beaten by another.” Yet, here we are – here the community is. That’s also usually when they start commenting how “crazy” that is and quickly pigeon-holing us into the “special needs” folder.
That’s the problem with consent: others are trying to make the determination for us.
Folks tend to invoke their own thoughts and prejudices, without considering that it is not their place to judge, scorn, or shun. If folks say they consent, then we need to take them at their word that they rationally arrived at that decision, even if we have severe misgivings, suspicions, or hunches to the contrary. In another words:
It’s not their place.
It’s our decision.
It’s our consent.
Normally, once consent is agreed upon and the scene played out, there are no issues. Folks consenting to an established parameter of things, who then play within that established sandbox, reach its conclusion amicably.
But the predators and dangerous folks out there use the lifestyle’s consent paradigm against us. They use consent like toilet paper – before discarding and flushing it away. They misuse consent, disrespect it, and ultimately damage those around them, who come away wounded, hurt, and otherwise scarred. That’s the origin for the the discussions happening out there.
Folks who habitually violate consent, whether in the lifestyle or not, have no place in society. It’s really straight forward. Either they get help and see why they did what they did or they face the ramifications for not owning up to it. If someone repeatedly violates the consent derived between two people, it becomes a non-consensual situation. Period.
Know what you’re consenting to: If we went into a restaurant and ordered steak, we would be pretty upset if what we got was a veggie omelet.
“But I ordered steak?”
“I know, but veggie omelet was also on the menu and that’s what the cook decided to make you.”
We would leave in a huff and probably wouldn’t be back.
If that happened in a scene, it would be pretty easy to see that what was anticipated to occur, didn’t happen at all. “All I wanted was a flogging; I didn’t expect to hug, kiss, and cuddle afterwards!”
Here enters the problem with consensual negotiations: Know what you’re consenting to.
How does the d-type you’re considering having a scene with, handle their menu selection of things to do? Are they going to expect you to endure a veggie omelet or are they going to give you what was consented to? If you can’t answer either question, then you’re going into that situation knowingly blind. You’re risking that things might fall outside the parameters that were negotiated.
Don’t assume: One thing that drives me crazy at restaurants is when the server automatically assumes that I want lemon in my water. Even if everyone else around me orders lemon and I say no, there are times the assumption (i.e., mistake) is made that I, too, wanted lemon.
It may seem like a small and trivial bit, but it’s also the exact same reason why some folks believe that it’s perfectly okay for “touchy-feely, huggy groping and kisses on the cheek” are acceptable. Ask before doing that. Get the other person’s consent and don’t assume that just because you got permission to spank, flog, or whatever, that it’s opening the door for other things to happen. Going back to the restaurant analogy: just because you ordered the steak doesn’t automatically mean you wanted the appetizer, dessert, and happy hour drinks added to your bill without your authorization or consent.
Ask, don’t assume.
Consensual expiration dates: Believe it or not, consent can expire. Just because we had a great time doing that intense scene last month does not automatically mean I have received permission, or consent, today to do anything. Look above: don’t assume; ask before doing anything. We are organic folks that change constantly. How we react to a hug, spank, or grope may also change. What conduct was okay before, may not be okay today or tomorrow.
Consensual relationships: If you partake in a relationship which may involve an ongoing dynamic, your consent is going to be radically different. Yes, you’re going to agree on stuff “happening,” but, how the parties arrange it and forge it from the smelter, ultimately determines the scope of what happens, when, and how. It’s much more complicated, as we tend to think of consensual relationships as being the sandbox of doing whatever we want.
It’s complicated because it’s not scene-dependent.
Your relationship might just be that menu selection or your relationship can be any shade therein. There’s no right way or wrong way for relationships except whatever works best in your situation and/or dynamic.
To summarize the core principles of consent:
* It always begins between two or more people
* It is negotiated
* It is discussed
* It defines the things we do
* It can be finite
* It can expire
* It should be absolute
* It is not an automatic hug, kiss, grope, fondle or touch card
* It can be revoked
* It must be respected
* It mustn’t be assumed
* It is at the core of how most of us define the thing we do
* Is mutual
* Is not a one-way street
* It can be scary
* It can be freeing
* It can be damaging
* It could be “awesome! Out of this world!”
* It could go down in smoldering flames of defeat
Consent is not abuse when the parties involved maintain their conduct within the parameters that they agreed to. When either side (yes, either side) violates the conditions they agreed to. Consent has been violated (More on this in later chapters.)
Consensual non-consent: The other raging debate is the concept of CNC or affectionately (sarcasm) referred to as: “the acceptance of abuse or abusive relationships because the d-type has taken the s-type’s right to say “no.”
That just sounds harsh.
Reality: consensual non-consent starts with consent. It’s the agreement to come into the restaurant and watch the doors lock behind you. It’s the agreement that you’re going to accept anything, everything, and nothing that happens to you after the doors slam shut. It’s the agreement that such an arrangement was sought out and rationally arrived at. It’s the agreement that you choose to be there.Consensual non-consent is not for everyone.
Consensual non-consent can be freeing.
Consensual non-consent can be horrifying.
Consensual non-consent can be empowering.
Consensual non-consent is not founded on the principles of abuse.
Consensual non-consent does not dismiss responsibilities from the parties involved.
Consensual non-consent can remove choices from the menu selection.
Consensual non-consent can activate internal triggers and other landmines.
Consensual non-consent should not be looked upon as something one aspires to become.
Consensual non-consent does not come with guarantees, waivers, or warranties. Consensual non-consent is largely linked to those that believe in the concept of a surrendering dynamic. While consensual non-consent can be a horrifying prospect to most anyone, there’s also a foundation of trust and respect that is always there .(At least, that’s how it works for us.) I’m not about to ink out a blueprint for everyone to follow, because I don’t have any idea how something like that would work in YOUR situation, YOUR scene, or YOUR dynamic. Also, there’s nothing that says trust or respect must be a component for a consensual non-consensual dynamic to work – there are some CNC dynamics where it was agreed from the onset of the conditions that were going to happen. Parties agree and the dynamic was filled out without trust or respect. It may not be the cup of tea I want, but it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with CNC with the absent trust and respect … it just means that in those dynamics, it works by not having those components installed. Consensual Issues (part 1): Rape culture & the Lifestyle
Consensual Issues (part 2): The Problem is in the Definition
Consensual Issues (part 3): Separating Facts from Projections
Consensual Issues (part 4): The Unfortunate Death of Communication
Consensual Issues (part 5): Scolding the Dominant
Consensual Issues (part 6): Personal Responsibility
Consensual Issues (part 7): Community Responsibility