This post is part of a series that begins with Understanding “the Scene”.

Consent is the cornerstone of everything we do. 

Touching someone without their authentic consent, especially in a context like this where restraint is involved, is legally assault in many jurisdictions.

Depending on where you live, consent may not be a viable defense against assault charges in a court of law. See BDSM and the Law for more.

Get used to asking for consent. With practice, it becomes second nature.

Agreement is not the same thing as consent.  Consent is a type of agreement, held to a much higher set of standards:

Consent Must be Authentic, Informed, and Explicit

“Yes” means yes, “no” means no, “maybe” means no!

“Yes” means yes.

  • Even better is: “Hell, yes!” We love authentic, enthusiastic, eager consent!
  • Do not say “yes” if you are not sure. Tell them you aren’t sure, then invite them to keep talking if you are open to considering a proposed activity.

“No” means no!

  • ONE exception: If people have explicitly agreed to change that word for purposes of a specific scene. For example, someone wants to have a more primal scene and they negotiate to be able to scream “No! Stop it, you monster!”, etc. In a case like that, they
    explicitly agree to replace “no” with a safe word/gesture/action instead, so they can use “no,” “stop,” etc., freely in the scene. But the meaning of the word “no” is only altered during the
    specific time frame that is outlined in negotiations. During a negotiation, “no” always means no.
  • Accept a “no” gracefully. Don’t badger them or make them defend their answer. That is a slippery slope to coercion.
    • “Totally fine. Is there something you would be interested in trying?”
    • “I appreciate you considering it. I hope you have a great evening (or party)!”

“Maybe” also means no!

  • With a “maybe”, they may be leaving the door open to be asked again some other time, but they might just be trying to not be rude by shutting you down entirely. We try to help people gain the confidence to just say what they really mean, but not everyone is comfortable with that.
  • If you get a “maybe” try saying this: “I am going to take that as a ‘no’ for tonight. I am still interested though, so feel free to reach out if you change your mind. Would you mind if I asked you again some other time, or would you prefer I not?”
  • This gives them the comfort of seeing you take their answer gracefully, which may make them feel better about the whole idea. But it also gives them a graceful way to change that “maybe” to a “no” smoothly in a way that is safer, emotionally speaking. If they ask you to not ask them later, they really meant “no” all along. Thank them for their honesty and move along.

Verify everything.

  • My definition for a word may not be the same as yours.
  • Get used to asking for clarification. Make sure you understand.
    • “What does that mean to you?”
    • “Can you say more about that?”
    • “Can you give me an example?”

In a power exchange context (D/s, M/s) it can be hard for a sub or slave to say “no” when they want to please their Top/Dom/Master/Mistress. Be aware of this potential issue if you are in a power exchange dynamic; talk about it with your partner beforehand. Command them to tell you if they sense an issue that could result in injury, physical or otherwise. Reassure them that telling you is the right thing and is required. Make it clear that you care more about them than you do about one little scene.

If a person has difficulty saying “no,” it can be helpful to set up words or signals that feel easier or safer to say. More on this in Safe Words/Gestures/Actions.

Consent Violations

Next… BDSM Encounters – A Framework

A Framework for Successful BDSM Encounters

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