This is a terrific post put up on Fetlife by SadisticLark on how to avoid being an abuser and assaulting your partner, reposted with permission. Please read the original as well, as he is planning some changes and additions, and there are some great comments there that cannot be reproduced here.
This is a rambling collection of thoughts based my own mistakes and ideas I’ve pulled out of my ass. It’s written mostly from the perspective of male top / female bottom engaging in casual/public play. Feel free to disagree, substitute your preferred gender pronouns, and/or go back to looking at nude pics. I’ll hopefully be adding to and changing this as time goes on.
I honestly don’t know much about rape culture and my only experience with unwanted touching was having my ass grabbed by a cougar at a bar (which I thought was funny at the time). It seems like many tops are worried about being ‘falsely accused’ or having a bad scene get blown out of proportion and turn into some kind of witch hunt. I’m not going to say that doesn’t happen but I personally think it’s a pretty rare occurrence (for exceptions see the How to Avoid Problem People link below ). It’s a risk you take by playing with people but if both parties are acting in good faith there are a few things you can do to lower the chances of things going south.
1. Choose your play partners carefully.
There are people you probably don’t want to play with. These people can usually be divided into two groups: People with no fucking clue about what’s going on and people who need professional help.
The first group is dangerous because their expectations can be anywhere from non-existent to complete fantasy and you can easily end up way outside their Goldilocks zone.
Risk of things going bad with group 1 = moderate
The second group I personally try to avoid. I’m not a psychologist, therapist, or doctor (although I play one in the bedroom). Even if I was any of those things, I’m pretty sure hitting them with a stick or sticking my dick in them wouldn’t be approved methods of treatment. I really recommend How to Avoid Problem People. [klg - Ed. note - also found in its entirety on the author Libida's blog, where it's easier to read and print out, but the Fetlife version and its sequel have entirely different lists of fabulous comments. All of it on both sites is worth reading.]
Risk of things going bad with group 2 = RED FUCKING ALERT!
Pitfall: Your partner has “consented” to an activity they know nothing about.
You’re up big guy! This probably isn’t going to be terribly “Risk Aware” (RACK) and it’s debatable if they can “Consent” (RACK & SSC) to something they know nothing about. They are effectively washing their hands of any personal responsibility and leaving everything up to you. If this thing goes south you are probably going to be wearing this one around your neck.
Pro Tip: If you want to play with the hot newbie then tailor your scene to the person you are playing with.
A light laboratory/education style scene with lots of communication may help them get familiar with the reality of this type of play. Once they know what they are getting into you can talk about a heavier scene. If they still don’t seem to ‘get it’ then you may be dealing with someone who belongs in the group number 2.
2. Negotiate what you want to do before, not during the scene.
If you enjoy a good rape-and-pillage just ask during negotiations. If you want sexual touching ask. While you are at it you might want to ask what exactly “sexual touching” means to them.
Example: If I’m round house kicking you in the ass and I accidentally stick my foot in your box is that sexual?
Pro Tip: Rape play works best with people who both agree to have sex with you and enjoy consensual non-consent.
If you are missing one or both of these elements your partner will probably get the strange idea you are actually raping them.
Pitfall: Re-negotiating while your partner is at your mercy (or “physically incapacitated”).
Top: – “Wow she is looking awfully cute all tied up like that. I think I’ll ask if I can stick my penis in her.”
Bottom: – “My god I’m helpless! I had better do what he wants and maybe he will let me live!”
Pitfall: Re-negotiating while your partner is in subspace.
Surprisingly, they may agree to things in the heat of the moment that they wouldn’t normally. This has been known to leave them feeling like they were taken advantage of in a vulnerable state.
Pitfall: Turning into a legal bagel (Yes I know it’s beagle) mid-scene.
People often make the crazy assumption that you are negotiating in good faith. Avoid “omitting” things or your partner might start thinking you are a piece of shit.
- “You didn’t negotiate me not sticking my penis in your nose!”
- “When you agreed to needle play you didn’t say the needles had to be clean!”
Good luck playing with this person or any of their friends ever again.
3. Don’t assume.
Remember that old saying ‘Assuming makes an ass of u and me’ well it can also end up making an ‘assault of you by me’. We all enter a scene with expectations of what’s going to take place. It’s important to talk about what’s going to happen so we don’t end up with what I like to call ‘a serious fucking mismatch of expectations’.
Pro Tip: The less you have played with someone the more detail you should provide about how you think the scene is going to progress.
Anticipation is the best marinade.
Pitfall: “Everyone knows who I am and that I’m the edgiest of edge players.”
No they don’t. If I had a dollar for every time someone said “Wow, you’re really mean” I’d have enough for a happy meal. Assuming that someone magically knows your play style and what type of scene you have in mind is setting one or both of you up for some disappointment.
Pitfall: “Negotiations are Borings-ville and I’d rather be exciting and spontaneous.”
Top: I think I’ll surprise her and brand ‘SL’s Cum Dumpster’ on her chest.
Bottom: OH MY GOD WHAT IS ON MY CHEST!
It’s a common misconception that girls like surprises. In fact rigorous scientific study has show that that girls only like expected surprises. This tricky sub genre of the surprise can often be achieved by negotiating the hard limits around the ‘surprise’ ahead of time.
Example: “How would you feel about me permanently branding something on you that is both degrading and shows my ownership over you?”
4. Don’t fuck around with colours (safe words).
When you cram a bunch of unrelated people together it helps to have some common language to maintain some semblance of order. Colors (safe words) are one of the ways we communicate ‘consent’. Specifically we can use the absence of colours to indicate that our partner is most likely continuing to consent to the scene.
I say most likely because this system isn’t perfect. Our partner(s) are only human and there may be times where they can’t safe word or even communicate their feelings. If this isn’t scaring you, it should be! Just because your partner can’t indicate that you are well out of their comfort zone doesn’t mean they aren’t going to hold you responsible when they come back to reality. This is a whole other topic that I won’t get into but just be aware that colours are one of those necessary but not sufficient things.
Pitfall: Having a meltdown when your partner gives you a yellow/red.
Nothing says experienced master in full control of themselves like a good old fashioned hissy fit. To really pull this off it helps to blame your partner for whatever is wrong and berate them for not being good enough to play with you.
Example: DON’T YOU KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE TO BE PLAYING WITH ME?! RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH!
Side note: S-types please run-don’t-walk when the above happens and tell everyone and their dogs about it. You could be saving someone from injury or worse.
Pro Tip: When starting a scene reassure your partner that colours are available to be used.
You want them commit to using colours if something is wrong. If they can’t do that then your risk level just increased a few defcon levels.
Example: “I need you to use your colours if something is up and don’t be afraid to give me a yellow. I promise not to throw a dom temper tantrum and I’d rather know so I can fix whatever is wrong instead of finding out later.”
Actively and continually procure consent.
Why? We already negotiated and they consented to this! I’m the the one in control now and they need to stop topping from the bottom and let me work my Dom-ly magic.
Some reasons off the top of my head:
- Negotiations are not perfect. Without prior experience people are often either guessing what they like or trying to extrapolate from tangentially related experiences.This can lead to an awkward situation where someone is engaged in an activity they thought they would enjoy but learn they hate with a fiery passion.
- They know what they like but there is some stupid little thing easy to fix thing preventing them from enjoying it tonight. Maybe a cuff is too tight, a creeper is staring at their titties, it’s freezing cold, etc.
- They have done this a million times before but today it just isn’t fucking working. It could be a bad day, a lack of chemistry (I know hard to believe right?), injuries from prior play, etc. etc.
Now you can wait until they say something or you can check occasionally and see how they are doing. The problem with waiting (as mentioned above) is that some people won’t say anything unless prodded and some people can’t say anything. This can mean the difference between “The scene was fucking horrible and I regret ever playing with him” and “The scene wasn’t working but I’d like to try something again some other time”.
Someone once described these check-ins in terms of risk and time:
The risk of the scene going off the rails increases in direct proportion to the time between checking in with your partner during play.
- Incorporate some evil witty banter into your scene. If the last shock had her calling your mother a crack whore she is probably alright.
- Arrange for them to squeeze your hand if you squeeze theirs and all is well.
- Take a break. Are they a thirsty kitty?
- Agree on some body language that indicates things are going well. If she is wiggling her bum in time with the music things are probably good.
Personally, I find colours can be a bit ‘jarring’ and it seems much easier to feel in control of the scene if I’m the one asking how they are feeling and fixing things on on my schedule instead of waiting for them to colour.
Pro Tip: The less experienced your partner is with the activity the more important it is to actively get their consent as play gets heavier.
If you’re lucky you will get a chance to do a scene with someone who finally wants to try out that scary hard limit activity. Do your warmup but before you dive into the unknown it’s a good idea to get consent one last time before starting.
Pro Tip: The scene just isn’t working for them, you’ve tried fixing some things with no success, and you need to end it.
It’s time to attempt the art of the graceful crash landing. The idea is to change the direction this scene is heading so you both ‘win’. This isn’t as easy as it sounds but often changing the pace, modifying the negotiated activity, and winding it down is a good place to start. Avoid the emotional equivalent of dropping your partner by making this a ‘failure’.
5. Check in a day or so later and actually listen to what they say.
Besides being the polite thing to do it’s also your last chance to work things out semi-privately before things blow up. At this point they’ve had some time to think about things and decide how they feel about the scene.
Bang! They feel uncomfortable/’off’/unhappy about something. The first thing is to realize that you aren’t ‘going to make this better’ by arguing. People feel how they feel and trying to rationalize someone’s feelings generally just pisses them off. Instead, try listening and try working backwards to the ‘mismatch of expectations’ that led to this point.
This isn’t a risk free activity, mistakes and miscommunications happen. If you followed my earlier advice you have hopefully shared the responsibility for the failure with your partner by:
- Making them aware of what they are getting into.
- Sharing the responsibility for planning and executing the scene.
- Repeatedly seeking and obtaining their consent (without duress) as the scene progressed.
Talk about it. Own it. Figure out how not to repeat it.
6. Relax and have fun.
BDSM is serious business. No fun allowed!
Actively involve your partner in all the phases of the scene so they share the responsibility for how things turn out. Periodically get their consent to continue so you are ‘playing together’ instead of you just ‘doing things’ to them.
I wrote this like a guide but it’s more of an opinion piece. People have different ‘styles’ and I can only talk about what has worked for me so far.
If you have any neat stories (anonymous please) of pitfalls I’d be interested in hearing them.