Consent is the defining difference between BDSM and Abuse. Even beyond Communication, consent is necessary in every aspect of kink. However, consent is an umbrella term and has many different facets.
Consent: permission or agreement for something to happen
**This is a very broad definition and leaves a lot of wiggle room for play**
Other Types of Consent:
Medical Consent: In a Long-Term Partnership, it is the consent to allow your partner to enforce medical actions or decisions. For example, requiring you to take your pills/vitamins, eat healthy, exercise, or attend medical appointments.
In a scene, this relies more on the honesty of both the Top and bottom about prior medical issues. For example, Electrical play is unsafe for pregnant women and those with pacemakers or other heart issues. Honesty is paramount to a successful and fulfilling scene.
Mental/Emotional Consent: For me, this is the combination of consent and negotiation to allow mind fuckery and/or emotionally traumatizing play. It can encompass humiliation, degradation, dark age play, race play, objectification, and other types of taboo play.
Informed Consent: All parties involved have negotiated and are aware of the risks involved. Under this type of consent, there is a debate between SSC, RACK, and PRICK.
RACK- Risk Aware Consensual Kink. “I may know that fire play may result in a burn, but I am fine with proceeding anyway.”
SSC- Safe, Sane, Consensual. “Play should be safe, with a clear mind, and the agreement of all involved.”
PRICK- Personal Responsibility, Informed Consensual Kink. “I understand that breath play may cause an asthma attack, but I want to try it anyway.”
**PRICK is considered the “next evolution” of RACK. The easiest way to apply it is that You take the responsibility to understand all risks and possible outcomes of the play you wish to take part in. It falls to you to learn instead of simply relying on a seasoned partner.
You must make the decision for yourself on what you prefer to use in your own play. I personally play under RACK but I teach SSC. I know that what I do can be dangerous and can lead to injury. I take that responsibility, as does my partner. However, SSC is much more generalized and a good rule of thumb to get your feet wet in the scene.
Implied Consent: The dictionary defines this as “consent which is not expressly granted by a person, but rather implicitly granted by a person’s actions and the facts and circumstances of a particular situation (or in some cases, by a person’s silence or inaction)”.
**Please keep in mind that communication is number one. Implied consent happens when an assumption is made.
For example, when I am in subspace, I lose my ability to Safeword. I remain engaged in the scene, but I am unable to express if something is not to my liking. If my partner decides to ask me to do something I may not normally consent to, and I don’t indicate a Safeword, he may take this as consent. Due to my participation, my consent is implied.
In my relationship, this would not be a problem due to the nature of my dynamic. However, this type of consent leaves an opening for both miscommunication and coercion. It can also lead to victim blaming (“but you didn’t say no”) and/or false accusations of consent violations (“Why did you do ‘X?’” “Because you enthusiastically participated when I suggested it”).
Consent is a fluid idea. It can change in an instant. Any type of altered state of mind (Dom/sub space, drinking, drugs, 420, medication, etc.) can lead to miscommunication and/or lower inhibitions. These lowered inhibitions may influence your acceptance of an activity during a scene but lead to regret/feeling violated afterwards when the chemicals in your brain settle.
Blanket Consent: This is a term of my own making. It is how I define my own relationship. Outside of the five items on my hard limit list, my partner has the right to do anything he wishes without prior discussion or negotiation.
Financial Consent: This would be giving complete control of your financials to another individual. This option is seen in both the vanilla and kink worlds.
- Financial Dominants (FinDom/mes). This is a Dom/me who receive gifts and money from a s-type individual. There is often no further contact between the D-type and the s-type beyond gift giving. No services are traded.
- Master/slave relationships often involve giving over control of all aspects of your life, including financial freedom.
- Allowing another person to control your finances to prevent self-harming behaviors or to promote good money practices.
Dubious Consent (Dubcon): This is not really defined as consent since it involves coercion. It could be as simple as pursuing someone consistently, after they have said no, until they give in to your wants. It can also involve blackmail and/or abuse of power.
I have this listed because it can be included in some fantasy play. Things like Headmaster/student, Boss/secretary, or Head of Household (HoH)/maid. Such roleplays can revolve around dubcon.
Personally, I recommend that this is negotiated very carefully.
Non-consensual Consent (NonCon/CNC): According to the BDSM Glossary on Fetlife.com, CNC is a “mutual agreement that within defined limits, or subject to a Safeword or other restrictions, and to common sense, consent to activities without foreknowledge of the exact actions planned.”
That is a fancy way of saying “do what you want as long as I haven’t used my Safeword and nobody is gravely injured.” At least, that’s how I read it.
CNC is often tied to edge play. Knife play, kidnapping play, rape play, race play, and other type of play that has an element of resistance or fear. For reactions to be more genuine, a majority of the scene may be left undiscussed.
CNC in no way means that they do not have the right to Safeword at any time. As with any type of scene, anyone involved has the right to withdraw consent at any point before or during play. You also have the right to refuse aftercare, even if it was previously negotiated.
Please understand that you cannot remove consent after the fact. If you expressly agreed to play with informed consent, you cannot state that consent was broken simply because you regret something or struggle processing your thoughts and feelings.
**If you do feel as though something isn’t right, or didn’t happen as you expected, communicate with your partner. If it was a Service Top or a one-time play partner at a party, reach out. If you are unable to talk to them, reach out to members of your community that you trust**
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Now that we understand the various degrees of consent, we get to talk about the hard stuff.
The next two definitions are not ones I necessarily agree with. I hold the personal belief that any breach of consent classifies as a violation. Whether intentional or accidental, a serious discussion is needed to rectify that wrong.
Consent Violation: A purposeful disregard or breach of someone’s boundaries.
Consent Accident: A breach of boundaries or consent through unintentional means, such as, miscommunication or a misinterpretation of responses.
While I understand breach of consent can be accidental, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to have it listed as an option. A violation, in any form, will always be a violation. However, stating it was an accident can cause it to be brushed aside with a compulsive “I’m Sorry.” To me, that removes the responsibility of one or both the individuals involved.
I will use these two terms as reference to make it easier to understand intent.
Intention is not often talked about in my community. As such, the first time I was asked what my intention for play was, I was utterly lost on how to answer. For the record, “I intend to get a caning” is not an acceptable answer.
Why is intention important? What does it mean? Who actually breaks it down enough that it matters?
The answer to the third question is Master. Because, let me tell you, play does not exist until I have the correct answer.
So, what does intention mean?
Everything in kink is intentional. I’ve never met a person that doesn’t have a reason for what they do.
A brat pushes buttons to get attention. A puppy jumps and barks for play time. A Dom sets a rule for a specific reason. A masochist may beg to receive more pain or push their boundaries.
I strive to anticipate. Everything I do is built on the intention of easing the stress on my Master and my spouses. I try to make sure chores are done, bills are paid, reminders are set, phone calls made, and/or anything else I find that is useful.
My intention in play is far different. My intention is to please.
Joji is a good girl with few boundaries. Since I prefer to not know our play ahead of time, I am often taken off guard and my reactions are quite genuine. It also means that wherever Master leads, I follow.
Because my focus and intent are based on pleasing Master, I find it very hard to tell him my intention towards a scene. So, He breaks it down for me.
“I intend to get a caning”
“Because I need one, Sir.”
“Why do you need one?”
“…” I Pause. Why? I’m not really sure myself. So, I think about it. Honestly, I dwell on it far more than I should. Master is patient as He watches the turmoil on my face. Why? Then I finally understand what he is asking.
“May I have a caning Sir?”
“Because I need to be able to let go of all my stress and guilt. I need to feel your absolute control.” My intention for play is to be pushed far enough to lose myself in the sensation of pain. My intention is to submit without reservations.
**Your intention can be as varied as your play. If its been awhile since I’ve played with Master, due to outside obligations, sometimes I just want a bare-handed spanking. In those moments, my intent is simply to reconnect with Him. Skin to skin contact is our solution.
Why is intention important?
While consent is the cornerstone between kink and abuse, intention is the building blocks. Consent opens the door, but each person’s intentions lead to trust, communication, reputation, experience, and everything else we consider defining characteristics.
-You can be trusted by a community and violate my trust at home.
-I can communicate with you and you could refuse to listen.
-You can have a polished reputation and keep your cruelty behind closed doors.
-You can be experienced but be without patience for me to learn.
Do you intend to just take what you want without regard to my needs? Do you intend to hold me to high standards without educating me on how to meet them? Do you intend to see me cry from cruelty or catharsis? Do you intend me to fear your words and movements or to revel in properly applied correction?
Do you intend to use and abuse me without my express consent?
If so, you will most likely violate my consent in the most cruel and intentional of ways.
**I need to specify that I ask these questions from my role as a submissive. In no way does this mean that only D-types can violate consent purposefully. Manipulation, use of guilt, abuse of Safeword, continuous disregard of negotiated rules, and ignoring stated limits are all ways that an s-type can purposefully violate a D-types consent.
Manipulation: “You’d do this if you loved me”
Guilt: “You never think about how stressed I am when you ask X”
Abuse of Safeword: Using your Safeword to stop mutually agreed upon punishments
Disregard of Rules: “I know I asked you to make sure I take my pills, but I’ve been skipping them because I just didn’t want to do it.”
Ignoring limits: “We agreed that any partner I had sex with would be STD tested first. However, I slept with someone last week who wasn’t tested and didn’t tell you.”
As vast as I’m sure your imagination is, there are plenty more examples of how people can violate consent, intentionally or accidentally.
Here are some of the most known ways I’ve come across:
–Non-disclosure of medical history
Some of us have preferences on who we are willing to play with in regards to health, mental or physical.
A prime example of this happened to Master. He always asks the same questions before he will give someone a tasting of electrical play. One of his questions is about metal and/or medical implants. Metal plates in the body can heat up and give internal burns if electrified too much. So, he needs to know where to play lighter or if it needs to be avoided all together. One guy who got on his table told him he had no metal plates in his body. Turns out, the guy did have metal in his body. According to him, he has had the implant so long, it never crossed his mind that it was there. He only remembered after the fact. He unintentionally broke Master’s consent by neglecting to answer the questions fully.
On some occasions, one type of play mutates into another, less desirable type of play.
One instance happened at a local event last year. A guy was on Master’s table and they were doing knife play. He had been on Master’s table many times before and they both were comfortable playing together. They agreed to knife play, combined with electrical play, but no blood play or breaking of skin. The scene was going fine until the bottom had a knee-jerk reaction he never had before. He reached up and grabbed the knife. As you can imagine, he sustained a fairly good cut on his palm and it bled plenty. Purely by accident, we were now dealing with blood.
Accidents happen in play. There are times that blood, urine, vomit, and other bodily fluids come into play when they are nowhere near the negotiations. It is still considered a consent breach, especially if those things are on a limit list.
In this case, it is how you deal with it that matters. If this happens to you, please start with first aid and aftercare.
–Ignoring a Safeword(s).
Whether you use the stoplight system (green, yellow, red), a single safeword, a visual cue, an audio cue, or your own check-in colors, they must be respected. In my own personal beliefs, I cannot think of a single instance when ignoring a safeword would be considered acceptable.
Repeatedly asking someone to do something they won’t until they agree is coercion. Obtaining consent while someone is in an altered mind state is coercion.
This one depends on the type of consent you have with your partner. For some, adding non-negotiated things to a scene (like an additional person, a new kink, etc) can be a violation. This does not apply to everyone.
–Removing the ability to safeword
This is a general statement but does depend on your dynamic. There are those who play without safeword. This is their choice. However, if you are playing with someone who does, and you leave them unable to use it (such as gagging without a visual safeword), then you are violating their consent.
Case by Case
I try my best to never judge those who play differently than I do. Some people play with alcohol, drugs, 420, or medication in their system. I do not. I refuse to play with anyone who has.
If someone tells me they are sober and it turns out they aren’t, that is purposefully deceitful.
If someone has an adverse reaction to regular medication, that is an accident.
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I know that I have only scratched the surface of consent and violations. There are far more than those listed here. The most important thing I want you to take from this is to communicate, regardless of the circumstances. If you feel something happened that shouldn’t have or your consent was left in question, bring it up. Talk about it. Make it important.
Because it is important.
We are human. We make mistakes. I may have never intended to break your consent or cross a boundary. I cannot fix it, if you don’t bring it to my attention.
And if it is done on purpose, please revisit the list of common red flags and run the other direction.
About the Author
My name is Joji. I am 29 years old currently and I have been in and around the kink community about 15 years.I am a collared submissive to Magick42. I am also a Daddy to a wonderful babygirl, and have been for more than three years now and I find it very fulfilling. I am being mentored in and being taught electroplay. I am a masochist at heart and thoroughly love impact play, especially caning. I enjoy reading anything I can get my hands on and am a die hard Harry Potter and Doctor Who fan. I am also the secretary for a group in Idaho called Moscow S.P.A.R.K.E (Simply Providing Another Route to Kink Education). It is our mission to teach safe practices to those new to the community and give them a safe haven to ask questions and learn without judgement. We accept all kinks and all we ask in return is respect between all our members.
I could not agree more everything should read this
very important article