Negotiations are a fundamental part of kink. But, it is more than just telling someone what you want. It is the ability to get in touch with yourself. It is the insight to understanding your own needs and wants as well as that of your partner(s). It is the chance to delve into the depths of your own mind and learn exactly who you are.
It sounds ominous to define negotiations as such, doesn’t it?. Not all negotiations are quite as in depth as I am discussing. For the sake of what follows, most of my focus will be on negotiating with a long term partner.
So, let’s start with the easy part: the definition.
Negotiate: to obtain or bring about by discussion.
You cannot gain anything without first discussing it. I should specify that this is a general rule of thumb and there are some of us outliers who just don’t follow the basic rules of negotiating. Though I rarely follow most of these rules myself, I do believe you have to understand negotiating before you can actively decide to disregard it.
For me, this is the difference between SSC and RACK.
Safe, sane, and consensual is what I teach. This is where negotiations fall.
Risk Aware, Consensual Kink (RACK) is what I live. I am aware that my decision to not negotiate is a personal choice, with personal risk. But, it is my choice to make.
When I fell into the lifestyle, all the information I could find was related to contracts. They were formal, long, and left little room for interpretation. Most importantly, they were always written. A contract would cover everything from if I (as the submissive) would be allowed to work to how often W/we fucked. Looking back, I chuckle heavily. Navigating and living this lifestyle have led me to love the spontenaity with which my play has developed. But, back then, I was young and eager and very much under the impression that there was “one true way.”
I hope you have not had to fight your way through that. Kink and BDSM at personal journeys, filled with lots of personal decisions and beliefs. If someone tells you differently, run.
As such, I want to walk you through the most basic ideas about negotiating and leave you with a greater understanding as you develop your own path within kink and BDSM.
1. Negotiations must always be written down.
Generally, I advise never to write your negotiations down. They can serve as legal documents and can be used against you in court. As much as I’d love to tell you that relationships don’t end and people don’t turn vindictive, it can and does happen.
That being said, it is a personal preference as to how you negotiate. For myself, I use blanket consent. If I have not placed something as a hard limit, Master can incorporate whatever he desires into play without prior discussion or approval from me. Because, this is how we negotiated, I have only the most basic of rules written down and the rest change to fit our play.
2. The more rules, the better D-type or s-type you are.
I will fully admit that High protocol is not something I personally follow in my Dynamic. It is something that I am still exploring and learning about. So, for this myth, I am more referring to accountability.
If you start out negotiating a large number of rules, it can lead to the inability to reinforce them. Without the follow up, it can lead to feelings of neglect and inadequacy.
Working with new individuals, I always advise they stick to less than ten rules to start with. As you weigh each rule, you each have to honestly express what matters most to you.
For myself, my rules revolve around personal health and safety….and impulse control.
A few examples are:
-I will take my pills as prescribed by my doctor.
-I am required to talk to one of my partners when upset and am not allowed to hide my feelings
-I am not allowed to clean when I am alone or when people are sleeping.
-I will not lick without permission
-I will not cause harm to myself or others unless in self defense.
Each of these rules represents a physical or mental aspect to my health and one reflects my impulse control and OCD.
In fact, as I read them, they seem almost common sense.
However, throughout my journey and my experiences with my partners, it has become important that these rules remain in place.
Negotiating does not need to be all about what happens in a scene. It is about what each of you needs to thrive in your chosen roles.
3. Negotiating only happens once.
Negotiating is a fluid concept. It should be something akin to breathing. It should be natural. It is all about communication. It does not need to be a formal sit down. Saying something like, “I am having trouble taking my pills. Will you hold me accountable?”. And Bam! I have just negotiated a new rule. (And yes, that’s almost exactly how that happened).
You could also use it as feedback as well. “Sir, I really love kneeling for you, but I need a pillow if it is going to be longer than X amount of time”. Never be afraid to confide a limitation. Medical necessities are always important to account for.
For example, I have arthritis in my feet. When it flares up, I can kneel but I have to make adjustments. I cannot rest pressure on the top of my feet, so I kneel tall. I also cannot roll up from the position. So, I place a hand on Master’s knee, pick one leg up, place my foot flat, and then pick my other leg up. Some days, due to paralysis, I cannot kneel at all.
It took me a long time to learn that my physical limitations did not make me a bad submissive in His eyes. He prefers when I ask for the accommodation. Partly because it is my responsibility to let him know about my health, but also so we can honestly discuss what we both need.
I need the ability to sit at his feet. So, when I cannot kneel, I sit and lean my head on his knee. We both still get the intimacy of our dynamic without jeopardizing either one of us.
I would recommend negotiating as often as necessary. In our relationship, we revisit my blanket consent about every six months. However, we communicate far more often and make adjustments as needed in between the “sit down” discussions.
4. I do not need a safe word.
This is a hot button issue and I am going to out right state that this is not a reflection on anyone’s choices.
Typically, I work with individuals who are new to the lifestyle. Therefore, what I teach and what I live are not necessarily the same.
If you chose to play without a safeword, that is your choice.
Even with my blanket consent, Master requires I have a safeword. We use the stoplight system. We use it both in our dynamic and for pickup play. Since it is a widely used system, it prevents confusion when we travel to events as well as keeps everyone on the same page with play.
Our definitions are as follows:
Green- I am fine and you may continue using that implement and/or increase the intensity
Yellow- I need an adjustment. I need you to check in with me.
**This could just mean I need to change implements, readjust my position, need a sip of water, or skin to skin contact
Red- I have hit my limit or something is not right. I need play to end immediately.
We also have a hand signal we use when the atmosphere is too loud. We had the pleasure of attending KinkFest in Portland last year and when you are surrounded by 1800 people, it is hard to hear.
So, when I had a panic attack in the middle of a scene, I reached my hand back to next to me hip, in his line of sight, and made a fist. That meant stop.
Since we had never been at such a large and loud venue before, I had to make the sign up one the fly. We had never discussed non-verbal cues. The reason it worked is that my hands are off limits. They are not allowed anywhere near striking zone for impact. They are to remain above my head or in front of me. Therefore, when I moved them next to my ass, where they could be struck, he knew something was wrong.
I strongly recommend discussing a non-verbal cue (or using a visual cue like a scarf or an auditory one, like a dog clicker) when discussing safe words. You may never know when you will find yourself in a situation where it will be needed.
5. Aftercare does not need to be negotiated.
While Aftercare could have a book written about it, we are going to address the basics.
If you need aftercare, you are responsible for setting it up. It needs to be discussed.
I know one Dominant who does not provide aftercare. However, he will not play with you if you cannot tell him that you have aftercare arranged.for yourself. This could be a blanket, another person, juice, fruit, and so on.
I know another who struggles with aftercare. Therefore, he needs to know exactly what you need before he will do more than a tasting.
One of my submissive friends does aftercare on her own. She does not like to be touched until she has processed the scene.
I need skin to skin contact. Whether I am naked or fully dressed, I need to feel the heat of your body warming me up. This is because I suffer sensory overload often, meaning everything is too loud, too bright, and too cold. The contact warms me and grounds me.
For Master, he needs fresh fruit and Gatorade. That is what brings his energy back up and keeps him going when he Service Tops all night. So, we always have a cooler stocked (or the fridge) for after play.
Aftercare can take any form you wish. It may also change over time, or with different partners. There is no shame in asking for what you need. But, you need to make sure that as with anything, whatever has been agreed upon is followed through.
Your word is your integrity.
Negotiating “IN” (aka whitelisting)
This is a new concept to me. But, I understand and appreciate the thought behind it.
At it’s purest, this means that instead of focusing what you can’t or won’t do, you focus on what you WILL do.
This gives some leeway for both the Top and the bottom to try new things.
One example I had with a partner was an either/or method. She was open to using cuffs and a blindfold, but never together. So, I know that I am allowed to bring them into play without express negotiation each time, as long as only one is ever used during that scene.
It could be as easy as saying, “we can do impact with only your hand”. In this scenario, your scene is not explicitly written out like a script, but you know that you are staying within your comfort zone.
I often use this for darker play. Master will ask what I need a few days in advance. The last time I answered that I needed fear. I wanted to incorporate the elements of anxiety and being afraid during our scene. I gave him no guideline beyond my most basic limits. I left the entirety of the decisions up to him.
**On a side note, I’m aware that saying “fear” can be considered extreme but that is why I have stated that I ascribe to RACK. Sometimes I simply ask for an implement. How he chooses to use it is up to Him.**
Now that you understand the fundamentals, here is the best part.
Negotiations are what you make of it. If you can be honest with yourself, and your partner, then you have the ability to get more than just a good set of marks.
You gain the ability to grow and learn. You improve your communication skills and can objectively reflect on your wants and needs. You learn how to express yourself in a coherent manner.
Most importantly, if you are like me, you learn how to distinguish between hearing what your partner wants and actually listening to them.
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.