The first thing to point out, is the Top/Dominant has limits and issues that should be negotiated as well to the submissive/bottom. Many times, negotiation is centered towards what the bottom/sub needs, expects, wants, etc. Everyone has the right to say what is acceptable to them and personal responsibility goes both ways.
Once you and a prospective play partner have determined what you’d like to do together in a scene, negotiation enters the picture. This is where you set the terms and conditions, the boundaries and limits of what you’re going to do together.
Actual consent plays a big part of this because what you’re really negotiating is the conditions under which you both consent to play together. There are 6 main areas you need to discuss:
- Common Interest – What is the particular type of play you will be doing?
- Medical issues/Medications – These also include psychological, emotional as well as physical
- Hard/soft limits
- Sexual Limits
- Triggers and Safewords/Safe Gestures
At this point you should already have determined which specific activities you’re going to be doing with each other, AKA the COMMON INTEREST. Also important is determining skill experience. If someone has been “in the scene” for 10 years, but only plays once every 6 months, they don’t have the same experience level as someone in for only 6 months but plays 4 times a week.
Medical Issues and Medications
Do not neglect this step as conditions may affect the sub/bottom’s ability to tolerate, endure, absorb, or enjoy what is about to be done to them. The Top/Dom should also let the bottom/sub know what their issues are. Both players should have each other’s back should anything go wrong.
You only need to discuss any issues that are relevant to the type of play you are doing. If you will be kneeling for extended amounts of time, do you have any knee or joint problems that need to be taken into account? If you are doing a rope scene, do you have any joint issues that need to be brought to attention?
Remember that physical ailments aren’t the only medical conditions! There are mental and psychological conditions that may affect your scene. For example, anxiety attacks is a very common mental condition that should be discussed.
Medications are important, especially if you cannot have or do not want bruising. Common pain relievers, such as Advil, Tylenol and Aspirin are blood thinners and therefore, will make markings and bruising easier to occur. Other medications you might want to mention are things like an epi pen or heart medication. Your partner should know if you use these medications and where they are in case they are needed. THIS GOES FOR BOTH TOPS AND BOTTOMS!!
Hard Limits are the things you will absolutely NOT do. They are not up for discussion or negotiation. Soft Limits are things you might be curious about but not ready to do at this time. It’s ok not to know what you want or don’t want.
As with medical conditions, your limits do not have to be only relegated to physical play. A hard limit could be emotional, mental and psychological, i.e., don’t call me a bitch, fat or stupid. Maybe humiliation is a limit or an implement. Think about what things might fall into each of these categories for you.
It is important to be detailed and clear in what your sexual limts are. What is sexual to one person, isn’t necessarily the same thing to another. Are you comfortable only having your top off and keeping bottoms on? Is kissing allowed? Penetration? Really think about what is comfortable for you and stick with it. Do not allow something just because you do not want to disappoint or think the person you are talking to will no longer want to play with you.
Triggers/Safeword and Gestures
There are many different ways of using safewords, and there are a variety of different ways your partner may respond when you use one. It pays, therefore, to nail down exactly which safewords you’ll be using, and what happens when you do.
The common safeword at most dungeons is “Red”. At Threshold, Red means the scene is over and only the person who called it may agree to continue. That being said, if you are doing a scene where multiple things are happening at once, you may, for example, call Red on a certain implement. That means, stop using that toy but the scene continues.
Yellow is another common safeword which means simply, you need whatever is happening to go slower or perhaps to have a check in. Discuss during negotiations what these words will mean in your scene.
If speech will be restricted in any way, i.e. with a ball gag or tape, etc, agree on a safe gesture.
This is the time to discuss any triggers you know you have. They could be words, actions or implements. It’s also perfectly fine to not know what, if any, triggers you have.
Agree on the safewords or gestures which you’ll recognize during the scene and what will happen when they get used.
Negotiating aftercare is very important. If you know you need aftercare, be sure your play partner knows what and how you need it. If they are not available, for whatever reason, have a friend nearby to provide it.
Give them a summary
When you’ve finished your discussion or negotiation with this new partner, put it all together in a quick summary and get them to agree to it. It can be as short as:
Have I got this correct: your safe word is “red” and it stops the action immediately. You don’t want any marks left tomorrow which would show when you’re wearing jeans and a T-shirt. Fucking is OK but use of a condom is a must. Your left shoulder is still healing from a sports injury and you have an allergy to latex. You have slightly low blood pressure and standing vertical for any length of time will lead to you passing out. Have I got everything?
A Few Final Thoughts…
The Dominant Side
While it’s common for the negotiation to center on the submissive or bottom, any negotiation should also include considerations of the dominant and require their consent as well. This is important because the dominant will also have their own limits and conditions which they need respected.
For example, some Dominants may not want sexual intercourse as part of play and if the submissive or bottom they are playing with gets hot and bothered and starts begging for sex then this can become awkward and can lead to a souring of the mood unless it has all been discussed beforehand.
Tops and Dominants can be put off by blood or if role play heads off in a direction with which they aren’t comfortable, for example, if humiliation is a hard limit for them. It can be the easiest course for a Dominant to bring a scene to an end when this happens. If everything had been discussed beforehand then this premature termination would not be necessary.
No renegotiation during play:
In the heat of the moment it might seem like a good idea to change limits or other aspects of what has been agreed upon during play. This is a very bad idea. Passion and hormones can be very convincing, but the next day one or both of you might decide that it wasn’t a very good idea to change the terms and conditions during play. In the worst case it can be viewed as assault or rape.
It’s particularly worth noting that a bottom or submissive in any altered state of mind (such as subspace or while operating under the influence or endorphins) probably can’t make any sort of reasoned judgement and therefore cannot consent while they’re in that state.