Before the walk is walked, the talk has to be talked…or something like that. BDSM walks the boundaries of social acceptance and borders on danger in our minds. It’s easy to cross that border. When it’s crossed, it’s no longer fun and where there was trust, it can quickly dissipate. Negotiation is a massive topic, but it can mean the difference in a great scene and a traumatized partner. So why wouldn’t we negotiate?
Everyone has different ideas on the ‘right way’ to negotiate, and for the sake of this article, I’ll stick with my belief that everyone will automatically develop their own way of doing this. That said, there are common overlapping factors in what most people do which will be discussed here. Also, there are things which are frequently left out that could potentially save some headaches.
What is Negotiation?
Quite simply, setting expectations to avoid misunderstandings from either party. This accounts for what will be done, what won’t be done, who will be involved, how to stop it, and any other contingencies which are best addressed so everyone has the information that they need to ensure all parties are having the best time possible.
Why Should you Negotiate?
The reasons why we should negotiate are often underplayed. The following is not, by any means, an exhaustive list:
- Negotiating sets expectations of what will be done (and won’t be) during a scene
- Assists with planning, as it contains an inclusionary aspect of interests and fantasies
- Allows people to ask for what they need and want in the moment
- Defines limits and boundaries of what is acceptable – from both parties
- Jumping off point for building trust Trust that you have a standard of care and interest in the submissives comfort and well-being.
- Introduces several communication tools for potentially difficult subject matters
- Gives a clear snapshot on the two parties current situations (medication, etc)
- Helps to determine compatibility
Why it’s Often Left Out?
Similar to consent, negotiating can feel a bit like it’s taking the spontaneity out of the situation to people who aren’t fully aware of it’s strengths. For submissive’s, I’ve heard many say that negotiating what they want feels as though they are asking for a specific type of play, when in actuality they don’t want to direct the scene. For Dominant’s, it can feel as though they are laying all of their cards on the table, and then are not free to do as they wish instinctively. And yet still some other people have no idea what to ask, so at risk of making mistakes, cover very little during negotiations.
Of course, all of those challenges towards negotiating are things easily worked around. All of the above can be addressed by discussing 3-5 things which the submissive would be comfortable doing, and the Dominant themselves, pick which they will do. This also frees the submissive from believing they are directing the scene, allowing the Dominant as many cards as they wish really (as long as they were specifically negotiated as possibilities).
Of course, there is also the ‘sheep factor’ in which people have no idea what they want. Check out the Toolbox below to explore how to figure out what they really want.
When you’ve found someone that you wish to engage with, whom shares a reciprocal interest, there are several tools that will help encourage your negotiation to feel less like a business interaction and more like a fun exploration.
- Fantasy flirtation – discussing your concepts around BDSM, and all of the things you’d like to try can lead to a more inclusive style of negotiation. It gives a good sense of what someone is looking for and whether it is in line with the other persons inner desires. “There’s nothing hotter than teasing someone while they are unable to do anything about their arousal. What I wouldn’t give to have someone locked for a whole month. I would have them….” Often in my life, I would have never considered a particular line of fetishes – that is until I heard the fantasies of someone who was passionate about their ‘kink’.
- Limits – Knowing what the limit is, and as much as the person is willing to share about that limit can go a long way in assisting you to avoid crossing over any particular lines in other fetishes they might not have considered. As great as list are for certain things, this is one area that should be explored in detail. For example, if someone has a limit of Adult Baby role-play. Is this because they were molested as a child, or simply that they hate roleplay. If it’s the later, having them dress as a nurse and role playing may also make them feel uncomfortable.
- Monkey see, Monkey do – Learning from what more experienced people do at parties. Discussing what each party liked and disliked about that scene, and what each would like to try, or not try.
- Checklists – There are literally hundreds of these online. If a newer partner (both to you, and/or BDSM), start with a smaller checklist. Personally, I prefer the type with a scale of interest, and a ‘have you done this? Y/N’ style feature. It can be fun to fill these out together – making sure to note any changes of interest during discussion. Both parties should fill these in, or discuss their interests, not just the submissive.
How to Negotiate
There’s no reinventing the wheel here – there’s a slew of great samples of negotiation forms online. When playing with someone new, privately, expect to use a different format than if it’s someone you’ve played with before at a party for a simple scene.
I’ve included one which has become the normalized style of negotiation. I’ve also included two by Jay Wiseman. Jay is an extremely well known figure in the BDSM community who has a lot to say about negotiation, and more specifically safety. He has both a long form and short form to assist with negotiation.
1) What has become the common practice: https://www.kinkly.com/2/1194/sex-tips/bdsm/the-basics-of-bdsm-negotation
2) Jay Wiseman, Short Form https://www.evilmonk.org/a/wiseman10.cfm
3) Jay Wiseman, Long Form (as above)
The last thing I have to say about negotiation is that there are certain types of play which require specific needs when it comes to negotiation. Any high risk play – breath play, cutting, needles, humiliation, etc. Bondage requires a more in depth discussion of anatomy than something like roleplaying. If someone is wearing a gag, please discuss a secondary means of safe word. Look at the style of play and try to figure out the situations which could make a mess of it.
There are all kinds of reasons for negotiating – all of which gives the ‘sheep’ the (perhaps false) comfort that they know what to expect out of the big, ol’ friendly wolf.
Without being dogmatic and attempting to tell readers what they ‘should’ do, I will say simply that if there were one thing which you can do to make yourself be seen as a more competent Dominant, it is a thorough negotiation. Do this until you develop a close relationship with a submissive where you can answer most of the questions with near perfect accuracy. This goes both ways as well. It’s important for the submissive to know as much about the Dominant.
Negotiation is the first major step in establishing open pathways of communication. Communication is clearly very important when dealing with activities with such high damage potential. There will be more posts about communication. If you have any specific questions on negotiation or communication, please comment below or contact me privately.