Treading the gray – Consensual non-consent
I have been repeatedly asked questions around what really is consent. Whose consent is it that matters? What happens when consent is violated? Why would one person violate another one's consent? What should one do to ensure consent is not violated? How to define if the ‘no’ in a scene is ‘oh, no, please carry on’ or ‘Hell NO! STOP NOW!’? It is a gray area. VERY gray!
This is why consent should be explicitly given and received without the influence of substance, with full awareness of as many consequences as possible and only from people of legal age and a sane mine. Believe it or not, consent is not to be taken trivially because consent is what will define your trust, your experience and your journey.
What exactly is consent?
Consent is a clear expression of a willingness to participate in certain acts with a certain partner/s. It is equally valid for both Dominants and submissives in the BDSM context. When someone says ‘I don’t know and I’m confused’, it’s NOT consent. When they say ‘maybe’, it’s an invitation to discuss and explore, but it’s NOT consent. Similarly anyone who says ‘NO’ in any form, with a smile or without a smile, please do NOT ASSUME that it is consent. ASK. Consent given under influence of alcohol, or any other substance, is NOT consent. Consent given by an underage is NOT consent. Consent to harm someone permanently is invalid.
Levels on which consent works:
Consent works on multiple levels. There are relationships and dynamics where consent is given only for specific activities. For instance, I may consent to the use of a vibe, but not a dildo.
There are also cases, where consent is given in advance for a certain session / activity time, under pre-negotiated limits. This means, if someone states that they consent to being tied up, it could be with a rope, or a tape, or even a wire. However, if they are allergic to jute and this has been explicitly stated, jute ropes being used are a violation of consent.
Nuances of consent can be very tricky. For instance jute rope is not a reason why a person could get into trouble legally. However, if no consent was given for sex, it can be very well taken to the court for justice (non-consensual sex is called rape, you see).
Similarly, some people share a dynamic, where a blanket consent works. This means that consent for an activity is valid for every session they do, unless explicitly denied in an off-session discussion.
And then there’s the consensual non-consent. Consensual non-consent is like a person saying to the other – ‘I WANT you to ignore my denial and continue doing what you’re doing’. Now this is potentially dangerous. What if the person saying a no really wants to stop? How does one know? It is therefore best that one indulges in consensual – non consent ONLY with people that one really trusts. Only if you know a person extremely well and trust them with your life, should you even think of trying consensual non consent.
How to ensure consent is respected
- First, communicate; in excruciating detail.
- Second, do NOT consent to play with a stranger or with a newbie unless one of you is at least well-aware of activities you will indulge in.
- Third, do not jump into play. Discussing safe words, limits both hard and safe and kinks in detail helps. Also, fix your individual safe calls to ensure that there’s a backup in case something goes wrong.
- Fix safe words and consider them as sacrosanct. Anyone who says, submissives / slaves don’t have a safe word, run from them! Anyone who says a Dom doesn’t need a safe word, is another BIG red flag!
- When in doubt, err towards caution. So, if you’re not sure whether your sub is groaning in pain or in desire, ask! If still unsure, or your gut says otherwise, stop. It’s better to be dissatisfied and do a follow-up session, rather than damage a submissive.
I think there’s so much more that people should know when it comes to safety. Keep an eye on this column for more insights. Till then, stay well and play safe!