Thursday, February 22, 2018

What I Know About Negotiation ( #BDSM #HardWonKnowledge )

by Annabeth Leong

My first experiences with BDSM, I think I’ve said before, happened in a context with no negotiation. I was so young and naive that I didn’t know negotiation was possible. And I was really turned on by what happened, but I was also harmed by it, and I had no tools to make the key distinctions this reality required.

Later, older and wiser, I learned about safewords and negotiation and playing responsibly and all that sort of thing. But I also learned how hard it is to live out the ideals people express about that stuff in BDSM communities.

I’m not as good at negotiation as I would like to be. I don’t always know how I’m going to feel about something in advance and I don’t always know how to account for that ahead of time or how to react to it when it comes up. Sometimes, I feel really ashamed about this. It feels like a really bad thing to have to admit something like I should have used my safeword and I didn’t. In my experience it’s hard to find honest conversations about those sorts of problems.

Here are some things I’ve figured out, for what they’re worth:

If someone dismisses the idea of negotiating or wants to gloss over it, watch out.

I’ve been burned by this enough times that I feel embarrassed to say so. The last time I let someone get away with it, it turned out that the person in question was angling for a threesome that was definitely not on the table for me, and huge drama resulted. It can feel like I’m the uncool bore insisting on negotiation, but I’ve been so sorry the times I let people rush me through it or talk me out of it.

Writing stuff down beforehand can help

It really helped me to make a list of my own thoughts about what I did and didn’t want to do. Not even necessarily to give the other person, just to know what I actually think and feel. I’m pretty susceptible to the temptation to say what I think the other person wants to hear. The list helps me stay honest, and it gives me a foundation to work with when someone takes me by surprise.

Hard no is important, but so is hard yes

Negotiations often focus on what a person doesn’t want. I think it’s fun, exciting, and important to also talk about what they do want. It’s a radical act for me to say, yes, this is what I want sexually. It also keeps the negotiation from feeling like a boring chore.

Negotiations should recognize flexibility

A huge innovation in my own negotiations came when I made a distinction between hard and soft limits. There are hard lines for me like, I don’t even want to talk about this, I am definitely not comfortable doing it. But there are other things that are more dependent on the situation, the people involved, the mood I’m in, etc--but I don’t want to do them generally. I started playing around with stuff like, these activities are not first date activities for me, but I’m not saying they’re totally off the table. I felt like recognizing flexibility helped me express myself more clearly.

Things are going to get fucked up and confused sometimes

I wish this wasn’t true, but it just is. Man, it sucks. But being able to deal with it is a key part of relationships, I think. I don’t think it’s possible to have an airtight negotiation that foresees every single thing that could come up. And it’s important to accept that, roll with things as best you can when things do go sideways, and try to be kind to yourself and everyone else involved about it.

***

So those are a few things I’ve learned about sexual negotiations. And I’ll also say that this is a place where I feel chemistry, too. I have good “negotiation chemistry” with some people, where I feel like we get each other and it’s easy for us to communicate about this sort of thing. That’s good to watch for, I think.

I want to get to “the fun stuff” as much as the next person, but I also know it’s super worth it to spend the time on the negotiation, too. BDSM can involve playing with some pretty volatile stuff. It’s foolish not to recognize that, I think.

And I do try to write about the fun stuff in my stories, too… ;)

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope lots of newbies read this post.

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  2. Since I've never been in a BDSM situation besides a slap or two on the ass, these kinds of negotiations were never an issue for me. But they do have a new parallel in some colleges which require complete and specific boundaries. I wonder if these rules would fit into the modern concept of mutual restrictions on what can and can't go down, even in the moment.

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  3. I think any negotiations have to include that when the smaller and weaker partner, usually the woman, says to stop, or says "no," that ends everything. There's no negotiating possible anymore. No means no. Parents have to teach that to their sons from day 1.

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  4. I think many submissives who enter into negotiations for a scene, or a relationship for that matter, fail to realize that they hold the power. They have the right to agree or disagree, to offer or withdraw their submission, to shape the experience into what they want it to be...

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  5. Thanks for the replies, friends! Always good to hear what others think on this subject!

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