One of the best things about the kink community is that it places consent front and center of community values. Not only do groups talk about consent in their education and often bylaws, it is also worked into our porn. Over time, this has resulted in the kink community developing more consensual, less “rape-y” standards (see here for links to studies).
Yay! We are doing something right. And we have been doing it right for a while.
However, as with all thinks in the BDSM community, we are evolving. There is a new approach to consent and it bothers me. I have chatted with quite a few folks who have been in the life for more than two decades and the conversation has started to get repetitive themes about consent. How we consent, what is expected of consent, and is there such a thing as implied consent come up as questions.
Ok, for context: A long time a go in a bar far away, consent was pretty simple. You and your partner had a brief conversation about hard limits, desires, and maybe triggers. You agreed to fuck or not. Then you had fun.
This was facilitated by a couple of things. One, it took time to get invited into the community. In the way, way back times when I was coming into the community, you met someone through a friend or through the back pages of a local alternative paper, made a phone call, got secret pass codes, went into scary bars that became your home bars, and were vetted over time. You were a known entity by the time you began to play with someone. Anonymous hook-ups were for sex, not kink play.
Today, things are different. Now, there is a lot of discussion about what actually constitutes consent. More and more, people (read: bottoms) want control over all aspects of play. You don’t just consent to impact, you consent to canes, or paddles, or floggers, but this does not constitute consent for whips or pervertables. You consent to specific holes being used for sex. You consent to kissing or not kissing. And on and on….
This is becoming more necessary because the scene is wide open to people. Newbies come into public play spaces looking for pick up play. People title themselves whatever they want on Fet and CollarSpace and other sites without anyone on the community being able to vouch for them. We have newbs vouching for newbs and no one has been in the scene for more than two years. All this makes play less safe and necessitates more discussion and specifics for consent.
Consent Violations vs. Players Remorse
So, what is the problem? Alas, like titles and identities, the new version of kink is fast and loose and lacks definition. People are coming into the life fast and hard and missing some key education points. This is leading to a lot of people shouting about consent violations when what they really have is players remorse.
What is the difference?
Consent is given for types of play, types of sex, time, and more. It is an agreement between two or more people about the borders of an encounter. It sets up the boundaries of what can happen. When a player goes beyond these boundaries intentionally, especially if they are called out on it, then they are violating consent.
Players remorse happens when a partner pushes into an area which is uncomfortable for someone but does not violate consent. They may push a boundary, then stop. Or they may engage in what was implied consent, then one party feels bad a few days later and says, ‘That was not okay.’ Or, one player violated an unstated boundary and now there is a conflict.
Before the massive presence of social media and in a more controlled community, these incidents were handled between people or through a group of friends. You would talk to the person or break it off and be done with things. Now, with the vast amount of social media, the lack of community control, and the general lower age of players (and thus immaturity of players), players remorse becomes a massive brouhaha on some website.
Let me provide examples of what I am talking about.
Consent violation: You and a partner agree to no marks. The top gets into the scene, sees that a tool leaves a mark accidentally and continues to use said tool and leaves additional marks. The initial mark may have been accidental, but proceeding in a way they now know leaves marks makes this a consent violation.
Consent violation: Partners have agreed to use condoms during anal and vaginal sex. While the bottom is tied up and cannot see the top put on a condom, the top fakes it and has unprotected sex. That is a consent violation.
Players Remorse: The bottom agrees to impact play and mentions that he does not like canes. He does not outright say canes area limit. The top, knowing this is a disliked implement, decides to push a limit in play and uses a cane. The bottom does not stop play, does not say “yellow” or “red” but allows the caning to proceed. The next day, the bottom is angry about having a limit pushed. This is not a consent violation.
Players Remorse: At a party, a bottom agrees to oral sex only. Over the evening the bottom engages in oral sex with a partner. As the party breaks up, the top asks the bottom if they want to stay over with other people. The bottom agrees. The top offers the bottom the couch or their room, with the caveat of “sleeping in my bed will mean I am going to try and fuck you.” The bottom has a legit choice to sleep in the living room, to go home, or to sleep in bed with the top. They opt to get naked and sleep in bed with the top and they end up having sex. This is implied consent if the choices for other options were real and the bottom was not intoxicated or in sub space.
Some players remorse situations are grey areas and should be talked about by multiple parties. Some are just part of the learning process of playing with different people. The thing is, now on social media, a player’s remorse can balloon out of proportion with accusations of consent violations and even rape.
These accusations can not only hurt someone’s reputation, they can lead to legal and community issues. Additionally, we have reached a point where questioning a person’s accusations of rape or consent violations is portrayed as “victim blaming” or shaming.
What Do We Do?
If the person crying foul is your bestie, that is up to you. The rest of us have some responsibilities.
- Recognize there is more than one side to the story. Yes, there may have been a consent violation. Yes, the victim may be telling the truth. We also owe it to the top to hear their side. This is not shaming or not believing the victim, but one person screaming about a bad experience is not the whole story ever. I say this as a rape victim. If I knew who my attackers were, I would love to hear why they thought I would enjoy being roofied and gang raped.
- Organizers and DMs are not your junior high BFFs. Ever dungeon owner I know has had the case of someone having a bad break-up and then calling them to ban their ex. Usually these calls include some accusation of consent violations which happened in private and have no other back-up. When then DM does not outright ban an ex, the party calling gets all mad and badmouths them all over social media. Same with event organizers. Look, these folks are business owners and professionals. They are not responsible for catering to your inability to manage a break-up. It is responsible to notify them of a problem player. Then let them follow their course of action to look into it and take appropriate measures. This may not be what you want. These people are professionals and have more than your feelings to worry about. If they follow their stated policies, let it go.
- Stop playing with folks you don’t know. If you want to be safe, then know and trust your partner. This takes time. This takes practice. If you want to do a specific act in pick up play, negotiate just that act. If you want to have extended play with lots of options, it will be safer if you know the person for a bit.
- Stop topping from the bottom. I know too many “subs” who want to control the whole scene. They want to dictate the length of time, the items to be used, the outcome of the scene, and so on. This is not subbing. If I tell a D-type, “I want a 30 minute scene, please start with a light flogging, the a heavy flogging, no canes, no paddles, and finish me with your belt. I want to climax at least two time through sex. Also, dim lighting, I prefer NIN on the stereo and it will take place at my home on Saturday at 4.” This is not subbing. The idea of submission is power exchange. Dictating a scene is bottoming, not subbing.
- Own your shit. Look, we are all adults here. Please act like it. If your partner pushed your limit and it made you uncomfortable, talk to them. Tell them about it. If they hit an undisclosed trigger or boundary, use your words to work this out after the scene. And most of all, keep your drama off of social media. If there was an actual consent violation or rape, then you need to let group organizers know about a problem player. And then leave it at that. It is not your responsibility to run their group or event. They will have procedures in place to deal with these things. And the result may not make you happy. Don’t try and sabotage them because you are mad they didn’t ban your mean ex.