by Lord Unicron
I’m going to go in a slightly different direction this week, because I want to talk about something that is CRITICALLY important to the health and safety of everyone in a D/s relationship, as well as the wider community:
Consent is the foundation of everything that a healthy relationship should be. This is equally true of the person you meet on Match.com or the person you beat on at the dungeon. In the BDSM lifestyle, consent is all-important because it can make the difference between a successful scene that grants the physical and emotional release both sides desire and a dangerous debacle, complete with legal entanglements and lasting physical, emotional and psychological damage or even death.
There are a lot of ways to violate consent. While the community often buzzes about D-types who break boundaries, little if anything is ever said about s-types who do the same. Granted, this is because when a D-type does it, it’s usually in a big, splashy way and all too often occurs in front of witnesses. Consent violations that happen from the s-side of the slash are usually subtler and much less overt. There can also be a question in the D-type’s mind of whether or not what happened was an “according to Hoyle” consent violation in the first place.
The other problem is, s-types are encouraged to talk about consent violations. Most of the time, there’s no negative impetus against the s-type for doing so. When community “leaders” are implicated in CVs, as I’m going to refer to them from here on to try to do my carpal tunnel syndrome a favor, this can be a definite negative against the s-type, because supporters tend to rally around “pillars of the community,” no matter what community we’re talking about. But there is minimal support or sympathy in the community for D-types whose consent has been violated. This is one place where the illusion of control that the D-type supposedly has works against them.
Neither side of the slash is immune from bad behavior!!!!
I cannot stress this point enough. It does not matter who did it. CVs are devastating to both sides and to the trust they’ve built with each other. A D-type who deliberately draws blood or engages in sexual contact with an s-type when that was either not negotiated or set as a hard limit is and should rightly be called out as a predator, and I will never argue that point. Likewise, accidents and misunderstandings can and do happen. A cursory glance at the writings on FetLife can tell you this, and the Web is chock full of horror stories about how misunderstandings can get out of hand. I’m not talking about accidents or miscues here, but willful, deliberate, premeditated choices to commit a CV on the other person.
A D-type beating an s-type until she’s bloody, ignoring a safeword or doing something that another person clearly heard the two negotiating as out of bounds is obvious, and D-types who do this can and should be called to account for it. But what would a CV from the s-side look like? How can you tell if it’s happening?
Note: The following are real-life examples I have either had done to me or witnessed at firsthand. I will not name names, but the guilty parties know full well who they are and I do not currently speak to or acknowledge them in any way. I do not and will not endorse CVs on either side, and this includes tolerating around me those who I know for a fact to have engaged in same.
Exhibit A: An s-type at a party I attended some months ago did not make a full disclosure of substances she had partaken in some hours before a rope scene. She had eaten a doughnut as her sustenance for an entire day, and then washed down a painkiller with a very strong cocktail. Fortunately, the D-type doing the tying (not me) noticed that she was acting strange and pulled her out of the scene before things could escalate to a dangerous level. I quickly severed all ties with this s-type, because if she could do it to someone else, she could and most likely would do it to me at some point in the future. Her defense for not giving a complete rundown of her current state before play?
“I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
Now, some readers may be looking at this and thinking I was unduly harsh in my decision to decline to pursue any possibility of playing with this s-type in the future. However, I reject this notion on the grounds that by not giving the D-type a complete precis of her physical, emotional and mental state before pickup play, she took away the D-type’s right to informed consent. Had she admitted her condition, the D-type said, she would never have agreed to the scene in the first place. I consider this to be akin to rape, because in both cases the right to consent and self-determination as to whether the contact in question is appropriate are taken away.
Exhibit B: An s-type whom I loved dearly decided she did not want to be involved with me on a romantic level. Being dumped is always messy, but I tried to make the best of it and remain friends with her. Still, I knew some limits had to be set for this to be a tolerable state of affairs for me. I specified that I did not want to know what she got up to at events or with whom, I didn’t care to see or hear about the marks, and in general the only thing I needed or wanted to know was whether she had a good time. I asked this of her in an effort to preserve my heart, which her rejection had wounded cruelly. She agreed and said she understood.
One week later, she texted me while I was in the bathtub, telling me all about the wonderful pickup play scene she’d had. I told her she was violating my consent and reminded her I didn’t need or want to know. She pursued the conversation. I cut her off.
Over the next two months, we stayed in sporadic contact. She broke every promise she made to me. She still wanted to tell me about the scenes she was having elsewhere. Later, I met another s-type and we went to an event hosted by a friend of hers. I asked her beforehand not to acknowledge me and to keep a safe distance, because I didn’t feel safe or comfortable around her. She agreed to this. No sooner did I walk through the door than I saw her off in a corner, serving coffee. She waved at me.
Her excuse for repeatedly breaking the limits I established?
“But I only did it ONCE!”
Again, none of these on their own sounds like a big deal…until you consider that she managed to find ways to keep herself inconveniently within earshot and line of sight. By 11:30, I’d had enough and my s-type and I departed. I made it half a block before an anxiety attack drove me to my knees, leaving me hyperventilating and exhibiting all the classic symptoms of cardiac arrest. My s-type had dialed “9-1” into her phone by the time I finally got myself under control.
This series of CVs wasn’t grandiose…but it was devastating just the same. And they left me thinking long and hard about how to prevent future occurrences.
Because of these incidents and a dozen others like them, I changed how I went about expressing what is and is not a consent violation in my estimation. Today, my hard limits are clearly and explicitly stated. I state them right up front in my FetLife profile. I state them on the House Unicron website. I reiterate them constantly in my daily dealings to clarify that no, my limits haven’t changed. I learned to do this the hard way: by experiencing and witnessing CVs often enough and traumatically enough that it made an explicit, black-and-white statement crucial to my ability to function safely and successfully in this lifestyle. They are not flexible and I deal harshly and decisively with those who violate them at this point in the game, because I have seen and experienced the havoc that permitting bad behavior, including CVs, can wreak.
So, here’s my recipe for setting hard limits. Adjust as you see fit for your own purposes.
You cannot set hard limits if you don’t know what they are. Any behavior that upsets, disgusts, alarms or harms you in ANY dimension should be considered a hard limit. In my case, some of my hard limits seem fairly extreme…until you consider the damage that not having these limits in place has caused in the past. Your hard limits should not only reflect what you expect from others, but what you offer in return.
Be prepared to reciprocate.
Whichever side of the slash you’re on, you do NOT have the right to establish a hard limit that you yourself have no intention of upholding. Double standards can be fun in certain kinds of play, such as a mindfuck, but hard limits are hard limits are hard limits, period, full stop, end of discussion. An s-type can’t insist on a D-type observing and honoring her hard limits and then break his (adjust genders as appropriate for your dynamic and situation) or vice versa. In other words, if you don’t want it done to you, don’t do it to your partner.Yes, this is a reiteration of my previous point…because I happen to think it is THE primary cause of CVs from both sides of the slash.
State your hard limits clearly and explicitly.
Simple, plain English is the rule here. Don’t be coy or use cloaked, coded, flowery or “legal” language to try to get your point across. My hard limits are as simple to read and understand as the Ten Commandments, and are phrased in a way that leaves no question as to my meaning or intent. In fact, the very title, “I DO NOT CONSENT,” states plainly that these are not items for negotiation, discussion or debate. They are what they are, and anyone who wishes to deal with me will honor them.
Be ruthless in your enforcement.
Violate my hard limits and you’re done, plain and simple. No second chances. No protestations of “But I only did it ONCE!” No reprieve, no parole, no mercy. These limits also apply to my dealings in the wider world. I accept that not everyone knows or is aware of my limits, especially in the vanilla world, and so I check those who violate them ONCE and make it clear they do not get a second warning. I enforce my hard limits because they define not only how I expect to be treated, but how I treat others as well: with dignity, honor and respect for their needs, tastes, preferences and feelings. Just like you can’t set a hard limit you won’t honor when it applies to your own behavior, you cannot expect people to take your hard limits seriously if you do not enforce them when necessary.
Your hard limits are an expression of how you see the world, what you want and need from your partner and what you offer them in return. Having solidly established, clearly explained hard limits can make or break a D/s dynamic, a friendship or a workplace relationship. Make sure you have your hard limits set in stone and that your partner is clear about what they are. In a truly successful dynamic, your hard limits and your partner’s will mesh in such a way that CVs should never occur.
Please join me on #FreakyFriday, when I’ll be discussing practical limits and what to do when they are violated.
Starting off too hard can kill your dynamic before it ever gets properly off the ground. Incorporating kink into your activities can be as elaborate as ropes, restraints and impact implements, or as simple as adding in erotic tickling. As with any other BDSM/kink activity, enthusiastic consent should always be obtained prior to play.