I don’t wanna know what’s coming next. I want you to surprise me. I want you to just know what I want. I don’t want to have to explain everything to you. I want you to move in and take me and do Terrible Things and bend me to your will and make me beg for mercy and have it all be hot and sexy and dangerous and special and beautiful without. All. Of. This. Fucking. TALK.
Welcome to my Animal Brain. The part of me that absolutely wants to abdicate responsibility and live in the florid, feral state of abandoned, untrammeled lust. The part that brings me so much of the hottest encounters, the beast that surfaces when I hit the deep headspace of truly abandoned sexual excess, primal masochism, blind and full-throated submission. You know the part that needs a choke-chain and cattle prod to control, lest I wind up in some really bad situations.
What is it, man?!
It would seem that there is very little romance immediately evident in having to sit down in the cold light of day and negotiate to get your desires met. I mean, seriously? You want me to sit down at the dining room table with a checklist of “Yes, No and Maybe” and explain to you, in graphic detail, exactly what I want to do with you when we get nasty? Please. It sounds about as sexy as a goddamned root canal. Negotiation isn’t something that comes easy for everyone. But it is part of many interactions in the BDSM community. And what negotiation is varies for everyone.
If you look at what Wikipedia has to say about negotiation, you’ll get an idea about why it sometimes feels about 180° from what hot-and-sexy-freaky-sex oughta be about:
Negotiation is a dialogue between two or more people or parties, intended to reach an understanding, resolve point of difference, or gain advantage in outcome of dialogue, to produce an agreement upon courses of action, to bargain for individual or collective advantage, to craft outcomes to satisfy various interests of two people/parties involved in negotiation process. Negotiation is a process where each party involved in negotiating tries to gain an advantage for themselves by the end of the process. Negotiation is intended to aim at compromise.
Oh yeah, I’m wet now, baby. Let’s dialogue about collective advantages and producing an agreement. Yeah … that’s it. Bargain harder, you filthy pig … craft that outcome … Come on. This is bullshit! Let’s get to the kinky sex and perversion already!
Aww, do I gotta?
It can be tempting, especially when we are first beginning to explore our kinks, and darker desires, to just jump in with both feet and let the chips fall where they may. And there is validity to that no-holds barred approach! However, the less planning you do on the way in, the more difficult a place you may find yourself in if you wind up in the deep end a bit over your head. Crafting an outcome is something that has to start with you. It can be a form of mental masturbation.
Yep, it is true. Your fantasies, the kinky sex of your daydreams and personal spank bank are, in reality, your first steps in negotiation. See, you can’t figure out how to tell a potential partner what you want until you know yourself what you want! And those fantasies, those explorations, that time you read that story about someone being spanked and thought “That sounds hot. I wonder…?” is you beginning to negotiate with yourself. You are giving yourself permission to explore, to feel comfortable with your desires, to set the stage for that hot encounter.
If you consider every fantasy you have to be your conscious mind negotiating the turbulent ocean of your own desire, it can be a bit clearer how it directly ties in with your desires and your kinky libido. Giving yourself permission to fantasize about spanking that willing bottom, about being tied up and ravaged, gives you the means by which you can take those nebulous desires and focus them into a goal, into a real encounter. And holding on to the erotic change that they have in your mind and heart can help make negotiation with a partner a bit less daunting and dry!
When I first became involved in the BDSM and Leather communities and realized I was going to have to tell people what the hell I wanted in order to get what I wanted, I kind of freaked out. I had always relied on body language, innuendo and sheer luck to have my sexual needs met. And for me, that had worked out quite well, actually. My first consciously dominant /submissive interaction was not one that took place within the bounds of the kink communities. It was a spontaneous, conscious knowing glance between me and this man, and everything just fell into place. The more sexually aggressive he was, the more submissive I became, and the more he took the more I wanted to give. At no point did we sit down while I calmly turned to him and said “So, when you pull my hair, that turns me on. A lot. So could you do that again?” It just … happened.
And that is great! Sometimes those magical things happen. Sometimes. Occasionally. Maybe even once in a lifetime. More often? If you want to get to the point where your partner knows you well enough to take you and pull your hair just so? It is best to let ‘em know what works for you. The romance of the free-form encounter is quite alluring. But more often? People meet one another, feel as though they may have something in common, and then need to spend quality time figuring out how to get those commonalities aligned so everyone can get busy.
But it’s so embarrassing!
My awkwardness around owning my desires and being straightforward about my needs is something I have worked hard to overcome. But one of the side-effects of my reticence is that I’ve had to become far more creative around negotiation. So the silver lining? I’ve found ways to open negotiations that don’t feel super awkward and work well for me. Sometimes taking the long way, taking time, telling the tale, can make the tedious task of navigating desires into its own pleasurable pastime!
Storytelling is my favorite way to negotiate! I love relating stories to people. I regularly get up on stage and talk about very intimate experiences, and even though it might seem as though it veers into the realm of “TMI” (A term I hate … who gets to say what it “too much?!), in reality, all of us have deep and dark sexy secrets we long to share. To titillate, to arouse, to shock, to entice … there are many reasons to tell someone about a sexy encounter you’ve had, or wish to have!
If I am interested in someone, sometimes it is far easier to just tell them about a sexy experience I’ve had, let them ask questions about it, ask them about their reactions to my story, and this is an easy way to Scheherazade your way into a thousand and one nights of sensual explorations. Sometimes, I will write down a little interlude, a fantasy, a daydream I’ve had and share it with a partner, just to bounce the idea off of them. This lets them know I have desires in a particular direction, and gives them permission to ask me questions about how they might fulfill that fantasy, too!
Remember in school how you’d write little notes to your friends and surreptitiously slip them between one another, building dialogue line by line? Negotiating an encounter can be something that builds in a similar way. Opening an email exchange with “I was wondering what it might be like for you to discipline me because I have been very, very bad. What do you think you might do to punish me?” can open the door for a discussion about a long-held fantasy, and help establish a comfort around bringing up the topic of kinky play. Opening up negotiations can be as subtle and informal as just exchanging a series of sexy messages about what you would – or would not – find arousing, titillating, sexy as hell.
Once you feel a little more comfortable telling these stories, it is time to move on to specifics. It can be tough to look your partner or potential partner in the eye and tell them that you’ve always had an interest in water sports, so could they please tinkle on you next time, you know, nature calls? Your partner might not even ever have heard of watersports, and you might not know how to even bring it up! That is where negotiation checklists can be helpful.
A negotiation checklist is a big roster of stuff. Stuff you can do, that is kinky in nature. It can be a list that just has “Yes, No, Maybe” on it, and you can go down the list and see what might suit your fancy.
If you Google “BDSM Checklist” you’ll find many variations. There’s a pretty good interactive checklist on the BDSM Resource Center site, and you can even print it out afterward!
What is great about this is it gives you the opportunity to go back and negotiate with yourself. You might see something on the list and think “I’ve never even thought about tickling as a kinky activity, but maybe I’d like to tie up and tickle my lover!” so that can go into the “maybe” box. Seeing these desires laid out before you can help you look at them a bit more objectively.
And the other thing? If someone made this list, it means you know you’re not alone in your kinky desires. Not every list is inclusive of everything, and there are more things under the sun than you and I can even imagine. If there is something in your heart that you really desire but is NOT on the list, add that sucker on in there!
Be sure to be clear about what is NOT OK, too. If you have boundaries, limits, activities that you do not want to try for any reason? Make those absolutely clear. It can be easy to eagerly list all of the stuff you want to try. And it is equally important, when negotiation, to list your “limits:” that is stuff that is not to be explored.
It makes no difference why you have a limit, or why you don’t desire to explore a specific activity. And it is important to safeguard yourself against pressure – internal pressure or external pressure – to push those boundaries against your will. Top, bottom, dominant submissive switch, all people engaging in kink have limits and boundaries, and it important that we respect ourselves, respect our limits, and the boundaries of those with whom we play.
You’ll thank me later. Honest.
Negotiating for play is about more than just what you are going to do during the scene. Talking about what happens after the scene is equally as important, if not more so. Kinky encounters can have all kinds of aftereffects. Some people are so “high” on the endorphins and the natural buzz of their encounters that they cruise in a cloud of bliss for days and days! Some people cruise, then crash. Others will feel fine for a while then have an unexpected “drop” after the encounter. Often called “sub drop” or “top drop,” these are not unusual feelings to experience. After all, BDSM can be very intense physically as well as emotionally!
When you negotiate for a scene, be sure to cover what your post-scene needs might be. Are you someone who needs a lot of physical contact? Or are you in need of alone-time? Letting your partner(s) know this can help boost your chances for having a memorable encounter.
If one of you is superhuggybear after that hot flogging and the other prefers to have time alone, it doesn’t necessarily mean you re doomed to dissatisfaction! By negotiating this beforehand, perhaps the less cuddly person can be flexible in order to meet your needs, or perhaps the more contact-oriented person can make arrangements for post-play blanket-and-fuzzy time with another friend of lover who can fulfill that need. Where there is a will, there is a way.
The most important thing about having to do this thing I hate, and actually talk about my needs, is that it becomes easier over time. The more I share, the easier it gets. And the easier it gets the more eager I become to reveal my desires.
have had some wonderful scenes that arose spontaneously, with little or no negotiation, and I have had scenes that were very carefully choreographed in order to provide as safe an encounter as possible. All of these encounters have their own place in my heart, and all of them are wonderful and valuable. And despite my recalcitrance around having to tell on myself, having to discuss my desires? I can say, with confidence, revealing my secrets continues to be a provocative portal to decadent delights that I would never know if I didn’t work up the nerve to plumb the dark depths of desires.
My awkwardness and skeptical approach to negotiation has pushed me to find new ways to make it work for me, and I hope that you can also find ways to make this vital and important facet of sexual intelligence work for you, too!
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