Reflections On Safewords and Enthusiastic Consent
So, QuizzicalPussy posted a fantastic reflection on rapists and consent, and enthusiastic consent is a topic that has been on my mind, lately, given my new position on top of the world. (Okay, just on top of the slutling.)
Something that has contributed to my hesitation as a dominant figure in play has been the concern that I will take things too far. As I was laying slutling down for the first time in preparation for play, I made sure that we set up a safeword. I actually began by asking him to come up with it, because it would be a word he’d never say in bed. He was drawing a bit of a blank, so I suggested “Bananaphone.” It’s my go-to safeword, spawned from a joke, but totally practical, in my mind. When playing with my roommate, I told her, “The safeword is bananaphone,” and I don’t think she took me seriously. I’m a fan of bananaphone because… come on. Tell me it doesn’t make you laugh. In my mind, it eases the tension. However, it probably isn’t everyone’s style, because some people probably like their bedroom to be a serious place. I feel safe and secure if I can laugh, so it suits me. If my slutling comes up with a safeword that’s more suitable for him, then I’ll heed that, but until that time comes, bananaphone it is.
As a top dealing with a new bottom, I try to take my slutling to places he’s never been, but I try to go slowly and remind him that we can quit or change things at any time. I don’t want to do things without his consent, so sometimes I probably seem very redundant when I’m reminding him that we can stop, or I can change something. Right now, we haven’t come up with specific words to coordinate with the “traffic light” system, and so when he says the safeword, I stop everything I’m doing, ask him what he needs me to change (or avoid), and ask him if he wants to continue.
The reason the safeword issue really came to the front of my mind while reading about consent is because, while I’ll at least ask about a safeword or suggest one for my bottoms, no one has ever done me the same courtesy.
Every time I have played the bottom, no one has asked me if there’s a specific word that I’d like to use to indicate that I needed them to stop, or back off. In fact, I can’t remember anyone ever asking me what my hard limits are before playing with me. Sure, in some circumstances, they’ve come up before. I’d probably given my best friend the, “There are very few kinks I don’t have, and some of them are x, y, and z,” speech at some point before our sex life started getting kinky. I have also never played with someone who directly asked me what I hoped to get out of the sexual encounter that I was about to participate in. I’ve never been offered the chance to say, “So, in agreeing to hook up with you, I’m definitely consenting to some kissing, some biting, manual stimulation, and some protected oral sex, but I do not want to have vaginal intercourse.”
I’m just going to put it out there: that strikes me as being a little fucked up.
I think spontaneity is fun and sexy. I have had long-term partners that I was always down to do any kind of playing with, or that would respect my decision if I said, “Let me suck you off instead of letting you fuck me,” so I didn’t feel the need to “negotiate” the kind of sex we were going to have beforehand… but that doesn’t mean that everyone in a long-term relationship is always 100% DTF (down to fuck, for those of you who have slept through Pop Culture Acronyms 101). Meanwhile, I do know people who have been in relationships and have been sexually violated by their partners, not always through complete force, but sometimes just because their partner went much further than they wanted to at the time, and may not have heeded a response that was along the lines of, “I don’t want to do this right now.”
The bulk of responsibility doesn’t always belong to your partner, either. I’m not attempting to victim-blame anyone, but some of the responsibility to bring up the limits of your consent can’t always lie with your partner. Be your own advocate. If you’re planning a hook-up, talk about what you expect beforehand. It’s easy to change your plans in the middle of things if you want to add some things on, but it’s hard to take things off the menu when you didn’t even know they were being cooked up in the first place.
I’m not entirely sure why I never bothered to address the point of safewords with my play partners. I haven’t had many who were kinky, and a partner has to earn a large degree of trust before I’ll consider engaging in any of the edge play that I treasure so dearly. It wasn’t necessarily a smart oversight on my part, and I’m fortunate that it hasn’t screwed me over. The partners that I have allowed to choke me have generally heeded my “tap out” system without negotiation beforehand, but as I’ve said before – I haven’t had many kinky partners. The mistake I made was thinking that being the submissive partner meant that the person in charge should address safety concerns, and otherwise, I assumed they were on the level.
I encourage you all to negotiate the activities you consent to, and a “safeword” or light system before you start playing with someone.
With that said, it doesn’t always work out.
The only random hook-up that I had (with As Long As You’re Clean guy) had some vague negotiation prior. While we never addressed safewords, we did, through casual flirting and storytelling, establish a vague outline of what we expected from our encounter. We also negotiated the issue of prophylactics, and I told him he wasn’t getting anywhere with me unless there was a condom involved.
This part of the negotiation was pointless.
Yet another place where I should have been proactive was making sure that he wore the condom I provided… because he didn’t. Not initially, at least. When I sat up and realized he was barebacking me, I should have made him take me home that instant. Instead, I gloved him up and we finished, and then he took me home, and I never contacted him again.
It didn’t sit well with me, and I felt absurd for being upset about it. My feelings were valid, though, because he did something I didn’t specifically consent to and it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I did consent to intercourse, but I didn’t consent to unprotected intercourse. It was a substantial violation of trust, and waiting for my period (as well as getting tested for STIs) after the encounter was nerve-wracking. I was fortunate to find that I was neither pregnant nor infected, but it certainly has made me a much more cautious person about how I navigate the process of having sex with other people.
I guess the bottom line of this post is that you can’t wait for someone else to be proactive about taking care of you. You have to ask for the things you need, instead of hoping your partner will bring it up at some point, or assuming that they’re informed about consent and safety procedures. Talk to your partners about safewords to use when your sexual activity is getting too rough, approaching your limits, or when you need them to proceed with caution. Negotiate what you’re interested in doing during a sexual encounter ahead of time so that a misunderstanding might not ruin the fun. None of these things can completely protect someone from unpleasant experiences, but anything that can potentially help avoid unpleasant situations is worth doing.