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Saturday, 18 April 2015

Consent in Roma: The Vanilla Dominatrix and Consent Culture

....the Vanilla Dominatrix isn't
interested in consent.
ShinyDiscard on Reddit remarked:
I've read previous articles from you but I find it hard to distinguish the consent in some of your writings.
I promised a follow up article, and this is it. 

(The tldr is; (a) All my consent is by necessity up front. (b) I don't mind putting up with bad things to get to the good things. (c) I'm a submissive, so the fact of putting up with bad things turns me on. (d) I have hard limits, but we never go anywhere near them.)

I don't talk a lot about consent because the Vanilla Dominatrix* isn't interested in consent.
*Generalizing here, your mileage may vary.

I mean, yes, she needs your consent. She's doesn't want to be evil for real, and the fact you consent is what gives her permission to explore being selfish and in charge.

However, she's vanilla -- doesn't identify as kinky -- and therefore has no motivation to make any mental effort in the erotic sphere where she would usually expect to relax.

Put her in charge? Fine.

Ask her to have long discussions about specifics, get affirmative consent for each and every action, or check in with you throughout whatever it is you get up to? Why should she bother?

She's not interested in the BDSM subculture, and therefore not interested in engaging with the complexities of Consent with a capital "C". This was all your idea after all!

This is less of a problem than it sounds. Let's back up a little bit. Why is consent so important in BDSM?



...doms aren't actually evil,
subs aren't really doormats
Obviously, big picture, it lets the BDSM happen. Among decent folk, doms aren't actually evil, subs aren't really doormats. Nobody wants to victimize somebody accidentally, or be a victim.

No consent, no BDSM happiness.

However, the devil is in the details!

Small picture, consent stops unwanted bad things happening to the sub. It does this positively, through listing preferred or allowed activities, and negatively, via setting limits or safewording, forbidding or curtailing activities.

I think you can divide the "unwanted bad things" into: hardships, experiences that just go with the territory that you don't mind putting up with; and disasters, things that have a serious impact when they happen, and usually belong in your hard limits.

What makes it complicated is that, for masochists and for subs who enjoy testing or proving their submission -- i.e. for most subs and bottoms! -- some "bad things", however, are wanted. Let's call these "kicks".

Finally, some BDSM experiences are just pure pleasures. For example. unless it's triggering in some way, being tied up and edged to an intense orgasm is mostly just a pleasant sensual experience with BDSM trappings

This gives us a spectrum like this:

Pleasures-----|-------Kicks-------|--------Hardships------|------Disasters

The experiences get nastier (as seen from a vanilla perspective) from left to right.

(However, specific triggers and preferences may make this spectrum messier, e.g. a foot fetishist might get off on kissing smelly feet, something that would be a hardship for most people, and an abuse survivor might find sensual bondage a disaster.)

The boundaries don't always remain fixed. When you're very turned on, they tend to shift to the right as more intense stimulation becomes physically pleasurable, submissive and masochistic urges grow stronger:

Pleasures-------------|Kicks---------------|Hardships------------|Disasters

Or even:
Pleasures----------------------------|Kicks------------------------||Disasters

This can be a real problem in the aftermath. For example, not everybody is happy waking up with whip marks, or a sore anus, or the memory anal penetration, or of cross dressing... even if they were into it at the time.

It's also true that different types of submissives have different boundaries. Somebody who was primarily a "bottom", and only interested in very specific experiences might look like this.

Pleasures|-Kicks-|-Hardships-|----------------------------------Disasters

You are, my friend, in your
last chance saloon.
 
It wouldn't take much discomfort or even boredom to have them yelling the safe word, which is fine and good, because it's all about consent.

This is why BDSM subculture is so big on affirmative consent, including pre-negotiation, checking in, and a presumption of  not changing limits mid scene. However, such a culture is only possible because everybody is interested in making it work... which brings us back to the Vanilla Dominatrix.

If you are submissive man in a long term relationship with a vanilla woman, then your negotiating position is really very poor. This is especially true if you've been an entitled pest about your kink in the past, nagged her to be kinky, then topped from the bottom.

You are, my friend, in your last chance saloon. You should be focusing on, What's in it for her? and doing your best to demonstrate a convincing answer.

This means being very clear about the difference between a hardship and a disaster, and just accepting the former as the price of the pleasures and kicks.

The world need not end just because
a sub isn't getting what he
wants all the time!
Being bored, upset, in pain, frustrated, sad... taking too much punishment... unless you have specific triggers, these hardships won't kill you.  The world need not end just because a sub isn't getting what he wants all the time!

Other stuff -- I don't want to list it here, and a lot of it is individual anyway -- the stuff you can't easily recover from, is a disaster.

So, yes, you do need a safeword, especially if you are going to be genuinely restrained. However, that doesn't mean you have to belabor your hard limits with your partner. Very few of them will be in her wish list -- she's vanilla, after all -- and most of them will be things you can veto as they come up, if they come up.  The only hard limits you really must establish with her are ones she might otherwise blunder over, for example names she shouldn't call you or out-of-bounds sex acts.

You'd think that once your partner has discovered the joys of Femdom, you'd have a better negotiating position. However, my experience is that it doesn't work this way. First, no matter how kinky they become, many women are slow to identify as a domme. Second, you now have a dominatrix who is used to getting her way and still has the option to shake her head and end the whole arrangement.

And that's why it's sometimes hard to distinguish consent in my writings.

The only way I can get kink is by giving my consent upfront, ahead of time, also consenting to is taking the rough with the smooth.

If this sounds a bit grim, it isn't.

There's one factor that I've left until last. If you are submissive like me, rather than merely a bottom with submissive fantasies (which is OK, by the way, and probably less inconvenient!), then your boundaries change depending on your frame of reference.

Sitting here thinking about some of the hardships I've experienced with Xena. e.g. frustration and boredom when left on my knees too long, or a whipping that was unpleasantly intense, my boundaries look like this:

Pleasures-----|-------Kicks-------------------------------|------Disasters

The Kicks have completely absorbed the Hardship category! Yes, I experience all sorts of things I'd prefer to avoid. However, the fact I can do nothing about them (without disrupting our relationship), tells me that in this respect Xena's power over me is real. That genuine dis-empowerment is both immensely satisfying and an almost painful turn on.

This happens in the moment as well. A typical train of thought might be, "I'm bored and tired. Why can't I get into bed? How long will she leave me kneeling? Why do I do this? I've had enough... Oh, but I can't bring myself simply to tell her enough. I can't disobey. OMG. Now I'm horribly turned on but I'm in a chastity device and can't get off until next week.... and I can't do anything about that either! OMG! OMG!"

I strongly suspect this experience awaits most submissives who decide to let go. That doesn't, however, mean that letting go is a good idea for most people, or that you are not a proper submissive unless you give your consent upfront.

Don't resign yourself to just getting off on other people's adventures! When we started out, my wife was vanilla. Use my manuals to help you walk the same Femdom path! There's one for him, and one for her

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