Understanding consent

There are a few key principles which are often mentioned in regards to BDSM, and particularly in regards to M/s and D&s relationships, which aren't particularly BDSM-specific. They are:

  • Trust
  • Respect
  • Honour
  • Consent

In this topic, I'd like to explore one of these: consent.

Consent is one of the key ideas often mentioned when talking about happy, useful, and productive BDSM relationships, but it's also a concept that isn't always well understood.

In many cases, it's promoted as being about negotiation, informing your partner, and getting ther agreement before doing anything. But is this all there is? Is it really that simple?

Consider sub-space. For many submissives and slaves, their first experience of sub-space is intense, powerful, profound, and even scary. It's typically unlike anything they've experienced before. How can they consent to experiencing it when they have no idea what it's like?

Additionally, a lot of people take a "No harm, no foul" approach to consent. This means that if they do something without consent and there are no negative consequences for their partner*, that it's all OK. But is this a reasonable approach?

Let's look at some scenarios and consider the consent implications:

Scenario 1

In February, 2012, The Sydney Morning Herald reported** on an incident in Oregon, USA, where passersby called police and reported seeing a car outside a market with a naked woman tied up in the back with duct tape over her mouth. Nine police cars were sent out to search for the vehicle.

In fact, the car stopped at several stores while the woman was tied up in the back, and the male driver had done some shopping at each and then moved on.

Later in the day, the driver returned home---to where the car was registered---to be met by police.

Scenario 2

Some years ago, I had gone to a GLB bar with two female friends for a talent show they were performing in, when a woman comes up and and asks, "My master was wondering if you were gay?"

Scenario 3

Imagine a male dominant who shows up at a play party. He presents as knowledgeable, has his own toybag and clearly well-used implements, and offers to flog any female who is interested.

One female who is experienced and who likes very heavy play volunteers. Unknown to her and others present, he is a misogynist and while giving the woman a most intense flogging which she quite enjoys, he mutters under his breath, "You stupid whore! I hate your kind! Take that, you bitch!"

* I use the term "partner" here loosely because if there is no consent, then are they really a partner and not a victim?

** Pair were just 'Valentine's Day role-playing' as nine police cars hunt down woman seen naked and bound in car 

Last modified: Sunday, 10 March 2013, 10:49 PM