Today’s guest blogger is the excellent Quenby, who can be found at QuenbyCreatives on Twitter or over on their excellent blog Queerdoconfusion. I’m especially excited about their post today because it takes a BDSM topic that is usually presented in a very simplistic manner and explores it in a lot more depth: safe words. Do you use safe words? How conscious is that choice? And are they serving the purpose that you need them to? Take it away Quenby…
God, I love a bit of office role play. I also know that sexy office scenes are pretty popular with blog readers, given that fucking in the office is one of the most popular posts ever on the site. So when erotic author Cass Ford sent me this extract I was absurdly excited. It’s an extract from her book – Prince of Sin – and if this sexy scene has whet your appetite
There are very few blog posts that I regret writing – even if I’m wrong I’m happy to show how wrong I was and reflect on what I’ve learned. This one, though, I don’t like: it was written a long time ago when I didn’t have the language or knowledge to express what I was really talking about – consensual non-consent, and established trust within relationships.
‘Yes’ is a powerful word. It gives someone permission to do things. Some people choose to say yes to certain people – you can fuck me, but he can’t. She can suck me off, but I’m not so sure about her. Some people give their consent for specific acts – you can shag me, but you can’t put it in my ass. You can cane me, but not so hard it draws blood. Restrain me, but with soft ropes not gaffer tape.
Etc, etc, etc ad infinitum – humans are infinitely different and weird and filthy. A man who chokes me with my consent is a stunning, cunt-wetting sex-god. A man who chokes me without my consent is a criminal.
But I hate the idea that I have to give that consent explicitly, and I hate that often I’m told to be more cautious than I am. I hate the idea that ‘no means no’.
If boys always took my ‘no’s to mean exactly that, I’d have spent most of my life crywanking myself to completion after disappointing vanilla sex, imagining how good it could be if he’d just, you know, spit in my fucking mouth or hit me in the face or something.
A blanket ‘no means no’ rule doesn’t hold up to scrutiny in my longer relationships – it’s an easy and useful default in an unfamiliar situation, and can prevent people from being forced into doing things they don’t want to do. But when relationships develop and communication muddies the waters, ‘no’ can mean anything from ‘I just can’t be bothered’ to ‘persuade me’ to ‘I’ll get wet if you make me do it.’
The massive ‘but’
I don’t speak for everyone. Obviously. My own views on consent within the relationships I enter into is probably pretty extreme, and if I only gave you my word on what ‘no’ means I could potentially cause a lot of damage.
So I want to show you a selection of other views on the matter. All the women I asked about this gave excellent, thoughtful and interesting responses. Not one of them had a simple answer.
Mags – If I give you a real ‘no’, you’ll know
The first time I had buttsex, my boyfriend didn’t ask, he didn’t even tell me he was going to do it – he just did it. Part of me was outraged that he didn’t ask, but a bigger part of me loved that he didn’t.
Overall, I don’t say no (and mean it) often…I sometimes play at “no”, but there is always a massive fucking “yes” in my eyes and I guess I’m lucky that I have always had partners who can read me.
A genuine “no” is accompanied by body language that also says “no” loud and clear – taking myself out of arms reach, covering my body, leaving the room – but it’s nearly always no from the outset, I can count on one hand, and still have digits spare, the times a yes has become a no.
Girl A – Consent is agreed beforehand
For me, the word “no” is very rarely used in the bedroom. Once you’ve made it that far, there’s not very much I’m not willing to at least try. Previous to this we’ve probably discussed my hard limits.
If I’ve invited you back to mine, or am coming back to yours, we’ve spoken about what unspeakable things we’d like to do to each other. But I don’t outright ask/get asked “would you like to have sex?”, and then wait for an affirmative.
Something like having sex with me when I’m asleep? With some of my boys I wouldn’t mind, but I would rather we’d discussed it beforehand.
Amanda C – None of us can read minds
My idea of consent and responsibility for consent resides in this larger idea: you can’t read anyone’s mind, and nobody can read yours. You have a responsibility to yourself to clearly express what you want and how you feel to other people. This doesn’t mean being a totally unfiltered open book, but understanding that although there might be a lucky chance that someone else totally groks to your signals, you’re responsible for stating what you mean, what you want, how you feel.
I think that a lot of people react to grey areas by attempting to make a list of dos and don’ts, which is just impossible because you can’t make a list for everything, and what, are people going to carry a little laminated card with them? Like some kind of flowchart for banging?
You can’t assume the “whys” of other folks, be it in sex, dress, behavior, etc. This doesn’t mean that everyone is being deceitful, and showing one thing but feeling another. It just means that you can’t read their mind, and they can’t read yours.
Girl B – It depends on how well I know you
It very much depends on who I’m with. With one guy we have talked about everything we both like and don’t, so yes for him means that anything we’ve talked about goes. Part of that package is me saying “no”, because I love to play that game. I love pretending to say no and having him do it anyway. But I trust him and he knows the score.
If I was with someone new, yes would mean…well anything I’m comfortable with. If I haven’t already discussed it and something happens that I don’t like, then no definitely means no. If he doesn’t know me well I don’t think he has the right to interpret that “no” as anything other than serious.
As a woman who has said no and meant it, and been ignored, this is a tricky area. I was in a relationship years ago. One night, I didn’t want sex (at all, I was drunk and spinning and made it very clear), but he pinned me down, covered my mouth, forced himself on me and anally raped me. Now in a different situation with a guy I trusted and had talked about that with, it may have been a huge fucking turn-on. In this case, I was scared, unable to breathe, angry, violated. His view was that I was his girlfriend and he could do what he liked. Wrong.
Yes, no, maybe, please
I don’t know how to end this, but I don’t know the answer to the original question either. What is consent, and how can you make sure you have it?
You can ask for it outright, but that takes away the potential for fun sex that pushes boundaries and makes people uncomfortable and makes me come like it’s the end of the world.
Or you can guess that you have it, but then you risk damaging someone you’re aiming to delight.
But I think it’s OK to not have a blanket rule, so I’m happy to chuck ‘no means no’ away for the time being. If you’re following a set of hard-and-fast rules on consent then you’re likely to trip up regularly – either by pushing things far too far or not far enough – because everyone’s different.
No doesn’t mean no for everyone. Sometimes it means ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ or ‘persuade me’ or ‘not right now.’ To fully understand exactly what it means you have to listen really carefully.
Postscript: This was written in response to some reactions to my previous post on buttsex, in which a guy did sexy things to me after I’d begged him not to. Many thanks to @hellsbell_ for raising the issue.
Red. Purple. Stop. やめて. Dead puppies.
Whatever your kink, if it extends beyond ‘tie me up with silk scarves and tickle me with a feather duster’ chances are someone’s suggested a safe word at some point. I think safe words suck, and here’s why:
They encourage you to push yourself further than you might like.
There’s a challenge implicit in a safe word. A safe word says ‘this is the absolute limit, as much as I can take. If you do anything more I will die/call the police/punch you into the sun.’ And so when you know that there’s a word you can use at any time to make it stop, all you’re trying to do is prevent yourself from using that word.
A safe word implies that you’re playing just to see how hard you can take it, so you want to prove that you can take it as hard as possible. You are superwoman – undefeated in all 12 rounds of this sex. He’ s beating/fucking/electrocuting you so badly that you’ve never been in so much pain – you’re gritting your teeth and biting your tongue and hating every miserable minute of it. Boy, you have never won at sex so hard as you’re winning now.
The challenge is not the fun bit – the fun is the fun bit. If you have a safe word that encourages you to push yourself to the point where you don’t like it, you might as well call ‘red’ right at the beginning and sneak off for a wank – you’re more likely to have a good time.
They curb your imagination
Hurting someone is a challenge, and one of the most difficult things to get right. You have to know roughly what they like, what they hate, and wobble uncomfortably on the high-wire that runs between those two things.
You also, if you want me to really love you, have to do some stuff that’s just for you. I might hate being caned (stupid stingy unsexy ouch fuck fuck ouch) but if you love it then it’s awesome, and I’ll grin and bear as much as possible, and even sneak in some brattiness between strikes if that’s what gets you off.
So yes, there’s a lot to balance. But sadly with a safe word there’s less incentive to work at that balance. If you give a girl a safeword, that’s a free pass for you to do whatever you like until she yells ‘stop’, which means that she and you miss out on the joy that can be had from playing around in that grey area – pushing things she doesn’t want to be pushed, into places she might not be keen on you pushing them.
They require negotiation
Anything that delays the sexual act, or requires chatter and discussion of a practical nature, will kill my drive pretty quickly. I love the pre-sex preamble where you chat about things you have done and talk about stuff you both find hot. It means that when you do get into bed you can experiment with the new knowledge you’ve acquired.
But if you chat around sex in order to tick things off a bizarre safety list, it’s no fun at all.
“So, you like to be spanked? OK. I’m going to spank you, and I’m going to start really gently, so let me know on a scale of 1-10 how much that hurts. And if I do anything too hard just say ‘red’ and I’ll immediately stop and give you a nice cuddle and a hot chocolate.”
See? It’s just not sexy. There’s no uncontrolled passion in that. As soon as you have to codify it and lay down rules, the spontaneity is ripped out of it and you end up fucking like you’re following an IKEA furniture construction leaflet. I don’t want to know that you’ll stop when I ask, I don’t want to know exactly how many strokes you’ll give me before we have a rest and a chat about my boundaries. I want you to do things you like, things I like, things you think we might both like, and see at what point I start tearing the walls down.
“So what turns you on?”
“This one time a guy bent me over and paddled me till I cried, then fucked me in the ass while he called me a ‘good girl.’”
“Take your fucking pants off.”