The consent envelope
I’m writing about consent as an envelope for various reasons.
1. In terms of sessions or discreet ‘scenes’ it’s a good idea to follow the rule of not including anything in a session that hasn’t been negotiated beforehand.
2. For power exchange, chosen power imbalance relationships and playing with consensual non-consent, first agree what is off limits, what is on the table. Making this consent envelope that encompasses how the people involved will behave towards each other in scene, has mostly worked well for me.
3. This does not mean communication in scene can be dispensed with! You still need to agree in advance how that happens.
Back to the envelope, I will explain points 1,2,3 in more detail plus talking about how complications can arise.
Number one, yes I’m refering to BDSM sessions, a bounded time limited negotiated scene between consenting adults. Where those people take responsibility for stating what their limits are, what their desires are, what the intersection of those shared limits and desires looks like. Agree in advance what is allowed and is not allowed to happen. It’s hopeful to say that people get excited in scenes, that endorphins kick in on both sides, we want our scenes to be fun, playful, maybe challenging. In this intoxicating realm it’s easy to want to go FURTHER, to take more, to try that other new activity. Once a scene is in progress, once the excitement is underway we are in an altered psychological and physiological state, that is why it is wiser NOT to include new activities unnegotiated. You can always include this another time. Staying within the envelope of consent means you can build trust over time, adhering to limits even if you both agree to break them, shows your process is reliable. Top or Bottom, Domme or Sub, what you said is what you do… not more. The envelop is a closed system. (Safewords are still safewords, RED is still RED, more on this later)
Number two, chosen power imbalances, D/s dynamics, consensual non-consent. In real life I don’t do consensual non-consent scenes with people I don’t know well, the same goes for intense power exchange. In professional dominance this is where it can get tricky: because as service providers and service users, professional sessions often take place between relative strangers. They can also feature a level of physical intensity or ‘total power exchange’, with extra risks brought about by poor communication and/or unrealistic expectations. Fetish and kink exist within a highly pornified and fantasy based realm, the crossover between this and what is humanly achievable can be ‘interesting’ to say the least. Therefore making a consent envelope is extra important! Agreeing on what we will do, who we will be, what our dynamic is, what will or wont be allowed in session, and how we will communicate in session. I say this meaning it applies to ALL people involved. Contrary to popular belief Mistresses are NOT mind readers or all powerful. DESPITE FANTASY, If you set clear parameters beforehand there can be more fun in session. Honesty is awesome. Knowing exactly where limits are can mean being able to produce challenging sessions, enforce boundaries, and that those involved can fully let go into the experience. I could write a CHAPTER about performativity, length of association, ability to judge expectations, level of experience and more. Minimum recommendation: do a post scene check in, affirm consent, make sure everyone is OK!
Number three, communication in scene: which brings us back to number one! Talk about how you are going to do this BEFORE you begin. Be clear! Are there verbal cues that allow you to stay in role but also let you check in? For example: ‘Can you take more for me?’ is an open ended question that allows some one to say yes or no. ‘Mercy’ is a clear signal which indicates being close to a limit while showing respect for the power dynamic. If it’s a heavy power exchange scene in which a harsh take down has been agreed on, then how is this going to be managed outside scene time? Is aftercare is required? How do we fulfil a fantasy and make sure of safety? In all cases remember: fuck ups happen, over excitement happens, miscommunication happens: MAKE A PLAN, HAVE A STRATEGY. CHECK IN.
Number four, because outside the consent envelop there is all of the other communication: ideas and needs for aftercare, when and how we make check-ins post session, and in the case of mistakes or problems being able to open a dialogue about that. Again: MAKE A PLAN, HAVE A STRATEGY. CHECK IN.
Writing this I can think of a million ways consent can go wrong, that it happens despite all the ways we try to ensure safety. This blog is a small guideline for best practice in negotiating a good ‘surround’ for your scene. How THE CONSENT ENVELOPE could help you have better sessions and communication. Working backwards, may write a ‘Negotiation Guide’ next.