Notes on bondage negotiation style

The following is my response to a woman’s post on her negotiation style, which was very thorough and well-considered:


I wish everyone had such a clear and logical negotiation structure!

I completely agree with you that a checklist is not only a complete waste of time, but I also think it’s somewhat abusive. Asking a potential play partner to checkoff that she consents in advance to a certain type of touching, bruising, or sexual act before a scene is completely unwarranted and off-putting. For instance:…

Just the first 5 lines include “Anal Play” and then “Anal Plugs, small, medium and large”. So, let me get this straight, I’m at HEAT in the snack room, and I ask a woman with whom I’m interested in doing a rope scene, with maybe some mild impact play, who I’ve just met, to fill out and email to me this comprehensive and edgy list of sexual acts?

I would rightly be disqualified by asking them to even consider this.

On the other side of the coin, a good negotiation process like yours assures that things you enjoy are considered and included. For instance, if we negotiated a rope scene with a partial and maybe a full suspension, and didn’t talk about impact play, who would I know that impact play was something you enjoyed within certain limits?

What if you enjoyed breath play, and that was also something I really enjoyed and was skilled at? If no one brings it up, it would probably be excluded.

Another example is hair tying and “pulling”. Some bottoms absolutely love it, and others find it extremely annoying and a complete buzzkill.

Also, if we did a rope scene, but you have found suspension painful in the past, a rope scene could be negotiated, which didn’t include suspension, and time wouldn’t be spent in the scene trying to execute a suspension that you didn’t enjoy, and could be frustrating for the top. I am increasingly aware that precious scene time shouldn’t be spent trying to get someone in the air, when there are plenty of other fun bondage activities that can be engaged in on the ground or with partials.

I have seen tops negotiate from the viewpoint of “get them to agree to a wide set of parameters and then really push within those as far as possible” or “unless you specifically exclude something, I consider it something I can do”. This negotiation style I believe is meant to “trick” the sub into being abused, and then when they object during or after, the top can say “well, you said”, or “well, you didn’t say”.

I think your thorough negotiation style will ward off this type of “pushy” style simply by good communication that’s in writing on a message thread.

Now, there has to be a reasonableness on the part of the bottom in a scene as well. For instance, if you agree to a bondage scene, and talk about an arm-binder and a partial suspension, and the top ties the bottom’s ankles, which is reasonable in a bondage scene, and the sub says “I didn’t say you could tie my ankles”, that is a type of abusive withdrawal of permission on the side of the bottom.

I have seen something like this happen at least once, but it is rare, because of course, the top is vested with the physical power in the scene. I

For pick-up play, which I do quite often at Houston venues, there is not the luxury of a written record, or a carefully planned scene. There is also not the luxury of a “scene appointment” where one plans out a time and a venue.

I love the idea of a well negotiated scene, with a good set of parameters, that is planned out for a certain time in a certain venue!

You mention 20 minutes of negotiation for pick-up play. I wish! I often have less than 5 minutes to discuss a potential scene, the expectations of the bottom, such as “I want to be suspended”.

While this is fun and challenging to pull off a good scene, suspending such a partner is very often NOT a great first scene between rope partners.

It would be a pleasure to play with someone who had the thoughtfulness to invest the discussion time for a really great scene, and really, even more important than that, be able to say to themselves afterwards, “that was a great scene! I really want to make sure we play together again, maybe at HPEP next month. I’m going to txt him and see if he’s going and available!”

After all, in Houston, even though it’s a big community, we all see each other all the time. People in Houston tend to stay here, and what could be more fun than to have wonderful partners that you can play with on an advanced level?

Your negotiation style helps not only keep you safe, and enjoying wonderful play, but if more people engaged in this type of negotiation, everyone would have better play!