There are beliefs, amongst some, that I am a consent violator or at the very least a bad negotiator. Both of these beliefs, in my opinion, stem from how I occasionally allow myself to do something (like give a hug for example) in the middle of a scene or evening with a partner that wasn’t explicitly talked about.
In the past 16 months, my approach to negotiation has changed. When I first started I use to ask my potential partner to fill in a multipage questionnaire that I had found on the internet. The questionnaire was so long that it became impossible for me to remember every detail of my partner’s answers without spending days to memorise it. As the amount of partner’s I casually played with increased I had trouble keeping one person’s answers separate from the answers of another person. This has led to a horrible mistake that resulted in disaster. I won’t get into details of the incident, needless to say, that the person involved has heard my most sincere apology for the unfortunate event.
This questionnaire, as extensive as it was. Wasn’t enough in some instances. For example, there is an incident where I was given enthusiastic permission to spank. But at the time, I didn’t even understand that permission to spank does not mean permission to spank as a result of a mistake, even playfully. Another incident that resulted in disaster, an instance where I felt bad for weeks, another instance where I have presented my most sincere apologies to the person concerned. From this I learned several important lessons, I am not simply sadistic for the sake of being sadistic, there has to be something more there for me to actually enjoy it. And not every masochist is a submissive (On some level I knew that but here I learned it the hard way)
Nowadays I prefer to have conversations with my potential partners. I ask very specifically about limits, hard or soft. I ask very specifically about what my potential partner is looking for from the scene. I emphasise the point that my partner can always voice her concerns at any time. If we agree that during the scene she calls me Sir, I make a point to tell her that if she calls me by my name that means there is a problem, that she needs to talk to me, not as a “sub” but an equal. I also emphasise that if for some reason, whatever reason, I don’t seem to respond to “No” (maybe I misinterpret it) I always respond to “Yellow” and “Red”. I also make sure to list all the possible ways what we are talking about doing might result in injury. I firmly believe that my partner deserves and is entitled to know exactly which risks she is taking.
I am not saying that this method is perfect either. It has led to its own problems. For instance, one person told me she was not interested in a romantic relationship with me, I agreed and understood. I wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship with her either. We had however never discussed hugging. Please understand that as a child I was once scolded for trying to refuse a hug from a great aunt. She had this annoying habit of giving full body hugs followed by a big wet smooch on both cheeks. As a boy, I wasn’t a fan of the big wet smooch on my cheeks by this person who was almost a stranger to me. But I was told that it was disrespectful to refuse such a gesture of affection. So when attending a full day workshop with this partner I hugged her. Not because I was trying to get in her pants but something about doing rope for a long time with someone it makes me feel close. After a while when I came to realise that it was making her uncomfortable. I asked her right then and there if it was. She confirmed that it did. I stopped right there, any attempts to hug her or even appearance of getting too close to her. I told her again that she can always tell me if what I am doing makes her feel uncomfortable and apologised. As far as I was concerned the issue was solved. I realise I made an assumption. I understand that I shouldn’t have made that assumption. And I will guard againts doing that again.
Another instance that has led to confusion. I performed an action and the first time this action was very well received. The second time this action was performed, with the same person, it led to tears. For a moment I had forgotten that permission to perform an action once doesn’t mean I have that permission to do it again several weeks later. I had forgotten that context was just as important as the actual action. The first time we had been flirting for a long time before said action. The second time it was as a form of greeting. With this particular individual it was not the only mishap, when I think back on the whole of my interaction with her there were serious gaps in communication that led to confusion on both sides. Nevertheless, I presented my apologies to her. I didn’t attempt to excuse my actions, I simply apologised.
A third instance, I asked a person, who identifies as a sub and in a relationship with another person that is her Dom, if I could send her a friend request on Fetlife. She agreed. On her profile, there is a warning in big red letters that any friend requests need to be approved by her Dom. My assumption was that this was to discourage unwanted messages and friend requests by random people who never attend events. In my head, I was convinced that since I had gotten her permission vocally and in person she would gladly accept my friend request. I was wrong. I received a very direct message from her Dom, saying that since I couldn’t follow a simple rule clearly posted on her profile. Then I was to completely forget that she even exists and never ever attempt to approach her. I replied and explained the confusion to this Dom but I also retracted the friend request. I am sorry this has happened but I can’t change it.
A fourth instance I approached another sub at a party, I knew she was with her Dom, I asked her if maybe one day she would like to do some rope with me. Her bright mood dimmed and she became not shy but not her cheerful self either. I let the matter drop and walked away, accepting that as a no. The next day I received a bit of advice from her Dom that I should have approached her Dom first to ask to play with his sub. Now, please understand, that I do not see people as Doms or Subs, I always see them as people. As adults capable of making their own decisions, as adults capable of communicating to me any specific protocols one needs to follow when talking to them or asking to play. In this instance, I respectfully disagree that I made a mistake. My actions were never intended to be interpreted as meaning I do not care about anyone’s other relationships. I can even remember another situation in the past where I asked the Dom first and the sub was insulted. I apologised to the Dom in question and assured him that I intended no offence. I will never ask this sub to do rope again. Simply because if she can’t communicate to me that there was a protocol to follow, then I can’t trust her to communicate to me if there are any other issues.
Communication is important to me. Even more so when there is something wrong. Communication, when all is going well, is easy. Communication, when there is something wrong, is difficult and I recognise that. But I also choose to only play when I can trust that my partner can always communicate with me. I choose to trust that everyone can do that and I will believe everyone can until I am proven wrong. Once I know that a certain person doesn’t I will not play with this person again. But I also won’t tell anyone else about it because I don’t spread rumours. All I know for sure is that for some reason this person can’t communicate well with me. Maybe I am too imposing or too intimidating for this person. I simply don’t know. And this person probably can communicate extremely well with others but not me and that is okay.
It has been suggested to me that my tendency to allow myself to be spontaneous in play is problematic. I can see how it can be, I can even point to a few instances in my past where it backfired on me. I will make every attempt to prevent myself from being spontaneous and to encourage myself to ask more questions in negotiations. But I can’t promise I’ll stop being spontaneous completely tomorrow. I can only promise to work towards improving.
There are some important lessons I have learned in this community and taken to other aspects of my life. I have been told that I am unusually communicative now. For example, while I was taking a Salsa dance lesson, the teacher was teaching us leads how to “whip the head or our partner around”. A gesture that involved touching, our partner somewhat roughly on the neck. The teacher warned that not everyone is comfortable with this and we should ask before. But because this was a class environment and this was what was being thought most assumed that we didn’t need to ask this time. None of the other leads asked their partner if they could practice this move. I did ask my partners, (there were four of them for this practice session if I remember correctly), each and every one of them has expressed surprise and then thanked me for asking them, one respectfully declined. It is Ironic that I have learned such an important lesson about communication here in this community, where some, who are part of this community, are saying that I communicate so badly.
How I negotiate will change and (hopefully) improve as I progress. I will learn more as I do. Please remember that there is no University or College program that will teach someone to be a Dom or Kinky. There are very little education resources out there. There are a great many writing about how to be a twue Dom or sub. Most of these writings make grandiose statements that have half of Fetlife agreeing and the other half disagreeing. I have no aspirations to be a particular type of Dom, I simply wish to be myself and improve myself. I learn from my mistakes, I apologise when I need to and I modify my methods based on what I have learned. This is a rocky road, and I am sure I’ll make more errors and mistakes in the future. Hopefully, those will become rarer as time goes by. Short of leaving the lifestyle entirely that is the best I can (or anyone) do.
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