Consensual Non-Consent Explained: How to approach consent in a BDSM total power exchange dynamic

A Total Power Exchange (TPE) is founded on the fulfilment of reciprocal needs. A submissive who desires voluntary servitude finds a Dominant who needs to satisfy their own desire for control. For my style of TPE an ideal slave is one who is submissive by nature and of sound mind. Kink relationship dynamics are becoming ever more popular though still misunderstood. 

Incorporating BDSM into any relationship must include a working understanding of consent. Without consent, things stop being kinky and become abusive. 

A story I have heard over and over goes something like this: a ‘dom’ on a hookup app (one marketed at vanilla society) looks for the weakest looking ‘sub’ they can find. Before getting to know each other they engage in some light spanking, maybe get the handcuffs out of the top drawer. The Dom restrains the sub. The sub is excited at first, the feel of the cold steel against his wrists sending a thrill up their forearms. The Dom reaches back into that top drawer and brings with him a set of nipple clamps. Wait. Nipple clamps? The sub is slightly concerned. He’s never tried nipple clamps before, but not wanting to make a scene, goes with it. The pinching is kind of intense but hey, this is what a sub is for, is what he thinks as the blindfold goes on and a sock is stuffed into his mouth. 

The Dom makes his way down the sub’s body, pinching and stroking, slowly ramping up the pressure he applies to every touch. At the sub’s crotch he sees his opportunity. He loves CBT, the rush of power that comes from torturing a cock and balls. He’s seen enough videos online to know what he’s doing, right? He takes a shoelace, again from the top drawer, that gift that keeps on giving, and binds the sub’s cock and balls. As he pulls the laces right, the sub groans and struggles against the restraints. This excites the Dom, the sub is finally playing along, getting into the role. Excited he starts thwacking the balls. The sub struggles some more, his moans getting a little more frantic and a lot louder…

I think we all know where I’m going with this. Without any sort of negotiation and talk of limits, what the other party is into, what they have and haven’t tried before, these scenes move from BDSM to abuse. Maybe the sub is enjoying himself, just leaning into the role. Maybe isn’t good enough. Multiple people have said to me that talk of negotiation and consent sucks all the joy out of it. What a load of bullshit. 

Consent

We all know I like to point out the problems with society, so let’s get on with it. Part of me wishes we weren’t still having this conversation. But here we are.

Consent is the fundamental cornerstone of any power exchange dynamic. Its all about consent even when it seems it isn’t. 

What is consent? Its more than ‘yes means yes’ and ‘no means no’

The popular FRIES acronym explains what consent should look like in a nutshell:

Consent is Freely given

Consent is Reversible

Consent is Informed

Consent is Enthusiastic 

Consent is Specific

It should go without saying that consent can only be given in this way by an adult of sound mind. 

What is consensual non-consent (CNC)?

Consensual non consent (CNC) is the foundation of a lot of BDSM dynamics and is the principle upon which a legitimate TPE rests. Ultimately, its smoke and mirrors, but one in which we all satisfy each others needs.

Kink dynamics and CNC are still viewed under a lens of ignorance and fear. Fifty Shades didn’t help, but let’s not be lazy and blame one film for the demonisation of a community. Antipathy toward BDSM is marginally less than it was in the days of the Spanner Case, but our lifestyles are still pathologised. Even the most vanilla sex-positive figures are seen as perverted; god forbid you literally crack a whip across a willing subs arse cheeks.

The most important thing to understand about CNC is that it is consensual. The second thing is that when it applies to a Total Power Exchange (TPE), it covers a lot more than the occasional rape fantasy. 

In a BDSM bedroom scene, there is an argument to be had that the submissive wields the control. It’s these hidden equalities that make a scene risk-aware and consensual. It’s about consent before, during and after.

Before 

Before a scene there is negotiation, a layout of what the scene might look like. This can be as detailed as necessary for all participants to feel comfortable. When you can trust someone enough to openly discuss your darkest fantasies without fear of judgement, you begin to understand what being connected to another should really look like. The negotiation is seen by some as fun-spoiling. I see it as foreplay. It doesn’t have to be a rigid formal discussion every time you engage in something kinky. Any scene that carries a larger element of risk, one with more variables, such as complete sensory deprivation I tend to save for long-standing slaves who I know through and through. There have been exceptions to the rule in the past but only after thorough negotiations have taken place and never with a submissive I hardly know. 

During 

There are so many ways of checking in. This isn’t about spoiling the fun. In fact, if you’re worried that checking in spoils the fun then perhaps examine what that means. I am a Master not an abuser, I might need complete control over my slaves but I also need them to desire it.

My slaves have all mastered their safe language during training. Safe language is safe words and a whole lot more. Besides words, there are hand signals, eye contact and other signals practiced. Specific verbal and non-verbal safe language may be added for certain scenes – think ball-gags and sensory deprivation hoods.

After 

Both Dominants and submissives need aftercare. Vanilla society could learn a lot from aftercare rituals – a reaffirmation of trust between participants. It may be as simple as showering together, holding each other (with less of a grip than during), or just lying down and being in each others company. If it’s been a particularly intense scene I know what my bois self-care rituals are. After a rape fantasy scene for instance, slave Mattie likes to shower together before taking some downtime and reading a book. One if my go-tos is physically submitting to a slave for a short period, such as laying my head in its lap while still having it tend to my needs. Perv slave likes to cuddle, before telling you it’s still horny five minutes after a prolonged forced milking session. Dominants need aftercare as much as submissives. 

Communication is again the key, trumping everything else. Talk to each other. I always ask my slaves what they didn’t like during a previous scene. Consent doesn’t stop just because a scene has finished. BDSM is risk aware, not risk averse. We all make mistakes, we all invariably do things that our partners don’t enjoy. This is where aftercare is vital. All participants go in to a scene knowing that mistakes can happen, but we also do everything in our power to keep these to a minimum.  

When assessing risk during negotiation there needs to be an understanding of the levels of subspace and Domspace on might achieve. These are the spaces we can find our heads in during scenes or even during day to day 24/7. My slaves receive a minimum of daily pain to keep them on the subspace spectrum, sometimes minor depending on their schedule. The spaces, I sometimes liken to falling down the rabbit hole, come with reaching complete surrender to a Dominant or complete control of a submissive. The experience differs for every Dom and sub, but the common feeling is euphoria and a heightened emotional state. With the rush of endorphins comes a higher tolerance of pain for a slave in subspace. For a Dom, the best way to describe it is a release of the Beast within, the state of being in complete control. This is the subject of a blog post in itself, but for now it’s important to note that this comes with inherent risk. For the Dominant, the key is to remain in control, especially of oneself. You will hear a lot of experienced Masters say that they won’t enter into heavy scenes when angry or off-kilter in any way – that is why. For a submissive, it’s important to trust their Dom enough to respect limits and boundaries while heading into a state where they have no control. Again, when it comes to heavier elements of BDSM scenes one should know their partners or groups enough to trust implicitly that they will adhere to the rules set out beforehand. 

A Dominant has a select set of tools in their arsenal which can easily be abused, even a sub has the power to manipulate and control a situation in subtle ways. Yet another reason why negotiation and consent before, during and after is so important. 

24/7 CNC

This is a consensual relationship, and either can quit at any time. The Master has to make sure the slave is happier serving than not. Therein lies the drama and the difference between Master/slave and other relationships.

David Schachter ‘Ask The Man Who Owns Him

After training is complete – there is no set time, it’s different for every individual – a boi I have deemed worthy of serving me will negotiate and sign a bespoke contract. This contract will lay out the terms of service, the areas of control. The document includes a discussion of limits and boundaries on both sides. Contracts are also used outside of 24/7 TPE to establish ground rules. These aren’t legally binding documents, they enable a discussion of trust building and respect. Certain clauses should also highlight just how much power a submissive holds, albeit obscured. 

How is it possible to achieve continuing consent during a 24/7 dynamic? Think 23/7. The easiest way to explain it is that my slaves feel owned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But, they get downtime as do I. It’s necessary, it’s healing, and fosters continued trust and respect. And with downtime comes an opportunity to discuss our dynamic in an open and frank way without fear of stepping over any lines that are usually drawn in the sand. 

We follow three stages of protocol in my House. We have high protocol, low protocol and protocol free sessions. 

High protocol is a slave in total service mode be that domestic, sexual or in whatever other areas I have instructed them to serve. During high protocol a slave is in complete submission and must follow all house rules to the letter.

Low protocol doesn’t look that much different but the slave is permitted to relax a little. It will still be in complete submission and expected to serve, but I make certain allowances, such as striking a more conversational tone with slave and expect the same in return. This is usually saved for our lives outside of these four walls.

A simple example would be toilet privileges. One house rule is a slave must ask permission to use the toilet during high protocol . If I say no, tough luck. In low protocol a slave is expected to notify me it is going to the toilet, and I probably won’t stop it. Probably.

Protocol can be entirely different for many Master/slave dynamics. It should be negotiated up front when entering into a Total Power Exchange.

In my House a protocol free session is most often adopted for a short time during aftercare. This gives a slave the opportunity to communicate with me on what may have transpired during an intense high protocol session be it bedroom or day to day life. It gives us a chance to reset and renegotiate any boundaries that may need adjustment. Even 24/7 needs an hour of recharge now and again. 

What if a slave says ‘no’? 

Many people ask the question: what if a slave says no? How does a Master know if slave means no or is just playing a role?

The answer for me is a simple one. I engage my slaves in various forms of BDSM and we won’t do anything heavy until I have established a mutual trust. We repeat scenes to find each other’s boundaries. And when either of us suggest trying something new everything is discussed and negotiated beforehand, even to the point where the contract is occasionally amended should the boundaries shift. 

Why?

It’s no secret to anyone that we humans are all obsessed with power. Some of us fear it, some of us relish it. Some crave it. Some serve it. 

Rape fantasies are surprisingly common. They are but one aspect of CNC.  

Why do we fantasise about non-consensual play? I’m not a psychologist, so I’m not going to sit here offering an explanation beyond here’s a link to one who explains it briefly.

Power play. When it comes to exploring your sexuality playing with the dynamics of control can be extremely empowering and arousing, either in a context of daily life or a casual sex session.

Sometimes it has nothing to do with you as a person. It can be as simple as playing with archetypal roles. 

For some survivors of rape and sexual assault, it can be a cathartic experience that effectively rewrites the narrative of their trauma. 

My slaves have all said in so many words that the idea of giving up control and surrendering completely is what drives them; it’s the same for me in seizing that control. We are still holding that same stick at opposite ends. 

Either way, it must be approached with thorough negotiation and informed consent. 

Consent doesn’t spoil anyone’s fun

For a power exchange to work all participants must establish trust in one another. A submissive must at some point choose to submit. That choice shouldn’t be made lightly, just as a Dominant should be discerning in who they choose to control. 

If seeking a power exchange – total or part time – ensure there is time for negotiation. Ensure that all participants are adults of sound mind, don’t entertain the idea of someone who cannot consent in a wholly informed way. 

I don’t care how deep you want to get into a 24/7 dynamic, if a relationship is to be non-abusive then you must make room for constant renegotiation of boundaries. Check in with each other on a regular basis. Checking in before, during and after promotes a strengthening of that trust that will make for a very healthy dynamic that can hopefully last a lifetime if you desire it. 

If negotiation spoils your fantasies, as people have told me on numerous occasions? Get over yourself and your insecurities. A true Dominant knows how to nurture and a true Submissive should respect themselves and their Dominant enough to be completely honest and open. 

Negotiation is not a chore in my House. If you’re doing it right it can also be a turn on. 

 I leave you with a message to think over when looking at something you don’t entirely understand: 

Don’t judge a multi-faceted book by its cover. 

Search for the nuance

Search for the nuggets of context

Search for the things you are clearly missing 

Search for the truth and stop taking everything at face value 

Be good,

The Boss 

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