BDSM consent and negotiation guidelines

by La quarta corda

1 – Introduction


These guidelines are the result of much work of research, reflection and discussion about consent and negotiation – two subjects I felt the need to analyse.

I decided to put my observation into writing first and foremost to remember myself of some important concepts I for one want to better approach, both for my and my partners’ benefit. I am imperfect myself, and for this reason I did lots of work on myself, following an analysis path and beginning to solve a few more complex issues in order to try not making “nevermore” errors – like the tattoo I got – as I did in the past.

This is why I don’t want to teach anything to anybody, so much so that I wrote these guidelines for myself in the first place, even if I hope they may become handy for anyone reading them.

We all can talk the talk, but when emotions and desires come into play we can’t always rationally walk the walk. I realized I have sometimes done exactly what I am advising against myself, possibly without noticing, possibly in good faith, possibly overwhelmed by the situation.

I am perfectly aware that nobody always negotiates as in-depth as the “Rules for the perfect negotiation” would mandate. Also: negotiating well still does not keeps us safe from having accidents.

Therefore, these guidelines are not exhaustive, definitive, universally valid, nor to be followed no matter what. They are a set of considerations that can act as a foundation or as food for thought, as if we could ask ourselves: “What would I do if…?”.

Negotiation and consent are a constant thought and practice that cannot be reduced to a series of processes. My wish is for the message brought home by this essay to be not only “what to do”, but also “how to do it”, meaning how to establish good communication, tailored to the person we are interacting with. As I said, this guide is just a frame to dabble with, not a perfectly complete picture.

This is also the beauty of not being subject to rigid models: we can make mistakes and turn them into lessons for our improvement, our mind is wonderfully complex, we can sometimes desire something but also its opposite, we want to feel safe but also to explore what scares us.

When we do BDSM, we enter a very intimate physical and emotional space to share it with one or more persons. It is therefore good to do everything possible so that everything happens to the satisfaction and full consent of all those involved.

This is the purpose of negotiation.


NOTE – In this guide I refer to “top” and “bottom” to indicate “who does” and “who receives” a practice, no matter the relationship (affective, sexual, power exchange, etc.) between the two. Also, I generally talk about two persons playing together, but every consideration can be extended to more players, and to every person involved in the scene in general.

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Table of contents

2 – A few definitions

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