BDSM consent and negotiation guidelines

by La quarta corda

16 – Feedbacks


We examined at length the importance of communication in a session, but are we really sure that we know how to effectively communicate?

Let’s make an example: a couple is playing with the whip, and suddenly the bottom says “You’re hurting me a lot!”.

This is definitely communication, but it is not necessarily useful to the top. They may not be able to understand whether their partner is finding this “a lot” pleasant or not, whether it is an insufficient, right or excessive amount of pain, whether they want to stop, slow down a bit or continue like that.

Clearly the top might ask for more information, but they might also think they got it, with the risk of contributing to a misunderstanding.

Unlike information, feedback does also bring about an effective change to the session, reducing confusion to a minimum.

Technically speaking, a feedback is in fact a person’s response to a stimulus, a response that determines an adjustment, change or reinforcement of behaviour in the person to whom it is directed or who requested it.

In this sense, feedback is a way for both partners to exert control over the game, managing to adapt it according to the responses they receive, especially when these are different from what they expected.

Reflecting on the difference between “simple” information and “useful” feedback can help us to get used to being helpful and supportive of our partner, avoiding criticism and judgment. Good feedback benefits both the giver and the receiver because it helps to create a collaborative atmosphere. After all, the fun of both partners depends on it!

Feedback has certain characteristics. It is

  • descriptive and not evaluative,
  • specific,
  • affirmative (“do this” instead of “don’t do that”),
  • well-timed,
  • constructive.

When giving feedback it is important to focus on the behaviour rather than on the person, and try to avoid words like “always” or “never”; if we only highlight what is wrong, it is unlikely that the other will be stimulated to change and correct themselves. Feedback is not just about what went wrong!

Let’s see some examples.

Saying “You did great!” to a bottom after a heavy spanking session is different from specifying “I really liked how you were able to communicate your excitement to me and how you helped me gauging the strokes”. The first sentence may be nice, but the second one shows what worked. Another example, bottom side: it’s certainly less useful to simply say “Be more careful because sometimes you hurt me too much!” than “Next time pay attention to the fact that sometimes you hit me too low and it bothers me, with the result that I tend to tense up and want to quit.”. Or “You’re always so heavy right from the start and the sessions are too short!” is probably worse than “If you start more calmly next time I have time to get into the right mood, so the session can last longer and I prefer it.”.

At first glance it may seem a little verbose, but it is certainly a clear and unambiguous way of expressing ourself, and one that leaves the partner with the feeling of being taken into consideration as opposed to being dismissed with a couple of words.

Unfortunately, even the best feedback can go unheard. The way we receive the information is also important. “Active listening” is an approach to paying attention and avoiding misunderstandings as much as possible. A good idea can be to repeat what we understood so that the other person can check whether it is correct and ask for clarifications on the weaker parts. One more question has never hurt anyone, but taking something for granted has.

Feedback can also be non-verbal, but surely direct communication can provide more information; non-verbal communication can nevertheless help to clarify the meaning of what is being said and to convey a collaborative and non-judgmental intent.

Feedback is also about experience: over time we can learn to be more precise, more receptive and notice more and more subtle nuances in the information we are given.


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15 – Negotiating during the session

17 – When the session is over

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