BDSM and Consent – The Submissive’s Bill of Rights

In BDSM, the topic of consent, especially that of “BDSM informed consent,” is a hot and important issue. Dominants and submissives, tops and bottoms, and the bound and their binders rely upon an agreed-upon pact of consent between them—a pact that is built upon immense trust.

Some method must be used to keep the BDSM play safe and generally sane. It could be as simple as using an agreed-upon safe-word to indicate that limits have just been crossed, or as complex as a full-blown, detailed, written contract agreement. Any BDSM activity performed without some kind of consent is considered abuse by the BDSM community as a whole, and by most law enforcement personnel as well.

Some newer Dominants are puzzled by consent being an ever-present element, as it gives the submissive so much power over the details and particulars of the shared power-exchange relationship. Some Dominants dream of a slave arrangement where the submissive would consent to give up all of their rights and have no say whatsoever in what the Dominant does to the submissive. In the real world, the degree to which this ideal is mitered down to a reasonable size requires actual communication to take place between both parties involved.

Lazy or over-anxious submissives (and Dominants, too) will often bypass this step of talking these things through with care in advance. They may think having a safe-word is adequate, or that the nature of the scene will protect the submissive from harm. In scenes with no S&M or B&D aspects (D&S only), the submissive may go with the flow of serving the Master or Mistress and hope for the best while trying to behave and please them adequately.

It is in this latter case of D&S play where things can really get rocky, as there usually is no safe-word for such play besides the submissive’s polite refusal to follow the Dominant’s directives or requests. At some point the Dominant will cross into an area not enjoyed by or not comfortable for the submissive. The submissive’s polite refusal almost always creates an uncomfortable atmosphere, and fairly often results in the “banishment” or “punishment” of the submissive for committing the imagined blunder of insubordination. Misunderstanding the intent of the submissive—the two having never defined limits and rights—the Dominant’s frustration in having the flow of play interrupted is sometimes expressed with anger, instead of with the understanding that the situation requires. Submissives must be prepared to politely but firmly explain themselves in such cases.

Consent is often given for specific time periods – say, for one hour – where unfettered consent is allowed, limited only by a safe-word. This is a useful approach for people just getting to know one another. However, for new players (and even experienced ones), please play safe! If you are going to do something requiring supreme trust (such as tight bondage), be certain that the boundaries are established beforehand. Take  precautions by meeting with them first in public spaces, and use a safe-call system. (More on that subject can be found here in the safe first-time BDSM encounters article.)

The terms of consent are the only power a submissive has in the D&S relationship. This is by design, as the submissive by definition wants to give up his or her powers of decision making to the Dominant. However, this should not be rushed into, especially if either person desires a long-term relationship. Put the passions on hold and exercise restraint against your strong yearnings long enough to get the pertinent questions asked and answered. Think seriously about your own limits and desires. Move slowly, give the Dominant respect and courtesy, and demand from the Dominant the respect you deserve. Remember: without submissives, Dominants have nothing to do!