Consent and Communication

You have to talk about what you intend to do to someone—and that person has to agree that they think that what you’re planning on doing to them is a good idea. This is called negotiation. It is considered highly unethical for a Top to do something to a bottom in a play scene that has not been pre-negotiated. Reputations can be lost in a moment if a Top does something to a bottom that hadn’t been negotiated—even if they’ve been partners for years.

Consent is an agreement to participate in any BDSM activity. Before being sexual or doing BDSM with someone, you need to know if they want to be involved with you too. It’s also important to be honest with your partner about what you want and don’t want. Consenting and asking for consent are all about setting your personal boundaries and respecting those of your partner — and checking in if things aren’t clear. Both people must agree to it, every single time for it to be consensual.

  • Freely given. Consenting is a choice you make without pressure, manipulation, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Reversible. Anyone can change their mind about what they feel like doing, anytime. Even if you’ve done it before, and even if you’re both in the middle of a play scene.
  • Informed. You can only consent to something if you have the full story. For example, if someone says they’ll use a condom and then they don’t, there isn’t full consent.
  • Enthusiastic. When it comes to any type of play, you should only do stuff you WANT to do, not things that you feel you’re expected to do.
  • Specific. Saying yes to one thing doesn’t mean you’ve said yes to others.

The age of sexual consent is how old a person needs to be in order to be considered legally capable of consenting. This is why all BDSM is for adults.

Harnessing the Power of Tradition and Innovation

Today we look for a middle path somewhere between traditional BDSM and TNG. Because we can't go back in time and yet we want to honor what has already been built and passed along to us. “Having a good idea of what has been tried in the past is an enormous asset, but it has to be combined with a willingness to adapt the lessons of the past to the needs of the ever-changing present. A body of knowledge that remains absolutely fixed over time, incapable of absorbing new lessons and insights, is not a tradition but a corpse.” -John Michael Greer

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Brats and Bratting

Firstly, I’m not picking on one kink.

In many modern definitions of Brat it is redefined as both a role and a submissive identity. There is nothing inherently submissive about brattiness so it’s interesting that those character traits would be paired with it. In a Top/bottom scene where we originally found the first hints of acting like a brat, any person could be bottom regardless of whether they identified as Dom, sub, or neither. It was simply a person acting out to receive pleasurable pain or a primal reaction from whoever was topping. Further puzzling is that the act of brattiness is an assertion of autonomy which is far more dominant a characteristic. Although it also does not truly fit the Dominant identity because neither person in a Power Exchange is autonomous, they are instead giving and receiving power.

Modern definitions are also wrong in identifying Brat as an identity altogether. Brat is an S&M and/or Primal kink (often a rolepley) that is performed in Top/bottom scenes. Those Top/bottom scenes may happen in or out of a relationship. We don’t usually add our kinks as adjectives to our identity as Dom or sub. They usually follow it when we talk about the kinds of things we sometimes enjoy doing within our relationship. For example, I’m not a Rope Dom; I am a Dom who enjoys Bondage, Rope, and Impact Play just to name a few. You may be a Dom or a sub who enjoys a Brat roleplay. It certainly has grown in popularity because people find those scenes fun. But one or more kinks do not define your identity.

So where do we go from here? We simply keep educating our peers on the basics of BDSM. A lot of people don’t yet know the differences between Top/bottom and a Power Exchange. Again, one isn’t superior to the other they are both just different things. As well people don’t know the differences between Kinks and Identities. It might not matter to them in theory, but in practice mixing the two can cause a lot of strain on a dynamic. We often hear people say “I want my partner to be more dominant” and “I want my partner to be more submissive” and helping them separate the kinks from the identities can bring a lot more fulfillment to relationships. It’s not about being right, it’s about helping people navigate BDSM to get the benefits of BDSM.