Negotiations are non-negotiable.
The word negotiation may conjure an image, for some, of people coming together to do business. Each side has their own desires and preferences that they hope will combine to create a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Negotiations in BDSM work very much the same way.
In the context of the BDSM community, a “negotiation” is the process of discussing boundaries and desires prior to engaging in play or a scene.
The aim is to set clear expectations around safety, and ensure that everyone involved feels empowered and informed before entering into a power dynamic.
A negotiation can take place between long term partners, with a new person for “pick up play” at an event, or with a client in a professional context.
One commonly used tool during the negotiation process, is a kinky checklist.
People involved in the negotiation will go through the checklist decide which activities they want to say yes, no, and maybe too.
Kinky checklists, am I like to call them, are not new. They have been a staple in the community for a while.
But once the checklist is done, then what?
To transition from the checklist into play I like asking some open ended questions that prompt deeper emotional exploration.
Here are a few of my favorites that I have gathered over my years as a BDSM professional. I still use them regularly in my personal and professional sessions.
1. What is your relationship to pain?
This looks different for everyone. I know people who giggle while being spanked, while others cry from tickling.
Pain and pain tolerance is very unique to the individual and needs to be discussed.
Play can also be enjoyable and incorporate power dynamics without the use of pain. An example could be a foot worship session where there is a clear power dynamic but pain is not a focus.
2. What do you look like when you are enjoying yourself?
Again this looks different for everyone. Some people may be very quiet on the outside but be feeling strong enjoyment on the inside. Understanding your play partners cues for pleasure allow you to know when you are turning them on and creating enjoyable sensations.
3. What do you look like when you are not enjoying yourself?
Are you loud and vocal?
Are you quiet and reserved?
If the person being asked this question does not know what they look like when they are enjoying themselves, it becomes extra important to check in with verbal verification during play.
This could look like asking “Are you enjoying yourself? Would you like me to go softer/ harder?”
4. Do you have any medical conditions or injuries that I need to be aware of?
A notes for tops/ Dominants: If you are playing with someone for the first time I recommend asking about their joints (if they have trick knees, shoulder impingements that may prevent the arms from being lifted overhead or a pacemaker).
Also it is important to know if your partner has low blood sugar, feels faint easily, or has a hard time being in a certain position for an extended period of time.
5. Is there anywhere on your body you do not want me to touch?
This question does not have to be sexual, although it is a good idea to clarify sexual boundaries as well.
I know someone who is triggered by people patting them on the back.
Do not assume that because an action (like a hug) is socially acceptable that it will be ok with the person you are playing with. Everyone has their own preferences and autonomy that need to be honored along with their submission.
6. What would you like to feel in this scene?
I love this question so so so much and was happy to learn that Princess Kali includes it in her discussions about BDSM checklists as well.
When we know what we would like to feel we can cater the activities to match those desires.
For example if a client is wanting to feel the sensations of fear I might bring up the idea of a consensual abduction scene.
7. Are there any words or phrases you like being called?
This question applies to all parties.
I may refer to clients affectionally as sweetheart when I want to be endearing. or playfully call someone a “naughty boy".
Words and names can be a real turn on if it is a "hot button" phrase. Knowing when and how to use these words can be powerful.
As a top/ Dominant consider how you would like to be addressed as well.
Are you feeling like Goddess? Daddy?Captain Flogger.?
Your partners will want to show respect by calling you a name that makes you feel good too
8. Are there any words or phrases that you don’t like being called?
Bonus points: Are there any words, in general, that are triggering or problematic to you?
Being called a name that you do not like can disrupt the flow of a scene and cause potential emotional upset.
It is best to ask this question upfront to avoid any undesirable surprises.
9. What would you like our "safe word" to be?
Safe words are agreed upon words or phrases that when uttered can stop the scene while maintaining the power dynamic.
I have found that it is safest to choose a word that will likely not be used in the scene at all.
Choosing a word like "pineapple" might sound a little cliché but it will certainly catch a Dominant's intention when spoken.
One safe word system I like using is a stoplight system.
Green means, "Keep going I am enjoying myself."
Yellow means, "We need to slow down or are approaching a limit".
Red means "We need to stop everything right now."
Try playing with what words work for you and your partners.
10. What do you need for aftercare?
This question is really important to talk about before beginning a scene so you know what everyone needs to make the transition back to daily life as smooth as possible.
Treat it like you just ran a marathon, you may need water, snacks, or a blanket.
Maybe you want physical touch.
Or you just want to be left alone to journal and process.
Write down what helps you regulate yourself and feel good.
Dominants this can be a great time to request a foot rub and chat about the scene.
I hope these questions help you to feel more confident while negotiating and create deeper intimacy in your scenes.
If there is something you are genuinely curious about in your partner, go ahead and ask!
It may spark a deeper point of connection and make your scene even sexier!
-Miss Lila Sage