Safe Space isn’t about Consent

“Danger Do Not Cross”, a performance of mine from a few years back. Photo by Sarah Paterson

If we intend on creating safe spaces (especially for women and minority people) to explore our sexualities openly, we have a lot of work to do. When I say “we” I mean everyone, but I especially mean all men, people who aren’t minorities, and those who have more privilege within their minority communities than the people they are sharing space with.

Everyone loves sex and kink and parties, right? It feels so good! A room full of oxytocin, adrenaline, and dopamine gets only more intoxicating the more people are added to the mix! And of course you have thought ahead, of course you have considered who to invite and not invite, you’ve written your party rules and sent them out for all to see. Consensual play is one of them, in fact you have it BOLDED in the email sent out to everyone: CONSENT IS SEXY — CONSENT OR GO HOME — CONSENT OR BANISHMENT FROM THE FOLD!!!

But do you mean it?

Do you? Are you willing to put your body and this idea between predators — especially those predators who are people you know well — and the victims and/or survivors who they have harmed?

As mastermind of this environment, as host/co-host/producer/involved friend/moderator/Dungeon Master/partygoer… are you willing to involve yourself (maybe painfully) in the processes of teaching friends, keeping in check, mediating, cutting ties, working towards remediating those people who fuck up, being supportive and attentive to those who’ve been harmed in your space, and choosing between close friends who you’ll completely and unequivocally support? Are you willing to put the notion out there that your group/party/event stands up for and gives resources first and foremost to people who deserved to maintain their autonomy, and consider a violation of that tantamount to violation of the event itself and your own reputation? Are you ready to not only kick out, but detain and question those who have abused your open space and vulnerable friends? Are you willing to be vocal about your commitment to survivors of assault and their needs over the reputation of your event or a perpetrator’s privacy? These questions are ones you should not just kneejerk say “of course” to.

Close your eyes and imagine throwing your best friend out of your house and having to mediate clearly and firmly their ban on your events because they molested someone at the party — someone, perhaps, you don’t even know, or someone who you don’t personally like that much, someone who you think is loud and obnoxious, or overly sensitive in general. Now try again, this time run through your mind what it will be like having to do these things with someone who is very useful to you, someone who is a good client, who has given your community many resources, who owns the property you’re using, who pays your rent, who has some type of power over you in the non-party world. Are you sure you have the stomach to act steadfast in honor of a victim in your safe space still?

Safe space isn’t about consent, it’s about the shape and resilience of the container itself.

It is unfortunate that to experience our sexualities and sensualities we often need protection and safeguards in place to allow us, for just a moment, to let go of the walls we’ve built up over the years and past abuses. It is only honest to acknowledge that at the moment we do let go we are vulnerable. We are vulnerable to people without boundaries, without socialization surrounding sexual boundaries, without clear thinking, and without respect. Vulnerable to people who drink too much, who are on drugs, who have decided to drug someone else. We are vulnerable to peer pressure, to bullying, to force, to surprise attack. We are vulnerable to grabbing, staring, and invasion of personal space by people who don’t think casual touch is worth asking about. We are vulnerable to a slew of things we haven’t considered possible, much less the ones we knowingly brace ourselves against. If you want to create safe space for this vulnerable and fragile process of letting go, you must also be actively involved in the aftermath when molestation (unfortunately too frequently) occurs.

How do we do this?

Let’s talk about that.

Safe space is about listening. Let’s look at that from the ground up for a minute. It is because we do not listen to our victims that we become predators. Perhaps we have not been listened to ourselves, and so that practice has become a habit we perpetrate on others. Perhaps we aren’t listening because we have blocked our sensibilities with the unbalancing reality of inebriants. Perhaps a million other reasons, it doesn’t matter what they are in the end. It is because there is a dearth of listening that we have gotten to this place of frequent abuse to begin with.

The perpetrator of an assault is not listening to their victim. We, as community and responders to the situation, must first and foremost be willing to listen to victims and survivors. This, of course, means we need to listen to women. We need to listen to black and brown people and others who aren’t white skinned. We must listen to queers, transgender folk, and to sex workers. We must listen to people who are in shock, angry, tearful, overtly emotional, quiet, afraid, reactionary, and confused. We must to listen to them about what they’ve experienced and their needs, and we must learn to action around their words first.

This means we must be quiet. We must be willing to sit in a corner and hear what is being said, and we must learn to untangle our own fears, personal triggers, “yeah, buts”, and agendas from what we’re being told is needed in any given moment. We must not decide that because we’ve been through this before that we know what to do. We can let those experiences inform us, but we must listen to the people in the moment that is happening right now in order to be present enough for responsible action and actual help.

This scratches the surface about how to create a safe space for open sexuality, but it’s the most important tool we can learn to use I think. Also:

  • Have an experienced sober Dungeon Master or two committed to being present where there is play.
  • Have Moderators or Party Officials who are introduced at the beginning of the party and available to be pulled aside at any point to be talked to if someone is feeling uncomfortable or if something that needs to be dealt with happens.
  • Have an opening circle where participants introduce themselves quickly, or at least have the host address everyone and lay out the rules and expectations of the event.
  • Consider having a cut-off time for arrivals. This works great if you have an opening circle as everyone can be expected to participate. Even if you don’t though, closing the door and sealing the space from outsiders, intruders, or people who are coming late and possibly inebriated helps control the space itself.
  • Make your parties sober and commit to throwing out anyone suspected of being under the influence, or have a “If you’re too inebriated to drive, you’re too inebriated to consent” rule.
  • Have “no play” zones where no play is happening (the kitchen or wherever food is is great for this) so that people who are feeling uncomfortable or triggered or needing a time out or to escape someone’s attention in a play space can comfortably exist without question about why they aren’t playing.
  • Have a plan clearly in place about what to do if something happens. Know how the situation will be dealt with, and who is commited to deal with it.
  • Have a buddy system in place where everyone at the party comes with another person, with the understanding that if your buddy gets thrown out you do too no matter what is going on. This helps create accountability in terms of people only inviting people they think will be responsible, but it also ensures that if someone is kicked out for being drunk hopefully their buddy isn’t. Ask that people check in with their buddies throughout the night…
  • Have a committed designated driver or sober crew at the party who can bring people home or to safety or simply be more aware when they see odd behavior.
  • Have people at the party who are trained in how to deal with an assault when one occurs.
  • Have a follow-up plan for victims and perpetrators already in place.

These are only a few suggestions.

Consent can only happen once someone has deigned to ask for it and decided to listen. Consent is a popular word and an important practice which feels like a row of shining stars: THIS PERSON IS SUPER CONSENSUAL, A+++! It is not, however, what creates safe space alone. Of course, we must get positive enthusiastic consent to play. But first we have to ask questions, we have to listen, we have to be willing to accept responsibility for what is happening around us. We must listen to people we aren’t used to listening to. We must learn.

Play On My Friends,
~ Creature

Please support my work on Patreon. For one time donations click here: Support the Artist 
~Thank you.

Public Service Announcement

Photo by RADskillZ Photography 2013

You do not have the right to:

  • You do not have the right to anybody else’s body but your own. Ever. Period.

Because this principle so frequently seems to need a list of reminders about what it means, here goes.

You do not have the right to:

  • Grab my ass without my consent.
  • Grab my pussy, tits, or any other body part you haven’t asked to grab and been given the go ahead about.
  • Stick your fingers, genitals, sex toys, or any other object in any of my orifices without my explicit consent.
  • Tell me your fantasies about me unless I ask you to, or I consent when you ask for my permission to share them.
  • Tell me your sexual/sensual/kink fantasies which don’t include me unless I ask you to, or I consent when you ask my permission to share them.
  • Threaten me, act passively aggressive, act plain ‘ol aggressive, bully me, peer pressure me, or any other form of not accepting what I’m telling you when I turn you down or let you know I am disinterested in your advances.
  • Drug me without my knowledge.
  • Take advantage of me when I’m not capable of consent due to any form of drug, alcohol, or emotionally/psychologically dissociative condition.
  • Restrict my ability to leave a situation if and when I chose to.
  • Ignore me or continue on when I tell you to stop.
  • Restrain me in any way so that you may continue on when I have told you to stop.
  • Remove a condom or other barrier method without my knowledge, exposing myself or yourself to any number of health risks including pregnancy. This takes my autonomy and my choice away from me, and it is a form of rape.
  • Make sexual advances on people who are underage if you are an adult.
  • Shame me for the choices I make for and about my own body.
  • Shame me for the sexual and sensual partners I choose to engage with consensually.
  • Shame me for the sexual and sensual activities I engage in with consenting adult partners.

No, this list is not exhaustive.

No, I don’t care if it’s an orgy or sex party or there are multiple people within arms reach who are also getting sexy. All of the above realities still apply.

You do have permission (not a right) to:

  • Touch the person who invited you to join the orgy/sex party/multiple-people-getting-sexy-space, BUT only in the ways you’ve negotiated, and continue to negotiate permissions with them. You must ask before you touch anyone else involved in the scene or nearby. If you want to touch, you must negotiate first.
  • Do the things we’ve negotiated doing in the way we’ve negotiated doing them.

You do have the right to:

  • Ask me if I want to know about your fantasies which include me.
  • Ask me if I want to know about your fantasies which do not include me.
  • Ask me how much I’ve had to drink or how inebriated I am before negotiating with me, touching, or playing with me.
  • Check in frequently about whether what we’re doing is ok, still ok, enjoyable, if I’d like something different, etc.
  • Ask me for what you would like.
  • Ask me whatever questions you have about how I feel and what I need (unless I’ve asked you not to).
  • Let me know that you respect me and my wishes and you don’t want to coerce me (if that is indeed the truth).

Did you notice how most of these things involve asking?!

Yes, there are a lot of ways to verbally and non-verbally negotiate. HOWEVER, if you non-verbally communicate about what you’re doing, and later on someone let’s you know you fucked up, that’s totally on YOU for not gaining the enthusiastic “yes” consent before moving on.

If someone says yes to a thing and then part way through they change their mind and say no, it’s on YOU to stop and listen and check in and make sure you’re giving that change of consent the space it needs to be respected, acknowledged, and appropriately acted on.

This has been your daily reminder that asking for consent, pre-negotiations, and talking about sex frequently (and hopefully eventually more and more fluently) is the way to a happier, sexier, more empowered, and less fucking stressed out and abusive nation.

These guidelines also help you not be a rapist. Take responsibility for yourself and your actions. Don’t be coercive. Don’t be a rapist.

Play On My Friends,
~ Creature

Please support my work on Patreon. For one time donations click here: Support the Artist 
~Thank you.

Domineering vs Dominant

I am approaching my computer wearily today. I don’t know what to write about. My mind is a little foggy. The weekend was great and also a very hard one. I don’t want to talk about why, though eventually I’ll need to because what I’ve been working to help straighten out is important. I don’t have the energy to hash through all of the complicated and many faceted conversations surrounding what I’m processing to get to the meat and write about those subjects individually yet though. It’ll come. I have a lot to say. Yes it is related to #MeToo, and no, this time it wasn’t me, but #IWasThere.

So, hmmm… Where does this leave me with today’s blog? Honestly my brain feels a little burnt out talking about sex and how to keep sexuality a safe exploration. Then again, all the reasons why it’s important to keep this conversation going are fresh and heavy in my heart. I’ll talk about other matters which are related. Matters I’ve also been dealing with this very week:

Pointers for vetting a potential kinkster playmate. I found myself navigating this conversation a few days ago, and instead of successfully finding someone I felt would listen to me and build a great scene for the two of us to share, I found I had to turn down a person who was acting domineering, self serving, and rude. I don’t often get as far as meeting someone in my vetting process and then have to turn them down, but in this case it seemed the only realistic option — especially since I value my time and energy and had no interest in training this person in the art of decency to begin with.

Domineering or Dominant? This unfortunate and frequent must-ask question pops up a lot when someone is looking for a Dominant partner to play with. Bravado is a mask with which the ungrounded often cover themselves. However, domineering attitudes can not only belie an annoying person who you won’t really have a lot of fun playing with and who may not listen to your needs as articulately as you might wish, it may also indicate someone who is potentially unsafe to play with at all. Someone who is domineering is putting their own thoughts and ideas ahead of everyone else’s. By definition this is a problematic quality in a Dominant when considering the safety and boundaries of a submissive.

Some red flags:

  • When you tell someone something about yourself and they vehemently reject it rather than politely declining your offer and suggesting an alternative that might work for both of you:

Me: You can call me Sir… but I really don’t go for Ma’am or Miss

Them: You have a better chance of meeting Jesus. I will forgo the other two though

This may seem like a silly thing to pick up on, but it does indicate an unwillingness to respect my wishes, pronouns, and indications about how I like to be treated and viewed in general. It’s also needlessly insulting. Why would I want to spend time with someone who speaks to me like that? Why would I put my safety in the hands of someone this out of touch with respectful discourse?

  • Someone who refuses to discuss or negotiate a scene before playing with you (see following)
  • Someone who reframes your needs as “too much”, “unsexy”, or “not important”:

Me: What do you have in mind?

Them: Hang out, tie you up and spank you.

Me: I’m not sure I want to move that fast with you. We didn’t talk a lot about kink or your likes/dislikes or specific interests with me. I require clear negotiation if I’m going to bottom.

Them: I’m less of a talker and more of a doer. The more you talk and plan, the less spontaneity and excitement comes of the time. … this is supposed to be fun, free flowing and easy. Instead you’re asking to have everything detailed out and planned which kind of sucks the life out of all of it. I was interested in getting to know you better but there seem to be more roadblocks than exciting opportunities.

This person in minimizing my needs and putting pressure on me to change my mind and be “easier” for him to get to know. He’s basically bullying me to do things his way or feel as though what I am advocating for, in mind of my own safety and pleasure, is too much. What I need to feel safe around playing with another person, categorically, is not asking for too much. Let me impress that ideal clearly.

  • Someone who repeatedly reframes the conversation, controls the conversation, or changes the subject without answering your questions or commenting on any of your points (this happened repeatedly in our conversation)

I’m very happy to seek out another play partner, someone who wants me to feel comfortable and who accepts what I tell them about what I need to feel safe. Why would this unfold any other way? It’s really important for subs to advocate for themselves and be accommodated. The idea that “the sub is always the one actually in control” is an important tenet to be mindful of. The sub is the one who sets the pace for play, and stops everything if it isn’t going well. A Dominant should know and respect this first and foremost.

Why are all these little things important? They are important because they are important to one of the players — specifically the player who has the most to lose when it comes to the consequences of sceneing. They are important because there are a lot of people out there who aren’t off-putting and generally disrespectful. There are plenty of people who are game to try new things and who want to be respectful, safe, informed, and try things what will make both parties happy. There are plenty of people out there who are not rapists and abusers and are happy to go more than a modicum out of their way to prove to me they respect my feelings of safety over their “fun”. The person in my example is displaying the attitudes of someone who might not actually respect my body, emotions, mind, desires, limits, negotiations, and boundaries when I’m in a much more compromised or dangerous position. Why would I move forward with this person? Why would I let them tie me up? If I take the time to look, I’ll find partners to play with who don’t make me worry about my autonomy and safety. Saying “no” to this red flag covered playmate means that when I find the people who make me want to say “yes”, my yes is meaningfully given to a partner who will be a much more fun, safe, and rewarding Dominant.

Negotiations are all about communication, and yes, it is absolutely possible to just speak differently about things and still have the exact same values. However, everyone deserves respect. Everyone deserves to be questioned and to speak for themselves about what’s important to them. The moment someone assumes they know what is best for me and refrains from asking me about whether they are correct or check in about their intent, is the moment I am no longer safely in the hands of someone who is listening to me or considers my experience and therefore safety.

What we must do with one another first and foremost is listen. Listen to play partners and try to figure out why what they’re saying is important to them, as opposed to why it is or isn’t something you agree with. Know what your feelings on a subject are, and be able to separate them from someone else’s feelings. More often than not it’s completely reasonable to agree to disagree on certain subjects as long as you can decide how to functionally and respectfully handle the situation when it comes up.

Talk about your likes, dislikes, boundaries, interests, and needs before playing with someone for the first time. This is not just smart, it’s the MOST NORMAL THING people who engage in BDSM do. Pre-negotiation of a scene does the opposite of “sucking all the fun out”, it makes the scene more tailored to the desires of the people involved, meaning it will be more fun for everyone. It allows people to get into safer situations in a more well-informed way. It helps Dominants make sure they don’t make mistakes in play because of personal or really specific safety issues. More than once I’ve tailored a scene because I found out my partner had an injury, or really sensitive skin, or was less flexible than I previously thought, or was allergic to an ingredient in the lotion I was going to use. I’m HAPPY to make those adjustments because then I get to PLAY! All of these little considerations make my agenda as a Dominant more and more rewarding when it’s time to follow through. I get to have great consensual fun with a relaxed and trusting sub rather than rushing them to the hospital or dealing with trauma of some sort because something I didn’t realize would be a problem got triggered physically, emotionally, and/or mentally within our scene.

At the end of the day negotiations are a gift. Negotiations are vital to fun, and are groundbreaking in their ability to foster trust and generate a slow and steady path to successful scening. Negotiation is a sexy word. Don’t let anyone ever tell you your need to check in about their intentions for your body/heart/mind is overbearing, unsexy, or makes you less of a good, game, giving partner or submissive. Anyone who tells you your need to check in and establish respectful discourse on the subject of what will happen to your body is unimportant, is also someone who will not care when you “red out” of a scene or ask for a safety adjustment while you’re playing. They are telling you one thing by breezing past your preferences: “I am in this for me, and what I want is more important than what you want”. Not only is that the definition of an unsafe and potentially abusive partner, it is wrong, and it is NOT Dominant behavior. Dominants want their toys to be happy. Happy enough to come back and play with them again and again and again. Anyone that shortsighted about playing with you probably has something in mind for you that you don’t want in the first place. If they’re not willing to do work before your first scene, why would they ever start listening to you after you’ve already let them have your body in the first place?

Be safe out there. Say no when you feel nervous. Articulate what you need to feel more connected to the person you’re considering playing with. Don’t let anyone talk down to you or brush your requests aside. Don’t let anyone belittle your experience or ignore the things you are asking for. You deserve respect. You deserve fun.

What questions do you have for me, Dear Readers? Are there subjects in particular that interest you that I don’t speak about enough? Are there questions you have for me personally that I haven’t answered for you, or that you’d like updates on? Are there kinks you’d like me to try out and report on? Fill out the form on my Contact page, and I’ll get on it!

Play On My Friends,
~ Creature

Please support my work on Patreon. For one time donations click here: Support the Artist 
~Thank you.

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