Realistic and quick negotiation in the moment

Posted in practicalities by Cal Stockton on April 12, 2010

The real world isn’t some dry internet fantasy of infinite negotiation in advance. Realistically, we don’t always go through a huge long internet checklist of likes and dislikes in advance, or dozens of detailed emailed fantasies as we travel around opposite sides of the planet before finally meeting up for a first tryst. Sometimes, sure. But sometimes it’s simpler – we meet at a party or a quick lesson with a mutual friend, or we’re friends and then one day it comes out that we really are both interested, and suddenly it’s all WHOAchemistry and “Do you mind giving us a moment of privacy so I can really slap him around for a bit?”

I love getting to know people well enough to be sure I have a sense of their boundaries and how to read them, and to know how they react and whether they tend to be able to safeword if we hit any real problems. I love learning to read people better as we spend more time together. But first times and new people are tricky, and these things to do come up. I’ve never read anything on dealing with these spontaneous first time issues in a way that actually turns me on, so let’s put aside the more intricate stuff that comes later on and focus on how to make this fun.

I’m a bumbling mess with new people, first time. I stammer my way through asking what’s okay. “Whatever you want” is not an acceptable answer – I need a bit more guidance than that, before I learn someone. I have some pretty out there desires, compared to some folks, and I worry about pushing people harder and faster than they want to go. And simultaneously, there are folks to whom my desires are mild and dull, and I worry about being too tentative and boring them.

But how to deal with the responsibility of charting new territory? Submissive-leaning people aren’t generally so great at explaining what they are and aren’t into, especially in the moment when they are already getting turned on and slipping into that headspace. (Some are, mind. And I absolutely treasure and appreciate them. More precious than rubies.)

I love talkative bottoms. I know a lot of people go non-verbal when they hit that headspace (hell, I sure tend to, somewhat), but if you can be talkative, oh, please do! (Well, if you’re with me, anyways. I’m wired such that the fastest way to get me off is to talk to me. Your mileage may vary.)

I recently had a fellow start a first encounter by just giving me the sexiest fucking stream of suggestions ever. No demands, no list of requirements, just a long stream of please this, please that, please please please yes. Asking to be slapped, choked, all sorts of gorgeous hot things that really get me going, in a very different tone than I’d ever heard him use before. That sort of enthusiastic welcome makes me feel so much more free to play intensely early on. Really, even non-verbal obvious enthusiasm and encouragement would. Tops need to have and build up trust too, you know. Which I think goes too often ignored.

There have been times when I’ve felt pressure to play harder from the first moment on with new people than I’m really comfortable with. Not wanting to be an unintentional rapist, I usually prefer to start slow and ramp it up as I learn to read new people better. React well, give me reason to trust that you really are into this and want more, and I’ll push things in a more intense direction. But there’s a trust and learning curve there. I’ve had at least one or two really miserable occasions of basically being given up on for that, and it sucked. A lot.

So, to folks who bottom – please be understanding. I understand that there are things you wouldn’t want me to do the day we meet. There are things I’m not ready to do that first time, either. That has to be okay.

If you need things to ramp up faster, find a way to show it in positive light. Squirm or struggle more. Beg. Communicate. If you require a mind-reader, look somewhere else. If you have more time, do send fantasies and encouragement in advance. But a bit of pleasepleaseplease can do a lot of good, in the moment.

Even with new people who enthusiastically give a lot of encouragement and energy and good responses and open invitation to push things around whichever way I want to, I still really need to make sure that each thing I want to do is consensual. “Whatever you want,” and even special requests for a few things, might turn out to coincide with whatever I’m into, or it might mean “you can punch me but not cane me, tie me up but don’t ask me to kneel, slap me across the face but nowhere else, slam your knee into my crotch but don’t slide needles under the skin on my back.” These things are complicated!

How do we find out, without the time in advance to talk over every possibility? How do we avoid risking pushing past people’s limits and unintentionally abusing their trust?

Sure, we can quickly say: “I want to punch you until you say you’re done,” and “Okay!”, but personally, I need more power play with my sensation play to really get much out of it. Which complicates matters even more.

The best answer I’ve found so far is really to preface every new sort of thing I’m about to do by asking if it’s okay. Not in a dull, dry, “Is it really all right if I perhaps hit you, please?” sort of way, but in a pressed-up-against-them, looking-into-their-eyes, moaning-turned-on-voice, holding-them-down sort of way: “It’s okay if I [bite you, put my hands over your mouth and nose, dig my nails into your flesh, kiss you, punch you, slap your face.. harder, hold you up just by this rope that’s already left welts digging into your skin, etc]?” Leading questions, hand against their face or clenched hard in their hair, intense desire – but a pause, a beat, watching them and waiting for that trembling perfect moment of wanting and consent.

I can’t bring myself to cross potential boundaries unless I get clear consent – unless we’ve previously discussed that being okay, of course. Which makes things all the better, but is not something I know how to negotiate in the moment. But as for all this, thank fuck for gorgeous people who respond with variations on yes, yes, please please, yes.

There’s a gendered aspect here, I think. If I were a man topping women, there would be much more of a cultural insinuation that I’m subtly pressuring people into giving me what I want. Even without that, I very much see it as my responsibility to police myself, even though most people I play with are bigger and stronger than me and could easily fight me off if they had to. (Until I have them restrained. Until I have them in the right headspace. Until I have secrets, photos, stories. Until I have a knife to their throat, or against their balls, or shoved up their cunt. (Until I make them want to do what I want, but only after making sure that they want to be made to want to do what I want. Geek sex ahoy!))

I have a ‘yes means yes’ focus, more than a ‘no means no’ one – though that too, of course. Without much more extensive and explicit discussion in advance, I’m not advocating pushing through and doing whatever strikes your fancy in the absence of a safeword. Ask, and wait a beat. Don’t go on if they fail to say no. Don’t go on if they say yes but look uncomfortable or unsure.

This loses me the stoics, but for first encounters in particular, I’m really only willing to go on only if they show that they are enthusiastically aroused at the suggestion. With words, with squirming and biting and moaning, with leaning back and baring the throat a bit more or fighting back with a grin and a groan and hardness or dampness against my thigh. Forget yes means yes, even. YesyesyesyespleasePLEASEyes means yes.

I actually don’t fetishize consent. I’m a bit obsessed with making sure it’s there, but I don’t get off on thinking about asking for permission to do things. I tend to be much more turned on by the fantasy of non-consent. The internal conflict of desire and consent. I like fighting, struggling, resistance, overpowering, and especially that marvelous tension of being torn between wanting more and wanting it to stop, pleading and not knowing for which. I like intense desire going every which way. I used to date a woman who was very into being asked for her explicit consent before penetration, every time. That’s not my thing.

So for whatever it’s worth, this is not actually coming from the perspective of someone who thinks that talking about consent during every sexual act is really hot. I think that getting to know people well who prefer to set up some explicit default assumptions that sidestep that is way hotter. These are just some thoughts on how to make things hot anyway, when we don’t have time to make sure less careful play is going to be okay.

Obvious disclaimer: This is my perspective. It doesn’t have to be yours. I don’t really do much public play and almost never just jump into play with new folks without having a pretty good sense of how they work first. Maybe because it’s not usually how I do things, I get terribly nervous about it. Someone who’s really into this sort of thing might see things very differently. Actually, I would love to hear from other people on how they navigate first scenes with new people! What’s your advice?

6 Responses

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  1. Ivy O'Malley said, on April 12, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Oh, I’ve run into things like this before as well, and good choice of topic. Like you, I tend to ramp up as I learn my partners’ reactions and what they like. Most of the time, there’s extended negotiations because I tend towards long distance relationships, and so they become foreplay. But every so often, yes, I get ambushed by chemistry. I think part of the culture of kink in the US is being seen to be highly responsible, and to represent the community well. So most sources that discuss this take the highly conservative route of slow, detailed, step by step negotiations. That works great for some folks, but is not how everyone works in every situation.

    I too value partners who give me good and vociferous feedback; I don’t feel that that impinges upon me as a top or anything. I can do a better job and evoke the reactions that are so pleasing to me if I have a better grasp on where they are mentally. But, yes, I scale myself back to where I really feel I can trust my partner’s feedback and my knowledge of where their head is/what they enjoy. So the more they give me, the more satisfying the scenes can be for everyone.

  2. Rikibeth said, on April 12, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    I try to give feedback, even as I feel my words slipping away; “Do that again” is one I can usually manage. Having someone who knows how to ask leading questions helps. Or if I say a caution, like following a happy moan with “just don’t leave marks outside my shirt,” and that leads them to ask “but I can do lovely evil things to the rest of you?” This is a recipe for a fun night.

    I don’t have the experience of just topping someone on the fly; possibly that’s not a side of me that comes out as easily in casual/unexpected encounters. It’s interesting to read about, though!

  3. Clarisse said, on April 17, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    When I’m submitting, it’s really hard for me to say “yes, please do that”. My instinct is to want to resist, to say no. Because I think it’s the responsible thing, I have trained myself to be able to say yes, to be able to ask someone not to stop, but I had to train that into myself — and it always kills the thrill at least a bit, when I do. My goal, with every dominant partner, is to get to a place where I don’t have to do that. Where I can show my consent with the right kind of screaming, instead. (One of my favorite memories is a dominant partner who beat me up until I cried, then twisted my arm the wrong way. One minute I was crying and begging for mercy, and the next — as he twisted my arm — I said, “Ow!” He blinked, and asked, “Ow?” and stopped instantly, and we both cracked up.)

    Being ordered to beg, in particular, leaves me cold. Actively turns me off. Who knows why.

    On my Giant Goddamn List Of Posts is one about the memory of my first serious submissive partner. We had that WHOA chemistry you’re talking of, but I let it build for a couple months before taking him back to my place. Our pre-scene negotiations consisted of me figuring out his safeword and asking him what not to do, and then just going at it, but — remembering my experience as a submissive — I did two things in particular:

    1) After I got his safeword I told him, quietly but with iron tones, something along the lines of “Now listen to me. You have to promise to safeword if you need to. Promise me. If you don’t safeword when you need to safeword, you’ll be doing the worst thing you possibly could. Do you understand?”

    2) I asked every boundaries question at least twice. The first time to throw it out there and watch him, and the second time to really get an answer. There were, by the way, a few moments in which he gave me real answers only the second time (after he’d had more time to process, or been convinced that I actually cared to hear the answer — I’m not sure which).

    • Cal Stockton said, on April 23, 2010 at 2:31 pm

      My goal, with every dominant partner, is to get to a place where I don’t have to do that. Where I can show my consent with the right kind of screaming, instead.

      Oh, yes. Yes. That is definitely my goal as well. And it doesn’t really have to take that long to get there, but it’s intimidating at first, before I’m confident that we’re there.

  4. […] Cal Stockton from Topologies discusses Realistic and quick negotiation in the moment: […]

  5. CuddleBug said, on October 9, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Hello! I have just discovered your bloh, and I have been greatly enjoying it. I am a male submissive who is most certainly not aroused by pain, but this piece really spoke to me, as it describes how I would want to submit to someone. Being ordered around wouldn’t be that fun most of the time, and I feel that submitting because I want to is better for forming relationships.

    I hope that there will be more lovely, thought provoking posts, here.

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