Saturday, February 18, 2006

Spanking 101: Consent

Consent is the bedrock upon which every sexual relationship is built. Without it, sex is rape and spanking is assault.

As black and white as this issue may seem at first glance, there can be many shades of grey. At one end of the spectrum, one partner may decide to permanently surrender her consent regarding sexual matters as a demonstration of total submission. This is not an arrangement with which I would be comfortable, but I know it works for some couples.

At the other end of the spectrum is a policy implemented several years ago at Antioch College in Ohio. This policy required an explicit request and confirmation of consent at each step from a kiss to unbuttoning a button to touching a breast. This too seems a bit extreme. I understand their point (stopping date rape), but the twenty questions procedure would absolutely kill the mood for me.

For most of us, the ideal arrangement lies somewhere in the middle. As with so many issues, there can be no single solution that works for everyone. Couples must find their own comfort level. As a relationship progresses, that level can shift considerably. Failure to agree on this fundamental issue can quickly doom a relationship.

In a vanilla world, we could probably stop here. However, when we add a little kink to the mix, things become more complicated. Submission, by definition, involves giving away a degree of control. It can be exciting and fun or scary and dangerous, depending upon how well the partners communicate and support one another.

For me, the key is that the submissive's control must never be taken from her. It is given voluntarily to the dominant as a loan. She retains full ownership and the right to recall the loan should circumstances change in a major way. The submissive aspects of my relationship with Randy operate in precisely this fashion. It took a number of years for us to forge this understanding, but it has worked well.

Similarly, true consent can be granted only when the submissive is able to think clearly and understand the implications of her decision. In particular, I think coerced consent through any means is very problematic.

Consent has three dimensions - Scope, Duration, and Severability.

Scope refers to the breadth of activities governed by the consent. For example, I allow Randy to tie me up and spank my bottom as he deems appropriate. However, I would be very upset were he to cut or brand me without asking first. Those activities are outside the scope of our consent understanding as it exists today.

Duration is the time frame covered by a consent understanding. It could, for example, be granted for the current session, all sessions, whenever the couple is together, or all of the time.

Severability is the rights the submissive has to pause or cancel her consent in special circumstances. Is there a safeword? When can it be used? What happens when the safeword is invoked?

These three elements can be combined in many ways to fit a variety of situations. There can be no one right formula, except in the context of one couple's desires. As you ponder issues related to consent, I encourage you to consider these choices. The optimal blend should provide thrill without peril and comfort without complacency. Achieving this balance is not always easy, but it is worthwhile.

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dwcmike said...

Well written Bonnie, we totally agree. Our relationship allows my wife to spank me whenever and however she chooses, but not to do bodily or permanent damage. I have the right to say no, if the timing is wrong.(someone else is present, and our excusing ourself for the moment would be obvious) A safe word exists, but has never been needed.
I love reading your thoughts when time permits.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree!!! In being submissive, I never feel like I'm giving up conrtrol, but rather letting my hubby kinda "have his way with me" because I want him to. I love and trust him and know that he would never do anything that I didn't want him to do.


CeeCi said...

You've hit the mark again with this Spanking 101. I completely agree, consent is the key.

Marcus said...

It very much fits what I've thought my entire life. It's why when I've shared my early spanking experiences, all of them have started off hesitant.

Paul said...

Yes consent was a hard nut to crack.
It took Mel and I a couple of years to sort out, when we progressed to a D / D relationship a lot more talk.
By this time we knew and trusted each other completely, Mel had a safeword, it was never used.
Thanks for a thought provoking post, very helpful for wanabies and beginners.

RnC Personal said...

Hello Bonnie,

Really enjoyed your description of what consensual agreement between a couple actually entails.

The comment you made at the beginning of your article concerning the policy agreement set up by Antioch College really tickled me! That would kill all sense of sensuality and romance!
I think I would rather satisfy myself than have to go through all that rigmarole!


rivka said...

Good thoughts; good read.

Bonnie said...

Mike - The arrangement you describe parallels ours fairly closely. I have found the safeword to be handy on a few occasions. I use it rarely, but I am very grateful to have that option.

Tigger - This thing we do is all about trust, isn't it?

CeeCi - Thank you!

Marcus - I imagine converting a hesitant vanilla has to be a real challenge. Obviously, you've proven yourself to be up to the task several times.

Paul - Yes, I completely agree. Mutual trust and understanding are the cornerstones of a successful relationship, be it vanilla or double chocolate hot fudge ripple tin roof rocky road swirl with whipped cream, nuts, bananas, sprinkles, and a cherry on top.

C - Thanks!

When that policy was announced about ten years ago, I recall that the late night commedians had a field day with it. In a way, that's a shame because the intent behind it was valid. They sought to eliminate date rape.

On the other hand, you can't enforce a policy that is so contrary to human nature (especially healthy 18-22 year old human nature).

Rivka - Thanks!

webb said...

Hi, The Antioch College Sexual Offense Prevention Policy has been updated this year if anyone cares to check it out:

Hope you find it an interesting read!

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