Yes Means Yes – Filthy Perverts Edition

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the concept of ‘yes means yes’. For those who might have missed it, it’s an extension of ‘no means no’. It’s a very similar concept to ‘enthusiastic consent’. Basically, ‘yes means yes’ says that the absence of a no (be it a literal, verbal ‘no, I don’t want to do that’, or a no conveyed by pushing a hand away or turning away from someone) is not enough, that you should only do things that your partner has actually said yes to. Whether you know this concept by the name ‘yes means yes’, ‘enthusiastic consent’, or something else entirely, it ought to be blindingly obvious. Come on, would you rather have sex with someone who said ‘okay, fine, we can have sex if you really want to that badly’, or someone who said ‘hell yes, why aren’t you naked yet?’. One of those situations is hot, and one of them is boring and sad.

‘Yes means yes’ is extremely simple when applied to vanilla sex. Really, it is. Even if you prefer to have sex with straight women. Sure, you might not get a verbal ‘yes, I want to have sex with you right  now’, but if a woman nods when you ask if you should get a condom out, I think it’s safe to take that as a yes. If she pulls you back to her after you stand up and take your pants off, she’s probably into it. If on the other hand she isn’t making any particular effort to touch you, or isn’t reacting much but isn’t pulling away, stop and check in. Either she doesn’t really want to have sex, or you’re about to have boring and terrible sex. When bad sex is your best case scenario, just stop.

However, I can forgive people for being confused by ‘yes means yes’ as applied to filthy pervert sex, in particular resistance play/consensual non-consent/whatever you choose to call it when you want to yell ‘no’ without actually stopping the scene. If you’re trying to have a resistance scene where the bottom gets to yell no as loud as they want and struggle to get away without fear that the scene they’re enjoying will actually stop, asking ‘are you sure this is okay?’ mid-scene is a fantastic way to drag everyone involved out of the headspace they want to be in. However, it’s actually very simple to apply ‘yes means yes’ to resistance play. The yes simply comes before the fact. Clearly and completely negotiating a take-down scene is a definitive yes as far as I’m concerned. Anything that the bottom said yes to during negotiations is fine during the scene no matter how loud they yell no (as long as they don’t safeword or otherwise indicate they’re not having fun anymore). Anything the bottom did not say yes to during the negotiation process is a no. I don’t mean only things that the bottom said no to, but anything and everything that wasn’t covered during negotiation. That means if you’re having a great resistance scene, and it occurs to you it would be fun to threaten the bottom with this handy knife you have lying around, but you didn’t talk about including knife play in this particular scene, you don’t do it. Even if you really, really want to and are pretty sure it would be fine. Suck it up and negotiate for knife-play next time.

You might think ‘yes means yes’ is incompatible with d/s. That’s completely wrong. Also kind of stupid. I hate to break it to you, but signing a slave contract in front of all of your friends and pinky-swearing that you’ll both uphold it forever and ever doesn’t mean that any given scene won’t still come to a screeching halt when the slave says (to paraphrase the entirely awesome Laura Antoniou) ‘I withdraw my consent’, ‘let me out or I’ll call the police’, or ‘stop hitting me or I’ll call my lawyer’. For that matter, any variant of ‘I don’t feel so good, I think I might throw up’ will reliably end a scene no matter how many times you said you were going to play without safewords this time.

If you’re concerned that only doing things that you slave says is okay will keep you from feeling like you’re really in control, for fucks sake, negotiate for whatever would give you the feeling of control. If you want to be able to grab your bottom/submissive/slave by the hair and drag them to the bedroom for a thorough ravishing whenever you want, ask for that! If you like mindfucks, ask for that! If you want to be able to take a scene in whatever direction suits you, ask for that! Yes, you will have to get to know your bottom-type person really well before they’ll agree to let you do whatever you want if you use a ‘yes means yes’ concept of consent. Horror of horrors. Oh wait, you have to do that anyway if you play with people who have any regard for their own well-being. 24/7 total power exchange is a fantasy. It can be a fun fantasy, but it’s still a fantasy. ‘Yes means yes’ style negotiation takes place outside of that fantasy, just like, you know, the rest of your real life, the one that pays the rent and keeps the lights on.

If you’re too stupid to negotiate a scene or a relationship that works for you, that’s hardly the fault of the standard of consent you use.

One ring to rule them all

A comment weezie made on my post about ‘mentoring’ and ‘protecting’ reminded me of yet another thing I wanted to rant about 🙂 Specifically, the fears that people who are new to the scene often have about how if they do something wrong at an event and accidentally offend someone, everyone will laugh at them and then throw them out. There is ONE and only ONE rule (to rule them all) you absolutely have to follow at your average kink event, be it a munch, play party, conference, or what have you.

I say ‘average kink event’ because there are specific high-protocol1events that do have many more rules that are much more strict. However, high-protocol events are clearly advertised as such, and the hosts will generally be happy to fill you in on the specifics if you ask them. Most kink events (such as munches, play parties and conferences) are low protocol.

The one rule is (drumroll, please):

Be polite.

Anti-climactic, huh? That’s it. That’s literally all you have to do to keep people from thinking you’re a big jerk. If you wouldn’t do something at a vanilla event with someone you didn’t know well, don’t do it at a kinky event. To be a little more specific, when I say ‘be polite’ I mean:

  • Say please, thank you, and excuse me.
    • Being polite sends the message that you care what people think of you, and that you’re willing to follow social conventions to make those around you comfortable. These are very good messages to send at a kink event.
  • Treat people like people.
    • ‘Hello’ is a reasonable greeting. ‘Ma’am, this one humbly begs to be allowed to kiss your boots.’ is not.
  • Do NOT touch anyone or their stuff unless you’ve been given permission.
    • Kinky people are extremely particular about this one. The only reason people feel comfortable dressing up in revealing fetish wear at parties is that they know that no-one will take the sight of some skin as in invitation.
  • Don’t interrupt people who are busy.
    • Don’t barge into conversations, and do NOT, under any circumstances short of a fire or blood emergency, interrupt someone’s scene.
  • Don’t be a creep.
    • Creepiness is difficult to define, but in general try not to act like you are entitled to anyone’s time, attention, or personal space. Don’t get angry at someone who wants to talk with her friends more than she/he wants to spend the evening entertaining you, don’t stare fixedly at people as if they dressed up solely to titillate you, don’t physically corner people you want to talk with, don’t stalk them around the party.

On the other hand, there are a host of things you have absolutely ZERO obligation to do:

  • You do not have to take orders from anyone you do not have a prior agreement with.
    • Repeated for emphasis: you do NOT, under any circumstances, have to take orders from ANYONE you do not have a prior agreement with. Not even if they’re hot, not even if they’re popular, not even if they’re super-duper-dominant. Some people think that just because a person looks submissive, they can order them around. Those people are stupid and should not be encouraged. Get a DM (dungeon master) or official volunteer (there are usually some at every party) to get them off your back if you need to.2
  • You do not have to play with anyone.
    • Not even if they really, really want you to. Not even if they ask nicely. Not even if they’re friends with your friends. Again, get a DM or volunteer if you need to. It really is their job to make sure the event goes smoothly.
  • You don’t have to put up with it if someone else is being rude.
    • If someone insists on talking at you all night, it’s perfectly fine to excuse yourself. If someone invites themselves to sit at your table, it’s perfectly fine to say that your friend will be back for that seat in just a minute. If someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, it’s perfectly fine to tell them to back off.

That’s pretty much it. There’s no set of arcane protocols you absolutely must follow to be accepted in the scene. All you really have to do is avoid being a jerk. If you’re not sure what you should do, it’s always fine to ask. If you’re worried about attending your first event, just send the organizers a message. They like it when new people come, and will be happy to answer any questions you have. Often they’ll offer to set you up with someone to sit with/talk to. If the group throwing the event has a forum of some sort (very often a fetlife group), by all means post there. We like it when people think to ask questions, it makes them look smart 🙂


1. High protocol is sort of a general term, as there are many different and often contradictory rules that can be called ‘high-protocol’. To borrow from the O&P Wiki(why yes, it was one of the first google results I found) high protocol includes such things as:

  • Restrictions on speech (eg silence; speaking only when spoken to; requesting permission to speak; or specific forms of address such as “Sir, yes, sir!”)
  • Deferential behaviour (eg not turning back to the dominant; keeping head below theirs; kneeling when otherwise unoccupied; requesting permission to leave the room.)
  • Immediate response to commands, and concentration on the dominant and their requirements.
  • Serving or waiting without drawing unnecessary attention to the submissive.

2. What if a DM or other volunteer is hassling you? Then you’re basically screwed. You can try complaining to another volunteer, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll take you seriously, and even if they do, they may not be able to get the person bothering you kicked out. I wish I had a better answer, but unfortunately kink organizations are just as prone to corruption as any other kind. Because of the way kinky people often feel attacked by the mainstream media equating BDSM with abuse, we often minimize or ignore abuse instead of rooting out the sources of it (see discussions about this on Consent Culture, and Kinky Little Girl’s blog). Also, kink organizations are almost always run by volunteers, and it can be difficult to find reliable volunteers. If someone is a reliable volunteer, the organizers of the event will be very reluctant to invite them not to come back.

‘Mentoring’ & ‘Protecting’

Are stupid. As well as liable to go wrong in fun and exciting ways. Unfortunately, they both look like good ideas on the surface.

In theory, a mentor is someone whose judgement you trust, who helps you learn to be a better submissive/dominant/switch/fill in the blank and gives you advice. If that was actually how it worked out in real life, I’d be all for it. Sadly, ‘mentoring’ generally ends up being an excuse to pounce on the fresh meat while pretending you’re only interested in teaching them. ‘Protecting’ is generally more limited, but can also be abused in much the same way, as well as being insulting to capable adults who happen to identify as submissive.

A real mentor is NOT necessarily dominant. Dominant identified people are absolutely not the font of all knowledge in the scene. A fellow submissive is probably the best person to teach a new submissive about the kinds of crap a bad or misguided dominant might pull. It’s technically possible for a dominant to mentor a submissive, but a purely altruistic exchange of information is probably not what a person has in mind if they pounce on a new submissive and offer to ‘mentor’ them.

Competition for the new blood in the scene can be stiff, and one way unscrupulous dominants try to give themselves an advantage is by offering to ‘mentor’ someone. This lets them appear altruistic while they use the mentoring relationship to get the submissive attached to them and to control their access to information. By controlling access to information, they can convince the submissive that the way they want her/him to submit is the one correct way. If that sounds kind of pathetic, that’s because it is in fact pathetic. If you can’t get someone to choose to submit to you on your own merits, without resorting to misleading them about what kind of relationship you’re after, what business do you have calling yourself dominant?

A real mentor does NOT, under any circumstances, play with their mentee. We already have a handy word in the scene for someone you play with: ‘play partner’. A mentor is supposed to be something entirely different. They’re also supposed to be able to offer unbiased advice, the way a trusted friend would. How can a mentee possibly get unbiased advice about something that went wrong in the scene they had the other day when they had that scene with their mentor?

Playing with someone you’re supposedly mentoring is a clear and obvious conflict of interest. Even if nothing goes horribly wrong, an ethical person would not put themselves in a situation so likely to go haywire. It’s simply too easy for a mentor to give in to the temptation to tell their mentee not to play with someone who they’re worried might steal them away, or avoid giving them information that might cause them to ask inconvenient questions about their mentor’s proficiency with their toys/protocol choices/how the scene actually works/what’s really going on. It’s also too easy for the mentee to avoid disagreeing with their mentor for fear of losing their play partner or being punished in scene.

Even in the more regulated environment of a job, a mentor is still generally someone other than the mentee’s boss. Again, that’s because of conflicts of interest. What’s best for a person’s career may be very different from what’s most convenient for their boss, making it very difficult for the mentee to get unbiased advice if their mentor and their boss are the same person.

A real mentor does NOT engage in power exchange with their mentee. Just like non-power-exchange play with the mentee, this is a conflict of interest. Once you set up a power exchange relationship with someone, you’re no longer an advisor, you’re a mistress/master/owner/etc. If you want to be someone’s mistress that’s great, but calling yourself a mentor while you act like a mistress is dishonest. Lying is a kind of a dick move, and also completely counterproductive. Misleading someone about your intentions certainly won’t make them stick around, and if they’re dumb enough to be fooled for any length of time, do you really want them around?

A real mentor points the mentee towards a wide range of resources, even ones which the mentor doesn’t necessarily agree with, and encourages them to talk with other people and gather a range of opinions. You don’t necessarily have to have an extensive library of bdsm related books to be a mentor, but you really do have to be able to give your mentee information in some form, whether that’s a list of links to read through or a list of people who are especially skilled in certain areas to talk to. If you can’t provide someone with information and help them learn to find things on their own, you have no business calling yourself a mentor. If you really need a fancy title to make yourself feel important, there are plenty of other ones to choose from.

A protector is generally even less useful than a ‘mentor’. Supposedly a protector looks out for a poor, vulnerable submissive, who is clearly too sweet and innocent (read, stupid and helpless) to a) figure out on her/his own who is safe to play with, and b) tell a top/dom/whatever who she/he doesn’t want to play with to back off.

There are very, very few situations in which I think a ‘protector’ figure has any use at all (aside from making said protector feel important).

  1. A bottom-type person who is completely new to the scene and going to their very first play party might feel more comfortable with a trusted friend who is there specifically to look after them and make sure no-one tries to talk them into doing anything they’re not completely comfortable with.
  2. A bottom-type person who knows their judgement of people is not always the best might choose to compensate for that by running potential play partners past a trusted friend before doing anything with them. This could also protect them from at least some predators by making it more trouble than it would be worth to either get the go ahead from their protector or persuade the person to go behind their protector’s back.
  3. A bottom-type person who is in fact perfectly comfortable telling people she/he doesn’t want to play with that no, she/he’s actually not at all turned on by their grandiose titles and domlier-than-thou posturing could easily get sick of tops arguing with her/his reasons for not wanting to play with them and ask a trusted friend to pose as her/his ‘protector’ for the sake of cutting those arguments short.

Note that none of these reasons have anything to do with submissive people being fundamentally unable to look after themselves just because they’re submissive. The idea that submissive people need a dominant to look after them is stupid and insulting. Assuming that a submissive person is submissive to everyone and therefore can’t say no when they need to makes as much sense as assuming that because I’m a straight woman I’m attracted to all men and can’t say no to the ones who aren’t compatible with me.

So, all together a mentor and protector would ideally:

  • Give you a sounding board for ideas
  • Point you toward information you might not have found on your own
  • Give you advice to help you develop in your chosen role/figure out which role works for you
  • Look out for your best interests
  • Help keep you safe

Does that list remind anyone of a certain relationship that doesn’t have a pompous title? Oh yes, I think it might possibly be, what’s the word…. ‘friendship‘. A good friend who has some experience in the scene would do any of the things a mentor or protector is supposed to do, without lying about their intentions. So what’s the point of ‘mentoring’ and ‘protecting’ again? Making ‘mentors’ and ‘protectors’ feel important.