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.