This post is a continuation of Things Aces Can Learn From Kink: Part One, as part of the March Carnival of Aces on Asexuality and Kink.
Consent is not something you give once in your relationship and never again. By saying, yes, I’ll date you, you haven’t consented to all the things ever. Consent is something you can take back. You always hold the right to say, no, I don’t want to do this right now. You can give consent before and during an activity. Most of the time consent is a mix between pre-negotiated acts, in the moment negotiations, and double-checking for consent in the moment consent. It is good to establish with your partner that this column of things can be done without explicit consent once we are consensually cuddling/sexing/whatever, this column is always ask first, and this column is NO.
The NO column is what is called a hard limit in kink. A hard limit is something that should always be avoided, never ever done by surprise, and depending on the limit itself might require some thought on your partner’s part to avoid. You are always allowed to revise your hard limits if you become more or less comfortable with something or if your health changes. Some hard limits are health related, like if you have a bleeding disorder and need partners to be careful about how hard they bite or hit you. Others are about discomfort, like many aces who have the hard limit of no genitalia touching.
Another kind of limit that is very applicable to aces is a soft limit. A soft limit is an act that you are a bit hesitant about and/or have conditions about how, when, where that act can happen. It might be something that you are interested in, but scared of, and/or that your partner needs be very careful in doing. It is a limit that is not set in stone. A soft limit should always be negotiated and if the negotiation happened before the activity, then a check-in is generally a good idea as that soft limit is about to happen in the activity. For some aces, penetration or genital touch is a soft limit. Soft limits can be just about anything, just like hard limits can be. Furthermore, a limit doesn’t have to be a physical thing or a limit specifically for your intimate moments. A limit can be, “Never call me any form of degrading slur, even in jest.” You don’t even necessarily need to give validating reasons for them. If you are comfortable enough with your partner, go ahead. If you aren’t or you are negotiating with someone for something that is planned to be short-lived, it is your choice and right to say, this is a limit for me. Period. The end.
Limits are really good example of if you don’t ask, how do you know? I have a hard limit which is incredibly triggering for me, but not common or even terribly logical…so if I don’t talk with my partner or only talk about the things I like…*boom* *Atalia in meltdown place*. My partner would feel bad for upsetting me, I would be upset, just badness all around.
Negotiation is a work in progress and boy, can it be hard. It is totally okay if the first time you sit down with your partner to have a talk what comes out is, “I’d like you to do more of that thing with your thing.” As I have noted before, it takes practice and time and is sometimes really uncomfortable. If you are like me, (a long standing prude) and asking for things that are traditionally sexual, but aren’t necessarily for you is totally blushworthy, that is just fine. Mumbling, looking at the ground, or using euphemisms, that is okay too. Whatever it is about opening up that makes it hard, that is just fine. The point is that you are working on communicating what works for you, what doesn’t and what you actually want to happen in your relationship.
As Cliff of Pervocracy has argued, Consent can be sexy (Warning: NSFW and sexual). Consent can be asexy for that matter. Knowing what your partner is interested in doing with you, hearing yes in the moment to confirm that that is what they want, that feels really nice. She is welcoming this expression of my affection. Telling my partner yes, I want you to x, I am saying to her, I like how you make me feel, please continue. Admittedly, I am coming at this from a romantic point of view, but this could also be true of an aromantic relationship or a whole variety of relationships that are different from my own.
Before I wrap this post up, I just want to say that there is no rule that if you adopt a form of negotiation that you have to do everything I have commented on or that you should find a kink site that tells you how to do negotiation and do it just that way. Take what your relationship(s) needs, what you are comfortable with. If safe words sound uncomfortable to you and you aren’t doing anything where no wouldn’t necessarily mean stop, don’t use them. Do consider ways to share with your partner, I don’t know that I want to stop, but I am getting a bit uncomfortable here. My partner knows that when I say, “…okay,” in a certain tone of voice that is also my equivalent of yellow. No matter what you take away from this post however, I hope that the core of it, the communication and the importance of consent, is something that is useful to you in some way, shape, or form.
I know that this post was about how negotiation and consent are a good example of what aces can take away from kink, but I also want to emphasize that this is good practice for any relationship. Furthermore, that negotiation and consent is for the comfort and enjoyment of all partners, not just the ace(s) in the relationship. Finally, consent and negotiation are not a discussion that happens once. Sometimes they will be big sit-downs, other times a casual lying in bed after cuddles asking each other what you liked or didn’t like, or a sudden realization on Skype that you’d really like to try this thing. Consent and negotiation are an ongoing part of a relationship so that everyone’s needs, emotional, romantic, physical, and/or sexual (if that is on the table) are met.
Note: If I have made any terminology or implication mistakes regarding kink in this post, feel free to drop me a line. I happily hover around the edges of the community and could totally have missed a thing or had a different understanding than is common.
This post was cross-posted on my Tumblr.