According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means to give assent or approval: agree. It is giving permission to do something and/or for something to happen. Consent is giving authorization to someone. It seems like a simple term, but it is far from a simple topic once people start discussing it.
Consent is essential. It is freely given, revocable, informed, comfortable, enthusiastic, and specific. It is given by someone who is not in an altered level of consciousness. This includes not only due to drugs and alcohol, but also during a scene. There are several types of consent that I am going to discuss here. All of them are important to people on both sides of the slash.
Yes, it is a legal form of consent, but not one that should be used in this lifestyle outside of the medical definition of it: implied consent is the consent to touch when a person is unconscious or unable to respond. It is the consent to act in an emergency/life-threatening situation for the best interest of the person.
Consent is a huge part of submission; however, submission in and of itself does not imply consent. In Hazel vs State it says: submission to a compelling force, or as a result of fear, is not consent. If a submissive/bottom feels pressured into doing something, it is not consent. If they do something because they are afraid to say no, it is not consent. As I have heard it put before, if it is not an enthusiastic yes, then it is a hell no.
This is when permission is granted with sufficient knowledge and understanding of what is going to happen and the potential consequences of those actions. This is at the heart of other definitions I will be talking about later.
I know this can be difficult when playing with someone who has never had a scene before, but all items that the Top wants to use needs to be discussed with the bottom (regardless of title used) and any conceivable consequences should be talked about also. Let them hold and feel the objects outside of a scene. If the item can leave bruises tell them. If it can break the skin, make sure they are aware. This may feel like a tedious process to both parties, but do it.
And let’s be clear, consent is specific. Seeking consent during a scene to do something more than originally agreed to should never be done. During a scene the bottom may agree to anything due to being in sub space. Also, I believe that if a bottom gets so deep into subspace that they can no longer answer questions or give their safe word/signal, the scene should be stopped. They are no longer able to revoke consent, so consent is not active at that point.
This is a type of consent used during a one time scene. Negotiations are done for that scene and for how long. Limits are established on what is agreed upon, i.e. you can hit me like this but not like that, etc. If a bottom agrees to play with a Top at a play party today, that does not mean that that Top can assume he/she has that same consent at a later date. It is just what it says, temporary. And it should be happily given. A bottom may be nervous, especially if they are new, but they are still exited about what is going to happen. Safe words must be made clear and honored.
This is a type of consent normally given in a long-term dynamic/relationship. It is normally established in a verbal or written contract. Outside of hard and soft limits being established, consent is established for certain things in this contract. That means that A, B, and C has been agreed upon. If the Top wants to introduce D, then that is outside of the contract and it must be discussed and informed consent given.
Also, just because long-term consent has been given, it doesn’t mean that the bottom can’t use their established safe word. These contracts can and do change over time, but it is with consent of both parties. If one party retracts consent, then it should no longer be done. And yes, Tops can retract their consent at any time also. That is what a contract is- people agreeing (consenting) to what is established in said contract.
CNC is also referred to as blanket consent. This type of consent is supported by some in the lifestyle and discouraged by others. I believe the main reason it is discouraged is because it is often abused by people that hide behind our lifestyle and use it as an excuse to abuse and take advantage of someone. I will say again, that is just my humble opinion.
CNC is mainly limited to Owner/property and Master/slave dynamics. In simple terms, it is the property/slave giving up all rights to say no to their Owner/Master. Saying no can mean the end of the relationship. This should only be used between people that know each other really well and know that their wants, needs, and limits are similar. Although no dynamic should be jumped into (Just like any relationship), a M/s or O/p is something that should develop over time.
In recent years, Consensual Non-consent has been seen most often in discussions about rape and/or abduction scenes. Even in this type of play, informed consent is received. It is understood completely and agreed upon by the bottom. They may not know the when or where, but rules are established. If the bottom wants and agrees to one of these scenes with their Top, the Top cannot do anything that was not negotiated. For example, a bottom has agreed to a rape scene with their Top and nothing was said about adding other men to the scene. The Top should not bring other men in , knowing that their bottom would not agree to it. And I would advise strongly not only having safe words, but signals also because you don’t know how a bottom is going to react to this type of scene until you are in one. It could be a trigger if the bottom has a traumatic history.
Regardless of how you view consensual non-consent – whether you define it as the consent between a M/s or O/p, or a rape/abduction scene- the heart of CNC is CONSENT. It is Informed Consent that is given freely and with full knowledge and understanding of what is going to be expected.
In closing, I would like to leave you with the following that I must credit Planned Parenthood for, although it is essential in BDSM also–
Consent is easy as fries: