The Importance of Negotiation in BDSM Play

Ms Morgan Thorne has been a lifestyle dominant for 20 years and a Professional Dominatrix for 6 years. She can be reached at her website, twitter, and Facebook.

Negotiation isn’t really a word that a lot of people associate with sexuality. It’s something you do in business or when buying a new car, not when you’re trying to get hot and heavy with someone sexy.

In BDSM, negotiation is very important and one of the first steps in arranging an encounter.

While kinky negotiations will look different for everyone, there are some basics that you should cover. We discussed in our conversation about consent that only a yes means yes, and negotiation is how we get to that yes. We will begin by discussing things that are important in negotiating a play scene.

I always encourage people to be very thorough in negotiating with new BDSM partners - even if you’ve been married for years. If this is a new area of exploration, it’s best to be rather explicit in what you want to get into. As you gain experience with your partner, you may find that you don’t need the same level of negotiation, knowing each others likes and limits means you don’t have to discuss them every time, unless something changes.

No matter how experienced in BDSM you or your partner are, if you are new to each other, detailed negotiation can save a lot of trouble down the road.

Limits

The first thing we will talk about are limits. This is a word you will hear often in kinky circles, as people talk about what they are and aren’t into. There are two kinds of limits, hard and soft, and it’s important to communicate these to your partner before any kink activities get started.

Hard limits are things you will not do.

You may not have any interest in the activity, you may find it repugnant or too dangerous. There are a million reasons for an activity to become a hard limit - your reasons are your own and you don’t have to explain them to anyone, unless you want to. If something is listed as a hard limit, by either the Top or bottom, Dominant or submissive, it needs to be respected.

Partners should not beg or harass, pushing to do things on your hard limit list - it is incredibly disrespectful to hound someone about limits, often grounds for the ending of kinky relationships.

Soft limits are things that you may not enjoy, but would be willing to do for the right person.

They could also be an activity that you do enjoy, but that you will only do with people you trust or know well. They could be activities that take a high level of skill or energy, so you won’t engage in them with just anyone. Again, activities on your soft limit list can be anything you want them to be, but let your partner know if they are things you’re interested in exploring with them at this time or not.

Everyone is allowed to have limits - they aren’t just for bottoms! Dominants/Tops can have limits for the same reasons that submissives/bottoms do - they aren’t into an activity, it makes their skin crawl, they don’t have the skill set, etc. No one should ever be shamed for having limits, there are no activities that make one a ‘true’ Top/Dominant or bottom/submissive that everyone must engage in.

Keep in mind that your tastes can change over time and so can your limits.

There may be things you see at the beginning of your kinky journey that freak you out, that after a few years you come to regard as hot. You may fantasise about an activity for years, but after actually trying it, find it’s not what you thought or that you hate it. Think of it like food - many things we hated when we were young are now things we love - our tastes change over time. If or when your limits change, be sure to let your partner(s) know, so that they can adjust their expectations of play accordingly.

A discussion about safe words should also happen - decide if you want to use safe words or plain language to communicate during the scene. If you do want to use safe words, you should agree on which word or words to use and what they will mean for you. Everyone has a different interpretation of safe words, so again, it’s much better to talk about it so you’re on the same page. It can save unwanted pain, both physical and psychological, for everyone involved.

Deciding on which activities you do want to engage in looks different for everyone. Some people choose to fill out BDSM activity checklists (google that phrase to find many examples to use or make your own). Where ‘likes’ overlap you have an idea of what you may want to do together.

Some people will negotiate every activity they want to engage in for a particular scene - covering each implement or action to ensure their partner is consenting. I suggest this type of negotiating with new play partners. Again, once you get to know someone’s play style, you can shift to less detailed negotiation.

Scene Agreement

One way to do this type of negotiating is to agree on a type of scene - let’s say an impact play scene - then allow the bottom to choose which implements they would like used. The top doesn’t need to use all of those implements, but at least has a general idea of what the bottom is hoping for. This also helps with misunderstandings that can happen.

For instance, if someone agreed to playing with floggers, they may have meant only fur and suede floggers (anticipating a more sensation focused type of play), where I may take it to mean they are ok with all the floggers in my collection - including the metal weighted falls that make even the most eager masochist think twice.

With more established play partners (someone you’ve played with many times and have a good idea of their likes and limits), you can simply negotiate a theme for the scene - impact, sensation, etc. Just be sure to negotiate anything new; toys, limits or anything else that may have changed since your last play time.


Communication is essential to a good relationship and this is especially true when it comes to BDSM relationships. Without consent, our play becomes assault or abuse. While talking about what we want to do or have done to us may be uncomfortable in the beginning, it is an essential skill that those who want to engage in kink should develop. It gets much easier the more you do it and those improved communication skills (and the confidence in them) can have a positive impact on more than just your sex life!


Ms Morgan Thorne has been a lifestyle dominant for 20 years and a Professional Dominatrix for 6 years. As a former health care worker, she is very knowledgeable regarding safety in BDSM. She is a sex work advocate and an outreach worker with The Naked Truth Entertainment. Morgan is also a fetish film performer and model. She is a writer with Kink E Magazine and volunteers in her local community as a DM and event organizer. She is a kink educator who teaches across North America. Identifying as pansexual/asexual, Morgan tries to be inclusive of all identities and orientations during her teaching. Her new book “A Guide to Classic Discipline” is expected out spring/summer 2015

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