10 Golden Rules for BDSM Negotiation

Originally posted as a serious of graphics by Master Dale, I have retyped them here for accessibility.

  1. You are an adult and are responsible for your own safety. Do not give up your rights or your sensibilities as an adult and put yourself in danger. Mental and physical abuse are not part of what we do. Never.
    DAX SAYS: You’re a grown adult. At the end of the day, YOU are responsible for your own safety.
  2. If you are new or about to begin with someone new, set very short goals for your first encounters. You can escalate the level of your relationship later. Start small. Build from there. If meeting outside of a public venue, follow every established rule for safe first encounters.
    DAX SAYS: Don’t meet anywhere except a public venue for your first encounter. If the person you are meeting objects, find someone else.
  3. Define your safewords. Use them if you need to. Know where the door is and know that you can use it too. Never put yourself in a situation where you have no experience with someone and can not access the door if you need to.
    DAX SAYS: Avoid anyone who says they don’t allow safewords. Test them – safeword when you don’t need to, see what happens. Don’t allow yourself to be restrained in the first few meetings unless you know you can release yourself.
  4. Familiarise yourself with the lingo (language) of BDSM, kink and fetish. Discuss your interpretation of words and phrases. The same thing can mean different things to different people.
    DAX SAYS: There’s no harm or shame in asking for clarification – “When you say…” is a perfectly fine question to ask, and feel free to say things like “When I said thing, what I meant was / what I didn’t mean was”.
  5. Define your limits for your partner as well as your experience allows you to do it. Then stick by your limits until the next negotiation about them.
    DAX SAYS: What this means is that you should tell your partner your limits at the beginning of any dynamic and play session, and stick to them. If you don’t know your limit for something because you haven’t done it, that’s fine, but explain that and also say what you are willing to try.
  6. (Rewritten from the original)
    You are equal to the other person during this negotiation, whatever “role” you play – Dom, sub etc. When you’re in the dynamic, whatever you’ve negotiated may change that, but after safewording or outside of play, you are once again equal.
  7. Go with your gut. If something feels wrong, it probably is wrong for you. Address that issue up front. And remember rule 3 – always know where the door is if you need it.
    DAX SAYS: There is no “A real sub would always do this” or anything like that – each dynamic is different. If you don’t like something, you can absolutely refuse.
  8. (Rewritten from the original)
    You may be negotiating in good faith, but be aware that the other person might not be – through inexperience, bad intentions or some other reason. As in rule 7, go with your gut – avoid coercion like “I can only play with someone who does xyz”; negotiations rely on give and take. If someone is avoiding that or trying to railroad you into something you don’t want, ask yourself if that is a good sign of trustworthiness and future respect for your consent.
  9. (Rewritten from the original)
    Avoid anyone who is clearly unhappy about giving up something they wanted in the negotiation or who suggests they may not respect your limits (especially during a punishment). Limits must always be respected.
  10. BDSM negotiation is about finding your personal happiness and fulfilment. It is about establishing trust and opening up within your relationship. Keep those goals in mind as you negotiate with your partner. Keep your eye on the prize. Good partners will always work towards each other’s mutual happiness. They will not be looking to takw things at someone else’s expense.
    DAX SAYS: Basically, be excellent to each other – if someone is not excellent towards you, find someone else who is.

Image courtesy of @tillmorning via Twenty20

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