When I tell people my regular partner and I play without safewords, I am often met with a concerned look. It has been drummed into plenty of people’s heads that safewords are compulsory in kink and people who don’t use them are dangerous or stupid. I am neither. The things I choose to do have extra risks but I am aware of the risks and choose to do them anyway. I prescribe to RACK (risk aware consensual kink) rather than SSC (safe, sane and consensual).
What is consensual non consent?
Consensual non consent (CNC) is a type of edgeplay that is often described as blanket consent. The exact parameters are agreed by those involved beforehand and vary considerably from a list of activities that are acceptable (even if not necessarily enjoyed) to no limits at all. Within these parameters, the right to back out is waived. It is generally associated with long term power exchange relationships but it can be part of more casual relationships or just relate to a scene. Some people use consensual non consent to refer to rape/resistance play which uses a safeword. While people are entitled to use terms in any way they see fit, this is not my understanding of consensual non consent.
Why I enjoy consensual non consent
Not everyone understands the appeal of consensual non consent. It works for me for a number of reasons:
I don’t want to be in control. If I have the power to stop the situation then I have some control
Most of the time “too far” is fucking hot
I want to know what happens when I go beyond the point I want to stop
As a rape victim, rape is something I constantly fear. CNC both forces me to face my biggest fear (non consent) and removes the possibility of it happening (consensual).
I have only ever done consensual non consent with one partner and I honestly don’t know whether I will ever trust anyone else enough to play that close to the edge. We’ve known each other for almost nine years and those years, combined with a general aptitude for reading people, mean he has a good idea of how far he can push me. I want to be pushed.
When I think of consensual non consent I am reminded of this quote:
“Tact in audacity consists in knowing how far we may go too far.” Jean Cocteau
In the year and a half I’ve been doing consensual non consent I don’t think things have ever gone too far too far but they have gone too far. When people talk about consensual non consent they often seem to glaze over the uncomfortable bit: non consent.
At first I struggled to get my head around it. How could there be any non consent if you consented? It was months before I first felt the non consent part.
In our relationship (in the loosest sense of the word) he has the right to have whatever type of sex he wants with me whenever he is around (although having the right to do something doesn’t mean always doing it. It’s the fact you can, not the fact you do, that is the most important part). He doesn’t have to use lube. He doesn’t have to go in slowly. He can throat fuck me until I puke. These are things we do and these are things I enjoy…usually.
I generally enjoy sucking cock but before midday I don’t enjoy anything and when I’m hungover the last thing I want is something that will trigger my gag reflex. One particularly hungover morning I was giving him a blow job. I began gently, careful not to disturb my delicate stomach, but then things got a bit rougher. As he held my head down so his cock filled my throat, I started to panic. I wanted it to stop but I had no way of stopping it. In those seconds I felt helpless and frightened. In those seconds I did not consent. Of course I did consent because of the blanket consent, but it certainly felt non consensual. It wasn’t hot at all. After it happened we cuddled, had some tea, and discussed it. I didn’t get angry at him for not stopping because I have freely chosen to give up the right to make him stop and he didn’t dismiss my feelings because they were real even though I consented.
This has happened a few times since then. Sometimes it really turns me on and ends up being great, other times I freak out. It’s a risk we are willing to take because consensual non consent gives us a freedom that outweighs the risks for us. The details of play aren’t always enjoyable for me (though they usually are) but the broader picture of consensual non consent definitely is.
One of the most exciting parts of consensual non consent for me is our more heavy SM scenes. In a normal week he doesn’t inflict any more pain than I would happily ask for or accept even if I had a safeword but very occasionally we decide to go much further. By removing the possibility of me safewording out, I get to push my mind and body to places I would never be able to access and he gets to exercise his sadism. It’s a win-win situation, but there is a point when the consent line gets blurry and if he didn’t know me as well as he does, it would be extremely dangerous. Take the last heavy scene:
There was no warm up. This wasn’t a gentle scene. It was our chance to let the darker parts of our minds come out to play. I whimpered. I squirmed. The force increased.
“I can’t…I can’t, please, I can’t take it”.
The strikes continued. I sweated and shook from the pain. I begged and pleaded for him to stop. I wanted out. It hurt so much I felt like I was going to pass out.
And then at some point, I actually stopped reacting to most of the strikes. I’d crossed a barrier. The tears started.
“Have you had enough?” he asked.
“No”, I replied
I don’t know who was more surprised. Five minutes earlier I was begging him to stop yet I answered “no”?! He continued for another few minutes and then uncuffed me from the wall. We laid on the bed. I was bruised to fuck, but blissed out and nearly orgasming from the pain. Had I enjoyed every second of the beating? No, but by handing over control to him, he’d got a chance to let some of his sadism out and I discovered that after nearly passing out from pain comes ecstasy.
Consensual non consent isn’t about resistance or rape. It’s about handing over control to someone you trust and giving them permission to do things you may not always enjoy. It is risky and people can and do get hurt, but if all parties understand the risks and are willing and able to handle any fallout without pointing the finger of blame, it can be very rewarding. It definitely isn’t something I’d recommend to people who are new to BDSM but if it is something you really want to try I’d suggest beginning with short, time limited, CNC scenes with clear boundaries.