Consent, literally defined, is permission. In a BDSM setting, consent is the only thing separating sadomasochism from assault.
Consent is required for each and every act in a play session, sex, any touching, a relationship, collaring, setting a relationship dynamic, a change in relationship dynamic…Consent cannot be coerced or forced.
Consent in BDSM is a fluid thing, and can be revoked at any time. This means that at any point during a relationship or play session, a person (dominant, submissive, or switch) is allowed and expected to speak up when their partner delves into an area they’re not comfortable with. This is often one of the reasons for incorporating a safe word into a play session or relationship, but using a safe word is not a requirement to revoke a person’s consent.
To give your consent in a BDSM setting means that you’ve given one person (or persons, if the scene/relationship involves more than just two people) permission to do something to you (for lack of a better description) in that express moment. This does not mean that you’ve given permission for them to do this any time they want (unless you did…and even then, if you one day change your mind, you’re allowed to revoke consent), or that you’ve given anyone in attendance permission to join in. Giving consent for one act does not mean you’ve given consent for every act your partner may find desirable. And giving consent to one person for one act does not mean that if you play with another person later you must give that person consent for that same act.
Your decision to consent to something, and with whom, is entirely based on your comfort level and what you want.
One way to garner consent in BDSM is to negotiate a scene beforehand. A top and bottom get together before playing, and discuss the things they’re into, ask each other what things they’re hoping to try, what things they’ll never be interested in. Just talking about sex acts is enough to get anyone randy, so the negotiation process can be hella sexy depending on how you approach it.
Here is an excellent discussion of consent from pretty much every angle you could imagine: One Sadist’s Consent
And here is a great analogy in case you’re still confused: Consent: Not actually that complicated
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