Friday, May 30, 2014

A Commentary to the Comments I Got

Recently on Fetlife I put up a post titled "A List of 'Men's Rights' Issues That Feminism Is Already Working On." 
Now, let me be clear: I did not write the post. I stated that from the beginning. It turns out, the piece I saw (which, incidentally, I found on tumblr), was only a  piece of a much larger article, one that was originally published in the Jezebel, and written by Lindy West.  I invite you to read the whole article. In my opinion, it's great.

A group on Fetlife who called themselves the "Anti-Feminist League" found my post...and let's just say, they had a field day.  They got on their moral soapboxes. They took over the comments section—to let us women know why men really are superior! 
Here's the thing: I have a general policy that I don't delete comments on my posts, not one, no matter how ridiculous or hateful.
A bunch of people asked me why I don't delete comments. My reasoning is simple: I don't want anyone to be silenced. On the contrary, I want people's views to be available for all to see. I want everyone to be able to read how spiteful, disgusting, snide, contemptuous, manipulative, and whiny people really are. I want to expose their true natures to everyone who cares to have a look. 

They came. Oh, how they came. They worked themselves into a dither. As the comments degenerated, the statements  got more and more wild. 

First, there were the claims there's no such thing as patriarchy.
"I've never seen the patriarchy. It died with most of our great-grandparents. What we have is outdated beliefs that were inspired by the patriarchy, which no longer exists." I guess if you can't see something, it must not be there...kinda like how my eight year old thinks about the chocolate milk hiding in the fridge.

Then came the rants of how evil feminism is. 
"Feminism is a destroyer of families, children, marriage and women. Feminists only care about themselves and not the 'rights of men'."
"Feminists are angry, man hating lesbians or stupid women that can't think for themselves."
"Feminists think they need to rule the world. Just... stop it."
"Feminism had its place and served our world a great purpose. And now it needs to get back in the kitchen."
Oh, and my favorite:
"Feminists want men to lose everything, not just the children. If not laws wouldn't have been made to make men get raped by alimony and child support."
That's right: men are being raped by alimony and child support. How dare women expect men to pay for their children! It's exactly like getting raped! 

There were a few comments about how society doesn't need feminism anyway, because it's not really necessary. 
"Women these days are practically untouchable legally and socially, so one needs to advocate for men if one wants to fight for actual equality right now." You hear that? Women are untouchable! It's the men being raped and oppressed by society! What with all the child support bullshit and stuff!
"You're making women look like victims, not helping make things equal for everyone." Because pointing out how women are victims of sexism makes them look like victims...oh wait, that's the point. They are victims of sexism and genderism. Oh, I forgot, no they're not, they're untouchable. 

But even if women are the victims, it's their own fault., and no one else's.  They should take personal responsibility for what happens to them. 
"There was a post regarding a date rape drug in the previous comments. First of all, I hope your friend is fine. But the extremely rational side of me is asking this question. What on earth happened to personal responsibility, and going out with your friends to reduce the odds of bad things occurring?"
Women should own the fact that they are responsible for their own assaults and rapes. If they can't watch their own damn drinks, they deserve what they get, right? Also, they probably dress provocatively, too. 

So what can we do about these pesky women who just don't get it? What we need is for women to understand they are inherently different, and therefore deserve to be treated like the inferior creatures they are.
"For the first fact. Women ARE naturally better caregivers. This isn't from some sort of 'patriarchy' bullshit you claim, but by millions of years of evolution in our animal kingdom." 
That whole equality in the workplace thing? Women shouldn't be in the workplace, they should be home watching the children. 
"Men and women are inherently fundamentally different physically mentally and in social interaction. To deny this is to deny science and self evident truth." Self evident truth we can all watch in porn, I guess. Women expect to be treated like crap; it's in our natures.

The fact is, sexism is simply the way this country works. It's always been that way, and it's working, so why stop now?
"My rights are established by natural law, are self evident, and were best codified and defended by a bunch of men in the 18th century. Men have been defending our own rights for thousands of years. So all feminists can feel relieved that I don't need some self described "woman" to do what comes natural to me. Feminists just want to remove the yoke of one burden and add much more in the form of their big brother quasi communist agenda where all men are forced to act like females and where society enslaves them to the collective "good". Feminists are here to enslave men if not in chains but in bondage of societal rules and structures that almost no true man wants."
That's right, feminism is not just about rape, it's about slavery now, too. Kinda like what all those men in the 18th century believed in for their own rising wealth and power...oh wait, that right stopped being defended in 1865.

Apparently—and I did not know this, I thank the commentators for educating me—many if not most of the ills of society can be blamed on feminism. Like, the national suicide rate!
"The suicide differential has almost doubled since the 70s, from 1.9 to 3.5. If that isn't evidence that our society is becoming more and more anti-male, I don't know what is."
That annoying correlation does not equal causation rule? That's a fallacy. We'll ignore that.
And anyway, if it's not suicide, it's something else killing men; feminism can be blamed for all of it. "Young men are still being pathologized. Men are still dying; on the job, in war, and by their own hand, same as ever."
Feminism can even be blamed—and HOW COULD I NOT KNOW THIS BEFORE?—for breast cancer! Yup, that's right!
"Breast cancer is now a 'business' making billions each year. If you think they are going to cure it even if they could you are crazy, to many people living off it already. I think this was started by GASP ...a woman!"
That's right: feminism is the cause of cancer.

I didn't respond the comments very much on the thread. I didn't see the point. Like I said, the commentators were doing a very good job making themselves out to look like moronic wackadoodles. 
But then...they tried to silence me. They had Fetlife take down my post. I had not gotten express, explicit permission from the original author to quote her post, you see. Technically, that is against Fetlife rules. Is it usually enforced? No. But that doesn't mean they don't reserve the right to enforce it when they deem necessary, and now, the anti-feminists had found a way to remove my post completely. It wasn't enough I was giving them a way to argue against them; they wanted me gone. 

Sorry, not so easy to do.

I got on twitter, tracked down the original author, Lindy West, and asked her permission to keep up the post. She gave me her approval.
(I also emailed the people over at Jezebel, and they gave me permission, too. But in the end, all I needed was Ms. West's okay.)
I contacted Fetlife, sent them a screenshot of Ms.West's tweet, and the post was back up.

It got more feedback and comments for another couple days. Then it died down, as posts on Fetlife typically do. 
I got some hate mail. I had some personal snide comments thrown my way. Nothing terrible; nothing I considered a direct threat. (Yeah, I've gotten those in the past, too, and entire posts and tweet rants vilifying me, as well. ) That stuff doesn't bother me, and for two reasons:
One, none of the asinine comments were made by people who actually know me. They were all made by strangers, people who exist in Netherland, who spew forth their hate-filled tirades behind the safety of their computer screens. It shocks me sometimes how these people think I actually give a fuck what they think. They don't know me; so why should I care?

The second reason is, in my opinion, more relevant, and more sad.
Nothing said in comment to any post on Fetlife is going to change a damn thing about anything. Whether it's a logical, reasonable, civil comment or not, whether it makes sense or not, whether everyone agrees with it or not, it's still just a fucking comment on a  Fetlife post. 

It's not going to change the fact that women get paid 77 cents on the dollar for every dollar a man makes.
It's not going to chaange the fact that after graduating college, on average, men make $7,600 more than women.
It's not going to change the fact that female workers made up just 6.2 percent of the top earning positions of 2010.
It's not going to change the fact that 60% of minimum wage workers are women, and almost 2/3rds of part-time workers are women.
It's not going to change the fact that 83% of sexual harassment charges come from women. 
It's not going to change the fact that only 15% of the entire U.S. Congress is made up of women.
It's not going to change the fact that about 1 in 3 women in the military say they were raped.
It's not going to change the fact that 75% of women who are raped or assaulted in our military do not report it.
It's not going to change the fact that courts are continuing to rule against women's rights in the workforce. 
It's not going to change the fact that women face gender bias in medical treatment and medical research.
It's not going to change the fact that people see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear, and believe what they want to believe. 

It's not going to change my life. No matter what any of these commenters said? I'm still going to be afraid walking around alone at night. I'm still going to ignore men who give me cat calls on the street. I'm still going to walk a little faster, and be a little more weary, around men who give me creepy stares. I'm still going to hang onto my drinks with the assumption if I look away for one minute, there's a chance it's spiked with drugs. 

I'm still going to trust people I've learned to trust, and be suspicious of those I have not. 

But if this experience has taught me anything, it's this: there are a lot of wackadoodles on Fetlife. They will attack you. They will try to silence you. They will bring in their friends to help them. 

They are still all wackadoodles.
Even wackadoodles can be entertaining, I guess, even if they remain irrelevant to how the rest of us live our lives. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Dancing: My Saturday Night Scene at NWLC

This post is written with permission of the Top I had my scene with, Tailstrike. It does not do justice to the complexity of the emotions involved, nor does it adequately describe what I went through. But I realized if I force myself to wait until it's perfect, I will never hit publish. So I'm forcing myself to put it out here instead, flaws and all.

When we entered the dungeon, the first thing I noticed was the cold. Dungeons are supposed to be warm places...but not this one. This one had me shivering, and the skin all over my body tightened with goosebumps.
As I reacted to the cold, a thought entered my head: the dungeon felt like the inside of a morgue. Morgues are cold places full of dead bodies, chilly skin and icy stares full of stories untold.
I will not die, I reminded myself. I have been promised I will not die. 

He walked me to our station, a large wooden structure, the gallows. In fact, it looked exactly like the gallows you see in old pictures of executions, complete with chain hanging down from the middle of it, ready for use. I knew it would not be my neck hanging from that chain...but I was still scared.
I will not die. I have been promised I will not die.

He bade me to come forward. I shook my head no.
"This is not a take-down scene," he said, his voice as soft and as cold as fresh snow. "Now come here."
My mind balked. I thrive on the take-down; it is my bread and butter of foreplay. I don't just enjoy it, I need it, especially in anticipation of a scene like this one.
He was going to deny me this, too?
Yes. Yes, he was; and in doing so, he was setting the tone of the whole scene before me. He was in control. He would do what he wanted. Promises would be kept, but beyond that, everything that would happen was up to him and him alone.
I will not die. I have been promised.
I stepped before him.
"Get undressed," he said, and I did.

He began to wind chain around my wrists. He would go halfway around a wrist, link the chain, and come back the other way; link the chain again, come back the other way. I didn't understand then why he wasn't just making circles around my wrists, but now I think I understand: he didn't want to risk injury—at least, not the kind of injury I didn't want.
Protect the joints, protect the bones, give her the bruises. He knew I would be expecting those wrist bruises, would love looking at them for the next few days.
(And I did.)
The chain felt too tight the first time he did it; I protested. He went through the process of winding the chain again. It was still too tight. He fixed them again, even more slowly, taking his time, making sure he got it right. As I watched him wind the chain around my wrists, felt his fingers brush against my tingling skin, sensed his single minded focus, a part of me succumbed, even as my fear grew.
He fastened the chains to the gallows, and I was secured.

But he wasn't done yet. He got out a mask next.
The mask would not cover my eyes or nose; it wouldn't even cover my mouth. The mask was nothing but pieces of leather fastened around my head and locked on tight. It had no purpose but one: to remind me who was in charge.
He wanted to get me into a mask; I did not.
He put the mask on me anyway.
He got out the spreader bar next.
Like the mask, he had warned me in advance he would be using it. That didn't stop me from kicking away from it as much as I could. Knowing something is going to be done to you is not the same as living through it; anticipation is a powerful thing, but not as powerful as cold hard steel. He caught my legs, put me in the spreader bar, stretched my legs wide, and let me squirm.
The spreader bar felt monstrous between my feet. It shortened my stance, and with my wrists chained up the way they were, I could barely put both feet down at once.
It didn't matter, it turned out: most of the scene, I wouldn't be standing. I'd be dancing.

He got out a pain implement. What was it? I have no idea; my mind grows foggy now on the specifics. I know he told me what he was using—I think he even showed me.
I know I panicked. I know it hurt, hurt like hell, and I screamed. He hit my thighs with it, over and over, and I turned in circles under the gallows, begging him to stop.

He got out his whips.
The whips...the whips are like nothing else. They slice, they bite, and they burn like no other implement can.
He didn't start out slow. He struck me right across the back, hard, letting me know what was coming. My mind didn't just resist, it repelled the idea, unable to yield to what was happening, to what I was allowing to happen...even as another part of me, a part I still hardly know, began to awaken in hunger.

He whipped me for a long time. Not just my back, oh no; he was dancing too, moving around my body, choosing which side and swath of skin he wanted to aim for next. One leg, then the other; one thigh, then the other.
One must keep things symmetric, you see.
I started to hurl insults at him, starting with the old standbys: "motherfucker," "son of a bitch," and "Satan's spawn." I told him I was surprised he even understood me, since I'm not speaking Asshole. I yelled that I hoped he woke up with hemorrhoids. I think I even said I hoped someone would cut his cock off and name him Reek. I grew exasperated when I realized he doesn't watch Game of Thrones. (I insulted him for that transgression, too.)
He laughed as I threw insult after insult at him. He laughed and whipped.
I screamed and danced.

The scene took an imperceptible shift, as scenes like this are wont to do. It began to descend into territory that was darker, scarier, more stunning to the senses. He was taking me to the edge of what I could take. Every step of this dance was now laden with a dose of incredulity.
I was continually making a choice, you see. With every lick of the whip, with every scream ripped from my throat, I was asking myself: Do I cry yellow, and keep him from pushing me over the edge?
Or do I move the edge itself?
This is the mental dance we bottoms experience, but only if we're lucky, only if we play with the right Top. The opportunity comes, like a bright beacon flashing before us—the moment to decide what we can accept, and what we cannot.
Sometimes, if we're lucky, we surprise ourselves in wonderful ways.

There were a couple moments I decided to cry yellow. Each time I did, he gave me a reprieve, let me gather the shattered pieces of my mind to myself and hold them close for a moment. But then he would continue, as hard as before; and with each lash, I felt myself break apart a little bit more, felt the energy explode, that power that manifests between flesh and whip, Top and bottom.

We talk about Power Exchange. Most of the time, we're talking about the power the Top and bottom bring with each other before a scene. But there is a third power there, something sublime but ineffable: the power they create between them.
We danced in this power, He and I. He was the lead. He is always the lead. But we both dance.

I started to sob inside the mask. The end of the whip licked right across my nipple, and I screamed like never have before. Or at least, I think I screamed; my mind rebelled.

"I can't, I can't, I can't...." I said the words in litany. But even as I said them, I knew they would not help me, and do nothing for me. They were not my safe words. My safe words were yellow and red.
(What would he do if I cried red? I don't know. He's never taken me that far. I think it would surprise us both.)

I have no idea how much longer we could have gone on, how much more I could have taken. As much as we tried to ignore it, the dungeon had been filling with people; too soon, the DM was coming around, tapping his watch, reminding us it was time to end our dance and free up our station.

He released me from the chains, and let me fall gently to the floor. I lay there as he cleaned the area up...and even as I lay there, marinating in pain, I felt my fingers graze my cut and bloody nipple, and I smiled.

I had been promised I would survive. The promise is a lie, really. Who can promise another human being they will survive anything? No one can promise you another minute of breath; death comes always on tipped toes.
But to take the responsibility of your own survival and entrust it to someone else, to feel your own mortality in your hands, to dance on the edge of this delicate existence we call life...
That is where true power lies.
When we are lucky to have scenes like this, my Top and I, he leads, and I follow. I am on a path of self-discovery; but the path is mine, and I pave it with my own blood.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Northwest Leather Celebration Part 1: An Introduction

This past weekend I attended Northwest Leather Celebration. It's a kinky BDSM conference, chock full of classes, panels, discussion groups, and social opportunities.

The big event at NWLC is the Master/slave contest: couples from different areas compete to win the title of NWLC Master/slave. The couples are judged the entire weekend on different things, but mostly, I think, their conduct. The judges want to see that they truly personify what it means to be a Master, a slave, and in a M/s relationship. Fakes are quickly weeded out.

Workshops are offered Friday afternoon, and all of Saturday and Sunday. The hospitality suite is opened for different groups to entice and educate the local community. NWLC also has a vending room to buy toys, clothes, and books, and a bootblacking area to get your shine on.

Friday night and Saturday night the dungeon opens, and the play is on. I played both nights. (Related: I am fucking sore.)

This conference had a special closing event, a memorial service for a woman who was very special to the local community, Ms.Margaret. She ran NWLC for many years and unfortunately, died mere weeks ago from cancer.

I arrived at NWLC on Friday afternoon, and helped out at The South Bay Spot's hospitality suite. Then I helped my mistress Ms.Vicki set up the lights in the dungeon. After that, we made a quick run to the Southern Cross Usual Suspects Munch, ate a fast dinner, and then it was time to change for the play party.

Saturday I only made it to one The rest of the time I was walking around talking to friends, visiting the vending room, or just hanging out. The class I did go to was amazing, so there was that.
Saturday night was the Master/slave contest, the silent auction (which was not so silent), and the announcement of the winners. Then the dungeon opened again: more torture, more screaming.

After that, I helped Ms.Vicki take down the lights, and she drove me home.

I did not go back to the conference on Sunday. I was too beat, literally. I was sorry to miss the memorial service for Ms.Margaret, though; I hear it was inspiring and healing.

All in all, it was an incredible conference. So many stories, so much to tell. But I'll get to those stories bit by bit.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Countdown of Top 10 Things No One Will Tell You Before Your First Trip To a Dungeon

I wish someone had told me this stuff before my first trip to a dungeon. But no, I had to learn the hard way! Now maybe some of you don't.
Obviously you may disagree with some of the stuff I put on my list, or have other things you think are more important. Please note this list is geared for female bottoms visiting the dungeon for the first time. I have zero experience going to a dungeon either as a Top, or as a male. (I have zero experience going anywhere as a Top or male. Sorry.)
On to the list, in reverse order!

10. Don't bother spending too much time on your hair. Yes, pretty yourself up to make yourself look and feel attractive. But don't bother spending hours and hours to get every wispy strand just so. There is no point. Once you and your Top start to play, your hair will get grabbed, pulled, yanked, tugged, and smoothed down in ways you never thought would stick, only it will, because by now your hair is damp and stringy with sweat, too. If you're lucky, by the end of the night, your hair will be a tousled mess, and believe me, you'll look just as beautiful as the moment you walked in.

9. Don't bother spending too much time on your eye makeup, either. If you plan on having any kind of fun on the dungeon play floor, that makeup's gonna smudge big time. The harder you play, the harder it's gonna run. I've never met a Top yet who didn't like the look of mascara smeared with tears. Telling your Top your makeup is waterproof is only going to make him (or her) want to test that claim, believe me. And getting makeup in your eyes while your hands are cuffed down, and you can't rub? Not fun...not fun at all.

8. Wear comfortable stockings and panties, or none at all. Fishnets look great on any legs, but what they don't tell you is those naughty threads are going to catch on everything. Not just you, but the people brushing past, the dungeon equipment, and sometimes, your Top's tools.
There's nothing like running to the bathroom, desperate to pee, and not being able to pull your panties off because the crotch snaps of your fancy panties have caught on your fishnets. You can't pull up, you can't push's like having a little mini-scene right there in the bathroom, by yourself. Believe me, I know.
If you're going to wear pantyhose that go all the way over the waist, keep in mind that underpants look better when worn over the pantyhose. Also keep in mind that if you're wearing your underpants over your pantyhose, when your Top tells you to get rid of the hose, your underwear is going to go with 'em.
"But I'll be naked!" Will not be taken by your Top as a valid complaint. Take my word on this.

7. Go easy on the jewelry, or go without. I'm not talking here about a collar or anything else signifying a D/s or M/s status. I'm talking about things you wear for vanity's sake: necklaces, bracelets, earrings—oh god, beware the hanging hoop earrings, they shall be the downfall of your earlobes. I'm being literal here.

6. Bring Wipes. Wipes are always, always a good thing to carry in your bag. After you play, you can use them to wipe down your arms, your chest, your hands, even your feet if they got dirty. The dungeon will have cleaning supplies to wipe down the equipment you just used, but most of the time, that cleaning solvent is nothing you want to use on your skin. It's always nice to have the option to "freshen up" a little bit after a good bout of play.

5. Bring some makeup supplies. Unless you don't mind walking around with a makeup smeared face—your Top won't mind, in fact s/he will probably parade you around and show you off with pride, like Look! This is my art! I did this!—you might want to get to a mirror and fix yourself up a bit. Nothing's going to make you look perfect; you're a flushed, sweaty, swollen, heaving mess by now. But a quick touchup here and there with some concealer and lipstick can go miles towards making you feel human again...if that's what you want, anyway.

4. Carry breath mints. You're going to be moaning, wailing, shrieking, swearing, and (if you're anything like me) screaming, a lot. All of that will have an effect on your throat. It's nice to be able to pop a breath mint in your mouth and go on with your night with minty fresh breath when the scene is over.

3. Bring something warm, like a blanket, in case you get cold after you play. After a good play scene, a bottom can often get the chills. It's nice to have something warm and cozy to wrap up in. Personally, I like to snuggle into my Mistress's coat. But summer is coming, and I doubt she'll be wearing her coat much longer.

2. Bring your sincerity. I can't stress this enough. Don't be a fake, and don't put on an act. If you're new, be honest about it. If you're ignorant about where to go or what to do, tell people. Ask for direction. And once you're in the play space with your Top, don't try to act in a way you think you're supposed to, just to put on a show. You are not there for anyone else. You are there for your Top, yes, but mostly, you are there for you. Do whatever feels right (assuming it's allowed in the dungeon and doesn't disturb anyone else's scene). Let yourself go; don't worry about how you look or sound. People appreciate raw honestly much more than a scene that looks orchestrated and fake. If they wanted fake, they could've stayed home and watched porn. They come to a dungeon to engage with real people, like you.

And, in my humble opinion, the number #1 thing to remember:

1.Wear comfortable shoes. 
Oh my GOD, there is nothing like having to hobble around at the end of the night because your feet hurt! Your nipples may be bloody, your ass may be purple, but none of that will compare to the torment you will go through if your feet are in agony! You will beg your Top for some bastinado, just for some relief from your shoes! It is terrible! 
Do not underestimate the dark horrible power of an ill-fitting pair of shoes! 

And there you have it. My Top 10 List. Feel free to add your own. :)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Guest Post by ShadowN7: "Some Basic Negotiation Questions for Topping"

Recently my friend ShadowN7 wrote a post on Fetlife, Basic Negotiation Questions for Topping. Since I think the post is amazing, rather than paraphrase it for my blog, I thought I'd share the original with you, in its entirety, so you can read the whole thing for yourselves. 
Posted with permission. You must have a Fetlife account to see this writing on her profile. If you would like to comment, and have a Fetlife profile, please, leave your comment on the author's original post. Thank you.
Below are listed some negotiation questions I use as a top to better learn about my bottoms, their character, and their interest in play. It took me the better part of a year to figure out these questions, as some of my play partners might note that early negotiations with me consisted mostly of health questions, and awkward staring and silences. Charming, right? As a slightly more experienced top these days, I find that anytime there is great confusion or unknowns between a partner and me, asking questions and listening are the most effective ways for us to gain clarity and move forward with play plans.
If you have other means of achieving the end goals of
  • clear and agreed upon communication of intentions and emotions with your partner before, during and after your scene
  • avoiding catastrophic accidents, and
  • having a fun time together
then by all means, continue using your effective means of negotiations. Otherwise, here are a few questions I usually ask my bottoms, as a bondage top, to figure out how we might have a good time together:


1. What do you like about (bdsm activity)?
The answer to this question is purely top seduction. If you're my bottom, tell me how much you love the sensual hurt of an open hand smacking your ass. Or tell me how tightly you like bondage wrapped around your breasts. Tighter? Tighter? It can definitely be tighter.
Oh, and there's sometimes information about how a bottom fantasizes about being played with during the agreed upon activities, which can help a top navigate the type of mood, energy, and play style(s) to deploy in a scene. But top seduction is definitely most important.
2. How will I know that you are having fun? Alternately, how will I know you are not having fun?
A direct pilfer from Midori, and absolutely one you should not ignore during negotiations. Don't know whether an "ouch!" or singing, or shouting, or clenched body language means that your bottom is having fun, or is bored, or wants out of the scene and can't verbalize it? As a top, you need to be able to predict the idiosyncratic reactions to play that your bottom feeds you. The answer to this question should be able to help you adjust your play accordingly and confidently, without having to ask "are you okay?" constantly. Which, to me, can be a huge distraction from arousal while bottoming.
3. What safewords, or verbal / physical signifiers should we use to communicate problematic issues during play?
Stoplight signals -- I usually use "red" to end a scene, "yellow" to stop, slow down and check in -- or non-verbal cues need to be agreed upon before proceeding with your scene. I've heard "mercy" as a safeword too, and I quite like that one. Do check in with your public dungeon's safeword if you are playing there and are unsure of what it is.
Note: I'm particularly suspicious of people who top and cringe at having safewords in place. Sometimes I don't mind if someone explains to me a context of a long-term relationship where partners use other signals besides safewords to indicate unintended distress, but... yeah. The purpose of safewords or distress signifiers are to offer absolute forms of clear communication in some very loaded scenes where emotions and words can take on far different forms and intentions in comparison to non-scene communications. I encourage you to check out Cowhideman's writing "Do You Really Need Hard Limits and Safewords?" for another excellent perspective on the subject of safewords and limits.
I'm also suspicious of bottoms who have no limits or boundaries. If you're so new that you don't know your limits, a proper explanation to your top would sound something like "I don't really know what I like as far as play goes, but I like you, and I'd like to discover new pleasures with you." Leave the channels of communication and calibration open in these cases.
4. What kind of aftercare do you need?
Common courtesy, and discussed often in kinky communities. Most of the time as a top, I don't need more than a hug before and after a scene and a cup or two of water, but I won't abandon my bottom's needs. Neither should you.
5. Do you have any health related, or other sensitivities that I should know about?
Let your bottom explain any and all things to be considerate about with this subject. Some further questions to better elicit useful responses for you, as a top:
  • When was the last time you went to the emergency room, and for what reason?
  • Have you ever had to stop a scene prematurely and why?
  • Are there some common unwanted or unintentional discomforts you find that you have in scene? Please explain.
If a health issue pops up during play that wasn't noted by your bottom during negotiations, don't be an asshole, and don't ruin the people you play with, physically or emotionally. People are forgetful and unexpected things happen in scene, and you should be prepared to deal with those and your emotional reactions to them. Help your bottom. Stop the scene if necessary. Decide at a later point of calm reflection whether you feel like playing with that bottom is a good idea for you in the future.
As far as dealing with a bottom's health sensitivities go, I have pretty reasonable ideas of non-suspension rope bottom safety protocols, but sometimes I receive responses to this question about a bottom's health that I end up having no fucking clue how to address. For example, I'll sometimes get bottoms who have back problems. Since I have no solid idea how to avoid various types of back pain in rope bondage floor work, I'll ask my bottom what type of instances trigger the back pain, I'll take a look at the Riggers and Rope Sluts group on Fet for possible solutions, maybe add some floor padding during tying, and I will monitor my bottom extra carefully during play. It won't hurt to admit a lack of knowledge or certainty on a certain play subject, but being zealous in sensitive or unknown situations is a rather ignorant way to increase your risk of accidents or abuse during play.
In contrast to the aforementioned ignorant zealotry, many of the sophisticated tops I know of can tailor their play skills for a wide variety of bottoms of various sizes, shapes and physical strength / flexibility. I adore these people. They have all the fun with the cute bottoms.
6. Touch, intimacy and comfort levels: let's discuss it extensively.
Do we want friendly, arm's length practice and exploration, or do we want other types of intimacy? Are there any body parts that are off limits during play? And are we okay with those limits? Might be a good time to ask about STI testing and history too, if you are intending to go that far.
Penetration of any kind should never be a gray area in negotiations. Genital or fluid play of any kind should never be a gray area in negotiations. You are increasing your risk for abusive play if you leave either of these subjects unspoken of during negotiations. And again, as a top, don't be an asshole who dwells on what he can't have, and makes his bottom feel bad for giving her honest opinion when asked for it. If your partner says no to any variant of these things, either find other things to do together, or find someone else to play with if you really don't like the limit that person has.
Note: When I bottom and I say "no penetrative play", I mean all of it. Not a needle, not a finger, not a tongue clamp, or anything in my mouth, or anything else penetrative anywhere on my body. I have never had this condition deliberately ignored by a top, and hopefully never will.
7. Honorifics and Pejoratives: What shall we call each other?
Getting a little too analytical with these terms, this is another question that should help you learn about aural seduction and personal identifications of your play partner. Being fairly accurate about the nuances of your partner's scene identities, rather than going off of general labels ascribed to, is a great way to show consideration and respect for the person you're playing with.
8. This is my general idea of what I'd like to do with you (describe scene idea). How do you feel about what I've just described?
Once you've got a good idea of what turns you and your bottom on, describing details for possible scenes should be fun. Definitely read your bottom's reactions to your described scenes as well, and discuss finer points as necessary. Agreeing to a good time together is a huge consensual and anticipatory turn-on for me, and I hope it is for others as well.
9. Is there anything else you would like me to know?
Anything not covered in negotiations? Anything just needs to be said? Say it.
10. Do you have any questions for me?
Tops, if you haven't answered any of the questions you've asked of your bottom, now is the time to address them, just so they know what they are getting into too.


11. Since we've played together before, are there any new limits or changes for you that I should know about?
Always a good question to refresh your memory with those whom you are fortunate enough to play with more than once. It's a good idea to repeat the fine points of your previous negotiations to show you remember and respect your partner.
12. Photography:
  • Is it okay to take photos? Check with your play space as well on their policy on photos.
  • Are headshots okay? What about other body parts?
  • Can I take photos with my camera / phone? Any conditionals to this?
  • Can I take photos with your camera / phone? Any conditionals to this?
Photos are fun, ya'll. They need to be negotiated seriously, though, because some people like me are real picky about who can take pictures of what when I'm involved.

On Responses

Not everyone gives straight answers to the negotiation questions. Some give answers that are relative to their kink experiences, some simply don't know the answers because this level of self-examination has never been asked of them by a play partner before. Others are simply difficult. :) I'd like to say honest, sober communication is the best way to get what you want out of play partners, but all of my communication skills come from studying empiricism, BioWare video game morality and romance systems, consistent inconsistencies in literary characters, and lots and lots of kinky negotiations.
Good luck everyone! And if you do happen to end up bottoming to me in the future, you will likely be asked to answer many of these questions during negotiations.