When I first sat down with him, it was quite possibly the most nervous I had ever been upon entering a scene. I thought I was over-reacting at first; this guy only wanted me to spank him, right? However, It would be my first time dominating anyone. What I learned is that you can never be too careful when you're working with someone. You should always be sure that you know what’s in everyone’s best interest. What if he wasn’t in a good mood that day and the spanking triggered him? You'd be surprised how often even a relatively simple scene can emotionally get under someone’s skin. What if he has a skin condition? What if he simply isn't in the mood? All of these things had to be addressed before we took part in the scene.

To give you a working definition, negotiation is what happens before before kinky play takes place. Or, at least it should. It’s when you sit down with your play partner and discuss what they want and don’t want as well as any boundaries and conditions they may have that could endanger either participant. It’s surprising how few people skip this part of the BDSM relationship. By “relationship” I’m referring to any play partner you may decide to partake in a scene with, whether you met them two minutes ago or you’ve known them for 20 years. The process of negotiation is usually thought of as being too technical or not needed in cases of a simplistic scene. Most people wouldn’t even bother to negotiate a spanking or a few swats with a riding crop. However, I can’t stress enough how important negotiation is for both parties.

To get you started I wanted to delineate three tips to keep in mind when you begin your negotiation with your partner.

How Often Do You Have to Negotiate?

The answer is simple: every single time. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known them. It doesn’t matter how well you think you know their boundaries. It doesn’t matter that you have a firm grasp of what they like and don’t like or that you know their personality like the “back of your hand.” What I’ve learned is that people and circumstances change day by day. There may be things that they're struggling with at the moment or something that would draw them to the scene that you don't know about that could be harmful to either one of you. That being said, the amount of time you have to negotiate might change over the amount of time that you spend with someone. You might only need five to 10 minutes to do a simple check if you’ve known each other for a while. However, negotiation could last up to an hour or more if you’ve just met someone. That being said….

How Do You Negotiate?

When you sit down with a person, there are a number of things you should ask. One of the first things you should find out is their likes and dislikes. Do they like to be tied up? If they do, how do they like to be tied up? Do they like handcuffs or do they prefer silk scarves? After you get a firm working understand of what they like and don’t like, you should move into what they absolutely don’t want to occur. You must make sure they clearly state their boundaries. It’s extremely important that you do not infringe on your partner's boundaries, or even come close to pushing against them. You should always respect your partner. Also, you and your partner both have the right to have boundaries (even if you are a submissive). If someone attempts to do what they want with you anyway, you have the right to stop playing with that person.

In keeping with this, you should never forget safewords. A safeword is a word used to slow down or stop a scene. Choose something simple so that the sub can call it even if they are in subspace. The standard green-yellow-red system works. Whatever you choose, it must be concretely agreed upon by the parties. If you’re with someone that is experiencing their first ‘scene,’ whether as a Dom or as a sub, you may not want to introduce them to whips and floggers. Even if they are curious about such things, start small. If you’re a new Dom/Domme this is doubly important because advanced implements can take some practice so that you don't hurt someone.

Finally, dive even deeper with any mental and medical issues they may have. For instance, if they have heart problems, you may not want to do electro play. If they take medication for any condition, make sure they have it on hand. Emotional barriers should have been discussed with boundaries, but as you get to know the person maybe you can dive a little deeper emotionally and develop a more intimate relationship. It’ll help make you both more comfortable when playing.

After you’ve outlined all of these exceedingly important things, there’s one last thing you should include in your discussion.

What Kind of Aftercare Do They Need?

This is quite possibly one of the most important things you can talk about with your partner. How do they want to be taken care of after the scene? For some people this means bottled water and having plushy blankets on hand. For others, they need bodily contact such as hand holding and hugs. Regardless, you should never leave a submissive floating around in subspace completely vulnerable after a scene. Not only does aftercare help ground them in the moment and bring them back to earth, it’ll also give them the reassurance that you care. The after effects of not having aftercare can leave a submissive confused, angry and feeling used.

After the initial scene, you should also call your submissive the day after to talk about how you both feel about what happened the night before. Maybe schedule a lunch or dinner later on that day. Regardless, follow up is crucial for both participants. Anything less could completely compromise the trust of respect between the participants. This is simply common decency.

Keeping all of these things in mind should help you achieve a safe and enjoyable scene with the assurance that you have a firm understanding of both of your needs, wants, and boundaries are for each other. Remember, more than anything else, safety is the key to a long lasting and compassionate experience between play partners.