The other day I was listening to the Sex Nerd Sandra podcast when one of her guests talked about her experiences with a slave who came into the sex toy shop where she works. She describes how a man entered her store and presented her with a letter that she was to open and then read to him. The letter was a shopping list of what he was supposed to bring home (apparently this was the first time he was told what exactly he needed to buy) but also included several very mean things that the woman had to read out to him. After the woman said that this was the most uncomfortable she’d ever felt while working in a sex toy shop Sandra talked about how this sort of behavior is unfair to people who don’t know that they’re getting roped into a fantasy. She went on to describe how the shop where she works gets these sort of situations but that these can be successful if the dom/master will call before the sub/slave arrives to give the shop a heads up.
I was actually horrified when I listened to the story and kept hoping she was going to say something about how this was a hypothetical situation. My horror is not with the master/slave or dom/sub relationship but by the fact that this woman was brought into the dynamics of a relationship without her consent. I’m sure we can all agree consent is extremely important, particularly when we enter into the intimate world of sex, (Actually I tend to say that communication is even more important as you can’t have complete consent without communication but let’s make that a different post.) and for a culture that puts so much emphasis on consent why do we sometimes bring people outside of our relationships in without their consent? It probably sounds like I’m over reacting here but my anger and annoyance isn’t geared towards this one incident but rather was reignited by hearing this story.
When I first began exploring more sex-positive subcultures I kept running across stories like this in forums or advice columns or articles or just general conversation. The nice thing was that a year or two ago these stories died down. To hear this woman’s experience after a nice quiet period was really troubling, especially since I thought that this was basically over. Me writing a blog post on this subject probably won’t have any impact but I’m a Blogger And So My Opinions And Ideas Are Worthy Of Being Shared With Everyone From Solomon To Jack the Ripper.
The blunt point of what I want to say is that consent isn’t needed just from the people who are placing their genitals into each others orifices (or whatever it is that you like to do) but from whoever is going to be involved; this includes anyone who is involved in your power dynamics. The one area that I feel less strongly about this is when it comes to people who get their jollies from the danger of almost being caught. It’s one thing if you’re sneaking into semi-public places to have sex (the dorm laundry room or a some shrubbery in a not too crowded park) but when you want to involve someone else you better have their consent.
One popular theme that gets brought up in erotic stories involves the subordinate partner answering the door to a plumber/electrician/mailman/etc. while wearing nothing or with a collar on or some other humiliating device their dominant has thought up. I feel it’s one thing if it’s along the lines of the sub is wearing a short skirt with no underwear (Trust me, I’m not just thinking of female identified people here.) as I tend to place this more in the category of “flirting with almost getting caught” but to go further is a whole different ball(gag) game. The advice that I’m going to give is something that I haven’t had personal experience with and it will need to be adapted depending on where you live; however, I think it can provide a useful starting point for people who might want to incorporate this element of humiliation into their play. The dominant can call or e-mail ahead to whoever is coming over to your place. Here’s a suggestion script or e-mail that I wrote up:
Hello, [YADDA YADDA MY STOVE NEEDS MAINTENANCE YADDA YADDA] Just so you know my partner and I have a relationship where we explore power relations/kink/humiliation/whatever-you-think-will-get-the-point-across. My partner might answer the door while wearing “X” and I wanted to give you a heads up. There’s nothing specific I need from you but I wanted to make sure you/whoever-is-coming-over won’t feel uncomfortable with what they’ll find. Obviously if this is an issue than I’ll make sure my partner isn’t home/is wearing all their clothes.
I think it goes without saying that you will know your own situation better than I will so please take this as a rough suggestion.
If you have friends with similar interests in your local community then they can be a great resource. Ask if they know people who’d be comfortable making house calls and make sure you let them know if you find people who are open to this. Local messaging boards or really any kink forums can be another tool. Finding forums online that address your region may be challenging (Fetlife could be a good place to start looking.) but finding them can be a lot of help.
One of my favorite examples of dom/sub in public/incorporating others is an anecdote from a friend at my previous university. His face flushed with happiness, he came into the suite to announce that he’d been walking through the student center when a dominant came by walking their subordinate on a leash. My friend approached the dom and after commenting on how cute their “puppy” was asked if he could pet it. Permission was given and my friend left with his day made. What I like about this is that this particular couple brought their relationship public (Yay for kink visibility!) and welcomed participation from others but didn’t force others to engage in it. (I also really like this demonstration of how power play doesn’t only mean one person in boots flogging a naked person like our media likes to portray.)
Consent, consent, consent, three words that I never get tired of hearing. Bringing others into your relationship can be fun and exciting but should always include consent. Let me know of your own experience with this subject and if you feel there’s anything I got wrong.