Three Views Of Consent

Author: Raven Shadowborne © 2000

In BDSM consent is a major issue. Almost everyone can agree that consent must take place for any BDSM activity or relationship to be BDSM and not abuse. The part which causes confusion is “When does consent take place?”. For some people, it is blanket consent. For other people consent is a continual process. Lastly, there are some people with a mix of both views in their lives.

Blanket consent is basically saying, “From this point on, I consent to everything and anything you might choose to do to or with me”. This kind of consent is most commonly found in a master / slave relationship, starting with the placement of the collar. However, it can be found in dominant / submissive relationships as well. There does not need to be a collar involved for some submissives to give this consent, just the commitment and devotion to a particular dominant. Most relationships that are long term, will reach a point of blanket consent given enough time. This happens because experience has allowed the submissive to reach a deep and all encompassing level of trust in the dominant. And thus the submissive feels safe in giving blanket consent.

Blanket consent should never be given without a high level of knowledge of the dominant. In relationships (such as m/s) there is a great deal of communication, negotiation and learning that takes place before the slave gives blanket consent and accepts the collar. During this learning process, the people involved learn about each others likes and dislikes, expectations, and more. From this knowledge, comes the information necessary to make the informed choice to give blanket consent. Anyone will tell you not to give blanket consent to someone that desires things you are against or prefer not to do. Never give blanket consent to someone you do not have a good working knowledge of.

Continual consent is basically saying that the submissive or bottom must consent each time the dominant gives an order. This school of thought believes a submissive can withdraw their consent at any time, for whatever reason. Some believe consent can only be withdrawn under certain circumstances such as the dominant wants to try a new implement the submissive has no experience with. Continual consent need not be a verbal “yes I will” or “yes you can” from the submissive. Many take the obedience of the submissive to be silent consent. This silent manner of consent can be said to exist in blanket consent as well, except for one thing, in blanket consent the choice is not to follow an order or refuse, it is follow the order or leave the relationship in many cases. In continual consent, the sub would have the right to follow the order, or refuse the order.

Continual consent is most often found in a top / bottom relationship or play partner arrangement. It can be found in a number of dominant/submissive relationships as well. Continual consent places much of the control over what occurs in the hands of the submissive, not the dominant. This places the decision of what will be done and what won't completely in the submissive’s hands. For some, this is a perfectly legitimate form of power exchange. Again, exhaustive knowledge of one's partner is required before the choice to consent can be made.

Mixed consent, for lack of a better term, is a bit of both blanket consent and continual consent. Basically it means that the submissive consents to anything the dominant does within the boundaries of prior discussed activities. If something new should arise, the submissive must consent for the new activity. Mixed consent could also be taken to mean that the sub has the right to call a time out to discuss a new activity. The request for such discussion is not usually viewed as an outright no. This form of consent is often found in any BDSM type of relationship because it most closely follows what may actually occur in real life. 

Mixed consent takes into consideration from the get go, that there are probably activities a person won't do now but may do later on. It allows for prior knowledge of pushing limits. Like blanket consent, exhaustive knowledge of one's partner is a must before consent is given.

Consent in BDSM is not just a do it or don't do it thing. With the varying styles of relationships comes varying styles of consent. How one chooses to consent is up to them and their partner but it is an absolute must for any BDSM relationship.

This article was published in the Dec 200/Jan 2001 issue of the online magazine "The Crystal Bridge"



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