I confess, I’m a “self-improvement” junkie. I love reading books on lifehacking, on how to get shit done, how to change your four-hour work habits for highly-effective Secrets of the 50 Cent Solution. At the same time, I tend to see the world through kink-colored glasses, so as I came to the chapter on “Negotiation” in “The Personal MBA I let out the requisite internal giggle as I thought of it in a kink context. “If they only knew the kind of negotiation classes MY friends teach,” I thought.
I proceeded to have my mind blown as the book highlighted some severe flaws in the way that we normally negotiate.
In the kink world, we basically focus on one aspect of the negotiation: the discussion between the two people involved. Hey, I think you’re cute; let’s talk about playing. Whether it’s the Foole Formula (“Hey, you wanna try some stuff?”) or Jay Wiseman’s multi-page questionnaire, when we talk about negotiation in the kink scene, we are usually thinking about this conversation. We talk about how to approach as equals, what questions to ask, etc. The discussion.
Thing is, in business terms? That’s the last step.
Before that, there’s the setup: the research you do on some other kind of important things, like the who.
Who is the actual person with the power to permit this interaction? Is it a Master or Mistress? A primary partner? A Dungeon Monitor? Of course we believe in free agency, in personal responsibility, and the ultimate decision lies with the individual. But pretending that there are not many other factors involved is simply willful ignorance or negligence.
How about the what? What is the environment? I’m not talking about the dungeon; I’m talking about events in their life, or during the day. Was there a really hot scene a moment before? Is their partner there? Did they eat a big meal? Just go through a breakup?
Besides being attractive to you, who is this person, and what do they want? What makes the scene you’re proposing seem appealing to them? Did you actually take the time to find out what they are into before you made the proposal, or are you just gambling that they’ll be into what you want to do? If you didn’t bother to consider these things, isn’t it possible that you are flagrantly and possibly non-consensually making use of their time and attention? For poly people especially those are two of the most finite resources out there, and while monogamous people may be major shareholders in them there’s still rarely enough to go around.
If you haven’t done the prep work, starting a discussion may not be a very responsible thing to do.
But that’s just the other person. What about you? Are you like me, and thought about all of these things in terms of what the other person is getting from you? Or perhaps you’re coming to the negotiation in a haze of pheromonal and visual attraction, with no clear idea beyond the initial hormonal rush of what you need. Who is going to be affected by your “yes”? If you get what you want from the scene, what are the possible consequences?
Here’s an example of the way I am usually approached for play:
“Hey, I know your dance card is probably full, but I’d like to be suspended, and I heard that you are really good at it and a very safe person to play with.” Sometimes this is flavored with some variety of “Don’t you think a hot little subbie like me would be fun? Master told me I am allowed to be VERY grateful, if you know what I mean…” About half the time it’s the person’s partner/owner/friend who’s asking the question.
There’s nothing wrong with that approach, mind you, and if you’ve asked me to play like this, I’m not writing this with a Wagging Finger of Remonstration. It’s just that there’s a few things that make that approach not work.
* I don’t do dance cards.
* I prefer a hot sexual connection to a flashy suspension.
* I am a sadist.
* I enjoy D/s and service but take them both very, very seriously.
* And while I am non-monogamous, I am not on the market for any new partners, sexual or otherwise.
I can think of exactly once that someone has come up to me with an actual knowledge of any of this. And I can’t think of any times that someone has bothered to ask. I say that with the full awareness that most of the time I didn’t bother to research the setup before starting the discussion either.
I think we know how to have the discussion. I think it’s time, as a community, we started raising the GDP – Gross Drama Prevention – by moving into Negotiation 201. Knowledge is power, and baby, power is hot.