Thanks, but no thanks!

 Posted by on May 19, 2011
May 192011

By Sarah Sloane

Dear Sarah,

My problem isn’t so much about getting into a relationship, it’s about staying away from one! I am somewhat experienced in the BDSM scene, but I realized I’m having trouble saying no to people for play and sex. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I really don’t want to play as much as I used to, and I end up feeling bad that I said no. What’s worse, some people have really gotten pissed off at me (particularly when I have said yes to them before). How can I change my rules at this point? How do I tell them “no”?

-Thanks but no thanks

Dear Thanks,

Wow. You’ve hit something that is near and dear to my own heart. I, too, have issues with turning people down for play – and still struggle with how to do it in a way that is not hurtful to the person that’s asking. So…I asked other people how they do it, and here are some of their responses:

“I only play with people I’ve established an ongoing relationship with.”
“I don’t think that what we’re looking for is compatible.”
“I don’t feel the connection with you that I usually feel with people I have sex with / play with.”
“Thanks for asking – I’m flattered! Unfortunately, I have to say no because….”
“I’m going to keep my clothes on for now, thank you!”
“I’m sorry but I’m just not interested in playing with you, but thank you for the offer.”
“I appreciate the offer but I don’t think our play styles are compatible.”
“Thanks for the offer, but it doesn’t work for me.”
“I’m flattered, but that’s not my thing.”
“I’m not in that headspace this evening”
“I’m sorry but I’m not interested in playing with you right now. I promise to let you know if I’m interested another time.”
“I’m flattered that you want to play with me, but I’m not attracted to you in that way.”

Keep in mind that you do not need to have a reason to say no – you are entitled to say no for any reason (or even no reason) at all. It’s YOUR decision whether to play or engage in sex. You also do not need to give them a “rain check” or tell them maybe another time unless you want to – in fact, in my experience it’s been worse for me to tell them “maybe” instead of just saying no and leaving it alone.

When I came up in my leather community, I was taught that one of the things that bind us together is a sense of respect; part of that is respect for ourselves and our ability & power to say no, and part of it is respect for the other person that we’re talking with. Honesty – not the blunt, hurtful kind, but the compassionate kind – will be something that both you and the person that you’re being honest with can live with.

Practice saying no – to your mirror, to friends, in writing – and use those practice sessions to feel more comfortable and confident when you say it. When you’re in a position where you’re not sure what to say to the other person, tell them that – and ask them if you can get back to them. Take the time you need to make a decision; it’s a very rare situation to have a potential play session with someone that you will literally never see again, so there’s no need to pressure yourself into deciding. And when it comes down to it, remember that no means no – and if the person in question spends time trying to talk you into it, or becomes defensive, then that should be a clear indication that it’s not someone that you wanted to play with in the first place.

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