A deeply neglected aspect of community safety in my opinion, is that of Due Care by the top. According to USLegal.com the definition of Due Care is “The effort made by an ordinary prudent or reasonable party to avoid harm to another, taking the circumstances into account.” When we enter the world of BDSM, the circumstances change dramatically from the ordinary world of human interaction. We as the controlling party are in charge of the physical and emotional safety of the person with whom we play. We are applying physical techniques equivalent to a martial art.
So, what does Due Care mean for us when we are partaking of that which so often looks like abuse?
There is a line between those who are deliberately out to misuse or abuse those in their care, and those who are truly just trying to give the bottom that ‘edgy’ experience that they both want. The top CAN go too far. The bottom CAN neglect to use their power when the line is pushed. But I have noticed over time, that the subs/bottoms are the first to claim blame. Often times, I have heard of abuse survivors blaming themselves for their trauma. It is a long road to finding a balanced perspective, one where they can say “yes I could have been proactive and avoided situation X… BUT the perpetrator is still the perpetrator!”
There MUST be a corresponding journey for Dominants and Tops who are playing the edge. We are not born perfect. We do not begin our first day holding the flogger knowing exactly how far to push. The difference is, when we dance the erotic edge with a bottom, it is our ‘job’ to be in control. We are asked to be in control of not one, but two people. We are in charge of our bottom and ourselves. To be realistic, both parties are probably in an altered state, even if there is not a drop of alcohol and no drugs involved.
So how do you exercise Due Care? There’s no school, no castle to run away to for a three month intensive. And even if there were, most of us don’t have the resources to take kinky sabbaticals. In the hope of providing direction to those who may not have access to a mentor, I offer the following.
· Play with experienced bottoms
o Not all play is going to be a sexually charged romp in the sack. Sometimes, it’s just refinement of your technique and learning to read the bottom. Start by playing with someone who is strong and confident in their role, who will gladly tell you to STOP if you aren’t reading their body language effectively.
o Do what they ask of you in play, especially when they say slow down, stop, etc. Remember you’re there to learn.
o If they give you feedback, take it! You can discuss it with future play partners, and if they don’t want to use the same signals, ok. But consider carefully the advice of experienced bottoms. It’s their tushie on the line!
· Check in often
o If they twitch funny, ask ‘how are you doing’ or ‘did you like that’ or even just say ‘green?’ and look for an affirmation.
o Keep doing it. Even when they’re probably sick of you, you need to keep checking in, every time the behavior changes. Why? Because the first, third or fifth time it might be yet again “ooh that’s fun”, but on the tenth time, you might have just hit a nerve cluster.
o If they don’t respond to your check-in, STOP. This is a sign that the bottom is no longer able to consent! When you do aftercare/debriefing, if she says “wow I wish you hadn’t stopped” then the response is a known quantity for next time and you can keep going.
· Make an effort to identify your own faults
o This is a frustrating, humbling part of growing as a Dominant or Top. But it is critical. Look for where you can improve, and make note of it. You need to know what you did wrong before you can make it right.
· Make it Right!
o If you’re in-scene and something has gone bad, STOP. Ensure the safety of the bottom, give them time to recover, and then explain what happened.
o Apologize for your error! Make sure they know that you understand where you went wrong and how you will prevent it in the future.
You will make mistakes. We all do. When making the first mistakes as a Dominant/Top, we have a duty to call a halt. That might get some subs looking at you sideways, wondering if you’re all you’re supposed to be. But I would ‘submit’ that it is far better to stop short than to push too far. Learn from your mistakes and make sure others know that you have. This is how you establish trust and credibility.
Without trust, BDSM and power exchange relationships can easily dissolve into conflict and even abuse. Use these steps as a beginning to establish your trustworthiness, your credibility, and to improve on your qualities as a top.