"So, Silver- tell me how I'm supposed to KNOW if my bottom is consenting or if they're just saying yes and tomorrow I'll be in big trouble?"
That was a question that was in my email this morning.
I took that to mean- “How can ‘Yes Means Yes’ when “non-confrontational” (read “submissive-type) personalities will say yes anyway and I'll be in huge trouble and accused of all sorts of heinous things by someone who wasn't truthful with me?”
The simple answer is don’t play with those types of people. Don’t play with people who can’t be an active participant in whatever you’re doing. Don’t play with people who can’t say no, as well as yes. But then things aren't ever as simple as that, are they?
You want a harder answer? Dominants love the whole idea of submissives NOT saying no to them. It’s really awesome to have a submissive that will do whatever he/she is told, without complaint, without question. Our erotica, our books, our “submissive training” all play into the idea that somehow submissives must always “go along with” whatever is dished out by dominants. However, in my experience, it's never so much about what a dominant expects from their bottom (mind you...we're talking real life here and not weekend fantasy bedroom play) as what a bottom expects that makes them a "good little submissive".
“Good” dominants know this isn’t always the truth and seldom really want a stepford sub. Most dominants I know want someone who knows him/herself enough to know how to simply say no when it’s something outside of a negotiation, outside of an agreed-upon contractual limit. “Good” dominants will listen to the concerns of their bottom and talk about a NO. “Good dominants” usually also insist that their submissives FILL IN THE BLANKS with the information that the top is missing to make an informed decision. Tops aren’t mindreaders. I don’t think that particular phrase is said often enough.
But what truly good dominants do is help their submissives learn how to actually disagree, say no, or question. You want to help the problem of “non-confrontational personalities” saying yes when they really mean no? Teach them how to say what they want. Game playing with yes and no can be sexy too. Teach your submissives that no is an acceptable answer. Teach them how to stand their ground, stick with it, and that not only is a NO expected from time to time, but insist upon it. "No, I said I will not fuck you" should be praised and rewarded the same as "Yes, I want you to fuck me".
The problem becomes when some self-styled dominants don’t care what their bottom says. They don’t listen anyway. And when the good dominants don’t want to hear no from time to time, it becomes difficult for submissives to figure out who's who.
Submissives want to please. It’s inherent in our nature to want to please their dominant. Most submissives think that to mean that they don’t have any power to say no. Our culture thrives on the erotica version of consent, which is to say that bottoms aren't asked, they're told. When they DO say no, they get told they’re “topping from the bottom” or that they aren’t “twue submissives”. As a dominant, you're gonna have to expect no's from time to time, or you're helping build the culture of "okay..whatever". Isn’t it better to hear an actual “No” from time to time than to wonder about semantics and underlying motives of a "yes"? If you knew that you were playing with someone who had no problem saying no, wouldn't it just be easier?
You wanna help this situation? Help your submissives understand that they are an ACTIVE participant in what happens to them. Make them say “yes” and “no” while doing anything. Make them verbally assent and verbally deny what they want. If you’re in a owner/owned relationship, make them understand that by learning how to say NO and YES is what you want them to learn. Make them understand that only by practicing YES and NO to each activity, will they truly learn how to keep safe from the people who never hear no anyway.
This isn’t the Chateau where submissives have no real choice in their own personal responsibility. For the most part, I’ve never actually heard of any D/s or M/s based relationship where the little “s” part isn’t given a voice.
I know this is hard for those of us that play with consensual non-consent, who are in D/s relationships, for those of us into fear, humiliation, and the thousands of other things we do to each other. But as dominants you must help your bottoms learn how to say no to you. The only hope they have of saying no to anyone is to learn how to say it to someone they trust.
After all, protecting your toys from harm IS a responsibility that one has when you choose to play with them. Help your toys learn that saying no isn't the end of the relationship, the end of the scene or the end of their submissiveness. It's a beginning to a path where both tops and bottoms can both take personal responsibility for themselves, while cockblocking those that will never hear no, no matter how loud it's said.
But if you want the best answer- here's what I got. Stop trying to figure out what the other side of the slash wants and just worry about what you do.