Kink negotiation skills are good for everyone, not just kinky people. A follow up on If We’re So Different, How Come We End up Getting Laid At All?
Last week I wrote that I hoped wouldn’t be a too controversial post. It was difficult to write because of so many conflicting attitudes and information: on the one hand, I want to acknowledge the fact that we are all, to at least a degree, controlled by biological triggers when it comes to sexual desire. But I also want to hang on to my feminist ideal of not being constantly treated like a sex object, and all the different oppressions, aggressions and harassments that come with that.
So now that we know that different people have different sexual triggers and desires (whether or not you agree that they happen more or less along gender lines), how do we work to bridge that gap? How do we have sex that’s hot, intimate and satisfying for everyone involved?
The answer came to me as I wrote last week’s post, but I wanted to discuss it separately: negotiation.
My desires, your desires
Kink negotiation is all about making sure that everyone feels heard, safe and satisfied before, during and after a scene.
But good negotiation begins with one thing: knowing your own desires well enough to share them with others… which is easier said than done.
Cultural shame around sexuality is a big reason why so many of us have problems not only speaking about our desires, but also grasping them in the first place. If the very thought of something arousing sends you in a spiral of shame and embarrassment, that’s where you need to start. Overcoming a lifetime of internalized sexual shame can be difficult, but it’s an endeavour that’s worthy of your time and commitment.
Now, assuming that you are not ashamed of your desires and that you can talk about them, you’ve got the first thing you need for negotiating with partners and lovers. The next thing you need is good listening skills. It’s not enough to be able to express your desires—you also must listen to others’ desires without judgement.
We have a saying in the kink community: YKINMY, short for Your Kink Is Not My Kink. That’s the attitude that kinky people have around things that don’t turn them on. We accept others’ kinks even if they are different from our own, even if they are squicky for us. If we come to the kink community for non-judgemental acceptance of who we are among same-minded people, then it’s only fair that we extend this non-judgemental attitude towards others.
My own kink negotiation skills have made me more ready to accept that most men in my life may be turned on by things other than what turns me on. I find myself less annoyed by the fact that they like a revealing piece of clothing where I would prefer a dirty story. I satisfy them, and they satisfy me in return! Also, being around things that squick me at parties and observing without judgement has made me more aware of the wide variety of desires that exist, and that my own desires are just a tiny part of them. They’re not “more natural” or “better” or whatever. They’re just mine. And thankfully, I can find people to share and satisfy them with.
So, by openly sharing your desires with potential partners, you can determine whether your desires align. It’s okay if they don’t—at least you talked about it and you know, so neither of you will waste their time on activities that will be disappointing to both of you.
Negotiation is a skill that is so essential to the kinky lifestyle that we have workshops about it, books about it, blog posts about it, articles about it. The art of kink negotiation is what often makes the difference between a popular player and someone who’s always left behind at parties, whether you’re a top or a bottom.
Kinksters have long known that engaging in thorough negotiation help them achieve several things: getting to know a partner, ensuring that everyone is heard, and planning a fun, satisfying scene for everyone involved. Negotiation is the basic mode of interaction between players, and it continues on during and even after a scene.
So what do kinksters know about bridging desire gaps? A lot, actually.
Say you’re a new-ish bottom who wants to experiment with whips for the first time. You’re imagining cracking sounds and burning red welts, a sadistic torturer counting the strikes: the things we see in movies and TV shows.
Except, you’re not likely to find a top who’ll do these things for you on your first try, especially not if you’re playing with them for the first time either. Even if the top’s desires also involve fantasies of long torture sessions, raised welts on a bare back, and uncontrollable weeping, it makes no sense to do that until you’re both very experienced, not only with whips, but also with each other.
You say: “I want welts.” They say: “Let’s start slowly and see where it goes.”
Sometimes it’s the opposite: an over-eager top who wants to try something a bit extreme, and a bottom expressing a different, milder desire.
Unless your desires differ deeply, either in substance or in style, more often than not you can find a nice middle ground where both top and bottom can have fun.
But I’m not kinky!
Whips and chains don’t excite you. That’s fine. But you can still learn from how kinksters negotiate scenes (and larger relationships) to have a better sex life of your own.
Vanilla people also have limits, as well as desires and needs of their own. People in monogamous relationships can’t just negotiate once and then assume that things will never change—women’s sexuality, especially, is known to be fluid and changeable over time. So negotiating sex, whether it’s wearing a revealing nightie to flare up a man’s desires or providing a night of sensual massages and emotional intimacy for your girlfriend, is an important skill that everyone should have, kinky or not.
But the first step towards a satisfying sex life has always been, and should continue to be, developing communication and negotiation skills. Knowing what turns your partner on, and expressing what turns you on, and finding a way to make both people happy despite different desires and sexual cues, make for happier sex lives and happier relationships.
Do you have tales of negotiations gone right or wrong? How has negotiation helped you navigate a better sex life? I’d love to hear your stories!