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In the BDSM community, negotiation is a form of communication where participants make arrangements on each other's requirements, responsibilities, and limits to find the best possible agreement.
Activity within BDSM relationships requires trust, openness about most practices that may include risks. On the other hand, partners have certain needs which should be clearly defined in order to be properly satisfied. In this regard, negotiation is essential part not only when parties were not familiar with each other but also in case when partners have long-term relationships.
Negotiation may not only concern a particular session but touch upon a more wide range of subjects on a BDSM philosophy in general: considerations on a lifestyle, the perspectives of the relationships, religious beliefs and many other issues that can be in one way or another connected to BDSM activity.
Negotiation within the limits of BDSM practice can be performed either verbally or in written form. One of the most common ways to clarify all the issues concerning participation in BDSM activity is to make use of negotiation form.
A negotiation is a list of needs, limits and activities within BDSM practice presented to both participants for a specification of the details of BDSM session.
Types of negotiation
1. Scene negotiation takes place before the actual participation in BDSM session, during the session and after it. It can be done in written form, where all the topics discussed will be listed for agreement or disagreement. This is made to evaluate the possible productivity of the session and compatibility of both partners.
Negotiation on a pre-scene phase may include discussing such things as:
- Arrangement of Roles - who will take the part of the top partner or bottom partner, and participation of any other observers, the way partners address each other;
- Expectations and needs of both partners - likes and dislikes of submissive and dominant partners and the ability to fulfill each other's needs;
- Limits of the scene - boundaries that are set to define what experience is acceptable within psychological (such as humiliation, obedience or verbal violation) and physical limits (such as pain, marks and resistance to various influences);
- Types of play - practices that would be included in a scene: bondage, roleplaying, spanking or sensory deprivation;
- BDSM Gear and attire - what materials, adult toys and fetish wear will be used;
- Duration of the scene - at what time the game starts and ends, who will be in charge of the time;
- Health concerns - talking over existent health problems: allergies, chronic diseases, STD's, taking any medications and other;
- Safety measures - any safety tools to prevent situations when something goes wrong;
- Sexual contact - what type of sexual activity is accepted if any;
- Safe words - one or set of verbal and non-verbal signs that will be used to stop the play or slow it down.
Negotiation that takes place after session is focused mainly on the following: possible drawbacks or otherwise positive moments, feelings and suggestions on the next sessions.
2. Relationships negotiation is a form of negotiation that concerns consideration of building up a scene relationship or a more committed 24/7 relationships. Partners who are interested in long-term relationships sign up a kind of contract that is similar to one a couple signs when getting married. Together with the questions that concern BDSM activity, partners discuss long-term arrangements: type of relationship, agreement on living together, financial and psychological responsibilities. When both parties agree on TPE relationships they usually agree on signing up a contract in support of their commitment to BDSM lifestyle and each other. Such contracts do not have a legal base but they allow partners to determine all the aspects of their lifestyle more clearly.
- Robert J. Rubel, PhD "Master/slave Relations: Handbook of Theory and Practice." Nazca Plains Publishers, 2006. ISBN 978-1-887895-63-7