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How To Jump Off A Cliff

December 1, 2010

People do some extreme stuff. Consenting adults jump off of cliffs, and use experience and a few specialized tools to not die. Like these folks:

(Longtime readers probably already suspect that I just threw that in as a metaphor to give me a rhetorical prop. I’m predictable like that. But it is cool to watch.)

This isn’t about base jumping. It’s about BDSM and the places at the edge of the light. And it’s personal and contemplative and more detailed than I often get. Once upon a time, I expanded something Clarisse Thorn wrote about safewords into a joint product that is, in my opinion at least, a very useful practical guide. One of the things I said in it was:

Clarisse mentioned that some people “don’t use safewords.” From the context, she’s talking not about people for whom no means no in scene, but people for whom there is no definitive way for the bottom to stop the scene. And perhaps readers can tell from Clarisse’s tone that that’s … the advanced class. You’ll find the safety police in any BDSM space or community that finger-wag about it, and the swaggering more-kinky-than-thous that brag about it. But what does it mean?
I can only tell you what it means for me. There are times I give up my safeword: only to my spouse. We’ve been playing together for about a decade and a half. If I give up my safeword, and that’s something we do rarely, it doesn’t mean I don’t have limits. I have limits! Yes I do! There are things I can’t handle, mentally or physically, and things I never want to handle! There are “hard limits”, things I’ve said I’m just not willing to do. And there are soft limits, things I don’t think I’m ready for but I’m willing to bump up against them and see what happens. If I give up my safeword, it means I have limits, but instead of telling her when I’ve reached them, I’m going to trust her to listen to me and watch me and make that decision. I may say, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t,” and she may decide I really can’t. Or she may decide I’ve got more in me than I believe I do. There’s a lot of risk associated with that. But there’s a trust in those moments and a closeness that does not go away when the scene is over. Or ever, really. Risk and reward: we set our own tolerances.

One of my friends sort of invited me to talk about what that looks like. So I will. This is more narrative and personal than I usually get.

My wife and I do tease-and-denial play, where I need permission to come. It’s hot for me for submission reasons; giving her control over that aspect of me is intimate and arousing. It’s hot for her for just the flip-side of that reason, and because it means for several days or a week or more, she gets off pretty much when and how she likes. For example, I may go down on her every night for a week, and I may not even be allowed to look at her naked. She can put blackout goggles on me, for example. If she wants to be fucked, I’ll fuck her, but I’m not allowed to come. We may use a cock sheath, which goes over my cock and removes just about all the sensation, or she may fuck bareback, with the understanding that I need permission to come, which can be arbitrarily and capriciously withheld.

We may do some pain play during that period, which I enjoy, usually including a lot of ball torture, and we use a safeword for that. But what we’ve worked out, the part that pushes boundaries, is the part without the safeword. If I come, I’ll be punished, in a specific way that I really don’t like, and how much I have to endure will not be of my own choosing. This is, in the technical sense, consensual nonconsent.

I’ll pick this up from the part where I’m not sure I can keep myself from coming much longer. I feel very intimate with her in these moments, but also scared because my control is limited and the punishment I dread looms just behind the pleasure. So when I start to get close, I ask for permission:

“No, you may not,” her voice says, from behind the purple curtain of the blackout goggles. She’s on top of me, and my cock is inside her, and I’m so close. I’m so close to her, and I’m right on the edge, and I want to be right here forever. I want to bottle this. She leans down, slowing her hips and letting me hang on. “Suck my nipples.” I can find them only when they brush my face.

She’s riding me faster now, grinding her clit on my pelvis, and I know what she’s waiting for. I leave myself plenty of time when I ask, expecting that she’ll say no the first time because it’s hot for her. “May I please come?”
“You may not.”
“I’m very close Mistress.”
“I know. It’s hot for me to control you this way. I’m going to come.” She’s breathless. She’s close. “you can’t. If you come without permission you know what I’ll do.” She can barely pronounce the words, and I know how this will end. I’m too close.
“May I please come?”
“May I please come?!”

I hate this. In the moment, it’s the last thing I want. As soon as I come, before the pulsing stops but as soon as I know I’ve failed, I start apologizing and shaking all over and hoping I can talk her out of it. Sometimes I can. She’s let me slide before. But not usually, because … The why takes some explaining. I really, really hate it, and in the moment it’s not hot at all, and if I could get out of it I would. But not only do I like these scenes, they are among the most emotionally connected (and among the hottest) things I’ve done in over a decade of doing BDSM with this woman.

I put my hands on her thighs, and she puts her hands on my wrists and holds them there, and I kneel and spread my legs. When I haven’t just come, I like getting kicked in the testicles.  It’s painful, and it’s hard to take, but very erotic for me.  (If you’re not a masochist this can be tough to understand.)  But right after I come, my tolerance, specifically for this, drops way down.  There’s no silver lining to this.  It is misery, and I dread it. 

I literally grit my chattering teeth.  The dim lights though the goggles are replaced with fireflies, stars. I see stars. I can’t be quiet. I blubber into her thighs. I gasp for air. She must realize how hard this is, how hard I’m trying to be good and hold still. My hips buck and try to flee, my body rebels, and I bury my head in her lap, looking for strength. Eventually the storm passes and I can lay with her, drained and open.

 Those moments of aftercare are sweet, but they’re not what keeps me coming back for more.

What if I said “red! I need to stop! Please, I can’t …” She doesn’t want to do me harm. She doesn’t ever want to do something to me that, when it’s done, I’m sorry she did. But hurt, hurt that I don’t know how to take, that I can’t ask for, that’s what we both want. I have limits. Oh, I have limits. After all this time, I can trust her. I can say, “you, not me, may decide when I need to stop.” I jump, and she’s the fall, and the parachute. I believe in her absolutely, and yet I am no less afraid.

The looming fear drives the dynamic. When I’ve been on the edge of orgasm a few times and have not come in a week, when I get hard over anything and the edge of orgasm is right there, she has so much control. There are a million things she can do that leave me completely without hope of preventing orgasm, and I’m exquisitely conscious of it. My orgasm is hers to deny or bring on at a whim, and the permission is hers to grant or withhold. In that moment where I’m pushing out the words “may I please come?” so that the letters squish together, and I am past the point of no return and will come no matter what she says, she can give me a gift or make me pay dearly, and that moment right there, that’s where the magic is. And though I hate it, afterwards it stays warm inside me for a long time. And after a while, I find myself longing …

12 Comments leave one →
  1. December 1, 2010 1:36 pm

    I think this is lovely and you communicated the emotional intensity in this scene very well. I might be influenced by a particular understanding of what you’re talking about, but still. The intimacy comes through in your writing, and I hope that it’s illustrative for people who want an understanding of why we might want to play with consent.

    Also: hot.

  2. The Windup Bird permalink
    December 2, 2010 8:03 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this. But like Paradox said above, the intimacy is so clear in this post. A lot of people misunderstand that this closeness is as much a part (or perhaps even more) of BDSM as any other relationship flavor. This post illustrates this point much better than I ever could.

  3. Sarah permalink
    December 15, 2010 12:51 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this Thomas. The intimacy you describe is humbling.

  4. Lori permalink
    December 29, 2010 12:43 am

    I’m legitimately confused. Are you saying that if you stood up and said firmly, “No. We really are not doing this now,” and walked out of the room, your wife would still kick you in the testicles? In that case, I suppose you really don’t have any safe word and are doing things non-consensually, and your wife is therefore as immutable as the law of gravity (the analogy you make at the opening). Wouldn’t that also make her a sexual abuser?

    I’m not trying to be a jerk here. I seriously don’t get it; I don’t understand how non-consent can be anything but assault. I don’t understand how not being able to say ‘no’ would ever be okay.

    • December 29, 2010 7:11 am

      As I sit here, not in that space, it’s obvious to me that she wouldn’t. The goal is that she’ll stop when I need to stop — though not when I think I need to — and if I were walking away or rolling on the floor, then I’d clearly need to stop. But the headspace is one where, in the moment, I don’t think I have a choice, which is part of the dynamics of that heavy subspace.

      In writing this, though, I meant to go right at the ambiguity of consensual nonconsent, because I really hear you, but I also know that as a bottom I play close to that line. Could I consent to a scene that I really can’t stop? It’s easy to say no, but I think too facile an answer for me.

      • Lori permalink
        December 29, 2010 1:10 pm

        “The goal is that she’ll stop when I need to stop — though not when I think I need to.” I know context counts and being in a long-term D/s relationship is a very specific context, but that sounds so much like victim-blaming logic it gives me chills.

        And this is what really gets me: “In writing this, though, I meant to go right at the ambiguity of consensual nonconsent.” I don’t understand ambiguity in terms of consent, and this blog is what helped me get there. I mean, this blog is *all about* enthusiastic consent. How does ambiguity fit in there at all?

        Maybe you should do a series about this. In the meantime I’m definitely going to read up more about ‘consensual nonconsent.’

    • December 29, 2010 1:42 pm

      Just to clarify, my wife and I don’t do 24/7, so while I’m in a long-term relationship in which I do D/s, I don’t want readers to think that means a long-term 24/7 D/s relationship — and I’m generally of the opinion that it’s very difficult to do that and most people shouldn’t try, and while it’s trendy in some circles to treat 24/7 as the one true way, I reject that thinking.

      I think using enthusiastic consent as a standard eliminates ambiguity in almost all circumstances. This is perhaps the only area where it actually creates more. What I tried to make clear is that I absolutely do what to do this thing, which includes in it a thing that, in the moment, I never want to do. But it’s not I’m making a choice without full knowledge of what I’m agreeing to. This kind of scene is something we’ve been negotiating for years. The part where I give up my safeword for punishment isn’t something that was thrown at me; it was something we talked about when neither of us was about to come. It was something I thought about and thought about and then talked about and then agreed to do. So the thing I’m enthusiastic about, the thing I want, the thing I hope to do again many times, includes an element (that I fully anticipate, that I know is coming) that’s so tough for me that, for it to work, I have to put myself in a space where I convince myself that I can’t say no to it. I recognize that this presents some complexity in analysis. Maybe I’d be a better polemicist if I dodged that and just shut up about it, but that’s not what I decided to do.

      If my wife decided that she gets to decide when we stop, if she were taking away my safeword, that would be nonconsensual. That would be wrong. And if that were an excuse she made after doing something I didn’t consent to, it would be victim blaming. But if I decide that, for a limited time and set of circumstances, I want to give it up, well, that’s not her excuse imposed on me, that’s a choice I made. Which is not to say every choice is equally good, it’s just to say that victim blaming erases the victim’s choices or attempts to infer from circumstance a different choice from the one the victim actually made.

      People use the term consensual nonconsent to mean more than one thing, and the narrow one-activity-within-a-scene technique I’m talking about is one of them. I’ve seen people use the term to cover whole relationships, and in case anyone is confused about how I feel about that, don’t be. I am not in any way, shape or form supportive of the notion that one person can keep another in a relationship they want out of. Folks who identify their relationships as “owner/property” or “total power exchange” should think of me as fundamentally and immovably opposed.

      • Lori permalink
        December 29, 2010 3:05 pm

        So I guess it’s not the actions or the concepts that bother me- it’s the words you (and people in the broader kink community, I assume) are choosing to describe them. You keep saying you’re “giving up” your ability to withdraw consent, that your wife is not taking it away… but then when you explain further, it’s clear that you’re not giving anything up. Nowhere do you say that you have no escape route. You keep talking about negotiation, and you admitted that, yeah, you could stop her if you really wanted to, but the whole game, it seems to me, is to convince yourself that you can’t stop. But in reality you can! You aren’t giving anything up! And of course not, because the ability to consent *isn’t* something you can give up; it’s only something that can be taken away. I think there needs to be a better term for what’s called “consensual nonconsent”. That’s simply a non-sensical phrase and, frankly, I think it devalues the meaning of consent by giving it whatever meaning the user wants.

  5. Libro Ballante permalink
    April 11, 2012 9:57 pm

    Oh wow. While my partner and I do love some things that can be pretty deep-scene (crying, ignoring no, boundary-pushing), I’ve never thought about consensual non-consent in this (hot) way before. I’ll definitely have to think on this some more!


  1. Love Bites: Clarisse Thorn | Time Out Chicago » » Extreme masochism and intimacy
  2. Liberal Feminism Is BDSM, It Is “Consensual Non-Consent” « Shit Schtick
  3. Talking It Out: A Conversation About “24/7,” “TPE,” and “CNC” (Part Four) « …………….Lori Adorable……………. Tales of A Kinky RadFem

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