In 2014 I had an opportunity to take a class about scene negotiation by the world-renowned educator, author and artist Midori. These are my rough notes from that class.
Many of us have tried negotiating a scene through The Checklist. "Do you like being tied up? Spanked? Tickled? Suspended? Slapped with a pie? ..."
There are a couple problems with the checklist approach. One, it can be boring :) And, it doesn't get at the purpose of the scene.
Rope, to take one example, can be used to achieve a thousand different outcomes. To create a feeling of deep peace and serenity. Or terror and excitement. Or super hot sex. Or a fun puzzle to escape from. Or to apply precise and controlled sadistic pain. Or a fashion statement. Or to overpower someone in a takedown.
So to merely say "would you like to be tied up?" doesn't uncover the underlying motivation -- the "why".
And the checklist typically lacks mutuality. Yes, we find out the bottom's limits at least, but what does the top want out of the scene?
We practice kink as a way to get into a different mind state. After all, feeling the same as when we're stuck in traffic driving to work is not the goal.
So what mind state do we want to get into?
By any means possible find out their "why".
Midori's negotiation steps:
Midori then walked us through an example negotiation.
Are you feeling toppish or bottomish? (Recognizing that people can have different desires and appetites at different times).
What are your favorite kink activities?
What does that mean to you?
(If someone wants to be dominated) Physically or instructionally?
What is it about [favorite kink activity] that you like?
Tell me about how [favorite kink activity] makes you feel? (Uncovering desired emotional state)
Tell me more about that.
That's interesting, what else are you interesting in?
What other activities create that feeling for you? (Expanding the toolkit to reach that desired emotional state)
When it's good for you, what will I see and hear?
When it's bad for you, what will I see and hear? (Knowing what someone's signals are makes it possible to make course corrections before they need to use a safeword)
What do you do for fun? What is your favorite physical activity? (Looking for patterns of pleasure seeking behavior. For example, if someone likes playing challenging video games, perhaps there's a way to build a challenge into the scene)
What helps you warm up and get into a scene?
What are your buzz kills? (What takes you out of head space?)
How will I know when you want more or less of something?
Anything about your body I need to know about? (Looking for body/health limits)
And towards the end of the scene proposal Midori deliberately proposed something out of left field, to see whether they will in fact say "no" to something they don't want. (But you have to be careful to propose something that you can actually follow through with in case they say "yes"!)
Another important part of the negotiation was physical touch. During the example negotiation, Midori got closer to her scene partner, then placed her hand over but not touching his knee, and asked "may I touch you", and when he said "yes" put her hand over his knee. This progressed naturally, and at one point when he had said he liked puppy play and being petted, she said "like this?" and stroked his hair. I could see how the physical progression was as important as the intellectual discussion, since after all the scene itself was physical, and it would be awkward and jarring to go from no physical touch to close physical touch all at once.
Step 2 is thinking about the information and how a scene might be constructed. You may have some ideas and say, "How are you with _?"
Step 3 is a scene proposal based on the intel gathering and mutual desires. "Hmm, so I'm thinking maybe first I do this, and then we do that, and..."
Step 4 is refinement. After the proposal, "What would you like less, more, or different?"
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