we'd only practice the common sense rules that our grandmothers
should have taught us before we crossed the street by
ourselves for the first time, I might not have to be writing
this column, but the sad fact is that either grandma was
absent or derelict or we weren't listening or are senile.
Just because it's sex doesn't mean that one can dispense
with reason or with manners, even if there are a number
of unscrupulous would-be tops and bottoms out there. In
any case, here's what you should have learned before they
let you leave kindergarten.
1. You're peers until you make a commitment. I don't care
how much of a slave you want to be, you and your prospective
partners are equals in every sense of the word. He or
she has no control over your actions until you have made
a rational decision to give him or her control. If they
insist on an action you have every right to say "No."
If they assert authority, either from the top or the bottom,
you have every right to reject it. Prior to commitment,
neither of you is top or bottom. Top and bottom has to
do with sex, not with negotiation.
2. Ask for references. I mean it. Tell your prospect you
want names and phone numbers of people whom you can call
to verify his or her play-worthiness. If a stranger has
no references, he's too strange to play with.
3. Safe, sane and consensual is a mutual obligation. I
once went home from a scene with a left wrist that was
numb and it stayed numb for several days. In a macho moment
I failed to tell the top that the handcuffs he had put
on me were constricting the flow of blood to my hands.
One might say that he should have checked but I was just
as much at fault for not making him aware of the situation.
If one partner attempts to have unsafe sex, for instance,
the other, even if he is as slavish as they come, has
the right, even the responsibility, to refuse to participate.
This idea will be found several rules lower as well.
4. You have a right to know some things. You're going
to be spending time with this person and, if things work
out, entering into a long term relationship, even if it
is only as friends. The amount of information allowed
is based on the level of negotiations. Early on, you need
less information. Later, as you come closer to meeting,
more is appropriate. Sometime before moving in, a lot
of information, and I mean a lot, is perfectly acceptable.
So early on, you ought to know the person's name and phone
number. If they withhold such details, end the conversation,
or at least make it clear that you will never meet. People
who hide their identities are doing it for reasons that
make meeting them un-wise.
I know there are lots of folks out there cheating on their
significant others or so far in the closet that they're
behind the back wall. I'm not for outing others but I
am for honesty. Face it, those who can't even tell you
their name and give you a phone number where you can reach
them have some very serious issues that ought to be resolved
before you meet.
Once you get past the name, topics such as health and
limits become important, especially if you ever want to
get into a sexual encounter.
Really though, limits are limits and as such aren't anywhere
near as important as the trust factor. After all, setting
limits has no meaning whatsoever if you can't trust that
the person will stay within those limits. Just because
a person says they're "safe, sane, and consensual"
(SSC) is no reason to think that they are. Getting to
know them as person is a much better indication of how
trustworthy they are.
If they say they're SSC, ask them what it means. How well
they explain themselves will tell you a great deal.
If, after you get past the easy questions, you think that
the conversation is going someplace, you ought to begin
thinking about the hard questions. Information about family
ties, income, career, and the future, both long-term and
near, is important if this is going to be more than just
a one night or weekend encounter.
I will agree that you don't need to see a person's personal
balance sheet before you have sex with them, but you certainly
should have some idea of what it looks like before you,
as a slave, turn your assets over to them or, as a master,
you take responsibility for their livelihood. I Hope my
point is made.
1999 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied in
any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay, contact
5. No commitment is immutable. This is the hard one. Once
upon a time (or so we think) people made commitments "until
death do we part." Any genealogist will tell you,
though, that those commitments were ended much more often
and a lot sooner than any preacher on the far Right is
about to admit. Sure there were fewer divorces 100 years
ago, but there were a great many more marriages ended
by early death or straight out desertion.
People change. People will always change. As each of us
changes we need to be conscious of our need to redefine
our relationships in appropriate terms. I would like to
emphasize that those changes can be for the better.
I'm writing this "rule" mostly for those who
think that what they promised in the blush of early infatuation
will hold forever. It won't, since it may no longer be
appropriate two or three years later. Slaves who think
they have no choice once they become a "slave"
are sadly mistaken. Every morning each of us decides how
we will live that day. A slave isn't a slave in the strict
sense of the term. He or she is in a condition of voluntary
servitude. No amount of will exercised by either party
in such a relationship can ever eliminate the voluntary
part of the relationship.
6. You have a right to equality of information. What that
stranger asks you, you have every right to ask him. It's
the power freaks of the world who want to control you
by keeping you in the dark. I'll grant you that there
are many people and institutions that are run by the mushroom
model of management (Keep them in the dark and feed them
horse shit.) but that is no way to conduct a relationship.
7. You cannot abrogate your personal responsibilities.
I don't care how submissive you are. The preceding sentence
is always true and it applies to both tops and bottoms.
Just because a top or bottom says it's all right doesn't
make it so.
8. Neutral spaces are always acceptable. Let that first
meeting with a stranger be well protected by a public
venue. Meet for coffee at Starbucks. Buy him or her a
drink at a local bar. Parks, libraries, and shopping malls
are all places to meet, greet, and size each other up.
You know, if this relationship is going to go anywhere,
you don't have to rush into it. Take your time, go easy,
and have fun. After all, it's OK to talk to strangers,
even to take candy from them. Just use some common sense
when you do.
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