Consent is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.” Negotiation is defined by the same dictionary as “discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.” It follows logically that best practice is to negotiate, or discuss in detail, the actions or activities to which you and the other person or people consent before engaging in any kind of kinky or sexual activity. Does this discussion always happen? Heck no - it’s absolutely okay to determine your own level of comfort with negotiation, but obtaining and giving consent will save you a headache every time.
I have been in the non-monogamous and kink world for years now, and something I was surprised to learn is that different groups navigate negotiation and consent differently. This crucial piece of participating in kinky activities is something that one would think was universal, but it isn’t. In the lifestyle (LS) or swinger world, after determining whether you are full or partial swap, etc., consent is often something that is assumed until someone says “no” or “stop.” In the polyamorous world, consent is discussed prior to engaging in activities and is explicitly given for specific activities. Both styles have their advantages, and many people prefer one over the other for their personal interactions.
In the kink world, as in the polyamorous world, specific activities tend to be discussed in advance in detail. I even ask before I touch people and their possessions as a general rule - consent is given for distinct actions and is often a narrow road to walk. I have a laundry list of questions that I ask potential rope partners (whether top or bottom) before I agree to tie with them in any serious capacity. These questions include things like what specific activities we will do, what we will not do (hard and soft limits), what areas of the body are off limits for touch, whether sexual play will occur and what that looks like, what health factors (such as injuries, STIs, neurological conditions, mental health needs, etc) may affect our play, what to do if accidents occur (injury, pregnancy, etc), what safe words we will use and what they mean, and what kind of aftercare we each need. There are more things besides these, but these serve as a general outline of topics to touch on.
That being said, do you ALWAYS need to negotiate all these things in detail? No. I can specifically negotiate only spanking or sexual objectification with someone and have a great time if we are each respectful. The degree to which you negotiate depends on the people involved and the degree to which you feel comfortable with them. If someone tells you no, asking again during that same play session can be perceived as boundary-pushing and may earn you a reputation for being unsafe to play with. Accept boundaries gracefully, and you will find that people may be more willing to open up to you next time. Be as direct with your “no” as you are with your “yes,” and you may find that you feel safer and more comfortable during playtime, and the folks you play with will too.