When “No” means “Yes!”: Negotiating Consensual Non-Consent

So, there you are, rope in-hand, partner looking up at you dewy-eyed, ready to be taken. You’ve been teasing and taunting each other about this role play all day and now you finally have the chance. Maybe you’re a swashbuckling pirate and you’ve found them stowed-away on your ship, now you’re going to tie them up, torture them, and make them pay their passage by becoming your personal sex slave. Perhaps you’ve robbed a bank, they’re the teller you’ve taken hostage, and you’re going to make them suffer physically and sexually until they tell you the combination to the vault. Maybe you’re waiting in the closet to pounce on them the moment they step foot out of the shower. The options are endless and in every scenario you can dream up, you’re their captor and they’re your prey, helpless and ready to succumb to your every whim.

That all sounds super fun, right?

Kai Pilger

If not, stop reading, this may not be for you. Some important notes before going further: we will be discussing non-consent role play. If you need to care for yourself by skipping this piece, or reading it at another time, then please do so.

Additionally, I am not a mental health counselor or an expert in trauma. If you have experienced trauma around sexual assault or other consent violations, I encourage you to consider seeking the support of a counselor or therapist. If you need a recommendation for a kink-friendly therapist, check out the Kink Aware Professionals Directory from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.

If so, then let’s go! That said, before you go down this particular road, you and your playmate need to set a few things straight.

One of the most exciting things about kidnapping or captive role-playing is the really distinct power dynamic between you. If you’re the one doing the capturing, you get to call all the shots! What you want, you get, and they have to give it to you. If you’re the one being captured, it can be so exciting to give up control and let your partner have their way with you. Not knowing what will happen next can be such a thrill!

Another part of what makes this so exciting is the power struggle. Most victims don’t just fall haplessly into the arms of their kidnappers! They struggle, fight, and resist! Only to be overpowered by the strength and wit of their captor.  The last thing you want to do, however, is sneak up behind your unsuspecting partner only to get punched in the face when they mistake you for an actual burglar.

Your best bet for approaching role-play like this is to remember RACK: Risk Aware Consensual Kink. So, let’s go over some of the risks involved and talk about ways to minimize those risks to have a fun, sexy, time together.

Note: These are just some general guidelines to consider. Risk is often a very personal factor in BDSM and sexual play, as every person’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health needs are different. Use these as a starting point for your negotiations, not everything you need to know about your partner. Consensual Non-Consent is nothing to take lightly and conversations around it should be ongoing. For more about consent negotiation go here. 

1. Risk: Physical Harm

It’s very possible that if you’re struggling with each other as part of your scene, especially if you’re going for an element of surprise at any point, one of you might accidentally (or intentionally) injure the other. Scenes like this can often involve a lot of rough sex, too, and that brings with it a whole host of risks to your body.

Mitchell Hollander

Solution: Set some boundaries

Find out how your partner feels about the idea of you “breaking in” while they’re in the shower and pouncing them. Maybe you both like the idea of surprise, but they don’t want to be woken up from sleep or surprised while they’re cooking or working. Talk to them about the level of struggle you’re both comfortable with.  Perhaps you’re both equally strong and you want to have a real all-out wrestling match to see if they can overpower you or if you’ll come out on top. They might love that idea but want to make sure that there’s no hair pulling, scratching, or biting at any time and you want to be clear that at no point should they try to hit you in the face or genitals. You will each have things that are a major YES and a major NO, and some things that you’re not sure about. You don’t have to spoil the surprise by having this conversation immediately before your scene, but you do need to have it.

If either of you has physical limitations that need to be considered, you may want to find a kink-friendly physician or health care provider who can help you set boundaries, learn to care for each other, and give you the all-clear for a bit of rough-and-tumble (even if it’s modified to accommodate everyone’s safety). I also encourage you to put together a first aid kit and keep it nearby. Remember that folks  on both sides of the slash put their physical safety at risk during high impact scenes such as this. Come up with a game plan that considers the physical health and wellbeing of everyone who will be participating. 

2. Risk: Emotional injury

Scenes like this can kick up a lot of emotional dust, even in relationships between long-term partners who know and trust each other deeply. If you’re not ready for it, you or your partner becoming emotionally triggered could be a harder injury to recover from than a physical injury.

Solution: Set some boundaries

Even for couples that have been together for a long time, there are very likely still going to be things you’re surprised to learn about one another. If your partner has a history of trauma due to violence, sexual assault, or – well – any trauma at all, you’ll want to know that before playing like this. If you have a history of any of this, you need to disclose this to your partner. Sometimes people know exactly what their triggers are, and they can walk their partners through these things. They know that a hand over their mouth would be a trigger, or sneaking up on them when they’re reading. For many, however, triggers can catch us off guard. The thing about trauma is sometimes it sneaks up on you, even if you think you’re way far past it. Scenes like this can start fun and become triggering very quickly. Knowing that your partner has potential triggers might not keep you from accidentally triggering them, but it will help you recognize when something has gone amiss and deal with it in a way that’s compassionate and caring.

If either of you has trauma you haven’t worked through (or aren’t currently working through), I encourage you to spend some time alone (or together) with a therapist who can help you set up a game plan for play time and for life.

Tom Pumford

Bonus: Also consider the possibility that you may decide you don’t want to stop a scene that becomes emotionally challenging. Some folks make the decision to stay in those feelings and let them flow, as a way to experience a hard feeling in a place they know is safe. If you think this might be something interesting to you, discuss it with your partner beforehand and make a choice about how you prefer to handle it if either of you ends up in this space. I also encourage you to reach out to a kink-friendly therapist, together, for support and a backup plan before diving too far into the emotional deep end. 

Ask each other questions like: How would you like this scene to make you feel? Are there any feelings that would make you want to stop? What should we do if you start crying? What should we do if you feel very afraid? How should we proceed if you feel very angry/sad/confused/hurt? Remember that folks on both sides of the slash are at risk for experiencing challenging or unwanted emotions and have a game plan that considers everyone who will be participating. 

Risk: Consent violations

This is the “consensual non-consent” part of the play. When you’re playing like this, the whole point is for your partner to resist. Part of resisting is physical and verbal protesting that even includes saying, “No!” You want to have your way with them, and they want to be “had” by you, but the real goal here is for everyone to be giving ongoing, enthusiastic consent. Doing this when “No” means “Yes” can be a real challenge.

Solution: (You guessed it) Set some boundaries

Start by coming up with a safeword – a word other than “No” that actually means “No.” My new favorite safeword is “tarantula” because who

doesn’t stop what they’re doing when someone yells “tarantula”? A lot of people also use a red-yellow-green system for playtime, where yellow means, “I need a break or I need you to stop that one thing you’re doing and check in with me but I want to keep going with the scene” and red means “stop everything right now and take care of me because something is wrong”.  A safeword can be used by any of the parties involved in the “struggle” for any reason at all, to indicate that they need to break from the scene or that they need the scene to stop completely. Decide what you need beforehand, and if you’re not sure then stop everything. Also consider a safe signal in case your role play includes periods of time where their mouth will be gagged. Some folks like to use a hand signal or they’ll give the submissive an item to hold that, if dropped, is the signal for play to stop. 

Don’t leave it to the safeword to do all the heavy lifting, though. Pay attention to your partner. Talk to them when you’re negotiating your hostage situation about what signs of distress are okay and what are not. Do they feel ok with crying during the scene? Some people like that, others not so much. If they seem really checked out, like they’re not fully present, check in with them and make sure they’re okay. If they’re tied up, check for circulation in their limbs, fingers, and toes. Look for signs that they’re breathing freely and don’t need to be shifted around or attended to.

Remember, you are not mind readers. Engaging in Risk Aware Consensual Kink means taking time to discuss risks that you might be exposing each other to and then discussing solutions to them. Giving informed consent means doing what you need to do to be aware of those risks and learning the skills you need to learn to mitigate the risks and manage any adverse consequences.


Aftercare serves a very important purpose to many people. Considering risk includes considering the potential impact a scene will have on you even after that scene has ended. Aftercare is the time you take to honor what you’ve experienced mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. All sexual encounters, and especially high-impact role play like this, can take a toll on you in myriad ways. Aftercare is the time you spend coming out of the scene and back into the rest of your life. You may experience a wide range of emotions, physical responses like exhaustion or adrenaline crash, and your mind may take time to reconcile your play from what’s real. 

Decide before you play whether you will be engaging in aftercare together or separately. 

If you’ll be engaging in aftercare together, talk about if that will include physical touch like cuddling, petting, or sex, and what physical touch may be off limits. Discuss what kind of time frame you’ll have to spend with each other and make sure you’re both committed to honoring that aftercare time. Will you use that time to discuss your feelings about the scene and/or each other, to watch a movie or play a game, to eat sweets or share a warm bath? Consider putting an aftercare kit together with favorite treats, fun activities, comfort items, and small first aid

Hanna Postova

considerations like Tylenol, protein bars, and bottled water.

If you’re engaging in aftercare separately, consider whether you’ll want to be alone or spending time with a trusted friend. Make time and space to do the things that comfort you and make you feel safe. This might be a good time to journal or engage in some other creative outlet. Consider putting together your own aftercare kit, even if it’s for you alone. Let past-you take care of future-you by having your favorite comfort items close at hand. 

The impacts of a scene can ripple, and some folks experience what’s sometimes referred to as “sub drop” or “dom drop”. These are terms for the emotional and physical drop that can follow a scene filled with lots of sensory input. Drop can sometimes leave people feeling rejected, hurt, or unloved. Depending on the nature of the scene, sometimes during drop people on both sides of the slash report feeling guilty about the actions they took in the scene - even if they logically understand that everyone was an enthusiastic participant. Drop can happen quickly or over the course of days, so discuss whether you will follow up with each other in the days after your scene. Consider making time to talk on the phone or connect in person outside the bedroom, in the event that one or both (all) of you needs to process the experience further.

Don’t hesitate to ask for reassurance, validation, affection, and attention. If your partner is unwilling or unable to provide this for you, know that before you play and decide if you’re willing to set up a support system with another friend or lover, or if maybe a high-impact scene with this partner may not be the right choice for you. Only YOU can make those decisions. 

Also remember, accidents happen, even for the most intelligent and prepared people on the planet. Sometimes we don’t know we have a boundary until it’s been crossed. Staying attentive and communicative with each other will help you deal with accidents, injuries, and unforeseen consequences. Communicate before, during, and after a scene to minimize risk and maximize pleasure. If you need help with any of this, find someone who can give you some guidance. You can also reach out to me at angel@professorsex.com.

This post (or a version of it) originally occurred in the August 2018 Kink Crate Handbook. To find out more and subscribe to Kink Crate go to KinkCrate.com

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