I am writing this from the standpoint of introducing these ideas and concepts as part of a discussion group and may include ideas and concepts that I have discussed in earlier posts.
I first wrote about meta-consent back in 2011. As of then, to the best of my knowledge, it had not been used as a BDSM term. It was a few years later that I first heard the term, consensual non-consent, which was representing the same ideas a meta-consent. CNC has since evolved to be known as unconditional consent in some circles. More recently, I have actually seen meta-consent used as the term. You may know them by any of these names, but they are all referring to the same basic idea. CNC is the term that is most commonly used among active BDSM-communities. I will write using Meta-Consent because I believe it is the only one of the three that has a name that makes clear sense in describing what it is.
II. What is Meta-Consent
Meta-Consent is term used to describe an extreme D/s dynamic where the sub submits to the dominant and grants the dominant consent to do anything that doesn’t violate an agreed upon set of hard limits.
III. Meta-Consent is not for everyone
I expect that everyone who reads the above definition will have an instinctual response to it. I would wager that a number of people saw red flags jumping out of their eyes and immediately had the thought, “no one should ever do that.”
I would wager that a number of people immediately thought about the way they submit to the one they love (or the way their love submits to them) and had the thought, “I really like that.”
The reality of it is that in a vacuum, Meta-Consent is not a safe, wise, or good decision.
There are a number of stipulations that are needed in order to make Meta-Consent something that is safe:
- The dominant must have a great deal of concern for the sub’s overall well-being.
- Both parties should have intimate knowledge of one-another to such an extent that there is a foundation of trust established between them.
- The dominant should be fully aware of the sub’s limitations including physical breaking points, psychological breaking points, and other relevant information that will prevent the sub from being damaged.
- The sub should have enough patience, care, awareness, and understanding to know that they are treading in dangerous territory and be willing to work through and forgive mistakes that a dominant may make (assuming those mistakes aren’t rooted in negligence, carelessness, or malice).
Overall, this makes Meta-Consent best suited for people who are involved in a long-term relationship.
Subs attempting Meta-Consent with a casual or new partner are at much greater risk of experiencing damage.
IV. How do people use Meta-Consent?
One of the most common applications of Meta-Consent is within D/s relationships that carry some form of 24/7 dynamic. If the sub has granted the dominant the power to create and enforce rules that the sub must abide by and has no power to change (within previously defined limits), both the rules and punishments for breaking those rules fall into the realm of Meta-Consent. Relationships involving Domestic discipline (DD), total power exchange (TPE), FLR, M/s, or other situations where the dominant may act without the sub’s input and do not require continuous consent, all involve some form of Meta-Consent.
Within BDSM communities (where CNC is the more commonly used term), it is common for people to apply Meta-Consent for a short period of time, often for particular acts and scenes. These acts may also be used within a 24/7 D/s dynamic. What differentiates the two is that when Meta-Consent is applied in a BDSM scene, it is acknowledged that the period of consent will expire upon completion of the scene. People engaging in Meta-Consent BDSM scenes may still include a safe word, although most 24/7 dynamics and some BDSM players will act with Meta-Consent as if there is not an active safe word as long as the dominant remains within agreed upon limits.
A few common scenarios:
- Consensual rape is probably the most common example used for Meta-Consent.
- Consensual torture.
- Consensual kidnapping.
- Consensual imprisonment.
- Consensual punishment.
- Consensual behavioral modification.
A lot of the intensity of these situations is brought upon because the activities have already been ruled “fair game” by the sub and the dominant doesn’t have to ask for the sub’s permission before doing them.
V. Why do people do Meta-Consent?
The allure that Meta-Consent holds is rooted in a primary concept: it makes D/s activities feel real.
For the sub, there is a certain intensity that can only be reached when truly feeling helpless, out of control, and at the mercy of someone else.
For the dominant, there is a certain intensity that can only be reached when the expressions, the struggles, and the reactions are genuine.
Meta-Consent provides the vehicle for exploring the darkness. They allow the sub to experience genuine fear. They allow the dominant to embrace genuine power. This is what separates Meta-Consent from standard BDSM practices where many acts are about what the sub wants to do and in the way the sub wants them to be done.
VI. Why don’t more people partake in Meta-Consent?
I believe there are more people that practice Meta-Consent than those who put a name on it. The term(s) in general (including consensual non-consent and unconditional consent) was created to qualify these scenarios as a consensual act within the eyes of the BDSM community.
Within the BDSM community, practitioners of Meta-Consent both in individual scenes or within a 24/7 lifestyle setting are quite rare. The topic itself doesn’t get discussed much with the exception of groups that go well into Edge Play or classify themselves as RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink).
I’m unable to decipher whether this is because people are being responsible about it or there is simply lack of interest. I would file Meta-Consent under “advanced class” type activities. Part of me believes that it is intentionally kept out of general view because newbies (especially those in the midst of frenzy) who do not have enough awareness about what they are agreeing to will launch themselves in blindly without understanding the risks involved. If this is the case, I do not blame communities for treating as sort of a well-guarded secret.
I do find it surprising that even those who are versed in Meta-Consent as a form of BDSM cringe at the thought of anyone engaging in it on in a lifestyle D/s setting. Overall, it seems the closer practitioners are to a romantic long-term relationship, the less dangerous Meta-Consent becomes. It then makes sense that those who are able to partake in BDSM activities with more casual play partners would find it harder to picture scenarios where Meta-Consent is safe.