So, what makes irrevocable consent okay?
Firstly, for the uninitiated, let’s define irrevocable consent. For my purposes (I’m not claiming this as universal), I use irrevocable consent to define my dynamic’s consent policy. It means no no, no safewords, no hard or soft limits, no rights, and no leaving. Her power over me is unlimited by our contract and the dynamic ends only if one of us dies, or Mistress freely chooses to release me; I cannot end it (I’m not allowed to use murder or suicide to end it, either).
Often, the general question is raised: what separates BDSM from abuse/what makes BDSM okay? The answer almost always boils down to consent. A problem with this is that either consent is not defined, or it’s defined in terms of safewords, limits, and other ways of revoking consent that my dynamic does not have. But do I think I’m in a non consensual situation? Of course not.
I’ve been asked a few times in various wordings if I would just say that our dynamic is without consent, since “revocability is a condition of consent”. But I don’t agree that revocability is a condition of consent for me, and we definitely don’t operate without consent altogether. At one point in time, I did agree—once, completely, forever. That crucial part didn’t get skipped.
So if not predefined boundaries or revocability, what is consent?
I don’t really like pulling the dictionary out on questions like this. As a writer and a linguistics nerd, I know that the dictionary is meant to be descriptive, to describe how language is already being used—and it’s not being updated every minute—not prescriptive, telling us how to use it (and not use it). Additionally, BDSM terminology is not frequently described or accounted for in most mainstream dictionaries. Still, let’s take a look at what the dictionary (at least the one on my computer, which seems about average) says.
Permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.
That’s relatively vague, without the stipulations I normally see in a BDSM context. I think it’s a fine definition, though. But let’s keep going.
I’ve seen some people say that I coined the term irrevocable consent. I will say that I’m the first person I’ve seen use it in a BDSM context, and others have started using it since, many of them crediting me. I have no idea if I was actually the first, however.
Additionally, irrevocable consent is a longstanding legal/vanilla term that I definitely did not come up with.
So if the law thinks irrevocable consent is a valid form of consent (note—the law isn’t talking about this in a BDSM context, but), and the dictionary doesn’t talk about revocability… food for thought.
But, consensual in the BDSM world is frequently used almost interchangeably with words like ethical or moral. More than just is it consensual, what we’re often really getting at is, is it ethical, is it moral, is it right, is it good, is it okay.
I think that answer depends on the individual. Some—dare I say most—people would never consent once, completely, forever, and that’s totally okay. For them, that situation would be non consensual and wrong, because they would never agree to it.
But it works for me, and what I’m really trying to answer here is—why? What makes me think it’s consensual, ethical, okay, so on?
Mistress and I both get this question a lot. I think the most in depth answer I’ve actually heard her give is (in a nutshell) that she encourages me to pursue passions that aren’t her. I thought her case was interesting, that the okayness of it all boiled down to the fact that our dynamic doesn’t take up my entire world, doesn’t cut me off from everything else completely. Still, a) I don’t think I agree. While definitely a huge upside, I’m not sure that’s it, my aha, for my view on why our dynamic is okay. (I also don’t think our reasons need to be exactly the same, as long as we both have them.) And b) it’s also not… entirely true.
We discussed this later. I pointed out that there are a lot of limits on how I interact with the rest of the world, on what I can pursue. The big one being that I’m not allowed to be answerable to anyone who’s not her—this includes having a job, a career. (Which I don’t actually miss.) I joke that we’re so strictly monogamous, wrapped in power exchange, that even an employer would be an affair. And of course, without directly limiting options, the part where I do work, more than full time, for her—in domestic service, with structured timetables—which I love doing—not to mention many of our rules, do limit my options. (To the vanilla world, I’m just the uxorious housewife.) Besides that, she rather frequently threatens to ban the other things I do pursue when I express any kind of fleeting negative thought about them, and they are never to be actually top priority. I manage to get a lot done in my free time, within her rules, without an outside authority—but those things aren’t a right.
She largely agreed with that when we talked about it more, mostly shrugging the obvious followup question off.
(And, of course, my consent includes consent to all of those service tasks—that add up to a job—and to all of our beloved rules—I speak only when I’m spoken to, I sleep on the floor every night, I wear only my uniform, so on. This all goes far beyond the bedroom, far beyond sex and play, and I love that.)
Like most such quandaries, it’s just not a very concrete question. It’s hard to point to one behavior, to one line in our contract. Many conditions are frequently put on consent and rightness in BDSM—a real Owner does this, or doesn’t do that (and yet, there’s frequently an outcry when that’s reversed: a real slave does this, or doesn’t do that). And I think we’ve violated just about all of those consent conditions. There’s beatings and sex while she’s high. When I’m sick. Without asking. When I’m hurt. In frustration. Without warning. When I’m saying no. Without warmup. Without aftercare. Until I drip blood on the carpet. If there’s a “rule”, we’ve pretty much broken it. Sometimes I love it; sometimes I ask for it. Sometimes I go no no no no the whole time. Sometimes both.
It’s not a very simple question. I think my answer does boil down to because I agreed. I did agree—once, completely, forever. I agreed freely; I asked questions first; I got to know her; I knew what I was getting into; I did the self work; I was willing to honor that agreement. We do this deliberately, with knowledge and trust and communication. I don’t think the fact I can’t take that agreement back changes the fact that I agreed, and many definitions back me up here.
So, what makes irrevocable consent okay for me? That it is consent. That I agreed.
That’s enough for me, and that’s what matters.
3 thoughts on “What Makes Irrevocable Consent Okay?”
I always find your posts thought provoking, and this one even moreso. I think you explained the concept well. Thank you for putting it into words.
Thank you so much!