What else could be done with a BDSM checklist?

So a couple of weeks ago, @waitingirl13 and I were chatting on twitter about BDSM checklists.

For those who don’t know (and if so, hello and welcome!) a BDSM checklist is a long (sometimes very very long) list of kinks, sexual activities, and non-sexual roles or activities, that might come up in a BDSM context. Clarisse Thorn explains the utility of such a thing, and Scarleteen has a non-BDSM version.

The basic idea is that you give each of them a score out of five, with 0 being “No way nu-uh” (or “hard limit” in the parlance) and 5 being “OMG yes, yes! YES!”

What @waitingirl13 mentioned that caught my eye, was that the version her partner gave her had options for placing conditions such as “Yes, but only to please my Dominant”. [Edit To Add: waitingirl13 explains in comments that she chose to give him her completed checklist but this wasn’t initiated by him.] I thought this was an excellent idea, and it prompted me to think about all the various ways in which a single measure, however graded, between “no” and “yes, yes, YES!” was insufficient. For instance, something I often have wondered about is having a second variable, “How important is this to you?” Not everything we absolutely love is something that we necessarily have to have, and some things we absolutely must have, might not be stupendously hot but to not have it would be intolerable. Like, a guy enjoys receiving blowjobs and finds them the hottest, but if his current partner isn’t into giving, then he’s cool with that, too; but equally, she doesn’t get turned on at all unless a guy is into her breasts so if he’s only about the butt, she’ll be an unhappy woman.

But the idea about conditions made me extend that kind of thinking further.

Not everything we really enjoy sexually is actually going to bring about stupendous arousal and orgasms, for example. So there’s two variables right there, which we might call “fun” and “hotness”. Like, I might really love kissing a partner’s buttocks, but it doesn’t give me an erection. Equally, something might be amazingly hot and arousing but very serious and focussed (for instance, some of the more edgy types of play in BDSM) so the pleasure is less about “fun” and more arousal-based.

Of course, arousal isn’t only physical, it’s mental as well. So it might be helpful to have a notion of “Body responds”, where you know that being touched or addressed or treated in a certain way is going to get the physical arousal going regardless of the mind (useful for a partner to know to check in verbally, for example). And on the other hand, you can have, “Mind responds” – things that you know make you more interested in sex, in most circumstances.

That leads to another important safety point in BDSM, which is the phenomena collectively referred to as subspace. It would be handy to know what things make a bottom more likely to “space out” in a scene, so the top is alert to the fact. so that’s another variable. It is also helpful for a bottom to know what sorts of topping activities make their partner go into a “topspace” mindset.

One thing that stymies me a little in exploring my bottoming side, is that the thought of rope bondage freaks me out but I also find incredibly hot as an idea and I want to try it. In order to bottom to someone in a rope scene, I need a huge amount of trust with them, just because my mind is going to be in a very high state of squiffiness and need someone I trust to keep me from freaking out. There may be other reasons why a person feels a particular activity or scene type needs a lot of trust (either to top, or to bottom, in that scene) or scenes for which they feel very confident and find it easy to trust. So putting one’s personal “trust level” would also be helpful (and save annoying things like feeling hurt by rejection of a favourite activity).

The biggest thing that struck me as I explored these ideas was that our kinks do not remain static over time, and over the past decade of involvement in the BDSM discussions online, and in real life, I’ve learned that for some people, hard limits can end up being the hottest thing ever and sometimes, things unfortunately go the other way as well. As a Dom especially, I would very much like to know about the “rate of change” and “amount of change” that a partner experiences.

I thought first of all about “recent changes”, thinking, say, over the past year what is the range of “yes” or “no” for this item? Effectively, the “peak” and the “trough” points. But also, how rapidly has it changed? Has it changed up and down frequently, or has it moved in one direction for the most part?

Then I thought that “lifetime change” could be treated the same way.

But perhaps the most significant point for partner communication is not so much the longterm (although that gives a good idea of how likely the relationship’s sexual element may be to stay firm) but the short-term, session-to-session level change. I might be totally hot for an activity one day, and cold on it the next, while still intellectually (that is, on a BDSM checklist form) aware that I find it super hot. It’s only fair that a partner should know that some days I might just not be up for that thing, however much I “love” it “usually”. Anyone, for any reason, has the right to say “no” to an activity, of course, regardless of how much they loved it last time. But knowing that one’s partner is likely to have those changes of mood is helpful. Equally, knowing that you can generally rely on one’s partner for a particular act can make things much more reassuring. (Like, if it’s very rare she’d refuse to perform cunnilingus, a woman might let her partner know by giving a low variability score to that act, and then her girlfriend would know she can always ask for that if she feels the need, and is likely to be satisfied.)

All of which leads to the text fields. I mentioned that what set this train of thought in motion was that @waitingirl13 mentioned the conditions such as “Yes, but only if…”

Obviously, having a “conditions” field is important. Not only for things like “Only if commanded”, but also for other things that might, for instance, relate to the variability of interest. For my example of rope bondage, I would put “Need to be calm”. It occurred to me that two or three more fields would be useful. If an activity is affected by physical health conditions, that’s one thing. For me, rope bondage is affected by mental health considerations: I could conceivably panic and either have a panic attack, or otherwise “freak out”. A partner will ned to know that to be able to manage my mental state, and/or release me quickly if it goes too far.

Finally, a general “notes” box, just for any other useful information.

The Bondage.com checklists used to have a “experience level” variable, so I’ve included one in my idea.

Here’s an example entry to download, using “Rope bondage of the arms, bottoming” and my own entries:

Checklist Example

(Sorry, I couldn’t figure out a way to make it work as an integrated part of this post!)

I am sure other people will have ideas of possible variable I missed, or maybe thoughts on why some of the ones I’ve included are unnecessary or unhelpful.

Of course, an in-depth document like the type that this would produce, would not be for general consumption but only to be shared with someone trusted, and if someone did use a model like this, I would advise always feel able to skip entries that you’d rather not enter, and exercise some caution.

I offer the above not as a “Hey, let’s all do this” solution, but rather, as a seed for others’ future development to use, or not use, as they see fit. My copyright statement still stands, but nevertheless, for private use with whatever list of kinks you choose to apply it to, you should be fine!

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About ValeryNorth

I overthink everything.
This entry was posted in Kink, Sex and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to What else could be done with a BDSM checklist?

  1. This sounds like a fun list…

  2. This is great 🙂
    I definitely feel that the checking off a scale of boxes can leave a bit out. When Sir and I went over a checklist together it was really more of a discussion. For example there were things on it that we discussed not only whether I was willing to do it but also how I thought it would make me FEEL emotionally to do so. Ie; I said corner time wouldn’t be a hard limit but that I thought it might make me feel sad if I was put in a corner. This gave him a better understanding of how I might react to it. And there are lots of things that I adore doing ONLY because my partner loves it – not because I find it personally arousing.
    You’ve made some really great points 🙂

    • ValeryNorth says:

      Thank you very much for your comment!

      I think you’ll get a lot out of Jemima and Carter’s comments below, and my answer to you would be pretty much the same as it to Carter 🙂

  3. jemima2013 says:

    I think the validity of all checklists like this comes in how they are used and who with, that may sound trite but just like safe words, you have to believe the other person will respect them. Its interesting that you say Carter gave me a checklist, it was in fact the other way round. I dont know if he has used them with other subs (and my memory may be wrong, I shall ask him) but as I remember I filled in the list then gave it to him. For me the value was in seeing how broad and deep the world of kink was, it was a very comprehensive list, and being forced to consider which limits were cos they squicked me and which were practical or simply a step too far.
    Then of course there is the fact that when your Dominant is an evil sadist a checklist is like giving them a list of things they will make you want to do.
    Examples may be easier to explain. piercing was my fuck no, hard limit, and was put down as such, as a not even to please you limit. I have/had a very bad needle phobia. When i read the list and discovered that needle play was a thing, that went in the over my dead body too.

    As you know I am now pierced multiple times. Now there is no way of knowing what happens in all those interesting parallel universes where the butterflies wing flapped one time extra, but it occurs to me that maybe if i had been meh, if you want about needles i might never have been pierced. However that ignores personal preferences, and also the fact if it was just about pushing a hard limit we would have done needle play (one of the few things we have never done)

    Another aspect occurs, checklists can be very ideal world. When carter and i were having the limits discussion (and i believe the intrinsic value of these lists is in initiating these conversations, which must be had) Carter put forward to rules which have never been broken. No facial marks and no marks below what might be called the “shorts line” he was used to real world BDSM, i had not ventured off the internet yet, (which is not to dismiss online as less valid than meat space) but i had not considered that society as a whole makes assumptions about a married woman with visible bruising.

    I suppose what i am saying is i like your ideas cos complexity is always better than the opposite when it comes to these things, and a complex checklist allows for those vital discussions to be had. But we must not allow them to replace discussions, or assume they cover everything that needs to be said.

    • ValeryNorth says:

      Yep, you and Carter (and littlesubmissivebird above you) seem to have all hit on the same ideas, my response is pretty much covered by what I’ve replied to Carter below. Thanks for your input (and sorry I misunderstood about who initiated the checklist use).

  4. carter2011 says:

    A couple of comments need to be made here. If you use a checklist (and I prefer conversations to checklists, in both my work and my sexlife) you aren’t excused from the need to be in the moment, and the requirement to notice that the checklist is already an historical artefact.
    You’re also required to think your way round the things you’re told, to not rely on just what you’re told, but what you see and experience, and how you can intervene. Rope work is an interesting thing. Is someone terrified of rope work, making it a 0 on a 5 scale? How do they feel when it’s a carefully chosen cotton rope, with a pair of secateurs or some emergency shears close to hand? If they fear fope that restrains their hands or legs, or the implication of a noose, how would they feel about a rope bra, or a knotted length of rope that runs between their legs and is tied off at the waist?
    Jem’s point about piercings is a really good one. – my relationship to her as a dom is defined by the way she moved from hating an idea to loving and embracing it. My job was not to order her to accept piercings, but to make it possible for her to desire them herself.
    In such a journey, and such a conversation the checklist can only be the start.

    • ValeryNorth says:

      We’re on the same page for sure. When I thought about the categories/scales to introduce above, each one was to expand the scope of conversation rather than limit it: the things perhaps that I might wish to know and broach but recognise might be harder to do without a formal context (if only because of my own difficulties!)

      Specifically, I made the example rope bondage (and in the Excel file, I specified bound arms), because that’s my personal thing, and I gave my personal answers to use as the example. Anything where I give up the possibility of a self-executed escape is a headfuck for me, and rope bondage is the biggest one that I nevertheless want to try. So if I gave that entry to a potential rope top, I would hope they would want more personal information than just to read it and think they knew everything. I would want them to talk to me about what goes on in my head when I think about it, and discuss my entries for each category.

      And this point about being “a historical artefact” is exactly what I was thinking about when I put in the categories about change and variation – it’s an explicit declaration that every answer is something to be engaged and re-examined rather than set in stone.

  5. jemima2013 says:

    I just wanted to add something re corner time, which littemissubmissivebird mentioned, this is i think the strength of your intellectual v physical hotness distinction. A whole host of my erotica concerns being forced to watch, put in a corner or variations. Intellectually it arouses me, but on an actual level my abandonment issues are so huge that something like corner time would probably break me (and no if Carter reads this, thats not TFTB lol)

    • ValeryNorth says:

      That’s a brilliant observation, and I think of some of the things I willingly roleplay on IRC, and how I would feel in r/l and it’s the same kind of distinction. And it’s actually something different again from what I envisaged when I wrote the piece. So, again, it’s exactly what all these comments are saying about checklists as a doorway to communication, rather than being complete in themselves.

    • carter2011 says:

      Part of the strength of what we do was recognizing this, and giving up something less that I wanted, so I could retain you.

      • jemima2013 says:

        oh my what a comment to read before bed…i may be nonconsensually dominating Valerys blog if I continue here…I will say that this perhaps continues the theme of the conversation.

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