Barak Article

The Importance of Negotiation
Tuesday Apr 7, 2009 1:46 am

The other night, I was talking with an acquaintance who continually (and somewhat jokingly) reminded me that he was not in the scene. Now, please understand – I met this gentleman at a lifestyle event, I watched him top and be topped, and he seemed to be a somewhat knowledgeable player. So as we embarked on the journey of conversation, I continued to view what we discussed with an air of curiosity and indulgence.

One comment that was made particularly caught my attention. He had proclaimed that all "you people in the scene" had very good interpersonal communication skills. I probed further, and he explained. Upon talking with scene players, both Dom and sub, et al., that they were quite upfront and skilled in identifying and asserting their desires and boundaries. He also realized that many people within the leather lifestyle frequently had more honest relationships with their partners, as this dynamic discussion defined their parameters and goals; whether it is for a play session or a long term bond. He stated that while he had seen this behavior in business, it was sorely lacking in many of his non-kink interactions.

As I looked at the totality of what he was saying, I felt very proud to be part of a community that valued open, honest and direct communication. I realized that when he said, "you people" it was becoming more of a compliment. There was a certain amount of respect that came with the self-exclusion. At that point, I identified why it was so important within the scene. I spoke about the wonderful examples I had been given by two extreme and public players.

The first one - was at a class presented by Midori on humiliation. For her negotiation, she had one of the submissives write down her hard and soft limits list. When it was complete, Midori read it aloud. After She had finished reading, She said, "Is this all?" The woman nodded her head, her beautiful tresses spilling over her shoulders and replied, "yes, Mistress." Midori responded, "there is nothing on here that says I can't cut off your hair." And then promptly took sharp, shiny scissors, and cut a large chunk off the back of the sub's mane. It was quite a learning experience for all of us.

The next – was something I gleaned during a brief discussion when I was defining terms with a "heavy player" from the west coast. She was a 24/7 lifestyler who like to play really hard. I was about to take her at her word, but there was a sadistic gleam in her eyes that said, "I dare you, ask me!" So, I jumped in with both feet. "what exactly do you mean when you say "play hard?" She smiled and declared that she had been removed from several dungeons for her style of play. Continuing, she recounted vehemently flogging a sub with large bundle of long rose stems with the thorns intact. Apparently, when she was asked to leave, not even close to finishing, she had no more thorns on the stems, and they had to close that area of the dungeon to remove all the blood. It was another example of making sure I define my terms.

So let's do just that. Negotiation is defined by our friend wikipedia as – "The process whereby interested parties resolve disputes, agree upon courses of action, bargain for individual or collective advantage, and/or attempt to craft outcomes which serve their mutual interests" So as lifestyle players, we have a specific understanding of what this means. We look at this definition and actually shape a significant portion of our relationship, either temporarily or permanently around the outcome. It seems that negotiation is at the very forefront of our relationship agreements.

Actually, I would add a word to the definition. I would include "continual," as in "the continual process…" Whether we acknowledge it or not, negotiation within our lifestyle is an ongoing process. It starts from the moment of eye contact during the first introduction. Regardless of the manner in which we meet, if there is going to be any form of relationship, the flirtation, observations, energy, or discussion (either vague or direct), has elements of expressing our interests. While we get a more complete understanding of the main points during the initial comparison of wants, needs and desires, each interaction has some further negotiation.

Think I am wrong? Take a moment and consider any past scene you have participated in. As a Top, did you not "read" the non-verbal language of the bottom? If you were a sensualist, you would adapt your actions to illicit more positive sounds, movements or gestures; and as a sadist, would you not adapt to create more sensation? As a bottom, didn't you make a "good sound" when it felt good, or make a "yellow" movement or sound when it was really intense? Would you not move your body, even slightly, to exemplify what you want? This is simply a less conscious (or less verbal negotiation. Together, we are still "crafting outcomes which serve a mutual interest."

I would like to think, that as a community, we are more in touch with our wants, needs and desires. We have the ability and strength to ask, in a more direct way, for what we crave. This lends to being more honest in relationships, and also adds to the longevity of our bonds. After bringing some of these insights to the table, I looked over at my acquaintance and asked him, "Are you sure you want to deny being a part of a lifestyle that so values honest interpersonal communication and the expression of desire?" He smiled, and took a long while considering, then we hugged and parted. I do look forward to hearing his answer someday.


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