a Barak & Sheba Article

Thoughts on Negotiation...
Friday Mar 9, 2018

Last week, during the SRT/DRT at the Columbus Space, we were having a lengthy discussion on what should, and possibly shouldn't, be included while negotiating with a relatively unknown potential play partner. At the end of the evening, there was a fairly comprehensive list of questions that one might ask – both from the Top and Bottom.

We were using a laptop/projector setup to display the things people would want to ask. To look at the questions on the screen, it literally looked like a job interview… And somewhere, in the pursuit of the perfect negotiation questionnaire, I think we may have lost sight of several really important pieces.

The first, and what I believe to be the most important piece is what I call, "the intent of negotiating," it's the why behind negotiating in the first place. I don’t know about everyone else, but my intent is to create a mutually beneficial experience of intimate connection. I think the key words there are “mutually” and “beneficial.”

Unfortunately, many people's knowledge and training in “negotiation” comes from their understanding of buying stuff – specifically haggling. That version is the quintessential competitive negotiation and the goal is ultimately to “win.” Fundementally, the “winner” gets the better deal, or keeps more of their money, or gets more of the others’ cash. And the “loser?” Well, they lose. This is certainly not the case in negotiating within the Kink Scene.

When we negotiate for play with another kinkster, it is cooperative negotiation - where we are looking for the “win-win.” In my opinion, this should really be the “Intent behind the negotiation.” Where everyone involved gets something that they want from the experience. In this case, there isn’t a “loser.” Just two or more people who have created something together, for the benefit of all.

The other part? Well, it doesn’t necessarily involve the other person's participation. It's all internal. This part is about our feelings and intuition about the other person(s); and our personal “rules of engagement” prior to and during a negotiation.

It's another way of looking at our existing understanding of the other person. To me, I look at the whole of our interaction – from flirting, to negotiation, to play, to aftercare, and finally, follow up - as becoming intimate with someone, and it should be fun, hot, and interesting, even if it is for a short time. And, if I am getting as far as negotiating with someone, there should be all “green lights” up to that point.

Even if we bring a litany of questions, queries, comments, concerns, guidelines, boundaries, limits, suggestions, needs, wants and desires, - et al, etc., and ad nauseam – to the discussion… many people can respond with exactly what we want to hear. But remember, when negotiation becomes really complicated – or needs to become so – there is a bit of a disconnect. It's our intuition putting a monkey in the wrench. Meaning, if we are trying so hard to make absolutely sure the other person doesn't do something we don't want… then there is already a problem. There may already be a subconscious level of mistrust or concern, and we should heed that inner red flag.

As to the “rules of engagement?” I use some internal guidelines in considering playing with someone. For me? Trust is one of the key factors in playing with someone; another is the belief in their forthrightness; Then there is the assumption of good intent; and finally that my potential partner is interested in connecting with me.

Let's cover each of these individually –
1. Trust: I have to have a level of Trust with the people I am playing with. What this means to me is that I have trust and faith in the person and that they will be:
a. Honest with me.
b. Authentic in their intent and experience.

Here is an important point - If I can't trust a person… why would I possibly want to play with them??? To allow myself to be vulnerable to them?? To share any intimacy with them?

2. Belief in their forthrightness – while I am a realist, I want to believe, especially within the kink community, that people who want to connect and play with me will tell me what I should know. Things that I “should know” include anything I forget to ask, accidently miss, or may require further explanation – which may include pertinent medical issues, relationship issues, anything that could impact me or my partners.

3. The Assumption of Good Intent - When I open a negotiation with someone, I assume that they are not malicious in their motivation. I take what they say at face value; and hold a view that what they are saying and doing is not designed to manipulate me, or in some other way harm me.

4. Interested in an actual connection with me – It is my hope that when people ask me to play, or want to flirt, open a negotiation, etc… that they are interested specifically in me, my skill sets, and /or my energy. I am really not interested in people who want to play with me because of my standing in the community, or any other less than personal reason.

Some of us may already have understandings like this and this writing may serve as just lip service to something you already know… and for you? That's fabulous. For others, it may just be the validation needed to trust their intuitive guide… or anywhere in between. Whatever you get out of this, I do hope it adds to your repertoire of scene-based skills. And like all skills, negotiation (and in this case – intuition) needs to be used, cared for, and honed to be as good as they can be.

Good luck and stay safe!

Barak & Sheba

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