Part 1 Finding Out About Boundaries
Despite our most hedonist fantasies, attending the multitude of sexy events in Vancouver doesn’t mean that anything goes. Some of you are quite fine with spanking or tying rope around the most intimate of body parts at MVK or Rascals but don’t want anything resembling a kiss. Others enjoy hugging and cuddling at burner parties and raves but nothing more than that. Some like to make out thanks to all the sexy energy at Noir, XXX or Sin City but do not want anything hands-on. And at the sexy house parties that happen in Vancouver, some folks just want to be left alone to do their own thing, whether it is chat, dance, observe the crowd, or hang out in the background.
In such sexually-charged environments, boundaries need to be actively discussed rather than assumed, since they can differ widely from person to person and event to event. By building a culture around consent and boundaries, where people work proactively to discover each other’s boundaries, we nurture Vancouver’s sex positive culture and events. And to do that, we need to develop the skills to ask and learn about people’s boundaries and seeking consent in our interactions around those boundaries.
Why is this necessary, some may ask. So individuals can have autonomy over their own bodies. People are not entitled to do whatever they want to others, so we need build a culture where people communicate and negotiate intimacy as opposed to thinking that they deserve it regardless of how the other person feels. Sadly, too many news stories nowadays show we still have a ways to go in building a culture built on consent and boundaries.
You can help bridge this gap by simply asking people what their boundaries are. It sounds simple, but it certainly can feel awkward to ask the first time. Or the first few times. But you build skills and development comfort using them with practice. And this becomes sexy in itself.
A person’s body language might already be speaking volumes before you even begin talking to him or her. If someone is leaning in closer to you, looking relaxed, establishing eye contact, and smiling genuinely, their positive body language means there is probably a willingness to interact. Inversely, if they are leaving away, looking away, or crossing their arms, they may not want to interact right now.
You may think “I can read body language like a boss, I don’t need to ask anything beyond that.” Maybe you DO have exceptional skills at reading body language. But maybe you are not in the best shape to read signals now, or maybe that person is not the best at providing them – alcohol and such can do that to you. Besides, body language is not always 100% accurate and some people send off mixed signals.
The easiest way to check in with someone about their boundaries is by checking in if they are okay with you sharing their space. For example, is it okay if you chat, dance, or watch that hot scene happening on stage next to them? Most people will be just fine with such questions, and by inquiring you’ve broken the consent-asking ice.
Are you connecting? This might be where you can check in with more direct questions. “Those fishnet stocking looks sexy – do you mind if I touch?” “Can I rub your fun fur vest” or “may I kiss you” are great ways to ensure you are reading signals right (if you get a “yes, please”) or moving in too fast (“not right now” or, “no thanks”).
When you ask these questions, you also need to be prepared to receive the perfectly valid answer of “no”. Despite what misguided and outdated lessons may have tried to teach, a “no” does not mean “try harder”. No means no. Maybe means no, as does maybe later. Silence is no. Only a yes – and an informed yes, where the person is in a state of mind to be able to reasonably answer – means yes. Politely acknowledge the answer, talk about something else or give that person their space or whatever feels comfortable.
In addition to asking and respecting the answer, paying attention to boundaries means respecting a person’s personal space. Sometimes we can infringe upon a person’s space without even intending to despite best of intentions. Here are some examples:
- You may want to chat up that interesting stranger, but you don’t want to interrupt the conversation they are currently having. Your intent is to wait until they are free to give attention to you, but it may appear that you are hovering in their space until that person has no choice but to acknowledge you.
- You may see something so cool and sexy that you want to immortalize it with a picture. Rather than whipping out your phone to try and take a picture of that hot spanking or shibari, consider if it is your experience to photograph. Asking permission is normally a great strategy, but interrupting a scene is bad protocol. This is why most events will have signage and rules explaining this basic concept.
- Guys, you may be nervous to approach a woman or women when they are with other gents. However, approaching ladies only after the men they are with step away may be seen as opportunistically awkward at best, predatory at worst.
- Finally, you don’t have permission to grab, kiss or touch someone for any reason until you confirm it. Check in! This is regardless of if you are the same gender, if you know the people quite well, or if you chatted with them online. Familiarity doesn’t necessarily mean permission is granted.
Okay, I’ve been rambling for a bit and this may all be a lot to take in. Let’s take a break, shall we, and next time we chat look at dealing with broken boundaries.
(In the meantime, feel free to add to the conversation by sharing your strategies for respecting boundaries in the comments section below.)