How to Ask Without Asking – What is Explicit Prior Permission?

“I’m not here for your entertainment, you don’t really want to mess with me tonight

Just stop and take a second, I was fine before you walked into my life

Cause you know it’s over before it began

Keep your drink, just give me the money

It’s just you and your hand tonight”

–Pink, “U and Ur Hand”

Hey, my kinky, polyam peeps. I hope you’re enjoying some of this nice spring weather we’ve been having. Here in Central Pennsylvania, winter hasn’t *quite* had its last say, as we’re still seeing some nights in which it drops below freezing, but it’s definitely on its last breath and before you know it, it’ll be sunny days and warm walks outside until Mid-October when the Philadelphia Phillies once again disappoint me with an 82-win season and a bucket load of excuses.

If I’m being honest, today’s blog post isn’t the most enticing and is going to come off as a little dry. However, I want to discuss it for several reasons. First, it highlights some very important work that the National Coaltion for Sexual Freedom is doing. If you’re not familiar with the organization, they are a “coalition of groups, clubs and businesses that serve consenting adults who engage in alternative sexual and relationship expressions”. They’ve been a great resource for me both professionally and personally over the last few years and I’m proud to consider them an ally to the community. How proud you may ask? Well, there was that time I raised $462 for them by letting donors shock my penis with a tens unit (You can find the video footage here on YouTube). It was a great night and supported an even greater cause.

Second, as non-monogamy and kink slowly become more widely accepted, the life choices of the community are going to brush up against the established structure of the society in which we live. If you read my post about polyamory and politics, you’ll remember that we live in a world that generally defines monogamy as default, so many of the concepts that monogamous people take for granted (like naming your spouse on your life insurance policy) aren’t available to polyamorous people. This is especially troublesome when it comes to the law, because there are parts of this country where being kinky or poly isn’t just “socially acceptable”, but an actual crime. If we want to live our lives in the manner in which we choose, we need to be cognizant of the legal framework which we are subject to.

As always, before we go any further, here’s the obligatory resource share. For this blog post, I pulled this piece from Alice Snape on, this piece by Claire Lampen on The Cut, this piece from Amy Woodyatt on CNN, and finally data from the We Can’t Consent to This project

As a member of the kink community, and particularly as a submissive, nothing bothers me more than when BDSM is used as an excuse for nonconsensual violence. While the “rough sex defense” isn’t that widespread, it’s use has been growing, particularly since the release of the first “50 Shades of Grey” film in 2015.

According to the “We Can’t Consent to This” project, there have been 60 women killed in the UK over the last 50 years in which the “rough sex” defense was utilized. In 45% of those cases, the defendant was either charged with a lesser crime, received a lighter sentence, was acquitted, or not even charged after invoking the defense. In Canada half of all cases of sexual violence in which the “rough sex” defense was used have been filed just since 2015. While only roughly 2% of those accused of domestic violence homicide against women in the UK use the “rough sex” defense, it’s exponential growth is certainly something to be concerned about.

While legislation in the past fifty years has certainly made progress in helping to prevent domestic and sexual violence against women, it also seems to have had the unintended side effect putting the BDSM community in difficult spot. I watched enough episodes of “COPS” in my twenties and thirties to know that it’s not uncommon for states and municipalities to have laws that restrict the victim’s right to press charges in cases of domestic violence. On the surface it makes sense. As victims are often fearful of retaliation or may not report incidents of domestic violence, the state has taken the position that they have a social obligation to put abusers behind bars even if the victim chooses not to move forward with the case. It’s seen as a societal good that must be enforced. But what happens when the “abuse” isn’t actually abuse?

It may come to shock to many of you reading this that, in pretty much everywhere in America, consent is not an absolute defense to assault. In layman’s terms, if the Dommes tie me down for a scene and beat the crap out of me, “I asked for this” is not enough for them to escape the wrath of the justice system. According to NCSF, in nearly all fifty states, consent is only a “limiting defense” or “mitigating factor” in assault or battery cases, while in Kansas and South Carolina, it’s not a viable defense AT ALL. In those two states, no matter what I say or do, the Dommes are going to face assault and/or battery charges for any consensual BDSM activity.

So, what’s a Dom and Sub to do? Well, fortunately, that’s where NCSF comes in and why I wanted to write this blog post. They’ve been working with the American Law Institute to develop a legal framework to lobby lawmakers about how BDSM can be removed from the criminal code while still holding abusers accountable. Their model is call Explicit Prior Permission (EPP), and more than just a legal defense, it’s a great way to discuss and negotiate consent with your partners.

Before we discuss EPP, let’s do a quick refresher on two other consent models that relate to EPP, namely the FRIES model, and the concept of “blanket consent”. EPP lies in between these two, so if we can define them, we can better understand what EPP means.

The FRIES model of consent was developed by Planned Parenthood in 2016 and stands for Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, and Specific. In order for consent to be properly given, all five criteria must be met. The consent must not be made under duress, it must be able to be retracted or revoked at any time, it must be informed (meaning the person giving consent knows ALL the facts and details), it must be given enthusiastically (that means no “I guess so…” language), and it must be specific, meaning it must lay out exactly what can and cannot be done. If that sounds like a lot of information to cover with someone, it is, but, if you recall from my post on Enthusiastic Positive Consent, the more practice you have with it, the easier it gets.

Now let’s compare and contrast that with the concept of “blanket consent” which is what I have with all three of my Dommes as well as my one meta, Milk Maid. The difference between the FRIES model and blanket consent is a lot like the difference between SSC and RACK. Blanket consent is more of a “beg forgiveness rather than ask permission” model, which is why I only employ it with those I trust deeply.

Under FRIES, at least initially, everything needs to be pre-negotiated. This is why it’s recomended for those new to BDSM because they don’t know what they don’t know. It’s far better to discuss something that didn’t need to be discussed rather than not discuss it and have a consent violation on your hands. With blanket consent, I have given my Dommes a “blank check” to do whatever they want, whenever they want. Foxy could push me down a flight of stairs and I won’t say anything to them, because that’s what blanket consent is. They don’t need permission to do anything to me. Why would I give them that level of freedom? Because I know that never in a million years would they ever actually push me down a flight of stairs. This is why blanket consent should only be used with those you trust implicitly. They have to know you and your body better than you know yourself, because they are now in charge of your limits. Now obviously, blanket consent still gives me the option to use a safeword when need be, but it doesn’t require my Dommes to say “Are you okay with X”. They can just go ahead and do it.

Between these two extremes of negotiating everything (FRIES) and negotiating nothing (blanket consent) lies EPP. Whether they realize it or not, I think this is where the vast majority of BDSM partners lie. We don’t negotiate every detail every time. The more we scene with someone, the more we know what is acceptable and what is not, and EPP allows for that. EPP considers consent is given if the following conditions are met:

  • Explicit prior permission for the act was given prior to the act occurring
  • The individual who was subject to the act has the freedom to revoke consent at any time

I’ll give you a real easy example that all of us with partners probably engage in every day without realizing it. Last night as lay in bed, I rolled over to Panda and wrapped my arms and legs around her to cuddle. Under FRIES, I would need to ask “I would like to cuddle with you. Are you okay with that? What parts of your body can I touch? What parts are off limits? How will I know when you no longer want to cuddle?” EPP on the other hand allows me to simply wrap my body around hers because she has given me explicit prior permission to do so, and when she no longer wants to cuddle, she will simply say “I’d rather not be touched at the moment.

That’s it! That’s the whole thing! It’s really as simple as that!

Where this comes into practice in BDSM relationships is where consent is not explicitly asked for at the start of the scene but has been previously negotiated. Consensual Non-consent play is a great example of where EPP can be extremely useful. Let’s say I want to do an abduction scene with Penguin. I tell her I want two guys to kidnap me, throw me in a trunk, and then drive me to a secret location where she interrogates me. EPP would say I would have to negotiate all the terms of the arrangement ahead of time (as you should with ANY BDSM scene), and once the scene starts, as long as I am able to call the safeword at any time and that safeword is respected and the scene stops, there has not been a consent violation.

More than providing legal protection for all parties involved, EPP is a great concept to put into practice in all our relationships, kinky or not. While asking for consent can seem clumsy, EPP provides a way to “streamline” the process. It should be cautioned that, like RACK, EPP should not be employed with new partners, but rather only people with which you have an established relationship and you both have the level of trust that a safeword can be freely employed mid-scene. Regardless of the consent method that you and your partners choose to employ, remember, it’s communication that makes the process work, and a safe space to use your voice that keeps it going.

Until next time, stay kinky, my friends…

–The Bratty Cat

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