Can You Truly Consent Ahead of Time?

As you will have seen already if you’ve been reading this blog for long, I have Many Feels about consent. In short, consent is everything. In all areas of life, but in sex and relationships in particular.

Full disclosure the first: I pondered this one for a long time, nearly didn’t post it at all, then went “oh fuck it.”

Full disclosure the second: it’s relatively late on Friday night and I’m tired as fuck. This might not be my best work ever.

Psst – don’t forget to check out #KinkMonth and join the conversation!

A white pillow with the words "do not disturb" in black. For a post on sleep sex and pre consent

Today in 30 Days of D/s, Kayla and John are talking about sexual availability. They say:

In some D/s relationships (including ours), there is an agreement that the submissive will always be sexually available to their Dominant. While this can be a kinky, sexy aspect of a relationship, it always requires a great deal of trust from the submissive and responsibility from the Dominant. What do you think? Does it sound deliciously sexy? Or does it not sound appealing at all?

Pre-consent vs. sexual availability

Mr CK and I do not have this type of arrangement as such, because we’re not in a 24/7 D/s relationship. What we do have, however, is certain types of what we call “blanket consent” or “pre-consent”- which, in practice, I imagine works in much the same way as a relationship where the submissive has consented ahead of time to sexual activity when the Dominant wants it. That is, it’s okay for you to do this thing unless I explicitly withdraw consent in the moment.

One of the things we’ve put this in place for is instigating sex/play while the other is asleep. Either of us can do this, and we’ve pre-negotiated that it’s okay. I find it really hot to be woken up from sleep because he’s decided he wants to fuck me. (And I’m a LIGHT sleeper so there’s no chance of my not waking up once he starts making a move on me.)

The reasons this works and is safe for our relationship, I think, are threefold:

First and most important: trust

Pre-consent of any kind, especially for sexual activity when in a vulnerable situation like being asleep, is edgy shit. It requires a huge amount of trust. This is not something you do on a first date. I really don’t recommend playing around with this level of vulnerability with a partner until you have a seriously solid foundation of trust.

Again: this is edge-play. Treat it accordingly.

Secondly, we exercise common sense and don’t abuse the trust

Just because he technically could, under this agreement, wake me up for sex at 3am the night before an important early meeting… doesn’t mean that he would.

Part of having agreements around pre- or blanket- consent means not abusing the trust your partner has put in you. These agreements exist, hopefully, because both parties find them sexy and are enthusiastically into whatever the thing being consented to is. Using them in a way that is likely to cause your partner harm or distress violates the spirit of the very trust required to have these kinds of arrangements in the first place.

Finally, we’re both totally happy to withdraw consent if necessary

I used to be the kind of person who would think, “well, I agreed to this in advance – or at least implied I might be up for it – so I guess I have to go along with it now even though I really don’t want to.” I am not that person any more.

We both say no when we mean no. Being able to rely on each other to do this means that we can relax into the play, knowing that the consent we’re receiving from the other person is genuine.

So: can you consent to something in advance?

My answer is… kind of. In theory I’ve given Mr consent to wake me up for sex any time he chooses. In practice, I could withdraw that consent any and every time he invokes this, if I chose to… and he would respect that withdrawal without question and with no negative consequences to our relationship. So, in reality, I’m actually consenting to the activity in a very meaningful and ongoing way at the time.

Because if you can’t withdraw consent, it’s not really consent at all. In advance or otherwise.

Kinky item of the day: Cuffs! Forget metal handcuffs (they’re either shit quality or painful as fuck in a bad way, in my experience.) What about these black leather beauties?

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2 thoughts on “Can You Truly Consent Ahead of Time?

  1. I was thinking about this question myself recently and I really like how you’ve framed your response. A few things I’d highlight:

    One – the example you’ve given (being woken up) has a context implicit within it: You’re probably going be alone together. This was probably a big part of your thinking when you named your pre-arranged consent and it should be named as part of the process. Pre-arranged consent is often very context dependent – and it wouldn’t do for you to fall asleep during a group video watching event, or (heaven forbid!) waiting for a plane at an airport, and you get woken up by him in this way!

    Second thing is: this kind of arrangement needs to be kept under review. You’ve made this agreement at a particular life stage, but you and he might change. What if (let’s say) you have kids, you’re getting no sleep, maybe you’ve just gone back to work and are being piled on — and now he wants to wake you up with sex? Are you gonna be OK with that? You both need to have your eyes open to the fundamental shifts in your lifestyles and ask the question “Is this arrangement still OK, or not really?” And you ask that question proactively- *not* on the night when you’ve finally got to sleep and he wants some.

    I think both these points are related to the points you’ve made about being sensible (not abusing it) and being OK to withdraw.

  2. Another couple of thoughts:

    Really this kind of consent isn’t consent to the act – it’s consent for him to try out the act or initiate it, with the agreement that if you’re not OK with it then you won’t get annoyed with him for trying.

    The other thing is: I named the two examples of a video watching gathering and being in an airport because they have things in common but also differences.

    They are both in front of people. Now, for myself, this is something I just wouldn’t consent to – and I’d get annoyed with my husband if he even tried. For you, my guess is you wouldn’t be OK in the airport scenario – and even if you were OK with having sex in front of strangers (not expecting you to comment on that) you would recognise it as non-consensual for passers by and therefore rule it out.

    The thing about the video scenario is that your partner could in theory get the consent of everyone else present before he woke you up. *But* this would still be an inherently different scenario to him waking you up while you’re in bed alone together. If he was to do that, he’d need to have gained pre-consent from you that sex in front of others can be OK at all, and then also that the people at said event are people you’re happy for this to happen with.

    I think your point that this is a kind of edge play is worth bearing in mind, because it does involve a person in a very vulnerable state (asleep) and you can hurt people emotionally with this stuff. It’s the kind if thing you’d want to do because you have a reasonable expectation that they’d appreciate it, not because you want the thrill of finding out if their reaction is good or not. At least that’s my take.

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