Did Halloween whet your appetite for everything spooky and scary? With faux blood galore and sexy costumes evoking ghouls and monsters abound, it might be tempting, uninhibited thanks to cocktails and a sugar rush, to try something new and risky in the bedroom. Enter: consensual non-consent (CNC), a term for any kinky scene or relationship dynamic in which ignoring “no”’s is part of the play.
“A reminder that not all CNC is rape play”, said Sunny Megatron, a certified sex educator, BDSM & kink educator, and relationship coach, on our zoom call. “It gets my goat that people think they’re a one-for-one synonym.” Megatron is the editor-in-chief of kink-focused Zipper Magazine, host and executive producer of SEX with Sunny, and cohost of the podcast “American Sex”.
We reached out to Megatron to chat about CNC, edge play, and how to communicate these riskier, edgier desires to your partner.
Our conversation was lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
SHAME: How do you initiate a conversation about CNC with a partner?
Sunny Megatron: I love that we live in a day and age of technology and the internet and information sharing. The default is “Huh, I was scrolling through Twitter, found an article about CNC, and I didn't know what it was. But then I read it and it is kind of interesting. What do you think?” That’s perfect because if your partner isn’t amenable to it, you can kind of backtrack.
SHAME: What do you look for in a partner when it comes to CNC compatibility?
SM: Assuming I am in the position of being the submissive in this scenario, I would look for someone who was very attuned to my needs. This applies to a very benign kind of [CNC] like “I'm gonna make you wash the dishes”, “I don't want to”, to an all-out rape or kidnapping scene. The submissive in that situation has to know that they're being cared for and has to know that the dominant is keeping an extra eye out for their needs.
I'm not saying that the dominant doesn't matter but in that situation, the submissive is in a position where they might not be able to advocate for themselves, whether that means they're emotionally triggered or physically tied down.
If I were dominant in this scenario, I would look for a submissive who is very self-aware and knows exactly why they want to do this. If it's an intense scene, I would want to know that my submissive wasn't trying to reenact a real-life event in a very exact manner because that's oftentimes a recipe for being emotionally triggered, taking your PTSD that sort of thing.
SHAME: Are there any protocols or foundations a couple needs to work on before experimenting with CNC?
SM: Play with the understanding that when we are playing with riskier types of play, no matter how safe we try to be, there is always a likelihood of something going wrong despite our best efforts. With edge play, oftentimes when something goes wrong, something goes really wrong.
So in addition to more in-depth and detailed negotiations, the acceptance of and planning for what [you do] if X, Y, Z goes wrong? And that's probably a Plan B, a Plan C, a Plan D, etc. That is a plan for maybe an emotional trigger, maybe a physical injury.
SHAME: Imagine the most beginner-friendly, “entrance-level” CNC scene, what would your negotiation to-do list look like?
SM: [Start with] the basics. What kind of kinks, your general yes, no, maybe. What kinky activity do we want to incorporate? What [kinks] are off-limits?
Get straight with yourself and your partner. Why are you doing this? What are you getting out of it? And make sure that whatever their answer [to these questions] is jives with you.
[Set] your goal emotions. [For example], I want to feel abused, I want to feel disrespected but at the end that’s going to make me feel like I have autonomy over the situation [or] I’m going to feel this cathartic outburst of really hard feeling. [Figure out] what you want to feel during your scene and then how you want to feel after. Built your scene around that.
I'm focusing on the submissive because they’re usually the ones that can get really triggered and really hurt. [Again] I don't want to give the impression that the dominant is just there as a kink dispenser so, of course, look at these from the dominant's point of view too.
[Next] go through a lot of “what if”s. What if I'm triggered and I fight back? Can I say awful things to you? Have you done this before? How do you feel afterward? Oftentimes the dominant will have a lot of guilt and a lot of questions. “I know I did everything you asked me to but that was a really intense scene”, and “I know you said you wanted to cry but then when you were crying, [was that] the cry you want, or did I just fuck you up?” [Go through] all of the possible motions that can happen.
It’s a lot. For CNC, this isn’t a “one-and-done” negotiation. Slowly work your way up to it and have lots of conversations.
SHAME: How do you negotiate and discuss a scene while still keeping the element of surprise in the sex?
SM: It can be a little tricky but it can be done. So it may be: we're gonna negotiate all the things I can incorporate but maybe I am not going to use all of them. Maybe I'm gonna use them in ways that you don’t expect.
Sometimes the surprise can be in the storyline that you're constructing.
Maybe [you’re] threatening something that is a soft limit. Something that you've talked about exploring and you're not actually going to do, but maybe you bring it up. “Oh, yeah, maybe I am gonna get out my electric play equipment and electrify your toes. [Even though you’re] never gonna do it, you've thrown them off mentally. Some of that can really help. [But] you can mess people up at the same time. That's why it's edge play.