FromFet: Control vs. Consent

Originally posted 29 July 2014

So this thread popped up in my feed tonight. (Edited to add, for those not on Fet: this thread was titled Who is *really* in control, and argued, in part, that the bottom in any scene has more control — all the control, really — than the top.) I don’t disagree with her overall sentiment, which seems to be, “Tops, don’t be assholes to your bottoms or you may find you have none.” I can get behind that sentiment 100%.

My issue is the misuse or ambiguous use of terms. In BDSMland, it’s become habit to assume no words have any meanings and we get to define every meaning for ourselves (which makes it really scary when the word that’s redefined is “no,” but that’s an entirely different post).

As such, people have gotten a bit lax with what terms they use when they’re talking about this or that. But words do have meanings and, especially in a medium like Fet, which is 85% text based, it’s important to use the right words to convey your meaning accurately. Otherwise, there’s all sorts of confusion (and often soundbites that make no sense if one really thinks about them).

One thing I’ve seen (for a long time, actually — not a new occurrence) is the idea that 1. consent to a thing = control of the entire situation, and 2. the bottom has all of the power to end a scene. I’m quoting my response to the thread linked above, because it encapsulates pretty well my thinking on that whole idea.

From the original post:
The bottom is ALWAYS in control. Always.

My response:
I’d note that the ability to end an interaction/scene/relationship is not the same as being “in control.” You’re conflating two different things (control and consent) and, at the same time, attributing more importance to one person when, in reality, that power — the power to end things (consent) — is perfectly equal.

The bottom doesn’t have any more power or control to end things than the top does. Both can end things at any time for any reason or no reason at all, period. So the bottom doesn’t have any more “control” of whether the scene moves forward than the top. Both share the power equally.

The nuance of this power is that the top must actively acknowledge the bottom’s withdrawal of consent, because the top is the one usually acting in an s/m scene. The bottom doesn’t have to actively acknowledge the top’s withdrawal of consent because, most likely, the top simply stops. This nuance is what usually makes people think the bottom has or should have more control to end the scene. But that’s a misunderstanding of a complex situation. The ability to withdraw consent is equal.

For me, “in control” with regards to BDSM, but particularly d/s, is about an ongoing guidance of the events at a macro (and sometimes micro) level. It is not about who can end what. (And even if it were, the idea that all the control is exclusively in the bottom’s hands is ridiculous, because consent comes from both sides.)

Being “in control” is entirely different than the power to end. It’s the ability and drive to be the guiding force within an interaction/scene/relationship. When I top, we both have the ability to end the scene, but I am most definitely the one in control (ask anyone who’s bottomed to me). In my M/s relationship, I am also most definitely not the one “in control” (though he grants me a lot of freedom of control).

To my mind, if it’s the bottom who’s “in control,” then it’s the bottom who’s the dominant and the top who is the submissive. If the statement is about consent (rather than who’s in control), then that power is shared equally.





Originally posted on Fetlife.

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