(Originally published January 7, 2022)
This article is about fantasies and roleplay involving not asking for consent or violating it through physical force, coercion, and other means. These all fall under the broad heading of consenting non-consent, including things like rape or ravishment fantasies and dubious consent erotica. Many of the people interviewed for this article are survivors of sexual assault. There aren’t graphic details of rapes, but they are discussed. This article also mentions how people fantasize and roleplay these scenarios. Please proceed with caution if sexual assault is a topic that might trigger PTSD.
Nothing in this article should be interpreted as meaning someone wants to be raped. Rape, by its definition, is unwanted. Engaging in either side of consenting non-consent fantasies or rape play does not mean someone wants consent violated in any way, shape, or form. There’s a difference between sexual fantasies or roleplay and a genuine desire to see them carried out. The consent in consenting non-consent is the defining feature.
One of the misconceptions about kink and fetishes is that someone who has them must have lived through severe trauma. Pop culture, from crime dramas to 50 Shades of Grey, uses this trope repeatedly. But the distance between pop culture and reality can be vast. Kinks and fetishes don’t require trauma. There’s no need for a dominant sadist to have been abused as a child. A man having a fetish for wearing women’s underwear doesn’t mean he was forced to do so by someone during adolescence.
The perception that kinks and fetishes can’t form without an inciting incident needs to end. People are often just born kinky. Finding out you’re kinky is similar to discovering other aspects of your sexuality, like whether you’re gay, straight, or otherwise. It starts at a young age and is just part of who someone is, even if they choose to deny it.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t kinks related to a traumatic event or events. BDSM and other kinks have been part of people’s response to trauma and attempt to process it. These traumas include but are not limited to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and sexual assault. But kink and BDSM aren’t shortcuts, and like most healing after trauma, it’s rarely, if ever, easy.
“It’s been a long and arduous process,” says Lysi, a sexual assault survivor and consenting non-consent (CNC) kinkster. “Stigma still can affect me and make me feel ashamed, but I’m working on it all the time. I feel like healing isn’t necessarily a linear thing. There’s ups and downs.”
And some of those downs brought Lysi very low.
After being raped as an adult, I had a period where I was engaging in kink in an unhealthy and self-destructive manner. I was very promiscuous, with people I didn’t even like, just anyone who wanted me. My self-esteem was shattered, and I didn’t have the ability to set or enforce boundaries. I felt like I had no right to refuse sexual propositions or advances.
Part of her trauma recovery process included choosing to be a sex worker. “It taught me that it’s my right to say no to things I’m not comfortable with and that having sex with me is a privilege, not a right for other people.” Around that time, CNC was the most healing and cathartic for her. “It allowed me to reenact the assaults that I was so deeply ashamed of, but this time I was in control, and I could stop it when I wanted to, and that was huge for me.”
SF Riley was already part of the kink community as a dominant before her sexual assault, and,
Kink became part of my healing from the abusive relationship I was in. Is this the most healthy way to do that? I have no idea. But it’s what I did. And it did help. A lot. Others had taken aspects of my identity and stripped them away from me. Ownership of my mind and body was not completely mine.
She now finds CNC as a way to get it back. “I think the process of overcoming that trauma has given me the ability to accept submissive fantasies as legitimate the same way I did and do dominant ones.”But accepting the desire to engage in CNC after a sexual assault can be a rough journey. Felicia Skye says, “The first time I told my partner — who was the first person I told at all — I felt like there was something wrong with me. Like I was broken and gross.” She started using a pen name to write about CNC and explore why she found it a turn-on. “But I still struggle with a mental hurdle to show others that this is a thing I’m interested in, and it doesn’t make me an awful person.”
Kate had a similar struggle. “It was years of building up to it, thinking about it, talking about and negotiating it, and working to understand it before I could fully accept it as something that was actually okay to explore.”
Even though some survivors use CNC as a coping mechanism, that’s not a universal experience. A sexual assault doesn’t automatically set off the kink, nor is it required for someone to develop the kink. But there still may be conflicting feelings and shame involved for those who have a CNC kink unrelated to any traumatic life events.
For Bryanie, her biggest mental hurdle was that she’s a feminist who’s been very vocal about stopping sexual harassment and sexual violence.
Being into CNC made me feel like an absolute hypocrite at first. But then I think that was my own ignorance, and the more you learn, the more you realize how different it is from actual assault. It is CONSENTING non-consent after all.
It was also a process for her to get to where she was willing to explore these fantasies. “When I’ve talked about CNC with others, they told me I was kink-shaming myself and that I shouldn’t do that.” But it’s something she’s still working through. “It’s so difficult not to feel guilty about this when I have so many loved ones whose lives have been changed by sexual assault. I feel like it’s insulting them to play at this when the reality can destroy lives.”
There are those like Persephone, who straddle the divide and had a CNC kink prior to two sexual assaults and still has it after. She’s always been kinky, and all her long-term relationships have incorporated D/s and CNC elements. The first assault didn’t even slow it down. She attributes at least part of that to shutting out the experience. Even processing it years later, it had much less impact than a later sexual assault after breaking up with a long-term partner and Dom. “He knew exactly what would be most traumatic for me and chose to do that. The breach of trust was what really hurt me. I had been completely vulnerable with him, and he took what he learned through that and used it against me.” After that, she didn’t engage in CNC play, porn, or fantasies for a few months. “The same happened several years later when I started getting flashbacks of the assault.” Those were brief interruptions, and she’s glad it didn’t stop her from engaging in CNC. “My kink is such a core part of me, and CNC is something I really enjoy. I’m glad they weren’t able to take that from me.”
A Common Fantasy
While it might not immediately alleviate guilt and shame, people should know that rape fantasies are fairly common. As discussed in a previous edition, surveys and statistics have a self-selection bias, especially regarding sex. If you’re asking about sex, some people won’t even answer the questions, let alone admit to having something considered as taboo as a CNC kink. This may explain how one study can show that CNC and rape fantasies are higher among survivors, while others show there may be no correlation — at least as far as women are concerned. Either way, many people are aroused by fantasies of force and coercion.
According to research, 61% of women, 54% of men, and 68% of non-binary people had fantasies about sex that is, or at least starts out as, non-consensual. And 24% of women, 11.5% of men, and 31% of non-binary people did so frequently.
There is a smaller number, but not a small number, of those who have fantasies about sexually assaulting someone. (To reiterate, an erotic imagining of being taken against your will doesn’t mean you want it to happen. In the same way, people fantasizing about taking someone against their will doesn’t mean they want to actually do it.)
One survey indicated that 20% of women had fantasized about it, as well as 38% of men and non-binary people. It’s a frequent fantasy for 4% of women, 7% of men, and 9% of non-binary people.
Lysi and her partner, Kala, who is also a sexual assault survivor, have roleplayed and enjoyed both aspects of CNC. “I’m into rape and molestation fantasies, and we switch roles: forced-bi as a femdom, forced intoxication, power exchange, etc.”
CNC kinkster Charles considered himself lucky to have found friends who were non-monogamous BDSM enthusiasts in college. There he discovered a place to explore his kinks. “Getting to play out a bunch of those fantasies, especially around rope work, within the boundaries of a consensual relationship was liberating and exhilarating.” He was able to find people who didn’t only let him play out these fantasies but, “They seemed to like it as much as I did!”
After college, he explored more of what it meant to be a dominant and a sadist.
I also found that there was a dark place that I would go to sometimes when I was in scene space. That was where I started to realize that non-consent play could be a turn-on: imposing my will on somebody was hot, in the right context.
The Consent in Consenting Non-Consent
And it is the context that is important. With his partners, Charles set up scenes where he could tie someone up and do things to them that they were unable to resist. But this was all planned and discussed ahead of time.
The core of CNC kink is a prenegotiated agreement (the ‘C’ part) that says that the bottom can say ‘no’ and the top doesn’t have to listen (the ‘NC’ part). Obviously, you still need a safeword or other negotiated way to stop what you’re doing.
If you call someone a dirty whore, that’s harassment. If you tie someone to your bed and make it so they can’t leave, that’s kidnapping. If you bend someone over your knee and spank them, that’s assault. That is, of course, unless they consent to it or ask you to do it because it gets them off.
CNC works the exact same way. Prenegotiation turns the actions and words of a sexual assault into consensual sex. It’s why safewords and safegestures are so important. You decide before the scene what will happen and how to stop everything if something doesn’t feel right since “No” and “Stop” might no longer mean that in a scene.
Chel, a sexual assault survivor and sex worker on NiteFlirt, clarifies, “CNC is not leeway to do whatever, whenever. CNC involves prior informed consent — yes, like with medical procedures.”
What comes after the prenegotiated consent of CNC can vary widely from person to person or instance to instance. Hannah Murray takes issue with how narrow the perception of CNC is. “It sometimes gets talked about like it’s only rape play, and while that’s a huge part of it, it’s not only that. It’s understandable that that’s where the focus is because it’s the most shocking and salacious.”
Chel says, “verbalizing that I have desires or I’m worked up and want sex can be hard. I really enjoy the idea of someone initiating & controlling sex or a session without seeking consent in the moment.”
As Murray said, that goes beyond agreeing to be pinned down and have words like “No” and “Stop” be ignored. Chel provided some examples.
CNC can be as simple as permission to grind against someone doing dishes after dinner, or nipping at a weak spot at their neck at a fancy dinner just to work them up, or waking up your partner with head without having asked the night before.
Not everyone would consider those acts kinky. But there’s a difference between someone who thinks a woman looks sexy in a strappy pair of high heels and someone with a shoe and foot fetish. In the same way, someone can have a somnophilia fetish while others can have utterly vanilla wake-up sex. But whether it’s considered kinky or not, it still needs to be prenegotiated.
With the understanding that someone can withdraw consent at any time without the need to justify it, prenegotiation is the difference between some morning sexy fun times and a potential sexual assault. Kinky or not, you have to discuss it with your partner(s) before having sex with them when they’re asleep.
That discussion becomes even more vital when you want to be able to fight back and scream “No” without withdrawing consent.
Trusting Your Partner To Ignore No
For Mina Molise, trusting someone enough for CNC play requires “genuine respect for each other’s mental and physical wellbeing; and, at least to some degree, mutual affection. I have to trust him implicitly.” She wants a partner who is “powerful as well as tender” before she’d allow him to be dominant and rough. But if he is, “I will trust him with the reins and give myself over to him completely. I want to tell him no and him to know I mean yes.”
Lysi considers herself really lucky to have found a partner like hers. “Kala is a godsend and has helped me heal so much. He’s so kind and supportive of me, and as a survivor himself, he understands where I’m coming from.” She says, “Having a partner I trust, someone I know cares for me, loves me, and wouldn’t actually hurt me, makes a massive difference.” And that trust not only allows for her to engage in CNC, but “It really helped me regain my sexuality and take my power back.”
CNC isn’t for everyone. When Skye started to explore it with her partner:
He tried playing out a controlled version, and it was very difficult for him. He’s a kind and sweet person and likes to get into the mindset of things when we roleplay, so I understand. It bothers him far more than I need it in my life, so I just don’t ask it of him anymore.
Riley has had a similar experience with her partner. “My current significant other is an amazing man, and I love him and trust him like no other. He is also just as vanilla as generic vanilla ice cream.”
If you’re the partner of someone with a CNC kink, especially a sexual assault survivor, Riley’s advice is:
Be patient. Be open and try not to judge. If you’re not sure about something, ask your partner. Communication is essential for all intimate relationships. An essential part of that is listening. By both parties. If you really don’t feel comfortable with something, then politely tell them so.
Murray says, “It’s important to keep an open mind. It’s one of those things that’s hard to say out loud for a lot of people, and a negative reception can have devastating consequences.”
Admitting a taboo kink like CNC requires vulnerability, which should be respected. If, as a partner, your answer is no, Skye advises you to “make it clear to them that you still love them, or are interested in them, depending on where you are in the relationship.” Just because you’re unwilling to take part in CNC “That doesn’t mean you can’t offer support, friendship, or love. At the very least, an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on.”
Just because someone has reached an understanding with their partner about CNC doesn’t mean that conversation should end. It should be ongoing and revisited often. Not only is this important for consent, but it also strengthens the relationship and can lead to better sex. Mikhaila has been with her husband for years now, and:
We’ve discussed the fact that I prefer a lack of choice, not making decisions, to be either told what to do or for him to “take what he wants” so to speak. He knows that I will tell him if what he’s doing isn’t working for me, and I trust him that he will stop if it’s not working for me.
Only after these discussions and prenegotiations can it be decided that no doesn’t mean no. Persephone says, “I enjoy being able to say no, beg someone to stop, and be ignored. I enjoy not having control, so CNC is largely, for me, the ultimate loss of control.”
But again, engaging in CNC is not a blanket agreement. Persephone has her established limits.
There are some things I can enjoy in porn and erotica which I know I couldn’t do myself because it would trigger me, though. I love water-bondage, but being held or forced to do anything like that would definitely be a problem for me. Equally being physically forced to give head would be a no-go.
There are limits people impose on themselves. One CNC kinkster, Rose, has had to set boundaries for her and her partner. It wasn’t because either of them didn’t like it, but because they noticed an unhealthy, compulsive pattern forming after their first attempt at CNC play.
My partner and I both craved it again for a week straight. It fucked us up mentally, and we had a hard time not triggering each other whenever we talked. The high was so intense that the drop was bad, and I think our brains were doing anything to try to get that high back.
Just as with other kinks, like financial domination, it can become challenging to protect your mental health and wellbeing from something that ends up flooding your brain with endorphins.
After a second CNC scene that was even more intense, Rose found it difficult to talk to her partner for a couple of days. While they still have CNC play, they do so infrequently to stop things from getting out of hand. “Each time we do it, things seem to escalate, and I think it’s the brain seeking a bigger high. I think that people could easily get stuck in a loop of doing it, craving it, doing it again, escalating it, craving it more, etc.”
Rose and her partner had the self-awareness and self-control required to recognize the behavior and act accordingly. Not everyone does. Rose had a friend whose partner didn’t. “They did end up addicted to it and demanding rougher and rougher, and eventually, my friend had to say no, and they broke up.”
Any kink or fetish can be a threat to someone’s physical, emotional, and/or mental health. This is why research, checking-in, safewords and gestures, and aftercare are vital to being kinky. And it’s why consent must be an ongoing conversation.
Demystifying Consenting Non-Consent
Survivor or not, various motivations draw someone into CNC. However, some of those motivations may or may not be given undue weight. Blame avoidance as a concept states that people, especially women, are told that they aren’t allowed to like sex. Therefore, having the decision taken out of their hands enables them to imagine sex they’d find pleasurable. However, the evidence doesn’t show blame avoidance as a significant reason people enjoy CNC.
This doesn’t mean that blame avoidance doesn’t motivate some people’s interest in CNC and rape or ravishment fantasies. It could be very likely that self-selection bias is at play. Someone who already feels shame about wanting sex might not be the type to answer these questions.
The evidence did find that higher self-esteem and an active sexual imagination correlated with frequent rape fantasies. The women in the study also frequently fantasized about consensual sexual encounters and had desirability fantasies, such as performing as a stripper.
Though, the results of this study again feel like it could be self-selection bias. Of course, women who are comfortable with their sexual imagination would be more likely to admit to enjoying the fantasy version of being forced to have sex against their will.
Now that she’s come to terms with it, Kate is a prime example of the more confident women with rape and ravishment fantasies. “I think it comes from a desire of wanting to be wanted so badly your partner just can’t take no for an answer.” She encourages others to explore these fantasies and says, “Nobody should tell you how to feel, or what to do, or ever make you feel guilty or ashamed.”
CNC is part of Chel’s broader tapestry of kink.
For me, it is often paired with several other kinks at play, mostly submission, but also corruption kink, possession, prey, sometimes mild degradation, and sometimes some amount of daddy/mommy kink. It depends on the person, situation, and vibe.
There is, of course, the healing aspect that some can find in these fantasies and play. Though how that is healing might be confusing to people who haven’t experienced both sexual assault and CNC in the same way. Skye explains:
It can be a way to take full control of a scenario, even as a receiver, that you otherwise wouldn’t have. By taking control of something like this in our fantasies, it gives us a sense of control in what had happened, and that’s perfectly healthy to desire.
CNC certainly won’t work for everyone. For some, it would be detrimental to their recovery. But everyone is different, and some people find taking control with the fantasy of losing control liberating. The ability to stop the faux-assault with one word, even if you don’t use it, is a powerful feeling.
Persephone encourages people who find it helpful to use it. “How people deal with their trauma isn’t for anyone else to decide or police. Trusting yourself/your partner to know what’s best for you and what you need is so important.” She’s found it affirming. As with many others who engage in CNC, the power exchange is part of what makes it her kink. “I’m submissive and feel that’s a core part of who I am. My kink is grounding and centering for me. It reminds me who I am and enables me to connect to my own inner strength.”
While discussions about CNC call for a certain level of sensitivity given the high potential to trigger PTSD and flashbacks, talking about CNC kinks shouldn’t invite shame and ridicule.
“I’m embracing them now,” says Murray. “And I find it very liberating. Just acknowledging out loud that, yes, this is something that turns me on, that flips those hidden, secret switches, is a very freeing thing.” Murray doesn’t feel ashamed of her CNC kink. “While I feel a certain reticence about discussing my CNC fantasies, that’s only because they’re private.” And it’s easy for her to navigate between the kinkster and survivor parts of her life. “I don’t have any trouble keeping the horrible reality of my sexual assaults separated from the fantasies that live in my head.”
The difference between fantasy and reality is still apparent in those spaces where people choose to incorporate their trauma into their kink. Mikhaila writes erotica that at times mirrors the abuse of her past relationships. One of her first non-con stories on Literotica had unexpected results. She said that despite the NonConsent/Reluctance category having genuine rape fantasies, “readers really hated the antagonist in a surprising way.” She was astonished by the reactions.
One of the comments said, “I didn’t expect to find such an accurate portrayal of emotional abuse and realistic sexual coercion on this site!” Which really opened my eyes to the fact that even people who get off on non-consent can feel the difference when it’s sexy and when it’s uncomfortably real.
No More Kink Shaming
Consenting non-consent is like any other kink or fetish. It can be shocking and disturbing to people — and not just vanilla folks, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Having these kinks and fantasies doesn’t make someone a bad person. It doesn’t make them dangerous.
As long as someone respects boundaries, they should be extended the same courtesy. A private discussion in which people agree to talk about their issues with this kink differs from someone seeking out conversations telling people they’re wrong for having this kink.
If someone can consent to being smacked, spit on, called a whore, etc., why shouldn’t they be able to do the same for being pinned down and having their pantomimed protests ignored? What is the innate harm in it?
If everyone involved is consenting and within an appropriate space, people shouldn’t have to justify and defend their kinks and fantasies.
And considering the number of survivors who’ve used it as a tool for healing, attempts to guilt people about it start to leave kink-shaming behind and begin to approach heartlessness. It’s especially detrimental to people’s recovery to have their kink treated as sick, twisted, and gross.
While some coping mechanisms may work for one person, that’s not true for everyone. People get to process their trauma in the best way that suits them.
“Part of my desire to write these things into my work comes from that same desire to own my experiences,” Riley explains. “If I can someday write something that allows someone to own their own trauma, then I will have done something that I cannot describe.” She encourages everyone to “Find your path to healing and make it your own. Fight for it. Own it.”
For those working towards that goal, Skye says:
To any victims out there, to any survivors out there, you’re not alone in this fantasy, this kink. You’re taking control the best way you are able to at this point, and that’s perfectly healthy. Never feel ashamed for taking control.
About the Creator
I write about sweet-hearted guys in sexy situations. Respectfully naughty. Sometimes funny & always dyslexic and ADHD. 37 he/him 💍
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