It IS okay to say NO.
Obvious, right? Except, not in all circumstances. I have found that there are many many areas where saying no goes against peer pressure and behaviors in polite society. It becomes even harder in situations where there is a power dynamic. Saying no to one's boss can be tough, especially when your reason is that you simply do not want to do it, or that you are tired etc. It becomes even harder in a personal relationship where there is either a power imbalance (for example with family, parent to offspring) or a consensual power exchange, such as that found in some BDSM/Dominant and submissive/Master and slave relationships .
There is an erroneous perception that slaves and subs (for those who engage in 24/7 dynamics) must strive for obedience at all times and that there is an inherent failure if that is not achieved. it adds to a significant level of pressure when, as a sub or slave, you have to make a decision about possibly saying no to something your top/Dom/Master (non gender specific) orders. I have a hard time doing this. And I should point out that I am not referring to the use of safewords, which are usually in place for a very good reason, but instead parts of the dynamic that may brush over into other areas of life, especially when the outcome is not necessarily known.
There are times when I have to say no. My Dom and I are still in the stages of learning how to live together. Who we are is not in doubt. How we interact 24/7 is still something that both of us are on a learning curve over, and will be for quite some time. Last night being one of those times. A demand was made that would have likely ended up in me being too tired to drive safely the following morning (if I could even have met the demand in the first place). The problem is that our play has been going on until the early hours of the morning for a couple of weeks now and, as a result, my sleep deprivation has built to the point when it is negatively affecting my ability to be safe. I actually cannot emphasis how exhausted I have been enough, this was more than simply being tired. So I had to say NO and I did rather forcefully before promptly bursting into tears from sheer exhaustion and emotional turmoil at being in the position where I had to say no.
This is the point when some people would leap in and claim that I was putting my wants over that of my Dom, or that I wasn't being true to the dynamic etc. For one thing, everyone has different rules for obedience and different dynamics and for the other, at the end of the day, I have to be the one to ensure my own safety and ability to function. I have to look after "the property" or, in other words, myself. As amazing as my Dom is, He is not psychic and does not have the ability to read my mind. He also cannot act on my behalf in the majority of situations I will encounter, and His perspective on a situation may well vary from mine quite significantly. By consenting to a power exchange relationship, I do not magically confer to my Dom the personal responsibility I have about my life and my body. I always retain that. And He may not be aware or something that only I have the ability to make a judgment over.
I said No. And He apologised for His role in creating the situation that lead to me saying no and did not in any manner hold it against me or feel the need to punish.
The question is, why am I now punishing myself for saying no? Why did I burst into tears from the guilt of making a valid judgment and still feel guilty about it today? I apologised numerous times last night, when in actuality I had done nothing wrong. It is not wrong to stand up for your needs in a power dynamic, it is not wrong to be responsible. And, although this was not a safeword situation, it is not wrong to use a safeword or communication when needed, especially to ensure safety. My emotions would say otherwise and would turn an otherwise empowered moment (and I am of the opinion that we subs and slaves ARE empowered) into something negative, to scratch and hurt myself from the inside for having the audacity to say no to my Dominant. My emotions and the reptilian part of my brain are fearful of the outcome, they feel that it is better to just accept and damn the consequences. It is better to be a doormat and shirk the consequences of responsibility because there is less emotional risk. I became emotional and guilty. I can easily see how such emotions may compromise my ability to make a clear decision and as such, have to be aware of it.
Because, in giving into emotions and fear, I would also have betrayed the trust placed in me. My Dom knows that I will always do my best and more so, giving 110% to everything I do. He also knows that I have the integrity to stay true to myself, very much a rational position, as my emotions would have me follow His lead blindly and not pay heed to the potential pitfalls in my path. He has placed that trust in me to do what is needed, even He disagrees. Because by doing this, by saying NO when absolutely needed, when using a safeword during play, I show that I am Aware, I am Sane, and that above all, I Consent. By saying no when I need to, I demonstrate in no uncertain terms that I have the full cognitive ability to make a choice about everything else that we engage in, and thus the full ability to consent.
We use the phrases Safe, Sane and Consensual (SSC) and Risk Aware Consensual Kink (RACK) frequently. They cannot just be words and phrases. We have a responsibility to ourselves, to our partners, and to some extent the whole BDSM community, to hold to those ideals. Community? Yes. While "we" are considered outside of the norm and deviant from main-stream thinking, while we live in a world that would, probably more often than not, disapprove of our consensual sexual practices, we have the responsibility to demonstrate that we are making sane and rational decisions. That What It Is That We Do, is not harmful, disempowering, abusive or immoral. That there are indeed times when we can say No to our partners and have it respected.
So, despite pressure, despite perceptions of power exchange dynamics, if it is consensual and thus positive, then not only is it ok to say NO if you must, you have the responsibility to do so.
Skeptical kinkster musing on whatever takes my fancy!