Negotiation Guide

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Since I presented the class a few months ago, I received numerous requests for this handout. I have decided to post it here so I can just give the link.

Please feel free to print this out for personal use. However, if you are distributing or presenting this in any way, please have the courtesy credit me with my name (Cross), website ( and email address ( on the form.

If you notice anything missing, please message me privately with your note. There may be reasons for its exclusion.

Safety is NOT the sole responsibility of the top. Bottoms should be prepared to provide information and limits without being asked, they should also be capable of asking questions to determine whether the top is sufficiently experienced and prepared for the type of play negotiated.

For a shorter, quick reference version of this guide, see this page.

Definitions (for the purposes of this form)

-Top: 1)The person who will be “in control” during the scene. 2)The person who DOES something to the other person/people. It is possible for both partners to have top roles in the same scene.

-Bottom: 1)The person submitting to the control of the other. 2)The person who has things DONE TO them by another.

-Switching: When the bottom and top exchange roles as a component of the scene.

-Limit: A restriction on the conduct consented to over the course of the scene.

-Scene: A single incident of play, including aftercare.

-Safe words: Words or phrases used to communicate during a scene, including those which trigger the immediate end of the scene.

Negotiation Guide

When negotiating a scene, especially with a new play partner, the following considerations should be made, at minimum.

L – Logistics >

  • Who will be involved or watch the scene
  • What will we do
    • Will bondage or restraint be used
    • Will there be any sexual contact
    • What actions are prohibited (hard limits)
    • What actions can only be done in certain conditions (soft limits)
  • Where will we play
    • Public (club), Private (home), Isolated (soundproof basement)
    • What furniture will be used, what position will everyone be in
  • When will we play and for how long
  • How hard will we play, after how much warm up

I – Individual Roles >

  • What will be the roles of each person involved in the scene, including spectators
  • Who will be top / bottom
  • Will there be an element of dominance / submission
  • Is playfulness welcome
  • Will there be any fantasy role play
  • Is resistance / force desired
  • Should the scene create a feeling of safety vs feeling of risk
  • Is switching during the scene welcome
  • Is the bottom expected to follow the directions of the top
  • Will a collar or other symbolic clothing/adornments be used
  • What forms of address are acceptable during the scene

M – Marks or other lasting effects >

  • Where on the body can marks be left
  • What kind of marks can be left
  • What about other lasting effects, like cut hair, soreness, or visible limping
  • Can any permanent marks or alterations be purposefully made
  • Is there a risk of any permanent marks being left by accident

I – Injuries and Illness >

  • Is anyone prone to seizures or other sudden medical issues
  • Does anyone have any communicable diseases
  • Does anyone have any injuries which might interfere with play
  • Does anyone have allergies relevant to the play
  • Does anyone have special needs in an emergency (ie, where is your inhaler)
  • Is anyone on medication which might affect their physical responses

T – Triggers or other psychological limitations >

  • Are there any words or actions which could cause unexpected or severe emotional reactions
  • Do you have any mental health problems which may be relevant to the type of play
  • Is deception of any kind allowed during play
  • Are any negative emotions going to be purposefully stimulated
  • Is anyone under the influence of any mind-altering substances, medical or otherwise

S – Safety and Safe Words >

  • What training/experience do the players have
    • Tops: Are you qualified for the type of play you are doing
    • Bottoms: What makes you think you can handle the play
    • Both: Do you have first aid training in case of an emergency
  • What risks are present and how will they be mitigated
  • Are all necessarily tools and supplies readily accessible
    • Keys for all locks
    • Sharps/biohazard container
    • Emergency supplies, such as safety sheers, wet towel, etc
    • First aid supplies
    • Phone to call emergency services
  • How will you communicate during the scene?
    • Is plain language acceptable?
    • What safewords will be be used?
    • If there could be a gag used, are there non-verbal signals which have the power of a safeword?
    • What are the specific safewords meant to communicate?
  • What aftercare do the participants require
  • What follow-up communications or actions will happen

If this article is helpful to you, please consider sharing it with others, or printing off the quick reference image to distribute at your local club. You could also invite me to come and teach about negotiation or other topics for your local group. See the menus on the top of this page for information.