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NS(K)Q: Q24 – How to Tell When No Means No

February 1st, 2014

NoStupidKinkQuestionsGandhi said that if you want to change the world, you have to be the change you want to see. To that end, Insatiable Desire brings you No Stupid (Kink) Questions, a series of questions asked by novice kinksters around the web. If you have a question for us, leave it in comments, or send it to rayne (at) insatiabledesire (dot) com with “NS(K)Q” in the subject.

Question 24:

I’ve recently become involved with a submissive who has a habit of saying “no” when they really mean “yes”. A couple of times, I’ve backed off because they said no, and they got upset because they expected me to know they didn’t mean it. I’m kind of concerned because this could just as easily go the other way, and then I’m an accidental rapist because I haven’t learned how to read them, yet. I’d really like to avoid this. How do I know they’re saying no and mean it?

First, let me commend you for addressing this before you become an accidental rapist. A lot of people, these days, are “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” people, and in this case, that’s no good. Especially when one considers the fact that, in some cases, consent is the only thing standing between BDSM and assault.

You can go a couple ways with this, depending on the dynamic and boundaries of your relationship, and you and your partner’s wants and needs. So here’s my question.

Do you enjoy playing with consensual-nonconsent? That is, when your partner says, “no,” and doesn’t actually mean it, does it get you off to push beyond that no?


Then you, my friend, need a safe word. A safe word is a word that you typically wouldn’t say during sex or BDSM play. It’s used as a sort of safety net with which the bottom can let the top know that they’re treading dangerous, or even unwanted territory.

Many people use the “stoplight” system. “Green” means, “Everything’s great! Keep doing what you’re doing!” “Yellow” means, “Things are a little iffy. Slow down.” –or– “I don’t like what you’re doing, right now. Do something different.” “Red” means, “Holy fuck, dude, STOP! I need off this ride!”

With a safe word, the bottom can continue to say no when they don’t mean it. They just have to agree to use their safe word when they really want the top to stop what they’re doing. And just like that, you’ll know when your submissive means no.


You might have to figure out a way to train this out of them. Start by talking to them, so they understand why this bothers you. During the conversation, lay out your plan for teaching them not to say no when they mean yes.

If it were me, I’d start by stopping whatever we’re doing every time they say no. If that doesn’t work (and it might not), I’d move on to punishing the submissive when they say no and don’t mean it.

This doesn’t have to be corporal punishment. It depends on what your submissive responds to. You can have them write lines or an essay about why saying no when they mean yes is detrimental to your relationship and dynamic. You can give them corner time, or have them perform a chore they don’t particularly care to do. Other punishments some dominants use are kneeling on rice or the spiky side of a carpet protector, holding their arms out at their sides while holding books or buckets of water, holding a coin on the wall by their nose…use your imagination.

Sometimes, you can tell by the person’s behavior. If they’re obviously turned on, and leaning into what you’re doing, there’s a good chance they’re actually enjoying themselves. But I’m with you. Nobody wants to be an accidental rapist, or be accused of pushing someone’s boundaries when they weren’t interested in having them pushed. So for me, these are your best options.

  1. Camryn
    February 2nd, 2014 at 02:35 | #1

    I would be really freaked out the first time that happened. Then annoyed that they’d be upset that I stopped. 😛 Thank goodness for communication!

  2. February 3rd, 2014 at 10:31 | #2

    @ Camryn Right? Thanks for the comment. 🙂

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