Dom/mes have a responsibility to develop their abilities ineffective communication and comprehension of verbal speech. They also must possess the foresight to establish a non-verbal protocol with their subs/bottoms/clients. This, of course, goes both ways as subs/bottoms must possess these skills as well. Why is this type of communication so significant if we already have verbal communication?
Some reasons include:
- Gags which remove the ability to speak in a coherent manner
- It helps us internalize that our responses to different kinds of stimuli are nuanced and aren’t always verbal
- It broadens our understanding of consent
- Reaching “space” (subspace, topspace, etc) MAY cause symptoms that include but aren’t limited to slurred speech, lowered inhibitions, absent speech and miscommunication
- Loud Environments that make verbal communication difficult.
- Playing with individuals who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing
Examples of nonverbal communication:
- Eyes – Eyes are capable of conveying a wide spectrum of information. Eye contact from the bottom can denote attentiveness. Closed eyes may denote bliss or concentration. Tightly closed eyes may mean an act is being endured or high sensation has been received. The eyebrows and forehead give further nuance. A top can also use their own eyes to convey feelings like reassurance, detachment or strike fear.
- Facial expressions – The face as a whole. These convey the condition of play itself. A smile with raised eyebrows can mean excitement or surprise is present. A grimace could mean that a top has caused discomfort.
- Gestures – Where gags are involved, gestures MUST BE established as a person can’t speak properly. This could mean stomping the ground or waving a hand when play is too intense or needs to be changed. Additionally, some peeps lose vocal/mental coherence when subspace/topspace is reached. During the negotiation, ask your playmate if they easily reach space. For those who go deeply into space, asking someone to hold something that will make considerable noise when dropped is a good safety measure.
- Posture and body orientation – Constantly changing posture or shifting weight on the bottoms part could mean discomfort in relation to how or where they were subdued if that was not the intention of the scene
- Body Language – Striking a person only to see their body have a quick and strong reaction could mean a strike was too hard. A bottom who leans into strikes could mean they are enjoying it. Limp wrists are often the telltale sign of compressed nerves in the case of bondage. Everything from subspace to lack of consciousness to rope pressing and damaging nerves could be the culprit.
- Paralanguage – intonation, pitch and speed of speaking, hesitation noises and more can modify, give nuance to the meaning or convey emotion. Paralanguage is especially important to me personally as it relates to consent. If a person says yes to something but the pitch of their voice does not match or are hesitating then parties involved must be responsible and take that as unenthusiastic. Enthusiastic consent sounds exactly as it should. What’s more is that paralanguage is integral to play being ceased or altered.
Along with both verbal and non-verbal communication, we want to make sure we are always checking in throughout our scenes. Checking in is more than the color system. It’s also looking for what a person needs based on non-verbal feedback. Lastly, do not be afraid to end a scene “prematurely “ based on the feedback you’ve gotten from a playmate. It only keeps people’s best interests at heart.