A Thought On Public Play

There are lots of people for whom exhibitionism is a kink. Lots of men and women, myself included, enjoy having an audience when we fuck. Lots of kinksters like the idea of being able to interact in open hierarchy, being seen as masters and slaves or pups and handlers or whatever. Humiliation play takes on an extra sting when there are witnesses to the sub’s abuse.

But a lot of people haven’t stopped to think about the ethics of public play. In particular, they haven’t thought about the issue of consent and public play. The foundational principle of kink is consent; never force someone to do something they have not consented to do. Fucking someone who hasn’t consented to it is rape. Striking someone who hasn’t consented is assault. Flashing your dick or fucking in public is public exposure, public indecency, or a variety of other things, depending on the details.

The basic rule for public play and consent is “never force someone to witness something they haven’t consented to witness”. If the presence of an audience is part of the point of what you’re doing, you’re obligated to get the consent of everyone in the audience before you do it. Just as you have a right to not participate in religious rituals you don’t support, other people have a right to not participate in your sexual activity. If the presence of an audience is part of the turn on, you are involving them. And that means their consent matters just as much as your sub’s consent matters.

There are lots of reasons why this is important. Your spectator might be embarrassed by what you’re doing. They might be disgusted by it. They might be morally offended by it. They might be uncomfortably aroused by it. They might be triggered by it. They might be frightened by it. You have a right to your kinks, but you don’t have a right to an audience for your kinks.

A while ago I ran across some cellphone footage where a guy was riding the subway late at night. The only other person in the car is a woman about 10-15 feet away reading a book. The guy films himself discretely pulling out his dick and jacking off, angling the camera to make sure that the woman is in the shot the whole time. He posted it, boasting about how she never saw a thing.

This video infuriated me, because the guy was full of shit. Any woman riding a subway car late at night, alone except for one guy is 100% absolutely certainly aware of what that guy is doing. She’s not acknowledging that she’s aware of him, because if she does, she runs the risk of him escalating whatever he’s doing. So most women have learned to be pretty good at pretending to ignore strange men doing inappropriate things. So this asshole is congratulating himself for getting away with something that in reality was probably making the woman extremely uncomfortable and concerned for her safety. He violated her consent purely because it amused him.

So if you and your partner want to engage in any sort of sexual activity in which spectators are a factor, you have two choices. 1) Do it somewhere that you can either get explicit consent or assume the consent of those present. That somewhere is called a bathhouse or a sex club. A lot of gay bars fall into this category as well. In those sexually explicit environments, it’s understood that anyone going in there is consenting to witness sexual or semi-sexual activity.

2) Do whatever it is you want to do so subtly that no one else thinks that what you’re doing is sexual or kinky. That means disguising your power exchange as something innocuous, like the sub being polite by holding the door for the dom, or the sub wearing a remote-controlled vibrator that no one is going to spot. If anyone notices that you’re doing something, you have an ethical obligation to stop what you’re doing.

There was recently a news story from England about an asshole going around in a gimp suit in a small English town, jumping out of dark alleyways at unsuspecting targets (women, of course, because it’s always women that these assholes target). Shit like that is just totally unacceptable. It’s not funny. It’s not harmless kinky fun. It’s not ‘freaking the vanillas’. It’s terrorizing women, and it’s a form of sexual assault. And this asshole (who seems to have been caught, fortunately) has made things just a little harder for every other kinky person by reinforcing the widespread idea that kinky people are dangerous.

So by all means, lead your sub around on a leash or piss on him or whatever it is that gets you off. But do it ethically and responsibly. Don’t violate anyone’s consent.

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