Can you consent to giving up your right to revoke consent?

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[Content note: Kinky sex, consent play, consensual non-consent]

I am, as regular readers know, a big fan of various types of “consent play” in sex. A lot of people who hear “consent play” think “rape role-play” or “consensual non-consent” or “resistance play,” and don’t get me wrong, all of those things are fun, and a regular part of my sex life.

But what I really enjoy, the siren song that really calls to me, is a little different: it’s the consent play that comes from navigating that space where I give my lover consent to do something to me, then deliberately and intentionally remove my own ability to withdraw consent. Once the activity begins, I’m in it for the ride—there’s no taking it back.

Before we get going, let me say up front a lot of folks consider some of the play my lovers and I explore “edge play,” and there are a lot of people, including veteran BDSM enthusiasts, who flat-out won’t even consider some of the things I do. And that’s okay. I freely admit these tastes are unusual even in the kink scene, and with good reason. They require an iron-clad, unparalleled trust, a deep foundation in trusting both your partner to know and understand how far to take things and, just as importantly, trust in your own resilience in the event you have an unpleasant experience. (People talk quite a lot in the kink scene about the first kind of trust, but not so much about the second. I might write more about that in the future.)

And I get that high resiliency is a privilege. I also get that I haven’t grown up in an environment that tells me I’m supposed to have sex I don’t want, that I’m expected to have sex I don’t want, is a form of privilege, too. I’ve had sex I didn’t want to have, but always by my choice; it was never forced on me. So, yes, I completely understand the emotions I’m describing aren’t necessarily available to everyone.

That inability to withdraw consent, the knowledge that when I start, I’m saying ‘yes’ to my lover knowing that she’s going to do whatever it is and once it starts I will be unable to say no, is absolutely delicious to me.

What does that look like?

Image: https://unsplash.com/@klugzy

Part of it is somnophilia—the taste for sex with a sleeping partner. I don’t wake easily, so when I give a lover permission to use my body whilst I’m asleep, I do it knowing there’s a good chance that I won’t wake up quiiite enough to be able to communicate a ‘no’ even if I decide I object to what’s going on. That’s part of what makes it hot.

That inability to say ‘no,’ that idea that the yes, once I’ve uttered it, can’t be recalled, is intoxicating to me.

The Passionate Pantheon novels Eunice and I write, our far-future, post-scarcity philosophical erotica, explore this theme of consenting to things you can’t take back a lot—it’s a theme we keep returning to.

I wrote a scene into the fourth Passionate Pantheon novel Eunice and I co-authored, Unyielding Devotion (due out later this year), that plays on that idea:

“What’s happening?” Kaytin asked Chasoi, who stared at Lanissae and Royat with bright, hungry eyes.

“They’ll each take two Blessings,” Chasoi said. “The first one ensures their bodies will remain physically aroused no matter what happens to them. And the second, well, that’s the magic.”

“The magic? What does that mean?”

“One of them,” Jakalva said, “will become desperately horny beyond all reason. Are you familiar with the Blessing of Fire?”

“Yes,” Kaytin said.

“It’s like that, but more violent. It removes inhibition and obliterates self-control. The other does just the opposite, causing intense aversion, repulsion even, to the idea of sex. The cage makes sure neither of them can escape.”

“Oh.” Kaytin blinked. “So whoever gets the first vial will…”

“Yes. But that’s only half of it.”

“Half of it how?”

“That’s the beauty,” Chasoi breathed. “The moment either of them has an orgasm, they switch. Whoever was needy becomes averse. Whoever was averse becomes wild beyond control. They stay in the cage until they collapse from exhaustion.” Her eyes glittered.

This scene has been in heavy rotation in my internal fantasy library for years. If I were to live in the City, I might very well volunteer to be in the cage with Lanissae, at least once.

Why?

We included a scene that explains why I find it so attractive:

“Okay, let me try to explain,” Lanissae said. “It’s…” She paused, regarding Kaytin through hooded eyes. “I like…I like the tiny spaces. I like that little moment of clarity that happens when you switch, you see? There’s that one second when you know what’s going to happen. You see it in their eyes. You know that when that second is over, they will want you so badly that nothing you can do will stop them.” She shivered, eyes half-closed, and slipped one hand inside the plunging neckline of her shimmering, lacy dress. “Mmm. To be seen with such desire, to know that when the moment passes you will not want it and would do anything to make it stop, to know that it will happen anyway…there’s a delicious inevitability to it.” She cupped her breast. Her eyelids fluttered. “It’s such an exquisite surrender. You exist only to be ravished.” She exhaled in a soft moan. “You can’t get away. You lose yourself in how much you don’t want it, but it doesn’t matter. You stand on the brink and for one instant, you see it all so clearly, and you know what’s about to happen, and you also know that you chose to be here. You walked into the cage yourself, of your own free will…oh!” She leaned back on the couch and caressed her nipple beneath her thin dress.

Kaytin stared at her with desire and revulsion roiling within her. “And then,” Lanissae went on, “the violation is over, and the change happens, and you have that moment of clarity again. You feel the heat in your body. For that one delicious second, you know. When the heat reaches your head, the need will take you, and nothing in the world will matter except the person you are about to ravish. Everything stops. You balance on that edge. You recognize each other. You see the humanity there. In that instant, you share a connection that’s absolutely magical. For that one brief second, you see each other, really see each other—not as predator and prey, but as two people sharing an experience. You know that when the moment passes, you will not be able to stop yourself any more than you could stop what was coming when you were the object. You can feel your mind going…mmm.” She caressed her neck with her fingertips. “You embrace that moment of humanity, before it all slips away. It’s…uh! It’s so magnificent to stand on that cliff and feel yourself about to fall.” Lanissae arched languidly, running both hands down her arms. “When I’m in the cage, I live for those moments of connection between the moments of madness.”

I totally, 100% get that most people would take one look at that scenario and say “oh hell no.” And I get why, and that’s okay.

We don’t actually have the technology to do that, of course, but I’ve experimented with things that get as close to that feeling as I can.

For example, I learned when I burned my foot that cannabis edibles work really well for pain management on me—better, in fact, than the oxycodone the burn clinic prescribed.

I also learned that I get extremely suggestible when I’m high. and I’ve incorporated that in my sex life with some of my partners. I know that once I take that edible, my ability to withdraw consent will become impaired. That’s the point. That’s part of what makes it hot—that inevitability, that sense that once I’ve taken it, I will not be able to do anything about it. The drug takes about half an hour to start working, and that’s half an hour to really savor the knowledge that I have already passed a point of no return: that my ability to withdraw consent will soon fade and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

Image: Nicholas Sampson

In principle, yes, consent to sex exists only in the moment and cannot be withdrawn.

In practice, the idea I like to explore is, can I give consent that is irrevocable? Can I deliberately create a situation where once i have given my lover consent to do something to me, I have also given away my right (or my ability!) to change my mind?

Is it ethical to do this? I think it is. We do it all the time in areas that aren’t connected to sex. Contracts, for example, don’t usually have an “oops, I changed my mind” clause—once signed, that’s it, no taksies-backsies.

Can we do the same with sex?

I think the answer is yes. I also think that’s super-hot. Other people might not agree. The thing about autonomy, though, is that people who value consent and agency must also respect that I have the right to say “yes, you can do this to me, and I explicitly give you permission to continue doing it to me even if I change my mind.”

Is this everybody’s cup of tea? No.

Should it be permissible in the context of sexual ethics? I think the answer is yes. I do believe that basic autonomy, the notion of “my body, my rules,” extends to me choosing, if I want, to give someone else consent with the explicit understanding it can’t be revoked.

In fact, I’ll even go one step further. Ready?

What we find sexy often varies with our mood. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already learned that there are things that sound sexy when you’re aroused, but as soon as you’re sexually spent, suddenly seem a whole lot less interesting.

I’ve had a lover where one of our dynamics is we would negotiate new things to try whilst in the middle of having sex, when we were both ramped up and horny…things I would give this sort of irrevocable consent to. Then she would get me off, or I’d get myself off, over and over again until I was completely d-o-n-e done and not interested in sex anymore…

…at which point, then she’d do the thing.

And that is quite a potent head trip, let me say.

Now: Do I believe that it’s ethical to do this? Yes. Do I believe it’s ethical to give irrevokable consent and then change your mental state, for example with drugs or change in mood or arousal? With fully informed consenting adults who understand exactly what they’re getting into, yes.

Do I believe it’s ethical to do this for an indeterminate amount of time, as in “now and forever you can do whatever you like to me even if I say no”? That’s…a different thing. I think healthy relationships are always voluntary, and you cannot reasonably make promises of access to you or your body that continue past a relationship’s end. Not gonna tell you you’re a bad person if that’s your jam, but I am aware of ways that could easily become problematic.

And yes, I can see where even limited irrevocable consent might become problematic. Like I said, edge play.

But here’s the thing:

Playing in this way is beautifully, powerfully, intoxicatingly intimate.

Image: https://unsplash.com/@klugzy

Intimacy is about letting someone in, about letting them touch you, about allowing access to your deepest and truest self.

Part of the bewitching beauty of irrevocable consent for me is, as the character Lanissae says in our book, the connection. I am granting someone access to me in a literal, visceral way, allowing them to touch me, and giving up my ability to throw them out, to shut the door.

It’s an exquisite kind of intimacy, an intimacy that says “here, in this space, with you, right now, I promise not to take this back.” It’s an embrace of intensely deep trust.

How can it be anything but connective?

Come closer, and fertilize me with your reproductive stalk…

Orchids are cool, in a “nature is horrifying” way. There are species of orchid that have evolved structures that look like insects, which they use to lure in insects searching for mates.

Some orchids use these insect visitors to pollinate themselves. The insect does its thing and then flies off, horny and frustrated and covered with sticky pollen, but otherwise none the worse for wear.

But some orchids are carnivorous. They lure insects to their doom, slowly digesting their prey alive as the ill-fated insect struggles helplessly.

And some orchids mimic insect pheromones, sweeting the honeytrap with the same signals that female insects use.

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about sexual parasitism of humans lately, in no small measure because I’ve finished the first version of the Xenomorph Hiphugger Strapon, a Giger-esque nightmare sex toy first conceived by my wife Joreth. Imagine an alien facehugger that wraps around the subject’s hips, then incites the subject to seek out victims, violating them in a parasitic frenzy. As creepy as this image is, it’s table stakes in the game of real-world sexual parasitism, which is horrifying.

Anyway, that’s got me thinking: what if an alien species created mimics of human females to lure in the male of the species? (An idea for a horror novel with this theme is bubbling in my brain; stay tuned!)

I’ve been playing with a version of the Stable Diffusion 2.0 AI image generator tuned to human faces, looking to take the images out of my head and drag them into the light.

What I’ve come up with so far is…well, pretty horrifying.

I’ve started work on a small, AI-illustrated graphic novella (is a graphic novella a thing?), though with all the projects in the pipe right now—including a version of the hiphugger strapon optimized for oral violation—it may be a while before it’s finished.

Preorders for The Hallowed Covenant!

Preorders for The Hallowed Covenant, my new post-scarcity science fiction erotic novel with Eunice Hung, just went up today! And man, I am really, really excited about this book.

This is probably my favorite book I’ve ever coauthored. We take a deep dive into what it’s like to live in the City, along the way touching on themes like:

• How do you have a system of justice in a post-scarcity society with no police or codified laws?

• What are the AIs the people in this society worship as gods? What are they like?

• What do transgression and atonement look like when there’s no such thing as law?

And of course there’s lots of sex, much of it involving kinks so exotic they don’t even have names.

The novel follows seven friends as they wrestle with changes in their lives, set against the backdrop of the Festival of the Lady (the AI god of art and creativity)—think Burning Man in a society with a tech level that makes Star Trek look late Bronze Age, but more hedonistic.

The first two novels in the Passionate Pantheon universe have done so well people started asking us for audiobook versions, and guess what? We delivered! The Hallowed Covenant has an audiobook, narrated by the amazing (and incredibly sexy) Francesca Peregrine.

Thanks to a special arrangement with the Nobilis Erotica podcast, you can listen to the first two chapters here!

I am just incredibly, incredibly proud of this book. Like, I am absolutely giddy that it’s almost out. If you like science fiction and you like sex, I suspect you’ll probably like it too.

Check it out here! If you back the crowdfunding, you can score a copy before pub date for less than you’ll find it anywhere else. (And stay tuned for new perks coming soon!)

New projects in the pipe!

This has been an incredibly productive year. Well, years, actually. The last three years have been the most creative, most productive time in my life. And I’m pleased to share some of that creativity with you!

First up, a new novel, The Hallowed Covenant! This is the third book I’ve co-authored with the marvelous Eunice Hung. It’s also the third book in the Passionate Pantheon series of far-future, post-scarcity science fiction theocratic pornography.

Yes, we invented a genre.

Anyway, I’m incredibly proud of this novel. We explore (I think) some really interesting ideas about autonomy, responsibility, atonement, and forgiveness, amidst all the really hot super-kinky sex.

This is also the first Passionate Pantheon novel that will have an audiobook version, narrated by the amazing Francesca Peregrine. She had some lovely things to say:


The book publishes this October. Preorders are up on Barnes & Noble and Amazon, but watch this space! You’ll be able to get a copy before pub date at a special price (and an early peek at the audiobook and the fourth novel in the series, Unyielding Devotion) if you back our crowdfunding next month!

I’ve also just launched a new website for makers who like sex: Tentacle Love. This is a DIY site full of tutorials and tips for making your own silicone sex toys, and includes downloadable 3D printable molds for you to cast sex toys yourself.

(And yes, you can also get a Team Tentacle T-shirt if you like.)

I’ve been making silicone sex toys for a while, so from time to time I also plan to put one-offs on the site for sale. These aren’t your typical sex toys, oh no—my tastes being what they are, I’ve made everything from kazoo ball gags (yes, seriously) to double-sided tentacle gags to…well, stranger things.

New book out!

The second book in the Passionate Pantheon series of far-future, post-scarcity erotic science fiction, Divine Burdens, I co-authored with Eunice Hung is out!

This is…unusual erotica.

When Eunice and I wrote the first book in the series, Divine Burdens,, we spent a lot of time shopping it around to publishers, who kept telling us there was no way to sell it. Erotica, we were told over and over (and over!), is niche. People like what the like. Someone who reads shapeshifter werewolf porn won’t read shapeshifter vampire porn. Unless the book fits a genre, there’s no way to reach its audience.

Well, these books don’t fit a genre.

They’re kinky AF, they are set in a far-future society ruled by AIs who are worshipped as gods through ritualized sex, and they have fetishes so exotic they don’t have names (we checked).

So not what most publishers wanted.

Well, we persevered, and now the second novel is available! And the third is in its fourth draft, and the fourth is in its second draft, and we’re planning the fifth…ahem. Anyway.

So, yeah, this book…isn’t like the first. The first book was Utopian post-scarcity erotica. With this one, we wanted to see what would happen if we took a post-scarcity society and flipped the Utopia on its head. Divine Burdens is erotic horror.

Top athletes competing for the honor of running through a forest for three days, pursued by Hunters trying to capture them and commune with the God of the Hunt through their bodies! An exile being taken to the temple of the God of the Deep and face violation by tentacle! A volunteer playing host to a sacred parasite that lives within her, flooding her body with powerful aphrodisiacs while she and her fellow volunteers undergo rituals that are half religious worship, half medical exam!

“Amakoli will preside over tomorrow’s Winnowing,” High Priest Henlith said. “Right now there are, correct me if I’m wrong, twelve contestants competing to be this year’s Sacrifice. After tomorrow, there will be four.” He raised a mug. “Tomorrow, we will measure the worth of the contenders. Tonight, let us feast!”

A ragged rowdy cheer filled the hall. Savine leaned over to Lija. “Do you think you’re going to make the cut?”

“I don’t think it,” Lija said. “I know it.”

“Arrogant,” Amakoli said from her chair. “I like it. That’s a winner’s attitude.”

“Care to make a wager?” Savine said.

“What did you have in mind?”

“Simple. If you make the cut, I’ll be your bondslave. If you don’t, you’ll be mine.” Savine bared her teeth. “I mean to make sure you don’t.”

“How long?”

“Shall we say five days?”

Lija snorted. “You don’t sound very confident.” She glanced at Amakoli, who watched their negotiation with interest. “I propose a counter-offer. If I make the cut and you don’t, it’s fifty days, beginning the day after the end of the Sacrifice.”

“And if I make the cut and you don’t?” Savine said.

“Same. Fifty days.”

“Done.”

A small drone of gold metal shaped like a wizened old man fluttered down from the ceiling on crystalline green wings. It whirred mechanically as it opened the book it carried. “Bet recorded,” it said in its musical voice. Savine smirked at Lija.

After dinner that night, the great hall erupted into a boisterous party, rowdy even by the standards of those who worshipped the Hunt. Music filled the space, dominated by deep thrumming percussion that set the floating globe-lights to vibrating. Mood-altering substances flowed freely from the Providers, from large tankards brimming with intoxicants to small crystal vials filled with hallucinogens and libido-enhancing liquids. Contract drones darted about recording bets. Lija heard her name mentioned several times.

Brin approached Lija with a teardrop-shaped vial filled with faintly glowing liquid that danced with tiny blue specks. “Drink this,” she said.

“Okay.” Lija swallowed the contents and chased the sweetness down with a shot of brandy. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “What was it?”

“Dunno,” Brin said. “I asked the Provider to give me something interesting.”

The fires in the huge fireplaces roared high. People danced in the space around the long table. Occasional small groups of two or three or four went off to the little screened-in alcoves, to come out some time later happy and, frequently, with less clothing.

Kerrim and a bare-chested Jassin whirled by, dancing with each other. Kerrim held a large mug and, against all odds, spun about without spilling whatever was in it. “Lija!” Kerrim called. He waved the mug in her direction. “I just made a bet with Liat about whether or not you’ll be the next Sacrifice.”

“Oh? Did you bet for or against?”

He grinned. “For. Let’s toast!”

Lija looked around. “I don’t have a drink.” 

“Here, take mine.” He handed her the mug and summoned another from the Provider at the end of the table. “To you and a successful Hunt!”

They smacked their mugs together. Lija drank the clear liquid. It burned her throat and stung her eyes. “By the Hunt, what is this?”

“Potent!” Kerrim said.

Jassin grabbed her hand. The three of them whirled together. The world softened around the edges. Lija’s body flushed. Her face grew warm.

Jassin and Kerrim linked arms and danced in a small circle around Lija. She giggled. Across the room, she saw Tatian and Amakoli talking in a corner near one of the fireplaces. Then Jassin scooped Lija off her feet. She squealed as he twirled her through the air.

“Hey, I was thinking—” Kerrim started. Lija grabbed him and kissed him. He melted into her arms. “Mmm, you read my mind!” he said when she broke the kiss.

“Don’t be greedy!” Jassin said. He put his arms around Kerrim and kissed him deeply. 

Lija’s vision went fuzzy. A face swam into view. “Would you like to kiss me?” Lija asked the blurred shape.

“Yes please,” Savine said. She draped her arms around Lija and kissed her gently, with great attention, tongue flicking lightly across Lija’s lips.

“That’s nice,” Lija giggled.

“If I win our bet,” Savine said, “I am going to enjoy hurting you so very much. I will hurt you every single day for fifty days.”

“If,” Lija said.

We’ve put a tremendous amount of love and work into every aspect of these books. Seriously, you wouldn’t believe. There are places where a six-hour conversation becomes two lines in a book.

We’ve even started a Passionate Pantheon blog to offer a behind-the-scenes peek at the worldbuilding you won’t get to see in the novels, like, for example, the citizens of the City as modern-day reinterpretations of the Fey.

If that sounds like your jam, check it out!