Written by Lin Hammond.
Art by Anubis Marinez.
In my vanilla sex life, I felt crushed by the weight of all of the expectations. I felt like I was supposed to like certain activities in a certain order at a certain frequency and if I deviated from that at all, it was a problem. One of the things that originally attracted me to kink is that negotiation is normalized. In kink, because you’re not playing by “the rules,” you get to (and have to) make your own rules. This allows for a clarity and intentionality that I wasn’t able to achieve before. Being able to express my desires, curiosities, and needs openly has been liberating.
Of course, in order to make this work, you have to do the work. I find that it’s difficult to have reflective conversations right before or after scenes, when I’m already in my scene headspace. As a Dominant, I take responsibility for everyone’s positive experience during play and that means making space to have vulnerable conversations. A recurring check-in is a great way to do that.
A few tips before we jump into the nitty-gritty:
- Make check-ins fun. Get takeout, cook something fun together, make time to watch a favorite show after. Check-ins need aftercare too!
- Make sure you have enough time. Nothing makes it harder to get an idea out than being rushed.
- Have a document (shared or individual) where you can add topics to discuss as you think of them.
- I like to schedule check-ins every few scenes. For someone I am playing with weekly, I like a monthly check-in. For someone I am playing with monthly, we can check in every 3 or 4 months.
As you’re planning a check-in, here are some topics to consider:
I like to start by doing general wellness check-ins. How is everyone doing, in terms of mental health, physical health, sexual desire, vanilla stress, or anything else it might be helpful to have out on the table? This information is just good to know and it can help guide play decisions; if the sub has been really tired or depressed recently it’s probably not a great time for a complicated service assignment.
I like to review each scene and any other play from the past month. How did it feel? Any types of play that you want to try again but differently? Were your aftercare needs met? This doesn’t replace a scene debrief, which I like to do a day or two after each scene, but with a little more time to process you may have new insights.
I keep a running list of protocols and check to make sure each protocol is working for everyone. Make space to talk about revising, ending, and adding new protocols. Having protocols written down makes them easier to revise and makes sure everyone has the same understanding of the protocols.
I also keep a running list of play moratoriums and retirements. It’s nice to be able to put a certain type of play on hold, knowing that you’ll swing back to it during your check in. If something continues to be unappealing or if you reintroduce it and it’s still not fun, you can thank it for the learning opportunity and retire that type of play completely.
Priorities, Fantasies, Ideas
It’s really important to share what you’re excited about and plan for the future! You can talk through role play scenarios or make specific priorities for which types of play you want to get to in the time between now and the next check in. As a Dom who likes to scene plan, it’s really helpful to have this to look back on as a menu of options and ideas. Plus, this can help you notice if you need to do any research or practice before trying a new kind of play. Working up to a big consensual non-consent scene? Maybe schedule a safe word practice session first.
Make space to share any fantasies that have come up, no matter how unfeasible. Sharing fantasies can help you notice “the kink behind the kink” and be able to say “Hmmm, it seems like a lot of your fantasies revolve around being irresistible. Let’s see how we can incorporate that feeling into our play.”
Don’t forget to include moods and feelings in types of play you are interested in! I like to have a list of moods that I can use as themes for scenes. Particularly fun ones have been: used, overwhelmed, pampered, ruined, owned.
Even if you’re not dating your play partner, it’s a good idea to check in on the state of your relationship. Is everyone feeling respected and cared for? Is there anything that happened in the last month that felt off or icky? Is everyone feeling safe to be vulnerable? Is there anything that made you feel particularly connected and close? Because some types of play (consensual non-consent, humiliation) play with disconnection while others build connection (praise, service), I like to know how connected we are feeling and what the dynamic needs next.
Other Topics as Needed
Throw in longer conversations about whatever is coming up. Thinking about collaring? Talk about what that would look like and what that would mean to you! Does someone have a physical or life change (new med making it hard to cum? different living situation?)? Talk about how to adapt your play to meet new needs! Share kink education resources! Talk about your favorite post-scene snacks!
Part of the joy of having regular check-ins is that it lowers the bar for when something is a big enough deal to make time for a conversation about it. If we only schedule conversations as needed, we will wait until we need to talk about something before bringing it up. While it may seem weirdly formal to have a scheduled check-in, my experience is that a recurring check-in actually makes space to talk about things more casually.