The Four Kinky Agreements

Emily Anne 
Updated: March 17, 2020
I am a self-help junkie as well as a total kinkster and BDSM fanatic.  So, it shouldn’t be surprising that I would eventually connect self-help principles with BDSM/kink ones. This article tracks the principles in the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. A seminal book for the modern age, the book is praised by Oprah, Depak Chopra and many other new age philosophers and thinkers. The “Four Agreements” outlined in the book are summarized as follows:
  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions
  4. Always Do Your Best
These rules can be as difficult to follow in the bedroom as they are in life, but the rules are valuable all the same. They are rules I strive to follow as I navigate my sex life as a switch. The following is my take on each agreement as it applies to kink and BDSM. Enjoy.

1. Be Impeccable With your Word

“The word is not just a sound or a written symbol. The word is a force; it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life.”  (Ruiz, at p. 26.) “Your word is pure magic, and misuse of your word is black magic.” (p. 27) “Impeccability” means “without sin.”  To be “impeccable” with your “word” means to be true to yourself and your word. According to the book, this essentially means that you should shrug off others’ expectations and programming of you and listen to yourself. Similarly, in kink, you must be impeccable with your word to yourself, which means to be clear with yourself about what you truly want in a sexual encounter and what makes you happy or what turns you off. Sometimes you don’t know what might turn you off until you try. That is where you might dip your toe into a particular fetish or kink, let’s say “water works,” (urinating on someone), and, once trying it, either decide you like it or decide its not for you. If it is not for you, simply being impeccable with your word means you communicate that to your partner through words.  You can either express it as a “hard limit” or simply state clearly “I do not want to do that.” The other part of being impeccable with your word is being impeccable with your word as to promises to your partner. Whether it be not flaking on a play date (a big no-no in this community ESPECIALLY if you are part of a group that is counting on you), or not crossing boundaries that are set by your partner. Be true to your word – once you say you will “be there” (ie, show up for play) or agree to someone’s boundary…stick to it. Time after time, I have dealt with play partners who ruined a night I had set up with multiple partners (such as in a threesome) who cancel last minute. I have learned to be super compassionate if the session would have been a first for a playmate who cancels, because the fear of the unknown is real and palpable, and no one should feel pressured to participate in sex if they don't feel ready. This comes back around to being impeccable with your word to yourself and really asking yourself what you want before agreeing to a session.  Negotiating what will happen in a session far ahead of time is important for this reason and especially for newbies. This brings us to…consent.  Consent is defined as “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.”  The whole idea of consent is that it applies at all times…before, during, and all through any type of play. (A good way to remember the aspects of consent is “FRIES” -freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic, specific.) If you are a bottom or a sub (“submissive”), it is your responsibility (your main responsibility) to set boundaries as clearly as you can and use the safe word.  Communicating consent is incredibly important in BDSM and kink play, where there is often role playing going on and where the intensity can sometimes fry your brain cells.  As a top or a dominant (“dom”), your job is to maintain those boundaries and protect the bottom or sub.  When the safe word is used (depending on the term you designated prior to play), it means full stop immediately.  A sub need not ever have to explain or apologize for using the safe word or setting a boundary during play.  Later, if the partners wish to have a discussion about the boundary, they may do so, so long as both consent to the discussion and there is mutual respect and no judgment or blame. In the book, Ruiz uses this rule as a way for you to break old agreements imposed on yourself and create a new promise to yourself: to be impeccable with your word means to be true to yourself and what you want. This is key in all kink and BDSM play:  you might be playing a role, but that role is one you must want to play.

2. Don’t take anything personally

Ooooo this is a big one and can be a difficult rule to follow.  For one thing, sex can be soooo personal. I mean a lot of it has to do with your body, which is the most personal thing you own.  Thus, the idea of not “taking things personally” might be a radical concept here. Bear with me. This is not a hard and fast all or nothing rule:  for me, this rule means maintaining an attitude of objectivity in play, much like an actor does when playing a role. For example, in one of my recent sessions where I was leading a group of women on a sub, the sub said something in the heat of the moment which hurt my feelings.  I took a moment, stepped into the hallway, regrouped and went back to the session. Why? Because in play, we should feel free to express ourselves and that is exactly what he did. He did not mean to hurt my feelings and for me to “take it personally” would have ruined the session. Another example is when a top or a dom might use the wrong term with me, such as calling me “bitch.” Now, I don’t like to be called that. Whore, slut, etc I like. But for some reason, bitch leaves me cold.  If I did not think to tell the dom prior to the session that I disliked that word, I could simply use the safe word during the session (if he used the term too much), or wait until after the session is over during aftercare and the debriefing stage  to express to him that I do not care for that term and why it takes me out of the scene. If the dom prefers that word, he or she can then determine if it is a deal breaker or if he/she can use a different term. “There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.” (p. 59.)  This is so true in BDSM play.  That is why it is called “play” to begin with – it isn’t personal, yet it can be deeply felt. When you watch children play a game or role-play, they might get into fights but soon realize the game provided context and the context is over and it is time to shake hands. If your partner offends you, hurts you (emotionally or physically in a way you did not intend), you must let them know so that they do not do it again.  In addition, if these things happened during BDSM role play, as hard as it might be, try to remember this rule:  if you make it about you, the hurt will stick and fester. If you can try to make it about the situation, the hurt is easier to let pass. I once let a partner face fuck me violently, and afterwards I realized it really hurt my neck. I decided (without telling him) that I did not want to play with him anymore because of it (plus some other things…I was getting satisfied elsewhere anyway). When he came back around to ask to play, I told him point blank:  “You don’t treat your baby girl right. You hurt my neck.” He was concerned and had no idea.  He was right to tell me I should communicate with him. Yet, I did not want him to think he was doing anything “wrong” or ruin his confidence.  This was a mistake. If he was going to learn to be a better dom and playmate, he needed to know, whether it hurt his “feelings” or not. This rule is good to soak up and keep in the back of your mind, especially when you are feeling bratty as a sub, or a top experiencing a bratty sub that is getting on your nerves. The best thing to do as a top is to take a step back and observe what worked in the past…objectively…and not make it personal about the sub or your adequacy (or inadequacy) as a top or dom.

3. Don’t make assumptions.

I think this is the most important rule for kinksters out of the four rules. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. You simply cannot make assumptions in BDSM play.  You must negotiate the session ahead of time, establish clear boundaries and limits, and make sure everyone is on the same page. If you make an assumption of a partner or how they are feeling or what they are thinking, there is a huge risk you can injure them emotionally and/or physically. For example, if you assume your partner is ok with anal and you try to go there and your partner assumes that as a sub she/he cannot say “no,” you have just created a situation where consent becomes very “squishy” and the sub could get hurt and feel violated. Above all – don’t assume, COMMUNICATE.  That means before, during and AFTER the session. People forget how important it is to talk after sex about what you liked or didn’t like as much. If you can communicate what you didn’t like or what went “wrong” (if anything), then you can avoid the same thing happening in the future.  And also, both partners then learn something new for themselves, the partnership and/or future partners. For tops, when in doubt straight up ASK. Your job is to read the sub’s responses in a session, but you are NOT a mind reader. Repeat – you are NOT a mind reader and you should always verbally check in with a sub and ask if everything is ok. Once you get into a rhythm with a sub and you have played for awhile, there comes a time where you can start to ease into short-hand or just read body language. But in the beginning this is a recipe for disaster so ASK and check in verbally. Male partners: please do not be afraid to ask and to take constructive feedback after a session. This is not about your ego:  it says nothing about your prowess as a man for a woman sub to tell you information about how she felt during a session.  If anything, if you can learn how to listen to your sub about something that did not go as well as you had hoped, it makes you a stronger and more confident dom and she/he will trust you more next time because you had the courage to LISTEN and take it in.

4. Always do your best.

Do your best to honor the above three agreements. And remember no one is perfect. Just the fact that you are willing to read this article means you are conscientious enough to want to LEARN and do better. When something goes wrong, know that you can ask yourself “What could I have done better?” If you are a bottom, you can ask yourself “Where did I not communicate my boundaries and why?” If you are a top, you can ask yourself “Where did I cross boundaries and why? Where was I not in touch with the sub’s needs? What safeguards could I put in place next time to make the session better?” Part of doing your best is educating yourself on the kinks and BDSM play you are exploring and practicing. For example, if you are into rope play, you will need to know safety so that you do not inadvertently cut off blood flow to your partner’s body parts, mostly commonly the wrists and ankles. Part of asking yourself what you could do better ties into the “not taking things personally” rule:  if you can ask yourself what you can do better, then you are being more objective about the play and your role in it.  If you are instead tied up in emotional reactions to your partner, you are less likely to see areas to improve. Conclusion To sum it up: 1. Be impeccable with your word; 2. Don’t take things personally; 3. Don’t make assumptions (about your partner); and 4. Do your best. If you can follow these rules (along with the standard rules of BDSM), then you are on the path of a true kinkster and your play will be a success!

This is for the truly kinky

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