If you’re into power play, this one’s for you.
Have you ever been super into the idea of your partner pinning you down as you’re squirming underneath them? Or been turned on by aggressive sex or the idea of being restrained? Do you find it hot thinking about your partner tearing your clothes off or even forcing you to have sex? If you harbor hookup fantasies where you feel out of control — aka your partner is forcing you to have sex with them “against your will” but you’re actually in on the plan and enjoying it — you may be into a common BDSM fantasy called consensual non-consent (CNC).
In all things sex and dating, consent always matters. No means no, and you should never do anything you’re uncomfortable with. But in some steamy situations, what happens if your “no” is secretly a “yes?” Despite how forbidden it may feel to play with the boundaries of consent, CNC can be a fun way to heighten sexual experiences with your partner(s).
With the right person, CNC can be a deliciously fun exploration into BDSM and erotic role play — as long as clear communication and consent are involved. If you’re curious about CNC but aren’t sure where to begin, I’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know about CNC, how to safely practice it, and why it can be so hot.
What Is Consensual Non-Consent & How Do You Practice It?
What exactly does CNC mean? Cindy Luquin, a certified sexuality educator, tells Elite Daily that CNC is an “exploration of the eroticization of giving up complete power to another person.” If you’ve experimented with a dominant (dom) and submissive (sub) dynamic before, CNC can be a form of that — dialed up a few notches — and usually involves one partner taking physical control and the other giving it up.
The basic idea of CNC (sometimes referred to as “ravishment”) is being taken sexually by force. However, the key is to communicate and consensually agree on the terms beforehand so you and your partner can safely play within the bounds of fantasy. For example, perhaps you discuss a bondage situation with your partner where they tie you up and you attempt to get out of the knots while saying “no” to the sexual activity — all while savoring the “struggle.”
Furthermore, CNC play typically involves a fantasy in which you give an indication of non-consent during a sexual scenario. This can look like verbally telling your partner you don’t want to have sex, but then having it and enjoying it anyway, or being “forced” to perform sexual acts. CNC can also involve forms of kink, like impact play — where one partner spanks the other with their hands or sex toys — or edge play, where you consensually play with your sexual boundaries together. CNC can include sexual acts of all kinds, including sexual intercourse — but it doesn’t have to always lead to penetration. And while one of the most popular forms of CNC involves role play, it isn’t necessarily a requirement.
Having A CNC Fantasy Is More Common Than You Think
Although CNC sounds taboo, it’s actually a lot more common than one might think — so if the idea turns you on, you’re not alone. According to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Sex Research, CNC fantasies are most common among women. In the study, 62% of women reported having a rape fantasy and many reported fantasizing about CNC multiple times a year. Of the women who had previously experienced rape fantasies, 14% of them reported thinking about them at least once per week.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine surveyed over 1,500 adults about their sexual fantasies and revealed that, although participants believed their fantasies were unusual and sexually deviant, their reported fantasies were actually more common in the general population than they expected. Researchers noted that fantasies of domination and submission were common among men and women, and a 2016 study published in the Journal of Sex Research also found that much of the general population has a preference for kinky sex: 47 percent of women and 60 percent of men surveyed harbored fantasies about being dominated or dominating someone sexually.
According to licensed psychologist Elle Blodgett, sexual fantasies — including ones that are typically considered “taboo” — exist more than the general population would like to believe. “Fantasies are a way for individuals to break the rules and boundaries that we otherwise agree to adhere to,” she says. “Everyone has fantasies, and there are various reasons why people fantasize, from reducing anxiety, escaping reality, exploring taboo desires, and meeting unfulfilled needs to experiencing arousal and different sensations.”
What’s So Hot About Consensual Non-Consent?
If you’re new to CNC, “forced sex” probably sounds like a forbidden — perhaps even dangerous — idea. So, what is it about the fantasy that gets us going? According to sex therapist Aliyah Moore, there are many reasons. “For starters, being sexually dominated is so hot for some people because it’s taboo,” she says. “You can think of it this way: The more a person is not supposed to like something, the more that person gets into it.”
Moore adds that some people love CNC precisely because it makes them feel irresistible; like their partners desire and crave them so much they can’t help but force sex with them. “When you give up your power in the bedroom, there’s some kind of freedom that comes with it,” she explains. “There’s also a rush of emotions and hormones that result from having someone hold both your pleasure and pain. In essence, CNC rape play is an extreme act of powerlessness.”
Moore adds that CNC kink play can strengthen BDSM relationships because of the deep level of trust involved with the vulnerable act. Partners who are able to maintain and fan these sexual fantasies are able to intensify their intimate connection due to the feelings of surrender and control.
Blodgett notes that at the root of CNC, there’s an underlying desire to create and experience the most primal aspects of sexual desire. Approaching the fantasy with curiosity is key — after all, experimenting in bed should be fun and empowering.
How To Safely Practice Consensual Non-Consent
According to Luquin, CNC can present a unique opportunity for you to voice your preferences in bed. “Wanting to explore this kink with a new partner is empowering because you know what your desires are and how to advocate for them,” she says. “Three things to keep in mind to safely practice this kink are communication, consent, and pleasure — also all signs of a healthy relationship.”
In order to practice CNC, she notes there’s a level of transparency required to pull off the dynamic. For example, it’s essential to confirm safe words, boundaries, limitations, and behaviors you are (and aren’t!) OK with ahead of time. If you’re bringing sex toys, cameras, or accessories into the picture, those need to be agreed upon in advance as well.
Blodgett agrees on the importance of working out well-established boundaries ahead of time. “Safety concerns include incorporating a signal for soft and hard stops, considering how to protect the partner in the perpetrator role from external entities, and negotiating the level of realism according to each person’s comfort level,” she recommends. “If you’re seeking to fulfill [a CNC] fantasy, you hold more responsibility [to identify] your goals and expectations... and clarify your fantasy and erotic goals with your partner. A scene could be limited to two participants or could be elaborate and incorporate multiple roles depending on the role of the fantasy.”
Luquin recommends finishing CNC play with an aftercare plan (think: kissing, cuddling, a clean-up towel, tea) which can help you both care for each other after an intense act. “Consent and aftercare are important parts of all sexual encounters, especially in CNC fantasies,” she says.
There Is A Difference Between CNC & Rape
While it may feel “wrong” to fantasize about coercive sex, there’s a big difference between CNC and rape — and it comes down to ongoing, active consent. According to Planned Parenthood, sexual consent has five distinct elements: it is freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic, and specific.
When you’re trying CNC, remember: Boundaries are always mutually agreed upon in advance so the illusion of forced sex can occur. If you or your partner decide to change your mind, which can happen at any time for whatever reason, the activity should stop right away. It’s crucial to honor both of your boundaries. CNC requires all of these elements for a successful kink-playing session. Without consent, it’s no longer CNC anymore — it is sexual assault.
Although sexual fantasies and kinks may seem provocative for some, CNC play can still be a healthy exploration of your sexuality. But because CNC can be riskier than other kinks, practicing radical transparency and communication is crucial.
What Happens If You Or Your Partner Have A History Of Sexual Assault?
Practicing CNC requires sensitivity, communication, and more importantly, active consent. If you’re interested in trying the fantasy and you or your partner have a history of assault of any kind, Moore recommends communicating and discussing your CNC fantasy a lot before it happens. If you think CNC could be your thing, try initiating a conversation with the person you’re seeing about your turn-ons. For example, you can ask how they feel about power dynamics during sex or tell them outright that you find it attractive when there’s a forced element to your pleasure.
Blodgett says those seeking CNC play who have been assaulted previously may be compelled by the dynamic because it allows them to “direct” a scene and reclaim their power — which may be different from previous experiences where consent was not given. However, she adds that this may not be the case for every person. “[CNC] can be a very empowering and liberating experience for the individual,” she says. “But CNC fantasies are not for everyone and someone’s discomfort in participating in it should be respected.”
As you’re discussing the ins and outs of the scenes, don’t be afraid to get into the nuances so you feel extremely comfortable about the kink play later on. “During these conversations, never miss out on any detail that might come up once you get into the scene,” Blodgett says. “You must explicitly talk about activities that don’t usually come up during regular sex or routine play. Some elements may be completely off-limits for [your partner].” For example, Blodgett notes certain words, physical actions, erogenous zones, or activities might not sit well with you and may trigger you — so you may want to restrict them entirely.
You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty For Enjoying CNC
Should you feel guilty for wanting CNC? The answer is no, definitely not. (No kink-shaming here!) Engaging in CNC is just another way to express your sexual needs or desires, and as the previous studies demonstrate, it’s statistically more common than you think. According to Moore, harboring fantasies about forced sex doesn’t imply that something’s wrong with you or you should be embarrassed for your desires. Plus, wanting to act something out in bed doesn’t mean you want the same situation to happen in real life.
Luquin agrees that kinks like CNC are simply representative of things you find arousing or exciting during sex — and your preferences don’t mean something is “wrong” with you in any way. “It’s important not to associate these personal desires with pathologizing emotional disturbances or trauma,” she says.
Blodgett adds that it’s important to acknowledge and embrace your fantasy without any shame. “So many of us are silenced by internalized shame and guilt when it comes to eroticism and sexual desire that we repress these very normal and typical moments of excitement and arousal.”
What If You Try CNC But Don’t Like It?
What happens if you participate in the kink and then feel uncomfortable — or even guilty — afterward? Like any other new practice, it’s totally normal to have mixed feelings and it may be par for the course. “These low feelings or conflicting emotions are what we call the dom drop or sub drop,” Moore says. “The dom drop involves feelings of guilt or depression after the intense CNC scene. A sub drop is akin to the after-effects of a runner’s high where subs experience sudden exhaustion and sadness even if they didn’t feel any during the scene.”
This is why aftercare on all fronts is crucial for processing, decompressing, and reconnecting to mitigate the negative feelings that may occur. Outside of the bedroom, you should also feel free to process your experience more with your partner, a therapist, or someone you trust.
Sex and pleasure can feel intimidating sometimes, but exploring CNC doesn’t have to be. By exploring your fantasies, you have the opportunity to learn more about your arousal (and your partner’s). The ultimate goal is for you to feel more liberated and have some fun along the way. According to Blodgett, if you decide to explore CNC, there’s no need to be afraid of the kink — and there’s no harm in learning about it. “The truth is, we need to be better stewards of seeking to learn in an effort to become informed, rather than condemning [kink] from a place of fear and ignorance,” she says.
Exploring consensual non-consent can be a fun way to play with control, power dynamics, dominance, and submission in bed. The important words to prioritize are safety, consent, and intentionality. Let those parameters guide you in your next bedroom romp.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.
Cindy Luquin, certified sexuality educator
Elle Blodgett, PsyD, clinical psychologist
Aliyah Moore, Ph.D., certified sex therapist