Consent, Power Exchange, and the Myth of “Just Say No”

A lot of folx in the kink scene enjoy playing with Power Exchange in their scenes. These can be an empowering and positive vehicle for exploring vulnerability and trust within mutually consenting partnerships. 

But are you fetishising implicit power imbalances? Or are you attracted to freely given and explicitly negotiated exchanges of power? 

The internet is rife with stories of consent violations, one common pattern is the following: experienced folx who are well integrated in the community in positions of power playing often and fast with newer, younger, more vulnerable, less experienced and less integrated members of the community. While play is often negotiated, the wider power imbalance is less often acknowledged or addressed. Without this, the power is not exchanged, it is taken. And for this reason “saying no”, safe-wording, establishing limits and boundaries all become difficult to freely express.

Status, location, degree of experience, age, ethnicity, gender and body size are all sources of power imbalances. In order for power to be a mutually agreed upon *exchange* between consenting partners, there needs to be a conscientious effort at power redistribution before play.

For most folx, consent can be boiled down to: “just say no” and “use your safeword”.

The reality is that there are many folx who experience consent violations who are experts at establishing boundaries and negotiating scenes, they know how and when to say “no”, they know how to advocate for themselves, and have an excellent track record of using safewords.

There are many circumstances when “speaking up” and “just saying no” are very difficult or impossible: If you are playing in public and people are watching, you may feel pressure to not speak up, if you are playing in private with someone who can or has overpowered you physically you may fear for your safety and not speak up, if you are playing with someone who has more status (even if perceived) than you you may feel pressure to comply and stay quiet, if something very unexpected happens in the middle of a scene the shock may make you freeze and not speak up. Etc.

There are automated responses that we have no control over (Fight, Flight, Freeze, Flop, Friend). Different situations might trigger them, and we don’t know until we experience them. Nobody will say “no” in a freeze/flop/friend scenario!

While empowering folx to “say no”, to “use their safeword” and “negotiate your limits” are all very important and very central to consent education in the kink scene, this also needs to be paired with notions of “responsibility to inform” and “duty of care” on the part of the giver in a scene. 

Otherwise we are placing all or most of the burden on the part of the receiver, who is many times restrained and in an altered psychological state (aka “spaced out”).

As the person with the most power (i.e., access to resources) in a scene you can: slow down play, play well below the person’s limits or their safeword, say no to play if the person is too new and not integrated enough in the community, play in a safe place (a relaxed community event rather than in private), check-in during play and get explicit verbal consent for activities, inform them of risks and potential consequences, direct them towards resources, and generally create an environment where people feel empowered to express desires, dislikes, “no’s” and safewords.

While learning to advocate for oneself is very important, consent is a lot more complex than “just say no” and “use your safeword”.

Inspired by @kinkyblackeducator “The Facets of Consent” and “The Responsibility of Dominance” talks.

The Black, Transgender Origins of Pride

A text by Petite Pretzel

This new Pride flag highlights the beginning of the LGBTQIA+ Pride Movement in the US led by Black Trans women/MaGe like Marsha P. Johnson and Ms Major, as well as Trans PoC like Sylvia Rivera and Victoria Cruz.
The flags center Trans and Queer Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, who endure disproportionate murder rates and other transphobic targeting.

Black people, in particular black people and sex workers, have fought for LGBT rights by rising up against police harassment. Today’s celebration has grown out of yesterday’s political adversity – an adversity that still persists. Outsiders – ethnic minorities, queer people, gender non-conforming people and sex workers – have long been targeted by police. Queer people also opposed police brutality in 1959 at the Cooper Do-nuts cafe in Los Angeles and in 1966 at the Compton’s Cafeteria riot before the more famous 1969 Stonewall riots. People of colour from both the East Coast and the West Coast led activism for LGBT rights. “It wasn’t all those crewnecked white boys in the Hamptons and the Pines who changed things, but the black kids and Puerto Rican transvestites who came down to the Village on the subway,” American novelist Edmund White recounts. Queer activists of colour like Martha P. Johnson in New York and Felizia Elizondo in San Francisco blazed the way.

“It was against the law to wear long hair. It was against the law to dress like a woman. If the police [saw] you on the sidewalk walking, they would take you to jail for obstructing the sidewalk,” Elizondo, a Latinx transgender woman, remembers. Cops arrested people for having a different gender presentation than that listed on their ID and for homosexual acts, which remained illegal in the United States until 2003. The Cooper’s Do-nuts riot of 1959 was triggered when LAPD attempted to arrest three men simply for patronising a known gay hangout. Drag queens, transwomen and others threw plates, coffee and donuts until officers withdrew to summon backup. Their return with reinforcements caused a riot so large the main street shut down. This act of resistance is considered the first gay uprising in modern history.

The Compton’s Cafeteria riot of 1966 kicked off when a transwoman reacted to a police officer grabbing her shoulder by throwing a cup of coffee in the man’s face. The authorities had been aggressively raiding queer establishments and simultaneously ignoring a serial killer who targeted their community. Donna Personna, a longtime queer activist and former sex worker, remembers “intense violence” from johns and from the San Francisco Police Department. The cafeteria was a community hub where she and her peers could check up on and care for each other. Personna, raised in a Mexican Baptist household, considered the cafe her home and the patrons her sisters. The cup of coffee proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back; “women…[threw] sugar shakers through the glass windows and drag queens [beat] police with their purses.” A newsstand went up in flames and a police car was wrecked in the ensuing chaos. The women were unsurprisingly arrested but the riots continued for three nights.

A late-night scene in Gene Compton’s Cafeteria. The cafeteria was a popular destination for queer people of all kinds: hustlers, queens, hair fairies. This photo shows an Imperial Court of San Francisco event at the cafeteria. The date and names of the subjects are unknown.
Photo: Henry Leleu, Courtesy the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.

Sylvia Rivera was meant to go to Martha P. Johnson’s birthday party on the night of the Stonewall Riots in 1969. They were both transgender sex workers who became politically active in the New York scene at the same time; Rivera was a Puerto Rican drag queen while Johnson was African-American. They both frequented Greenwich Village, which was frequently targeted by police as a gay neighbourhood. Cops used entrapment tactics to arrest men for solicitation and raided bars, revoking their liquor licenses if they had “disorderly” patrons. When the NYPD set upon the Stonewall Inn, the tension had reached breaking point. The officers roughly hauled staff and customers out of the bar. “We were not taking any more of this shit,” Rivera declares. “It was time [to fight].” People outside began throwing bottles and the riot on Christopher Street continued for six days.

Protesters took to the streets in the aftermath of the Stonewall riots in lower Manhattan in the summer of 1969. Stonewall marked a turning point in the gay rights movement.

It’s worth noting that many people would not have identified as transgender because the vernacular at that time was different. For instance, the 1966 revolt was reported with the headline “Drag queens protest police harassment at Compton’s Cafeteria”. Later, “transgender” and “transsexual” were largely used in reference to trans people who had and had not had sex-change operations. Growing up a feminine Latinx boy, Elizondo was called “joto,” “queer,” “sissy.” “Transvestite” and “cross-dresser” further described a spectrum of gender nonconformity. The words used to identify queer people were (and continue to be) overwhelmingly pejorative, although of course some are being reclaimed. There is some irony that the bravery of so-called deviants and ‘sissies’ created the possibility of queer liberation.

We cannot allow Pride to be whitewashed. It is not just a party, but an opportunity to reflect. The systematic targeting of black and brown people by police is an indisputably central element in queer history. People of colour continue to be on the frontlines today. Martha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Donna Personna and Felicia Elizondo are only a few of the heroines we celebrate and we are inspired by their example as we march forward.

Written by studio team member Petite Pretzel.

We stand in solidarity with the George Floyd protests and the black community worldwide.

We stand in solidarity with the George Floyd protests and the black community worldwide.

Some thoughts from Anatomie:

The rope and kink community in London is predominantly white, and while this is rapidly changing over the last few years, there is still a noticeable lack of diversity in images and educators that doesn’t reflect the changing demographics on the ground. We will certainly be paying close attention to our own role in closing the gap in this discrepancy, because visibility matters and representation matters.

Our premises are located in Peckham (London, UK), which is a predominantly black neighbourhood. We are a direct result of gentrification of the area, part of those slow waves of white folk with some money moving into ‘ethnically diverse’ boroughs of London. We are benefiting directly from the work and culture of black folk who have created the local markets, the shops, and have made this place into the vibrant and community orientated area that it is. We see you, and we are grateful to you. We will be thinking about how we can better contribute to local economy and support local black owned businesses in our area.

We are sharing below a list of UK based organisations that are geared towards helping the black community in the UK as well as organisations in the US that are helping protestors and victims of police brutality. This week we will be donating money to some of these organisations.

We appreciate that not everyone is a position to donate, so we also sharing anti-racist resources for white people which include books, movies, podcasts and articles that you can read.

We will be doing our homework, will you join us in doing the same?

1. A List of Anti Racism Resources –…/all-the-anti-racism-resour…

2. Anti Racism Resources for White People –…/1BRlF2_zhNe86SGgHa6-V…/mobilebasic

3. “UK anti-racism charities and organisations you can support right now” –…/uk-anti-racism-charities…/395365

4. “How to donate to Black Lives Matter and the George Floyd memorial fund” –…/donate-black-lives-matter-geor…

5. “Black Organisations Supporting Young People” –…/black-organisations-support-…/

Nerve Damage Flyer – New and updated!

We have finally reviewed and re-written the nerve damage flyer with up to date and practical information. The information has been proofed by a medical doctor who practices shibari so we are confident in the information provided.

Click here to download a high res free PDF.

New drawings commissioned from Elsa Depont.

Private tuition slots and more virtual live classes!

After a very successful first beginners class last Thursday, we are excited to bring you further live classes! We have added private tuition slots with either Fred or Anna over the next 3 weeks, and we have added another Thursday beginners session open for complete novices and the curious.

Additionally we have added two more specialist classes we believe are suitable for solo persons and pairs! All classes have budget tickets available as well as regular tickets so you can pay within your budget.

To check out what’s on offer and book yourself a slot, visit out new livestream page here.

See you soon!

Lockdown: Update on studio activities and how you can support us

Hi all,

Since the government has announced a lockdown we will extend our closure until April 13th (for now) and keep you posted on updates.

  • Our shop remains open for orders, and we’ll endeavour to get order out as quickly as we can – this is the best way to support us in this time, as this is now our only revenue stream. Plus our ropes are great and we have a sale on 🙂
  • We will be exploring livestreaming classes from our Zoom pro account – our first one is this Thursday, it’s super cheap because it’s our very first go at it, and you can pay what you can.
  • You can also take a look at our FREE online videos, both on the studio account and on Anna Bones’ personal account.

For any questions, feel free to email us at – please be patient with us while we work our way through our inbox!

Anatomie Live! Our Classes, Livestreamed.

Since we cannot welcome you into our physical space at the moment, we thought we would bring you a taste of Anatomie directly to your living room!

We are bringing you a taste of Anatomie directly to your living room! Since we cannot welcome you into our physical space at the moment, we have decided to give livestreaming a go. We hope you can join us and enjoy this new format.

How does it work?

1. Grab a ticket,
2. Get a password,
2. Join our private event channel at the designated time and date.

(Note we are in London, so all times listed are GMT/UTC +0).

Covid-19 : Studio Closure

Hi folks, as anticipated, we have decided to close the studio until the end of March (at least) due to Covid-19.

We shall keep you posted on any news and announcements over the next few weeks, in the meantime please stay safe!

Our online store will remain open for orders as usual over at

Dor any questions email us at, please allow a few days for emails to get replied to.

Take care!

We’re in the Evening Standard!

We’re so excited about this fantastic article in the Evening Standard! It’s an honest and open minded no-nonsense article about our Thursday evening beginners classes and we are so proud to have been featured here. Thank you Molly for the write-up!

Click here for the complete article.