This post is part of an effort to provide a glossary for novice submissives of words commonly seen across this site and in the BDSM community.
If somebody said to you that they only wanted to have non-sexual play, how would you interpret this? Does it mean no intercourse but oral is ok? Does it mean neither partner has an orgasm? Does it mean the top can touch the bottom with implements but not with his/her hands?
BDSM is sexual... or is it?
Some people can't have BDSM without sex and that's perfectly alright with them. If you've ever been to a public play party it's likely you won't see a lot of sex - if any - depending on where you are. Yet BDSM play continues. So what is non-sexual play?
Non-sexual play is negotiated or regulated play between partners that does not include areas of the body or styles of play that would be interpreted as sexual in nature. That means if you consider any tools or hands touching your genitals as sexual play then it is off the table. If you consider kissing as sexual, then that's not allowed. Sometimes that even means that the genitals will remain covered during play. It's really how the people playing define it.
Clear as mud? Yeah, it's a grey area. That's because what one person considers to be a sex act or sexual behavior is different than the person standing next to them. I encourage you think about what you consider sexual activity or behaviors and decide, if you play casually, whether they should be a part of your play or not. And then tell the person during negotiation. That's the only way to both be on the same page. Include if tools and toys are welcome in that area. So for example, perhaps a genital flogging is okay but no hand to genital contact. You have to be that specific.
Lastly, on the orgasm front... it is hard as a bottom to refrain from having an orgasm if you can orgasm without genital stimulation. So abstaining from orgasm might be a mute point even if genital contact isn't allowed during play.