I am building off of my previous post and comments on my recent posts Styles and Intensities of Femdom Relationships and A sub's Consent: Sacrifice and Trade-offs
If you scour the internet for intro to BDSM type material you'll find it ripe with warnings and cautions and the term "consensual" tossed around a lot. Most BDSM material was written with active BDSM communities in mind and mostly to protect vulnerable women from potentially dangerous and abusive men. In these cases it is usually a wise system to follow but it doesn't seem to translate as well towards the variety of Femdom relationships you'll find both in reality and what people are seeking when you isolate activities within Femdom relationships.
I could rattle off a few clichés here about men being physically stronger than women so there's less risk, etc. but it doesn't really get to where I'm going. No one seems to have a problem with a Domme inflicting physical punishments on a male sub or ordering him to pleasure her for hours with no sexual pleasure for him. Those topics are treated as fairly ordinary and the types of things that people get into D/s relationships for.
The debates about consent really stem from the emotional health of the sub in light of the Dommes requirements of him. I've seen a lot of Dominants take heat for their isolated actions towards subs and I don't really understand why unless a very narrow view of consent is project onto the situation. Taking away a sub's favorite leisure activity, prohibiting orgasms, or inflicting public humiliation are a few activities that come to mind.
Now yes, it is unlikely that the average sub enters into a D/s relationship readily admitting that he okay with the prospect of having zero fun in life, is willing to be locked in chastity for a year at a time, and taken out in public and made to cry whenever she feels like it. Since he hasn't agreed to that activity, if it pops up, does that make it non-consensual? In some ways yes, in others no. Situationally, it may appear non-consensual. Overall, he may very well have agreed to let her punish him as she sees fit.
If he shirks his chore duties, she might take away his privilege to watch football or play softball with his buddies. Is this any different from being grounded as a child/teen when you misbehaved? If you agreed to let her decide how to punish you and agreed to abide by such a ruling, then on a greater level it is consensual.
If he is repeatedly caught masturbating without permission after consenting to give her full control over his orgasms, isn't it consensual to allow her to lock him in a chastity belt until she sees fit to release him?
If he consents to her full domination if she wishes to take him out and parade him around dressed as a French maid hasn't he really consented to that?
It's not that there's a clear cut answer here but I think the problem is that a lot of people look for the easy and straight forward answers while ignoring the circumstances of the situation and relationship. If he can opt out at any time, where is the power exchange? Also, if it's too much for him he can always walk away (she won't be strong enough to physically prevent him from doing so).
I assume that subs that are faced with something they cannot or will not handle will walk and Dommes that have subs that will not do what they want them to will dismiss them. Under this understanding I believe it's a safe assumption to say that long-standing relationships that engage in morally gray material (in BDSM morality) probably have the overall consent to do so or they wouldn't be together. If his greater needs are met he will sacrifice his lesser needs and pride.
It becomes more difficult as relationships change over time. If a Domme all of a sudden instigates a new rule or activity out of the blue that go beyond what he is comfortable with, he then must make a difficult decision to go along with her wishes or to walk away. Walking away can be very difficult at this point but he can also choose to increase his submission and trust that she will keep him out of harm's way.
Basically, I think with most single activities that people interpret as non-consensual, they overlook the fact that the circumstances behind the activity are consensual.
To stir the pot a little more I'm bringing up the idea of something I call covert conversion (which is a term I made up tonight). I view covert conversion as the gradual and non-consensual injection of the D/s dynamic into a vanilla relationship. While this is often seen with closet-submissives trying to get their wives into domination, I will focus upon when things happen in the other direction with women attempting to subjugate their male lover.
If you are familiar with the writings of Elise Sutton (loving female authority), Georgeann Cross (sexual power for women), or Lady Misato (real women don't do housework), I consider the methods and philosophies outlined in their works to be of this type. While each of these methodologies are a bit different, the general idea is similar: use sexuality and sexual conditioning of the male in order to transform a standard relationship into a female led relationship. I discovered some of this material very early on in my trip towards submission and found it intriguing, although I hadn't yet identified with it.
When I first entered the lifestyle I discussed the ideas of these writings with my girlfriend/Mistress and she was quite against them (she came from a BDSM-community background) for their lack of consent.
All in all, I guess I had never viewed some of those methods that differently from a wife or girlfriend with-holding sex or acting bitchy towards her significant other in order to get her way on something or to show displeasure with his behavior. I guess that's why it struck/strikes me as odd that they elicit such a strong response from many in the BDSM community.