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Guest Blog – Hypnosis and consent: it’s all about what you believe

By Nathalie Rupert

The ubiquitous fantasy that you meet a dark, mysterious stranger who makes you do things you find sexy but you never really dared to do before has become very popular in the past few years, almost mainstream, you could say. This fantasy has a number of variants, and that best-selling book is only one of them; the fantasy of hypnosis or mind control is another.

In the early 2000s people who loved the fantasy of hypnosis or mind control shared erotica with each other online and discovered they were not alone. It’s an unusual fantasy, and it’s difficult to talk about; without the internet we could have gone our whole lives thinking that we were weird, never meeting each other. But the internet turned out to be a great place to meet each other and talk about our fantasies. And as the internet grew and matured, this fetish was as welcome as any other on fetish and BDSM websites.

The beauty of modern online fetish communities is that they are not just about porn and erotica; they allow their members to talk to each other, not just about their fantasies, about everything: their lives, how they enjoy their fetish, organising meetings with other fetishists, how to establish and maintain consent, how to enjoy their fetish safely without hurting themselves or their partner(s). The online erotic hypnosis community grew and thrived, despite all the ugly myths that exist about hypnosis.

While outsiders who have seen a hypnosis show or an article about a hypnotherapist being blamed for something bad that has happened to their client might think that a hypnotized person doesn’t know what’s happening to them and has no way to object, hypnofetishists are organising workshops and writing essays on how the human mind reacts to hypnosis, all the ways a hypnotized person can reject and undo the things a hypnotist says to them, and what to do if a hypnosis session becomes a negative experience.

There are many misconceptions about what hypnosis is and what it isn’t, some people seem to think it’s all fake make believe, while others purport that it is dangerous traumatic mind control and some people seem to think it’s both. All the while, the hypnofetishists who know a lot about hypnosis because they have hours upon hours of experience with it, on top of their official licenses and degrees, lack credibility when they talk about their experience, because their experience is in a sexual context. Our knowledge doesn’t count because we’re labelled as perverts. And in the current political climate in the US, credit card companies, anti-porn and anti-obscenity initiatives are working to shut down the places where the perverts can communicate with each other online, even if we communicate about how to use hypnosis consensually and safely.

So here are the facts. Hypnosis is a way to learn and quickly connect ideas together. You can learn to feel disgusted when you smell a cigarette. You can learn to connect happy thoughts to healthy food. You can learn to disconnect panic and anxiety from the things you fear. Connecting ideas together like this, following hypnotic suggestions, is a skill that can be learned, and not everyone is good at it, which is why stage hypnotists spend so much time weeding and finding the talented people in the audience. But that skill definitely gets better with practice, and anyone can learn it.

To go into hypnosis and follow a hypnotic suggestion, you need three things:

You need to be able to understand what the hypnotist is saying to you

You need to be able to concentrate and use your imagination

You need to trust that this is going to work, that the hypnotist is competent at helping you go into trance and that they will not harm you in any way

If one of these three things is missing, you will not go into trance. A few examples:

You will not be hypnotized if you can’t hear what the hypnotist is saying to you, or if you can’t understand it because of loud noise or a language barrier. If the hypnotist is not an eloquent person who stutters and fails to get their points and ideas across, you will not go into hypnosis, and this is why many hypnotists pride themselves in their skill.

If you have problems concentrating because you are in a distracting environment, or you have a mental condition that impairs your concentration, you will find it very difficult to be hypnotized. If you have trouble using your imagination to picture what the hypnotist is saying, or if the hypnotist is using metaphors that make no sense to you, chances are that you will not follow any of the hypnotic suggestions given to you.

If you sit down with a hypnotist, confident that you can not be hypnotized under any circumstances and that the hypnotist is a fraud, nothing will happen. If you do not trust the hypnotist, or the hypnotist does or says something while you are in trance that makes you uncomfortable, you will most likely wake up immediately and “the spell will be broken” nullifying any of the effects the hypnosis might have had on you.

Hypnosis works like that because hypnosis is a tool to connect ideas together. Positive experiences can help you connect the idea of hypnosis to those happy moments, while misconceptions and negative experiences can reinforce the idea that hypnosis is bad. The more people spread the idea that once you are under hypnosis, you can no longer refuse anything the hypnotist says to you, or even remember anything, the more people believe this. If only us perverts could show all the ways that we can safeguard consent in hypnosis. Once you have seen someone wake up from hypnosis of their own accord to tell the hypnotist that this is not what they want, the easier it will be for you to do the same if the need arises.

Here are some lesser known facts that erotic hypnotists know all about: Most hypnotized people remember everything that has happened to them during trance, as evidenced by the stories and memories shared by hypnofetishists in online groups. Even if a person is following a hypnotic suggestion to be frozen in place, or to behave like an animal or like a mindless zombie, they will still safeguard themselves from harm. I have personally seen hypnotized people move out of the way of falling objects, carefully move around tables and chairs in order not to hurt themselves, and stay away from people they don’t like. This is where the idea that hypnosis is fake comes from, because underneath it all, it’s still you. Hypnosis is an illusion that the hypnotist helps you believe in.

So if the media perpetuate this idea that hypnosis is mind control, and the hypnotized person has no way to assert their will anymore once they are hypnotized, that idea becomes a part of the illusion of hypnosis. However, if we manage to educate people about how hypnosis really works, that all of the effects are in the mind of the subject, and therefore the subject can always make it stop, then it becomes clear that hypnosis is a consensual activity.