From the moment you take your first baby steps into BDSM, you’re likely to hear the acronym SSC (Safe, Sane, and Consensual) a lot. You may also be familiar with RACK (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink), which takes a slightly different flavor, but holds the same concepts dear. In this essay series, I’ll go deeper into the whats, whys, and hows of the different elements of SSC (plus RACK), accented by opinions from some of the grooviest perverts I know. Please add your views to mix in the comments, too. We can never have enough input from enough people where guiding principals of kink are concerned.
SSC & RACK
Most everyone in kink says the acronyms, but what do they mean? How do they relate to your practice of BDSM? Why are a few letters so important?
"I’m a big fan of RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink) because I think it’s more accurate to say that what we do is not necessarily Safe but we choose to make it safe by being aware of the dangers involved in BDSM." "Safety is enacted with the awareness that danger is sexy, but that harm is not." ~ Soma Snakeoil
*please note: Complete comments by BDSM panelists, as well as bio and links, can be found and the end of the article.*
I couldn’t agree more with Soma. RACK has one important improvement in nuance over SSC, acknowledging the variable nature of kink. When one takes a hard look at most BDSM practices, who’s to say what is ‘safe’ or safe enough to reach the bar? How aware must one be of risk to qualify? We must accept that much of what we do is considered unsafe, by its very nature. This is why healthy respect for potential for harm is so critical.
What are the principal risks we should be aware of?
Potential for physical harm:
“Knowledge is important when engaging in any play that has an increased possibility of resulting in physical harm. If you’re using a cattle prod and your partner has a pacemaker, you better damned well be familiar with any increased medical risks, given the players’ personal health, and be able to accurately answer your partner’s questions regarding those risks.” ~ Ela Darling
I couldn’t say it any more succinctly and down to earth. What we do is (or at least can be) inherently dangerous. Acknowledging this should never be an issue. Rather, it’s something we should pride ourselves for doing, not with swaggering outlaw bravado, but reasoned acceptance. People who have the wrong idea about kink–which is, sadly, a lot of them–hold their detrimental opinions, in part, because they think it’s crazy to want to do such dangerous activities with, seemingly, no consideration for the consequences. Being open and honest about the potential risks for harm, as well as how we mitigate them, neutralizes the argument and goes a long way toward helping those outside kink understand we’re not so crazy after all.
As a masochist, I’ve been treated to many a befuddled look when admitting it publicly. Most people outside the kink bubble don’t spend much time considering the fine distinctions between hurt and harm. They merely see two ways to express something unpleasant to be avoided at all costs. So, being one whose sexuality hard-wires me to want hurt, to ache to the core of my being for it, expressing the subtlety to others could mean the difference between a good and exceptionally bad situation. The chasm between hurt and harm is not something we can write off as semantics.
Hurt, to me, can be defined and a temporary sensation, from mild to extreme, that leaves no (unwanted) lasting marks or injury. Of course, some toys can leave significant welts and bruising in their wake but, even if the marks are deep and angry welts, they’re still temporary. For many of us, marks are a bit like souvenirs, a reminder of a good session and maybe something to show off to fellow aficionados. In some cases, we want to keep permanent marks, which is where the ‘unwanted’ part comes in. While I may not wish to be scarred, others might (and do), and a scar isn’t harm if you wanted it.
Harm is a different matter. Like hurt, it comes in many forms, but is lasting and its effects and injuries can range from minor to deadly. Whether harm is intended is not relevant. One would hope all harm in BDSM is accidental. Mind you, that doesn’t excuse a damed thing. It is not enough to say, “This could be dangerous, so I’ll be careful.” Even something seemingly benign can cause harm under the wrong circumstances.
Let’s say you and your lover want to try some bondage. Have you asked yourself these questions: Do you know which materials are best to use? Know what pressure points and positions to avoid to prevent circulation issues? Know which knots to use to not create possibilities for nerve damage? Are you aware of how quickly a submissive in peril can come to harm, possibly death, if left alone in bondage? Do you (as Jay Wiseman wisely suggests) have a pair of EMT scissors at hand, in case of an emergency requiring a quick release?
Even a simple spanking isn’t so simple or safe, if you don’t know to avoid the coccyx bone or kidneys. Gagging can be deadly, if the sub has allergies. These are just a few examples of potential harm from a lack of basic information.
It may seem like a lot of ground to cover, just for a bit of bedroom kicks. Yet, it’s barely the training-wheels version of qualifying a dom for a situation where the safety of another is entirely in their hands. And, let’s remember, every bottom should vet their top and their knowledge/experience level, so the responsibility goes both ways. Like the signs at amusement parks, kink should have a firm ‘you must be at least this knowledgeable about BDSM safety and risk-management to ride this fetish’ policy. It may sound extreme, but zero tolerance for cavalier kink play is the only acceptable choice. As any advocate of RACK can tell you, if you don’t understand the risks, you’re not qualified to take them. Dangerous players have no place in the BDSM community.
Sorry newbies, that means you have to do a bit of observing before jumping in. I know you’re eager as hell to get your kinky groove on–we’ve all been there at one point–but basic learning is not optional. It can be fun and a great way to meet friends and mentors in kink, though. There are many excellent groups all over the world who host seminars, demonstrations, and discussions to start you off. (Links to resources for groups and education follow the article.) For those in less populated regions, who might not have easy access to in-person events, the internet can also be a great learning tool. In all cases, make sure to qualify who’s teaching, since charlatans exist in both cyber and meat-space. And, tops, once you’ve gotten your learning on, practice with something other than someone else’s body. Your future partners will thank you (and spare you from being tagged a ‘dangerous player’).
Potential for emotional harm
"The one thing that I like about SSC is that in every BDSM scene the participants need to be aware of the emotional safety of their partner. The love, kink and sex games we play have the potential to be damaging to either the Top or the bottom. Any sexual experience can be complex. If you add some crazy outfits, power exchanges and needles, knives or whips…eroticism becomes even more emotionally charged. So in a sense the responsibility we have for our partner’s emotional safety grows exponentially." ~ Soma Snakeoil
"I think it’s important to discuss the personal emotional triggers of your partner before you play. If you choose to cross those lines together, that’s up to you and your partner, but in my opinion, it’s irresponsible to not discuss subjects that may be emotionally harmful to one another if you might tread upon triggering ground. That may include any number of things, and it’s up to each individual party to communicate the subjects which are taboo for them and how far they’re willing to push their own boundaries." ~ Ela Darling
In the world of kink, particularly in D/s situations, the potential for harm is not limited to the physical realm. We can delve into some serious emotional issues while in the midst of power exchange. In many cases, emotional impact is a desired outcome. Many submissives utilize BDSM as an effective means of addressing deeper issues, using the safe space of kink to explore fears and limits which have been problems in their life and relationships. So, it stands to reason, there is no room for unsafe practices from an emotional standpoint.
If you have reservations about revealing your emotional soft underbelly to a potential partner, playing with them anyway is a terrible idea. Even in a situation that starts out as play-only, top/bottom physical stimulation can easily mission-creep into D/s headspace. Something so small as a what a top might call a bottom in-scene could have a detrimental impact, if that recalls a harmful subject.
For example, my ex (a big fan of emotional abuse) used to like to call me a ‘stupid bitch’ and ‘lying whore’. These epithets were part of a focused campaign to destroy my self-worth and, when pointed at me, can bring on black moods of self-doubt for days after. So, The Boss knows the words ‘bitch’ and ‘whore’ can cause me distress and avoids them. This, admittedly, is not a terribly virulent trigger, comparatively speaking. But, it dredges up dark memories I’d rather stay in the distant past.
The important thing is he knows what might trigger harmful reactions, because I trusted him enough to share that information. Just as importantly, we didn’t indulge in BDSM play until our relationship was on solid enough footing to have built that trust. I’m not talking about life-partner level trust, but at least a few dates’ worth of familiarity to feel comfortable talking openly about emotional issues.
How can one be safer emotionally?
The best prevention for emotional harm is openness and complete honesty. As someone who led discussions of BDSM abuse survivors groups, I’ve seen the harm that can come from a lack of vigilance in protecting emotional health in-scene. The potential for ongoing damage is just as great as in the physical realm, only more dangerous. If the dominant doesn’t see the harm, they can’t very well avoid it, and can keep inadvertently pouring more fuel on the fire.
So who, ultimately, is responsible for emotional well-being?
"Given my personal background, it would be irresponsible for me as a sub to engage in a D/s scenario in which the Dom insulted my size or made remarks about my weight, as I have a personal history of rough times with my body image that I must take into account as being highly impactful for me. Something that may have no lasting impact for someone else could trigger a series of personal responses in myself that are harmful and unhealthy. It would be unfair for me to disregard that if the Dom’s actions might have a lasting impact on me that leads to future self-harm outside of our consensual interactions.
"That said, I don’t think it’s irresponsible to cross personal boundaries as long as all parties are aware of the gravity of the situation and may gauge their responses based on adequate knowledge of their partners." ~ Ela Darling
Ela says the plain truth better than I’ve ever heard it expressed. Every submissive is responsible for their own emotional safety before engaging with a dominant. As the ones who know our histories and potential pitfalls best, it’s up to us to act to curb any potential for harm. Staying mum and hoping nothing goes wrong is not being responsible for ourselves and, as Ela correctly states, unfair to our partners.
We are submissives, not children, so cannot expect our dominants to be the grown-ups if we fail to do so.
The only sure way to prevent emotional harm is a good dose of informed consent. We need to trust our partners to help us address our issues without enflaming them. To do that, we can’t hold back information, no matter how personal or potentially embarrassing, about what might cause an adverse reaction. If we do, they could unknowingly step over the line, which is harmful to their emotional health, as well.
Emotional safety isn’t just important for submissives
"As a Dom, it would be crushing to me to touch on an unintentionally hurtful subject for my sub that led them down a harmful path." ~ Ela Darling
"As a Dominant, safety for me means hyper vigilance to the emotional and physical, and even at moments spiritual, well being of my bottom. But it also means I have the responsibility to keep myself well in scene too." ~ Soma Snakeoil
Soma and Ela state simple truths, but ones which are not given nearly as much attention as they deserve in the general consciousness. The potential for emotional impact works both ways. Simply being the dominant partner doesn’t make one immune to the intangible aspects of BDSM.
Dominant is not a synonym of perfect.
Just because a dominant is the one in control, doesn’t mean they are de facto in a perpetual state of emotional well-being. We submissives can do our partners a grave disservice by assuming they have some sort of kink super-powers, merely based on the role they’ve chosen. Our partners are just as human as us, and just as capable of sustaining emotional wounds.
BDSM articles frequently expound at length about the myriad responsibilities of dominants and the potential for harm, should they fail to meet up to them. Yet, little copy is given to the equal responsibilities of submissives. There’s a damaging mythology that pervades pockets of the kink sphere, particularly in kink writing and videos, in which submissives are portrayed as powerless and incapable of taking care of themselves. Doms, conversely, are imagined as idealized figures who not only know exactly the right answer to everything, but are immune to emotional harm, as well as downright psychic about every possible trigger for their subs. Outside the obligatory nod to negotiation and safewords, no time is spent addressing the possibility that anyone has a single emotional issue that might be touched upon. The dom is expected to ‘just know’ and, despite the context of wank fiction and online roleplaying, it’s a message too many actually buy into.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out these sorts of fantastical, wish-fulfillment notions of dominants have the potential for doing far more harm than good. If there’s one ultimate truth in BDSM, it’s that one must be firmly rooted in reality before they can safely indulge in fantasy. Our dominants are people, with the same possibility for emotional issues. To ignore the possibility they might have feelings, too, is to treat them as automatons, which is just as offensive as when it’s done to us.
A word about safewords
Though they’ve been covered to the moon and back again, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a solid shout out to our good friends, the safewords. While in the media, you’ll usually hear it in the singular, every player should have at least two safewords. One safeword, the one we hear about most often, is the Stop word (sometimes ‘red’), which immediately halts the scene. Another, the Slow (or ‘yellow’) word is a request to slow down the activity, ease up a bit, but not stop. It’s a great means to take a small breather when things get a little too intense, but doesn’t interrupt the flow of a scene like a full stop. Another safeword I like the existence of is a Go (or ‘green’) word, to ask for greater speed or intensity. Though it’s not really a safety matter, it’s a nice way to communicate a desire for greater stimulation with a new partner while they’re learning your limits. Partners can use these, plus any variety of other signals that suit your particular kinks. Bear in mind, if you’re not prone to role-play, you may not need specific code words, just an understanding that what is said is what’s meant. The point is to allow a bottom in peril a way to communicate it to their top; whatever way you choose to do that, so long as it’s done, serves the purpose.
Tops, remember that some bottoms would rather poke out their own eyes than safeword. Some subs can get so far into sub-space they don’t realize they can mentally take more than their body will allow. Don’t let the lack of a red word keep you from stopping a scene you think has gone far enough, or at least slowing down to assess the state of your bottom.
One other major safeword consideration is the possibility of gags or other impediments to speech. If a sub may have even the slightest possibility of not being able to communicate verbally, signals still need to be in place for safety. Establish safe-signs, or non-verbal cues for each safeword, which they’ll be able to easily do in whatever position they’ll be. Make sure to review the safe-signs, along with safewords, before every play session when the relationship is new.
What preparations should precede any BDSM play?
"Without trust, I can’t possibly feel safe with my partner, whether it’s bondage, S&M, or just plain vanilla sex; trust is implicit in any sexual encounter for me. Part of this, for me, is establishing hard and soft boundaries. For example "I absolutely am not comfortable with ____ and I’m iffy when it comes to ____ so take extra care and pay extra attention if you tread upon that subject/area." For me, this also implies the agreement upon and respect of a safe word. Honestly, for all their purported faults, I find Kink.com’s list of potential topics/activities that models must fill out before a shoot to be very comprehensive when it comes to this aspect; one rates on a scale of 0-5 (if I recall) their comfort with a variety of possible activities, 0 being "don’t do this at all" and ranging through "I’d be disappointed if this didn’t occur" to "yes please!" essentially." ~ Ela Darling
In my opinion, absolutely no one should ever embark on any kink play with anyone else without:
- being open about expectations
- providing each other with a list along the lines of what Ela’s described above or at the least discussing any possible play activities, to compare interests and establish hard and soft limits (links to several online versions follow the article)
- informing each other about any potential triggers and emotional issues which could impact well-being in any way
- in cases of new partners, offering and checking references
- establishing experience/skill levels (as well as strengths/weaknesses)
- establishing not only a slow and stop safeword, but a safety protocol for various aspects of play and after-care
- spending time together outside the headspace of BDSM to develop familiarity as people before adopting D/s roles
- reviewing basic safety precautions (like health concerns, physical limitations, emergency protocols, etc.)
Safety outside the scene is important, too.
A common weakness in write-ups about BDSM safety is overlooking the reality of many people’s actual practice of kink. There’s often a tacit assumption that everyone is either an established couple or folks who met in a thriving kink scene where all participants are vetted by mutually-respected and sage elders. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have such a simple path to safely finding a new partner. What about everyone else?
First, we must acknowledge that, just because someone hasn’t been run out of the community on a rail, doesn’t make them automatically safe. An inconvenient truth of kink is that predators are not always outsiders. Kink is not immune to personality politics, and the right friends can polish even the worst reputations. One should never let the dazzle of popularity allow anyone a bye on due diligence. Even if someone is considered a respected member of the scene, they shouldn’t get a pass on scrutiny.
Demand references and check them. Absolutely no one worth being involved with will have any problem with providing references. If they do, consider the bullet dodged; don’t just walk away, RUN. And, don’t stop at the end of that list. If someone has skeletons in their closet, they’re not likely to show them to someone whose trust they’re trying to win. If possible, ask a few people you trust, too. To someone new to BDSM, this might seem nosy and intrusive, but it’s standard operating procedure for perverts and has been for as long as there’s been a community.
Don’t forget safety outside the ‘scene’, too. We can’t skip the usual precautions we’d take on any other date with someone new. Being involved in a BDSM relationship adds to our personal responsibilities, it doesn’t replace them. So, when you’re chatting up that awesome new potential partner, don’t assume they’re immediately safer than non-kink folks just because they’re into BDSM. Kink isn’t a magic realm where all predatory behavior ceases.
Plenty of predators have been known to use BDSM to lure potential victims.
If we let ourselves fall prey to the fantastical scenarios of BDSM in cyber-space, we invite a world of potential dangers. Sure, it sounds awfully sexy to be swept off our feet by a dashing stranger. However, that’s probably what Ted Bundy’s victims thought, too. While it’s not quite as exciting to follow a laundry list of safety precautions, it rarely ends in tragedy.
Back in the day, when I was still single, a friend set me up on a blind date with a guy they’d known for years. He seemed nice at first, if a little over-eager. But, after a few dates, I decided he wasn’t someone I wanted to keep seeing. He, apparently, didn’t agree. For several weeks, he stalked me with every free moment. He left unhinged notes, written over drawings of knives stuck through hearts, dripping blood, and effectively scared the hell out of me. But, I was lucky and finally convinced him to leave me alone without any escalation. Friends who’ve been attacked or, in one case, forced to change their names and move out of state to avoid violent stalkers were not so fortunate.
I realized, then, that even someone people think they know might not be as safe as they appear. Most people consider casual acquaintances friends, afford them the same benefit of the doubt. While this is fine in groups, it might not be the best idea once one-on-one dating and sex are involved. After having a close call, though it was sometimes awkward, I practiced most of the same safety precautions with anyone I didn’t know well enough to have already invited into my home. What I found was, once dates knew why I exercised such caution, most understood and respected my feelings. The few who didn’t tended to reveal a host of entitlement and anger-management red flags in their objections. In essence, the safety steps became more than just a routine, they were the first test of whether a potential partner wasn’t worth my time. I’ve listed my old protocols below, since I think they’re still pretty useful. I hope you agree. Feel free to add your own in the comments, too.
Safe is sexy.
While one might never be exposed to harm by not actively addressing safety, it’s a bad idea to rely on sheer luck for protection. Taking precautions is the first and most important part of self-care, and shouldn’t be skipped frivolously. In the end, whether we have a safe and healthy kink community is up to each and every one of us.
Next time, we’ll be getting down and dirty with the second S of SSC, Sane. Until then … Play safe and play sexy, you fabulous perverts!
About the Author:
Mich Masoch is a writer, fetish and erotica photographer, designer, and lifelong pervert. With her husband and partner, Jimi King, she owns and runs Circus Hooker Smut Regime, an independent erotica production and design studio in Los Angeles, Ca. She has been a managing Board Member of a non-profit BDSM organization, planning educational events as well as leading discussion groups and introducing new members to the kink community.
She’s recently completed more installments of her Quick and Dirty Spanking and BDSM Fantasies short story series (available at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and other eBookstores), and is currently editing the first romance teaser novelette in her upcoming vampire fiction series, Blood Gods, as well as erotica short film scripts for upcoming CHS Regime projects. You can find links to her BDSM erotica short stories, photography work and updates, along with behind the scenes peeks of photo and video shoots, on her official site (MichMasoch.com), the CHS Regime site (CHSRegime.com), her Twitter (@MichMasoch), and Tumblr page (This Sexy Life).
A few useful safety protocols:
- Don’t give out any information about your workplace.
- Don’t give a home address or enough information to figure out where you live, shop, hang out with friends, etc.
- Don’t give out a phone # which can be used to track down your home or work address.
- Don’t give out your last name, if it’s not already known.
- Don’t immediately ‘friend’ them on Facebook or follow on other social networks.
- Always arrange to meet up for the first few dates, until you know them better.
- No matter how tempting it may be to jump the gun, never ever ever meet up with a stranger at their place, your place, a motel, etc. Even if they seem like the grooviest, sexiest human being on the planet, rushing into intimacy is courting danger. They’ll be just as amazing after a few dates, even more so, since some trust has been established.
- When meeting up, always arrive as early as possible before the arranged time. At the first meeting, let a bouncer, bartender, server, etc. know you’re on a blind date and are a little nervous about it (even if you’re not). Ask them if, should it become necessary, someone could walk you to your car.
- Don’t leave your personal belongings or drink unattended. Especially on a first date, imagine you’re chatting with someone who just strolled up, because your date is only one small step ahead of that stranger. Would you trust any random person in a bar with your wallet, keys, and drink? Drinks can be drugged. Keys can be taken or copied. Purses and wallets contain a wealth of personal information. Ladies, always take your purse with you. Guys, keep keys and wallets in your pockets, not your jacket.
- At the end of a date, avoid leaving at the same time. I used to say good-bye outside the front doors, then excuse myself to use the ladies’ room, telling my date to not worry about waiting. Don’t let a new date walk you to your car. Though this might sound strange, it won’t give a stranger your license plate number, which could be used to find your home address.
- Don’t go out to a date’s car, either. The reason you pick public places to meet, when first seeing someone, is the safety of the presence of others. Once you go out into a (probably dark) parking lot alone, you remove your safety.
- Make plans for the next meeting, but never leave the original location with a date, especially to somewhere private.
- When you leave, take a good look around to make sure your date has, indeed, left before you walk to your car.
- Always arrange a series of safe calls with a friend. Tell them who you’re with and any information you can about them. Then, either have them call you or give them times when you’ll call them to confirm all is well. Obviously, it’s crucial to remember to call if you’ve decided to be the caller or answer if you’re the callee.
- Bonus points, now that we all have cameras on our phones, if you snap a pic to ‘show off’ your date. It’ll probably never be needed but, if your date does have nefarious intentions, a current photo taken and sent from your phone is invaluable protection.
- When you’re ready to get physical, try to make your first play sessions as safe and public as possible. Meet up at a local fetish event, dungeon night, or group gathering, if you can. Bonus points if you make sure a few good friends are on hand to check out your date and give you their impressions. While we might let ourselves be overwhelmed by new-relationship giddiness, friends won’t be so apt to overlook potential red flags.
This column’s BDSM panelists include:
Bio: Former Reference Librarian Ela Darling transitioned out of the library and into her career performing in Lesbian, Fetish, and Bondage porn in 2009. She lives and fucks for a living in sunny Los Angeles, CA. :)
Safe (in a nutshell): “Safety” in a BDSM context requires trust, knowledge, communication, and a degree of personal familiarity with one’s partner.
Expanded comments: Safety in BDSM, to me, incorporates both Physical and Emotional elements. It requires trust, knowledge, communication, and a degree of personal familiarity with one’s partner.
Without trust, I can’t possibly feel safe with my partner, whether it’s bondage, S&M, or just plain vanilla sex; trust is implicit in any sexual encounter for me. Part of this, for me, is establishing hard and soft boundaries. For example “I absolutely am not comfortable with ____ and I’m iffy when it comes to ____ so take extra care and pay extra attention if you tread upon that subject/area.” For me, this also implies the agreement upon and respect of a safe word. Honestly, for all their purported faults, I find Kink.com’s list of potential topics/activities that models must fill out before a shoot to be very comprehensive when it comes to this aspect; one rates on a scale of 0-5 (if I recall) their comfort with a variety of possible activities, 0 being “don’t do this at all” and ranging through “I’d be disappointed if this didn’t occur” to “yes please!” essentially.
Knowledge is important when engaging in any play that has an increased possibility of resulting in physical harm. If you’re using a cattle prod and your partner has a pacemaker, you better damned well be familiar with any increased medical risks, given the players’ personal health, and be able to accurately answer your partner’s questions regarding those risks. In fact, if you’re using a device of any kind that may have increased adverse effects depending on your partner’s health, you should take initiative and run through the list of populations who may react more intensely/poorly to the effects of it. This is the responsibility of both the sub and the Dom, of course, but as far as I’m concerned, the Dom has a greater responsibility to look out for their sub in that way.
Finally, I think it’s important to discuss the personal emotional triggers of your partner before you play. If you choose to cross those lines together, that’s up to you and your partner, but in my opinion, it’s irresponsible to not discuss subjects that may be emotionally harmful to one another if you might tread upon triggering ground. That may include any number of things, and it’s up to each individual party to communicate the subjects which are taboo for them and how far they’re willing to push their own boundaries.
That may also include age play, implied rape, or even a list of insults/names that are off limits. As a Dom, it would be crushing to me to touch on an unintentionally hurtful subject for my sub that led them down a harmful path. Given my personal background, it would be irresponsible for me as a sub to engage in a D/s scenario in which the Dom insulted my size or made remarks about my weight, as I have a personal history of rough times with my body image that I must take into account as being highly impactful for me. Something that may have no lasting impact for someone else could trigger a series of personal responses in myself that are harmful and unhealthy. It would be unfair for me to disregard that if the Dom’s actions might have a lasting impact on me that leads to future self-harm outside of our consensual interactions.
That said, I don’t think it’s irresponsible to cross personal boundaries as long as all parties are aware of the gravity of the situation and may gauge their responses based on adequate knowledge of their partners.
Soma Snakeoil is both a scholar & practitioner, lecturing widely on the psychology of domination/submission, punishment, gender roles and the origins of BDSM in Victorian culture. She has shot with some of the world’s finest fetish photographers including Ken Marcus, Lithium Picnic, Chad Michael Ward, Gregg Welker, Sam Holden and Surgeon Studios. Her latest AVN winning film, Rubber Bordello, is a black and white fetish film that she wrote, directed and starred in. For more personal information visit Her website.
Expanded comments: Safe is an interesting term to discuss in BDSM as what we do is intrinsically dangerous. Safety in BDSM is subjective since it’s based so much on environment, the specific partners level of experience and the state of mind of the players. I’m a big fan of RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink) because I think it’s more accurate to say that what we do is not necessarily Safe but we choose to make it safe by being aware of the dangers involved in BDSM.
The one thing that I like about SSC is that in every BDSM scene the participants need to be aware of the emotional safety of their partner. The love, kink and sex games we play have the potential to be damaging to either the Top or the bottom. Any sexual experience can be complex. If you add some crazy outfits, power exchanges and needles, knives or whips…eroticism becomes even more emotionally charged. So in a sense the responsibility we have for our partner’s emotional safety grows exponentially.
Safety is as simple as agreed upon standard guidelines like safewords but is as complex as knowing when to stop without the need for safewords.
As a Dominant, safety for me means hyper vigilance to the emotional and physical, and even at moments spiritual, well being of my bottom. But it also means I have the responsibility to keep myself well in scene too.
Safety is enacted with the awareness that danger is sexy, but that harm is not.
Bio: Dark Gracie is an acclaimed sex author and deviant extraordinaire, who first began writing explitica in 2005. Today her work is published in Erotica Diaries, regularly featured on Fleshbot, reviewed by Playboy and appeared in Cosmopolitan Australia. She has worked with PopSyndicate, Mayhem Magazine, Sex and the 405, Safeword Magazine and Conversextion.com. Gracie’s fallen-from-grace filth can be found on her blog where she reveals mindfuck stories and appears on Good Vibrations Magazine and soon to be writing for Servitú Magazine.
Safe (in a nutshell): Safe Trust and communication is key along with a safe word.
Diana online: official site: DianaKnight.com
Safe (in a nutshell): Trust, understanding, & familiarity with your play partner.
A few helpful resources:
education: An online video education resource (recommended by one of my favorite perverts, Dark Gracie): kinkacademy.com A great basic overview of Safer SM Sex (in pdf format) by New England Leather Alliance Resources + checklists by The Next Generation of Chicago
events & groups: A pretty exhaustive listing of Groups and Munches in the US: scene USA at darkheart.com A more comprehensive international list of BDSM groups by Ranai A list of BDSM & Leather events in 2013 at bdsmresourceguide.com
negotiation: A basic (but still pretty comprehensive) activities list by vampirespet.com A more extensive activities list by wikiphilia.net Another extensive (printable) activities list by Columbia Erotic Power Exchange