June 20, 2009

Competing Axioms – SSC or RACK?

BDSM and related kink have endured a bad rap for a long time. Some of this is due to those rare individuals who engage in improper or dangerous behavior and call it BDSM. But most of the bad reputation stems from ignorance. In an effort to eradicate this ignorance, both among the public at large and in their own ranks, many factions of the kinky community adopted an axiom many years ago by which it generally lived and played. That axiom was “safe, sane and consensual” (SSC). The message was if it’s not safe, if it’s not sane, and if it’s not consensual, it’s not acceptable. This approach has the best intentions and many still consider it the most appropriate saying to help guide the community towards good play.

The first edition of my book Learning The Ropes: A Basic Guide to Safe and Fun SM Lovemaking (new edition hopefully available someday – I’m working on it) promoted the SSC approach wholeheartedly and I still respect its intention. It still has power and usefulness. But over the course of time, since I wrote the book and today, my views have shifted slightly.

In recent years others within the community have begun to adopt a new axiom that, to them, more accurately represents realistic guidelines by which BDSM and other kinky practitioners should abide. That axiom is “risk-aware, consensual kink” (RACK) and, to the best of my knowledge, was first proposed by Gary Switch of Prometheus magazine. This is the perspective I currently embrace and I offer it to you for consideration.

The reasoning behind RACK is sound. Nothing is truly 100% safe. Even crossing the street isn’t totally safe, not to mention driving a car, mountain climbing or skateboarding. Much the way we promote defensive driving of a car, so does the RACK approach promote awareness and proper management of the risks involved in kinky play, indeed in all sexual activity be it kinky or not.

Risk-aware sex takes into account the various safer sex approaches that each of us has decided make sense for us and also considers the necessity of assessing the sanity of all play and players.

Consensual just makes sense, both in the SSC and RACK approaches. If erotic play of any kind isn’t consensual it really shouldn’t be considered part of acceptable play.

Kink is a more inclusive word than BDSM that more accurately embraces the range of activities that BDSM and other edgy play encompass in more recent times. The ways people engage in kinky play today varies greatly and as continued explorations take place the world of kink expands. This is a good thing.

So, I’m a convert. I now rarely will use the SSC axiom and I now promote the RACK approach.

I’d be interested in your thoughts about this topic.

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