My Safety Philosophy: Why I Practice (C)RACK

I always listen to Loving BDSM Podcast the day it comes out (Fridays), usually on my way to work. They’re always insightful, frequently hilarious and often make me think.  Today’s episode was all about the different safety philosophies within the kink community. Kayla and John discussed why they personally practice SSC – Safe, Sane and Consensual. As always, they’ve got loads of great things to say and I highly recommend you take a listen.

A cracked wall with flowers growing out of it. For a post on safety philosophies in kink.As I was listening, I realised I’ve written about safety tips for kink, but I’ve never actually written about my own personal safety philosophy before.

In kink, the three safety philosophies you’ll mostly hear cited are:

SSC: Which states that everything we do must be Safe, Sane and Consensual.

RACK: Which urges us to practice Risk Aware Consensual Kink.

And PRICK: Which asks us to take Personal Responsibility (in) Informed Consensual Kink.

Each of these has their merits and I will never knock anyone else’s safety philosophy as long as it’s based around the cores of safety and informed consent. Personally, though, I practice RACK. Let me tell you why.

What is “safe” anyway?

Very little in life is completely safe. We take risks in our life every day. It would be absurd to think that sex or kink could be completely free from risk. I take a risk every time I use a sharp knife to chop vegetables. I take a risk every time I get in my car (driving, when you think about the size of the machine you’re in and the speeds at which it moves, is fucking terrifying). And I definitely take a risk every time I let someone spank me, string me up in ropes, or get into edgy and emotionally fraught places in my psyche. (Yes, not all risk is physical. Mental risk is just as real).

Risk Aware, for me, doesn’t just mean knowing the risks are there but taking active steps to reduce them. We know driving is dangerous, so we wear seatbelts, don’t drive drunk, and don’t text while we’re driving. And in kink, it’s exactly the same.

Being risk aware means letting a partner know about any physical issues I might have that could impact our play, and keeping an eye on them during. It means letting my partner know about a pinched nerve or pins and needles in my hands. It means, when I’m Topping, getting proper education on the acts I want to do to another human being and not playing beyond my competence level.

So: nothing we do is, or can be, completely safe. Even vanilla missionary position sex with the lights out carries some degree of risk. By being informed, we can meaningfully mitigate risks to the best of our ability.

Who gets to define “sanity”?

I, like approximately 1/4 of the adult population (conservative estimate,) suffer from a mental health problem. Does that mean I’m incapable of doing kink responsibly? No, absolutely not. As a person with mental health conditions, I find classifications of “sanity” to be intensely problematic.

As long as I’m aware of where my mental health is at, and can communicate that to a partner, it’s generally reasonably safe and completely healthy for me to play. Which… circles us back around to that risk aware piece, doesn’t it?

At best, sanity is nebulous and difficult to define. What feels “insane” to one person might be “average Saturday afternoon” for another.

My unease with PRICK

PRICK is a fine philosophy, in so far as it goes. But it makes me feel a vague uneasiness whenever I hear it, and today I finally put my finger on why.

I’ve been involved in various ways in anti-sexual-violence activism for 6+ years. The phrase “personal responsibility” has been thrown at me and so many of the survivors I know more times than we can count. In those instances, unfortunately, it is taken to the extreme of meaning that you are ultimately responsible for everything that happens to you.

This means that a generally good philosophy (“look out for yourself, take responsibility for your actions and the impact they have on yourself and others around you”) has been co-opted and twisted to mean “if someone harms you, it’s your fault”.

It’s not that I’ll never play with someone who practices PRICK, but I would need to make damn sure that their meaning is closer to “we are responsible for taking care of our own and each others’ safety and wellbeing to the best of our ability”. That’s what a good philosophy of personal responsibility would look like.

Sadly, I just know too many people who say “personal responsibility” when they mean “if you get raped, what were you wearing how much did you drink why were you out late how did you not know that guy was a rapist?????

It all comes back to consent

Whichever you practice, you’ll notice that the one thing all these philosophies have in common is consent. Consent is at the core of everything we do. However, it occurred to me today that there is one key ingredient which none of these philosophies explicitly address…

The missing piece

Kayla and John so often come back to the importance of communication in their discussions on Loving BDSM. I often find myself nodding along, and am in absolute agreement with them that effective communication is at the core of everything we do. You cannot have safe(r) kink and sex without communication. You cannot have a good relationship without communication! And I don’t think we can meaningfully discuss good philosophies of safety without also discussing the importance of strong communication.

Therefore I present to you my new philosophy, adapted from RACK, which you are all welcome to use if it speaks to you:

CRACK: Communicative (&) Risk Aware Consensual Kink.

If you enjoyed this piece, please check out my Patreon page or buy me a virtual coffee. You can also support my work by buying great sexy products through my affiliates. Check out this week’s special offers and deals!

Image from Pixabay and used under Creative Commons licensing.

Beyond Safewords: Tools to Help You Stay Safe

It’s #KinkMonth! I’m celebrating by writing posts inspired by Kayla Lords’ fantastic 30 Days of D/s project, which you should totally check out.

Today is all about safewords, a subject about which I have Many Feelings. Kayla and John ask simply:

So, the question today is, what’s your safeword? If you don’t want to have one, why not?

A set of traffic lights on s dark background, red, amber and green, for a post about safewords

I love safewords. Truly, I do. There are fairly few things in kink I take a really hard line on, but you need to have a safeword is one of them. (Along with “thou shalt not cheat” and “it’s all a game at the end of the day.” But those are both subjects for other posts.

A safeword, for those not aware, is basically a word that means STOP IMMEDIATELY. It’s useful in scenes where words like “no” and “stop” are not supposed to be taken at face value – resistance play and certain roleplay scenarios, for example. The most common safeword is “red,” but any word you wouldn’t normally use in a kinky context will work. My first safeword was “canary.” I also used “aardvark” at one point.

Again: safewords are really, really important. If you’re playing any kind of scene where “no” might not really mean no, you must have a safeword. Others will disagree with me, and that’s fine. But again: I take a really hard line on this. Have a fucking safeword.

But safewords are not the be-all, end-all of safe BDSM. So here I want to suggest a few other tools you might want to have in your “safer kinky fuckery” toolkit.

The word “no.”

In the absence of very explicit negotiation to the contrary, “no” is the untimate safeword for everyone. Unless you’ve very clearly spelled out “for the length of this scene (or relationship, I suppose,) no doesn’t mean no”… guess what? No means fucking no.

A “check in” or “adjust” word.

The most popular of these is “orange” or “amber” (usually alongside red, like a system of traffic lights. “Green,” though less commonly used, means “keep going!”) This is valuable because it differentiates between needing to bring the entire scene to a screeching halt, and just needing to adjust something.

Mr CK and I have agreed that if I say “red,” the scene is finished and we’ll stop playing, commence aftercare and debrief about what went wrong. “Orange,” though, could just mean “I’m nearing my limit, maybe spank a little more gently” or “my arm’s going to sleep, can we change positions?”

Really robust negotiation.

You’ve fully negotiated before you began playing, right? (Read this post for tips and tricks on doing just that.) Of course, things can always go wrong and there’s no shame in that as long as everyone was operating in good faith. But the more fully and clearly you negotiate, the better chance you have of having a hot, sexy scene where everything goes well.

A 1-1o scale.

This is mostly useful if you’re engaging in pain play of any kind. 1 typically means “I can’t feel it,” whereas 10 means “I am about to use my safeword.” The sweet spot will vary from person to person, and you should be ready to communicate yours to your partner if you use this scale.

For me, anything between a 4 and an 8 is enjoyable. Lower than 4, and I’m probably not getting much out of it. 9 is well into the “I’m enjoying the endurance challenge of this but not the pain itself” territory, and 10 is pretty much synonymous with “orange, stop hitting me right now.” I once Topped a guy, though, whose goal was to hit a solid 9 and stay there for most of the scene.

Again, no one size fits all, but the scale is a useful way of communicating if you’re engaging in pain type play.

Body language and non-verbal communication.

If you know each other well, you probably know each other’s body language and non-verbal cues pretty well.

Does he go silent when something’s wrong? Do deep, guttural moans mean she’s having fun, but high-pitched squeaks mean she’s reaching her limit? Do they clench their fists when they’re having a tough time with something? Is crying good or bad?

Body language is far from foolproof, and should go alongside using your words, but it’s a massive part of how we communicate as human beings and can be a really, really valuable tool if you take the time to tune in.

References.

If you want to play with a new person and they’re active on their local scene and/or Fetlife, it’s a good idea to do some asking around and see what their reputation is. Most people won’t hesitate to tell you what their impression or experience of someone is.

Sadly, this method has its problems, and how useful it is will likely depend upon your local scene politics. Kink communities often have a problem with sheltering abusers (especially if the abuser is popular, charming or throws good parties.)

Ask around, always seek a second opinion whatever you hear, and don’t rely solely on this information to keep you safe.

Safe-calls.

This is where you arrange to call/text/otherwise contact someone – perhaps a friend or another partner? – at a prearranged time, during or after a date, to tell them you’re safe.

For example: “I’ll call you by 4pm. If I don’t, please call me. If I don’t answer, I’m in trouble, here’s where I’ll be.”

Aside from the obvious benefit of having someone who knows where you are, who you’re with and can alert the relevant authorities quickly if something happens to you, setting up a safe call and informing them about it can also tell you a lot about the person you’re going to play with. If you say “I need to call my friend at 4pm to let her know I’m safe,” a good play partner will say “sure, maybe set an alarm to remind yourself” and not “WHAT THE FUCK WHY DON’T YOU TRUST ME I’M A NICE GUY!!!”

If it’s a variation on the latter, run.

A spotter.

Lastly, a tool which I feel is under-utilised but really, really valuable. A spotter watches the scene but is not directly involved unless they’re needed. For example, a more experienced rigger might watch a rope scene to make sure the tie is safe. Using spotters is brilliant when you’re learning new skills, but their usefulness extends beyond just beginners. If you’re playing with someone new or someone you don’t know very well, having a third party to observe and check in if necessary can help to keep you safe – especially if it’s someone who knows you, and your reactions, particularly well.

What tools do you use to keep yourself and your partners safe, beyond just safewords?

Kinky item of the day: Jacks Floggers’ pocket singletail. This is not an affiliate link and I have no connection to the company, I just love the hell out of his stuff. I bought this whip for Mr CK last Christmas and we both adore it. (MASSIVE SAFETY DISCLAIMER: singletails are dangerous. Please do not use one on a person until you’ve been taught how by an expert and had adequate practice.)

The image in this post was offered for use under creative commons licensing.