31 May, 2010

The Nature of Consent, Part One: SSC vs. RACK

WARNING!!! This post talks about sex, kink and consent, and is NSFW. It also might be upsetting for some readers.

The issue of consent is one which is very important in feminist circles. It is a topic that needs to be talked about over and over and over again. But when it comes to kinky circles, kinky feminists, the word holds even more meanings.

These are currently two schools of thought regarding consent in kinky sexuality. They are defined by the acronyms SSC and RACK.

SSC: Safe, Sane and Consentual, is one I actually vehemently reject.

For starters, who exactly defines safe? What is safe? There are things I might do to make me safe, but which would be unsafe to other people because of different tolerances and triggers. And not every kinky activity is safe. Slap and tickle? Sure. Handcuffs and bondage? Whatever. Knife play? No way in hell is that safe. The only thing we can do, what we need to trust ourselves and our partners to do, is be aware of the risks.

Want to play with knives? Have fun. Want to do a suspension scene? Go right ahead. Interested in wax play? Enjoy. But be aware that these are not safe activities. They are dangerous. And we need to accept that danger, to understand that danger, in order to take the precautions necessary to engage in these activities.

The other thing that really shits me about SSC is the word "Sane". Guess what! I'm not sane. I don't identify as sane. There are some days when I am more sane than others, but what about when I'm in the midst of a manic episode and really, really want sex? Should I just say no? Por what if I don't know if this is the beginnings of mania or I'm just really happy? Where is the line drawn?
To demand that all kinky participants be sane is, quite frankly, ableist. And I won't have any part in that.

RACK is actually something I hold very dear to me, and something which I think all sexually active people should strive for, not just kinky ones. Risk Aware Consentual Kink (or sex, if you're not kinky). This is about knowing what you're doing, researching something new before trying it, taking into account every possible eventuatioion of an activity. Even more importantly, it's about making sure your partner(s) is awarer of all possible risks too. And with this awareness, making sure you all are truly willing to proceed.

This is, I believe, the true nature of consent: knowing the risks and consciously deciding, yes, I'm going to try this.


Patrick said...

Heck, yes! I've written the same, only in German.

Risk-awareness is such a great phrase. It implies not only taking risks, but being aware of them. Not just "forget the risk, just grab my throat and squeeze" (I just had someone tell me that if done right, breath play was "perfectly safe"), but actually what could happen and what would you do if it did?

Anonymous said...

While I lean towards RACK myself, in defence of "safe", I tend to read that as "safe" in the sense of "safe sex". AIUI, sex educators prefer the term safer sex, because no sex is entirely risk-free, but general usage is to talk of condoms, dental dams etc as "safe".

Similarly, when we teach kids about crossing the road, we talk about "road safety", but crossing the road is inherently risky however many precautions you take.

So "safe" in the SSC terminology has (I think) the same connotations as "road safety" and "safe sex".

Of course, that still leaves that "safe" as a term tends to argue against things like cutting and breathplay.