Wednesday, May 4, 2011

SSC versus RACK

SSC means Safe, Sane, and Consensual. And that works well for many people playing around with BDSM. If those three terms are met then everything is fine.

However, for some people, SSC doesn't work so well with their kinks and fantasies and desires. One person's definition of insane is perfectly rational and sane to another. And one person's definition of safe may seem a bit too risky for someone else.

RACK stands for Risk Aware Consensual Kink. It acknowledges that much of what we do has some inherent risks. RACK acknowledges those risks and looks for ways to minimize them where possible. SSC says if it isn't safe you don't do it. RACK says we understand there may be a risk, but we've educated ourselves about it and know how to minimize the risks, and we choose to take the chance from an informed perspective. It's a different mindset.

With needle play and knife play there is risk of infection. With wax play and fire play there is risk of being burned. There are risks with electrical play, breath play, suspension bondage, watersports... the list goes on. Risk can be minimized with proper education, but there is still risk.

Why do people do it? Why take the risk? Personally, I think a big part of it has to do with the level of trust involved in taking things to that level. But that's not all of it - if you are turned on by bondage then five years from now you may need to take it to the next level to keep it fresh and new and still be turned on by it - that could mean suspension bondage.

And that leads me to talking about SSC versus RACK when it comes to erotica. Most of what I see in the popular consensual romantic BDSM books out there is SSC. But, most of those books are the beginning of a relationship, and often one of the partners is new to the scene. So SSC fits in with that basic template. But is that why most authors seem to stick to the tenets of SSC? Or is it that the readers are more comfortable with that?

There are a few edge activities that make it into books -- wax play, branding, and suspension bondage, for instance. But what about some of the less socially accepted, edgier, activities? Needle play? Breath control? Knife play? Fire play? Catheters? Would the extra risk, done responsibly, be more spice for you, or would it be a turn off?


  1. After all these years, my kinks (fantasy and reality) have stayed fairly simple and safe. Wax play is about as wild as I get. In fiction, yes, I think some edgier play would be fun to read about, like breath control, suspension bondage and knife play (as long as it says away from the eyes!). I would not knowingly read a book with needles and/or catheters - just not my thing. I've only read one book with electrical play, and the character died as a result. I'm guessing that is a very rare occurrence in reality, but it doesn't make me want to try it any time soon. I'm happy with SSC in fiction, but I'm sure there is an audience for RACK too.

    ~ Diana

  2. It's funny, I don't do needles either. Nope. Nada. But I don't mind reading about them. I can enjoy it when it's happening to someone else. :)

    The Top has to really know what they are doing with electricity. In real life I prefer a tens unit, as that's safe with a similar feel. In books though, I don't mind the extra risk.

    My turn off is when people's feet are tortured. I have to just skip right over it. Doesn't matter if it's a flogger or a cane or just a rubber band snapping at them... I just cannot deal with it.

  3. I've read hot, edgier play, and enjoyed it -- and passed out once, but that's another story. In terms of a book about a relationship I'm going to like the Dom that errs on the side of safety. Philisophically, well, everything has a risk, and RACK makes a lot more sense than the black and white notion of SSC, but a dom trying to use that distinction to talk a sub into more risky play doesn't sound very attractive.

  4. Wow, I hadn't thought of it that way Sindra. I was coming from the idea of a bottom who had a fantasy that was risky, and a Top who had to go the extra mile to make sure he could fulfil her fantasy safely.

    You passed out from doing something edgy, or reading something edgy? Either way, sounds like an interesting story :)

  5. Reading. It was a Pat Califia book, I think it involved needles (my memory of it is fuzzy) I was low on blood sugar, and sick. And, unfortunately, at work. I went out to tell the librarian on the desk that I'd be lying down for a moment and might not make it to the desk on time, turned around to go to the break room, and didn't make it even one step. There's still a little mark where my head hit the wall, but I was already out and didn't even feel it.

    The EMTs were hot, tho. :)

    Back to the topic, yes, that scenario where it's the bottom who wants to do the the risky thing is much hotter. And maybe we need more books where the bottom is suggesting the activity, or even is teaching the top to be, well, a Top.