Risk-aware consensual kink

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A submissive man is consoled by his mistress after she has made his back bloody through massive beating. Femdom bloody back.jpg
A submissive man is consoled by his mistress after she has made his back bloody through massive beating.

Risk-aware consensual kink (RACK, also risk-accepted consensual kink) is an acronym used by some of the BDSM community [1] [2] to describe a philosophical view that is generally permissive of certain risky sexual behaviors, as long as the participants are fully aware of the risks. [3] This is often viewed in contrast to safe, sane, and consensual which generally holds that only activities that are considered safe, sane, and consensual are permitted. [4]



The philosophy for RACK consists of the following components:

While "Safe, Sane and Consensual" (SSC) attempts to describe and differentiate BDSM from abuse in ways that are easy for the non-BDSM public to comprehend, RACK differs from it in that it acknowledges that nothing is ever 100% inherently safe. By acknowledging that what may be safe or sane to one person may not be considered the same to another, the RACK philosophy tends to be more inclusive of activities that others may consider as edgeplay. [6] There is no "safe" or "not safe" within RACK, only "safer" and "less safe." [7]

RACK can also be described as a mindset which pays more attention to perhaps unexpected consequences of BDSM play. Its theory revolves around reasoned, ex-ante commitment, including the possible consequences of riskier play. In contrast, SSC revolves around the end results of play, or the ex-post. It tries to minimize any potential harm despite the risks BDSM players might be willing to partake in. Both philosophies aim to minimize foreseeable harm, but RACK puts more emphasis on individual commitment to possible risk, beforehand, while SSC tries to minimize total harm foreseeable over the longer term. Thus, RACK adherents stress the value of individual prior consent to even risky fun, while the SSC contingent counters that people often do not choose as freely as they seem, they might behave irrationally at times, and so the consequences of rash individual choice perhaps ought to be mitigated from the start.


RACK was coined in reaction to dissatisfaction within the BDSM community regarding SSC. According to David Stein, the man who coined "Safe, Sane, and Consensual S/M" for New York's Gay Male S/M Activists organization, SSC was only intended to be put forward as a minimum standard for ethically defensible S/M play, to establish a distinction between play between loving S/M partners and the public perception of sadomasochism which would be more accurately described as abusive behavior. Over time, as the phrase started spreading through the larger community and appeared on bumper stickers and T-shirts, people started to associate "safe" with "risk-free," diluting the message. "Instead of asking people to think about what it means to do S/M ethically, and to make the hard choices that are sometimes necessary (if only between what's right and what's right now), many organizations today act as if these issues have all been settled, assuring us that sadistic or masochistic behavior not deemed SSC isn't S/M at all but something else — abuse, usually, or domestic violence or poor self-esteem." [8]

In 1999, Gary Switch posted to The Eulenspiegel Society's USENET list "TES-Friends" proposing the term RACK out of a desire to form a more accurate portrayal of the type of play that many engage in. Noting that nothing is truly 100% safe, not even crossing the street, Switch compared BDSM to the sport of mountain climbing. In both, risk is an essential part of the thrill, and that risk is minimized through study, training, technique, and practice. [9]


Not all members of the BDSM community adhere to one principle to the exclusion of the other. Some people subscribe to both mottos, using SSC as a description of the activities to any member of the general public, while using RACK as a description of the activities within members of a community. [5] Still others define their own terms, the term PRICK (Personal Responsibility, Informed Consensual Kink) in particular emphasizes the concept of taking personal responsibility for your actions, as well as an informed analysis of the risks. [10] [11] In some "old-guard" circles the term "Committed Compassionate Consensual" is circulated. [8]

See also

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Dominance and submission Erotic roleplay involving the submission of one person to another

Dominance and submission is a set of behaviours, customs, and rituals involving the submission of one person to another in an erotic episode or lifestyle. It is a subset of BDSM. This form of sexual contact and pleasure has been shown to please a minority of people.

Play (BDSM)

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Limits (BDSM)

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Erotic sensation play is a class of activities meant to impart physical sensations upon a partner, as opposed to mental forms of erotic play such as power exchange or sexual roleplaying.

Consent (BDSM)

Consent within BDSM is when a participant gives their permission for certain acts or types of relationships. It bears much in common with the concept of informed consent and is simultaneously a personal, ethical and social issue. It is an issue that attracts much attention within BDSM, resulting in competing models of consent such as Safe, sane and consensual and Risk-aware consensual kink. Observers from outside the BDSM community have also commented on the issue of consent in BDSM, sometimes referring to legal consent which is a separate and largely unrelated matter. However, the presence of explicit consent within BDSM can often have implications for BDSM and the law and, depending on the country the participants are in, may make the differences between being prosecuted or not.

Kink (sexuality) Non-normative sexual behavior

In human sexuality, kinkiness is the use of non-conventional sexual practices, concepts or fantasies. The term derives from the idea of a "bend" in one's sexual behaviour, to contrast such behaviour with "straight" or "vanilla" sexual mores and proclivities. It is thus a colloquial term for non-normative sexual behaviour. The term "kink" has been claimed by some who practice sexual fetishism as a term or synonym for their practices, indicating a range of sexual and sexualistic practices from playful to sexual objectification and certain paraphilias. In the 21st century the term "kink", along with expressions like BDSM, leather and fetish, has become more commonly used than the term paraphilia. Some universities also feature student organizations focused on kink, within the context of wider LGBTI concerns. Psychologist Margie Nichols describes kink as one of the "variations that make up the 'Q' in LGBTQ".

Conversio Virium (CV), one of the oldest university student-run BDSM education groups in the United States, is the central Columbia University student organization that represents the college's collective population who engage in consensual BDSM and related activities. CV is a not-for-profit group that advocates strongly for freedom of sexual self-expression and is particularly concerned with creating a safe and welcoming environment for young people to explore their interest in alternative sexual practices, especially consensual sexual dominance and submission (D/s). CV participates in many of New York City's sexuality community events alongside similar organizations such as The Eulenspiegel Society.

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