Kink + Safety: What You Need to Know

As with all sexual activity, there are safety concerns to think about when engaging in kink. Unfortunately, due to our restrictive and shameful sexual culture in the United States, many folks don’t receive anything close to comprehensive sexual education, let alone a kink-inclusive education. There is a lot of misinformation out there, like the idea that kink is an inherently risky activity. If you are interested in learning more about kink, make sure to do your research carefully. (Here are some books on the topic to get you started!) The kink community, in general, is very focused and intentional on safety.

If we want an education on kinky topics, many of us have to go looking for it ourselves. Which is where we come in! Kink doesn’t have to be a big scary thing hanging over you - ideally, it is there to provide you a safe space to explore your desires and sexuality. So, it’s important that all participants feel safe (in any sexual scenario, not just kink!). However, there are some ways to approach safety that are specific to kinky activities. If you’ve ever wondered how to discuss safety and kink with your sexual partner(s), here are our top tips:

Consent

We’ve written about consent here on the blog before, but it is such a crucial part of any sexual activity that we would be remiss if we didn’t mention it again. Here’s an excerpt: “In the kink community, consent is paramount. Consent is never implied - it is generally understood in the kink community that consent is an important discussion between partners and that it is ongoing. Saying “yes” to one activity does not imply a “yes” for all other sexual activity. It is crucial to negotiate consent before a scene and go over each participant’s limits and to check in during the scene as well.” Consent requires communication, so make sure to communicate your own desires and limits, and listen to your partner(s) when they communicate them to you. Additionally, stay in touch about consent as consent can change - saying yes to one activity today may not be yes to that activity tomorrow.

Know Your Acronyms

There are two popular acronyms used by kinksters: SSC (Safe, Sane, Consensual) and RACK (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink). RACK was developed as a response to SSC, because some folks find SSC to be limiting (or they find it’s an easier framework to describe kink to non-kinksters, but not comprehensive enough to use within kink communities). RACK is an understanding that no sexual activity is ever 100% safe, but being aware of the risks and making an informed decision that focuses on consent is vital.

Safe Words

You may have heard of the idea of a safe word before. A safe word is a clear signal to everyone involved in a scene to slow down or stop play. Basically, you choose a word that is short and easy to remember and make sure everyone involved in a scene is aware before play begins. You can pick whatever word you like, or use the words stop/no (although, if part of your play involves saying stop or no and having the person continue, you should choose another word). You can also use a stoplight system to check in with your partner(s) before, during, and after play. In this system, green means keep going, yellow means slow down and check in, and red means to stop immediately. Again, make sure that when you’re engaging in play, everyone is aware of the safe words that will be used.

Hard + Soft Limits

We like to recommend a Yes/No/Maybe list for folks who are exploring what they’re interested in sexually, and this can be a great starting point for determining what your hard and soft limits are. A hard limit is something you absolutely will not do, under any circumstance. A soft limit is something you are not usually interested in but would be willing to try in the right circumstance. An important thing to remember is that your hard and soft limits may evolve over time, so as always, it’s important to communicate your limits with your partner(s) regularly.

Aftercare

Aftercare is a post-play check-in, where partners give time and attention to each other to wrap up the scene and make sure everyone is feeling safe and comfortable. It can include cuddling, discussing the scene, drinking water, eating a snack, or something else. There aren’t rules for what you “have” to do for aftercare because everyone is different, but the end goal should be to communicate and make sure everyone is feeling good and taken care of. Aftercare is for everyone involved in play, not just for the submissive partner(s). Dominant folks need aftercare too, so make sure to check in with everyone involved in a scene and see what they need for support.

With these tips in mind, hopefully kink feels a bit more approachable and less intimidating. Remember, consent is paramount, and communication is key in kink.

Blog authors all hold positions at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Collective (G&STC). For more information about our therapists and services please contact us.