Author: Justin Medlin © 2001
I am sure that most everyone reading this knows what S.S.C. stands for......Safe, Sane and Consensual. Its catchy, easy to remember and it has been a worthwhile marketing slogan for the BDSM lifestyle no matter what your level of involvement. Over time though it has become less useful to the people actually engaging in BDSM activities, but perhaps even more useful in making us appear more "normal" to the outside world. What is "normal" by the way?
Lets break down the acronyms and see which bests serves the people who actually engage in BDSM activities, then you decide which works best the for you.
Safe: Free from harm. All necessary precautions that can be taken for a particular activity have been. Sounds good. Now define safe for yourself. So far so good. Define safe for everyone else that engages in BDSM. There in lies the catch with Safe, its impossible to come up with an even close, satisfactory universal definition that covers anyone other than you. What one person considers safe another may think is not only unsafe as it applies to them but damn close to insane as well. Single tails, cuttings, needle play and brandings are just a few of the activities that some of us engage in, that many others find beyond their limits and thus unsafe for themselves. Safe on the other hand, is one of the reasons that SSC is such a wonderful marketing tool for some of the best political activist groups that we have, and thank goodness for them, such as the NCSF (National Coalition of Sexual Freedom) who is working very hard to get and keep the government out of your bedroom. "Safe" is a comforting word to those that they are working with to get laws changed and passed.
Sane: This is another tough one to define. Sane to most of us means that we have clear mental facilities at the time that we are engaging in any BDSM activity, that we are neither high, drunk or unbalanced mentally in any way. Sounds good. Sane is rarely applied to any activity, so like Safe; Sane is left to the individual. What you consider to be a sane activity I may think is completely crazy. Sane is another comfort word that's wonderful in selling what it is that we do. The media often portrays anyone into S&M as being a deranged serial killer at worst and usually criminal to some lesser degree at best, so its nice to be able to convey the fact that the majority of the people who engage in BDSM, including S&M, are level headed sane people who just like to spice up their sex lives with the additions of whips and chains.
Consensual: This is the one that we all seem to agree on. If the person you are playing with has not fully consented to whatever it is that is taking place, its wrong, its assault and its abusive. Consent in what we do is the very fine line that divides us from criminals and abusers. Informed consent that is given while NOT under duress can be applied to those that engage in BDSM play and able to be understood by those that do not. It seems to be the most honest of the three of SSC.
Ok, lets examine R.A.C.K. which has not been around all that long and is widely unknown by those who engage in BDSM activities. Risk Aware Censual Kink.
Risk: What are some of the things that can go wrong, even with the best of planning and at the hands of the most experienced player. Risk does not imply Safe; it implies that there can be dangers that have to be weighed before engaging in any activity. Risk would be a much harder sell than Safe to the vanilla world. It somewhat implies that what we do is in fact dangerous. Isn't most if not all of what we do dangerous to some degree? I think so.
Aware: Now that you know what the risks are for a given BDSM play activity do you accept those risks and are you aware of what the possibilities are if something should go wrong and they should befall you? Acceptance means that yes, you are aware of the risk involved and that you knowingly and willingly accept those risks. There is no debate about whether or not it's Sane. Aware means that you, after weighing the risks to the enjoyment and benefit of the activity, to YOU that it is sane and that you can make an informed decision. It re-enforces the fact that what we do is in fact up to the individuals participating. It's honest.
Consensual: Same as above. The two (or more) people involved in any BDSM play activity are informed consenting ADULTS and that consent has not been obtained under duress (with a gun to someone's head for example).
Kink: This implies that what we do is somewhat outside the mainstream. Kink is an umbrella term and one that is good, in that it covers everyone. What I consider to be kinky you might consider to be boring and mundane, but it covers us both. There are some kinks that do squick me, namely sex in the dark in the missionary position. That's kinky as hell to me, but those that enjoy their sex that way very well may consider the fact that my slave and I enjoy things such as spanking, paddling, single tails, caning, electrical play (and not vibrators), enema's, straps, knife play etc etc to be kinky, but we are both covered.
So which one is more suited to what it is that we do, SSC or RACK? I personally think that RACK is a lot more honest and a lot less ambiguous than SSC for the purpose in educating the people who actually engage in BDSM play activities. I think that RACK makes you much more aware of what needs to be covered before engaging in ANY activity with anyone. I also think that we as a community still have a great need for SSC, the theory behind it was very noble when it came about in the mid 1980's and that theory is still noble today. We as a community need something that is short and catchy and portrays us in a good light. A popular beer commercial advertises its product as "great taste, less filling" and for the people it's trying to reach is a great slogan. It does not advertise with "drink 6 of these in 15 minutes, get behind the wheel of a car and you may kill yourself or someone else". That's the reality of it though isn't it? Beyond just selling ourselves in a positive fashion to the rest of the world, I think we also owe it ourselves AND the rest of the world to educate one another and ourselves in the best most honest fashion that we can. As far as I am concerned, SSC makes the sale possible and nice, RACK is the warranty that keeps it from ever being portrayed as lemon. Think about it.
Copyright Justin Medlin © July 2001