Safe, Sane and Consensual (SSC) vs. Risk Aware Consensual Kink (RACK)

Stock photo of a white tin case with red text which reads "First Aid case"

If you’re new to the world of BDSM, you may have heard the terms “SSC” and “RACK”, and you may be confused as to what exactly they mean, whether they differ from each other and which is better to use. So let me start at the beginning: they’re names for schools of thought within BDSM regarding, essentially, safety and best practice.

SSC = Safe, Sane and Consensual.

RACK = Risk-Aware, Consensual Kink.

There are other versions of these (such as PRICK, which stands for “Personal Responsibility, Informed Consensual Kink”, and CRASH, which stands for “Consensual, Risk-Aware, Shit Happens”), but they’re not as commonly used as SSC or RACK. You’re more than welcome to generate your own code of ethics and best practice within BDSM, and it doesn’t even need a cool acronym, but the benefit of terms like SSC and RACK is that lots of other kinksters are aware of their meanings, which makes communication with those kinksters that little bit more streamlined.

I have to confess, I am firmly a RACK person. I understand the appeal of SSC, especially to newcomers. We all want to believe that the things we do, in kink and in life, are safe and sane. The first problem, though, lies in the subjectivity of both of those words. Imagine you’re talking to someone from, say, 1600. You explain to them that we have huge metal carriages, called “cars”, that can travel at up to 270 miles an hour, and that even in everyday use they can exceed 70. You acknowledge that sometimes, the drivers of these “cars” can lack skill or focus, and sometimes they lose control of their vehicles. Then you reassure your new friend that we have crossings in place, where cars are legally mandated to stop, so that pedestrians can move from one side of the road to the other. They’re only slightly relieved by this, and they are aghast when you follow it up with, “But some people just nip across the road where there isn’t a crossing at all.”

To someone from 1600, that seems both unsafe and fucking insane, but to us, it’s Tuesday. Our understanding of safety changes from decade to decade and person to person. Some people won’t eat raw cookie dough because they deem it unsafe. Some people will do several recreational substances in a field with their friends, with no phone signal nor sober people onsite. (Not me, of course; I would never). People do things that they think are safe but that others do not, and some people do things that they know to be unsafe, because we’re all blessed with bodily autonomy, no matter how recklessly we use it.

There’s also the issue that some kink acts just cannot be made safe. YouTuber Evie Lupine did a wonderful video on this topic, citing breath play and the use of restraints as being among the things that beginners dip their toes into without a full awareness of the risks involved. SSC suggests that kinksters should only engage in play that is safe, but that takes a lot of activities off the table, or else minimises the risks those activities pose. Implying that things like choking are safe, rather than fraught with risks that can be mitigated, is dangerous, especially for beginners. It’s for this reason I prefer the “Risk-Aware” label.

Then there’s the “sane” issue. First, as outlined above, our understanding of what is and isn’t sane to do varies wildly. I don’t think that skiing is a sane thing to do (just chuck yourself down a snowy mountain! With some sticks! It’s fine!), but other people either disagree, or do it anyway. The implication that some types of play can be insane is troublesome, because the distinction between sane and not-sane is different for everybody and because if there are not-sane ways to play, what does that mean for the people who practice them?

The thing is, I know I am not a sane person by most definitions. I experience mild hallucinations, some delusions, huge emotional responses and more, and the idea that sanity is a requirement for kink is… troubling. By focusing instead on risk awareness, I can participate in kink so long as I comprehend the risks and can give informed and unimpeded consent (unimpeded meaning not affected by, nor primarily motivated by weird brain things). I’m sure people who prefer SSC don’t have any ableist intentions, but in suggesting that kink has to be sane, SSC runs the risk of alienating people who aren’t, strictly speaking, sane themselves.

I don’t judge people who use SSC rather than RACK – I’m sure they have their reasons for doing so, and everyone is entitled to set their own rules regarding how they approach BDSM. But I’m always going to err on the side of risk-awareness over insisting on safety and I’m always going to shy away from insistence upon sanity, and I hope y’all can understand why.

Why Do I Keep Finding Autistic People In My Kink Communities? (For #AutismAcceptance Month)

Gummi bears lined up in a grid. Most of them are clear, but the one in the centre is red, like an autistic person in the midst of neurotypical people

Now, this might just be a Me Thing™, but I find that autistic people are disproportionately easy to find in kink settings.

Conservative estimates suggest that 1 in 100 people in the UK are autistic. Even if there were 100 people at every munch, social or class I’ve ever been to, and even if I was, miraculously, extroverted enough to talk to every single one of them, statistically speaking I should’ve been the only autistic person in the room. I have found, however, that this is rarely the case.

If you, like me, are wondering why autistic people seem over-represented in kink settings, read on; I have some theories.


1. A lot of kinks involve sensory-seeking behaviours.

Obviously I can’t speak for every single autistic kinkster out there, but one of the things I enjoy the most about practising kink is the sensory component of it. The way that rope smells, the rhythm of a beating, the secure hug of being strapped to something – all of these things are sensory experiences. And in kink, we’re not just pursuing sensory experiences covertly, like when I’m in a busy shopping centre and I discretely tap my fingertips against my thumbs to attempt to self-regulate. In kink, we’re supposed to wholly lean into the sensory experiences we’re creating.

Additionally, dungeons and the like are more or less designed to make it so that you can focus entirely on the sensory experience at hand. They often have some areas for louder play and some quieter ones, and there won’t be any overwhelming distractions like a TV playing or people bumping into you. A well-designed dungeon is a safe sensory haven for the autistic kinkster.

2. Everyone in kink communicates more explicitly.

In vanilla life, communication with others can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. People use sarcasm and euphemism, they hedge their statements, and sometimes they say things they straight up don’t mean. (I still struggle to understand that the question, “How are you?” is not a request for information about how I actually am, but rather a relationship-building pleasantry that requires me to say something banal that’s easy to respond to.)

In kink, however, people are somewhat more forthcoming. Plenty of kinksters have Yes/No/Maybe lists that make their preferences clear, and there’s generally a heightened degree of openness in settings where anal fisting and inverted suspensions are being discussed. A culture of consent means that people feel more comfortable saying what they actually mean.

(However, I do feel the need to point out to some of my fellow autistic kinksters that people in kink settings aren’t always 100% forthcoming. Sometimes, when people feel uncomfortable saying, “No, thank you” to a proposition – because you are or are read as a man, because they’ve been harassed before, or simply because they want to be polite and avoid hurting your feelings – they will often use a ‘soft no’ instead. A soft no is something like, “Maybe another time,” or, “I’m not really sure.” It can be tempting to follow that up by asking when they would like to play with you or otherwise pressing them about it, but generally, a soft no won’t turn into a firm yes. It’s always better to say, “Okay, thank you anyway!” and then, if they actually are interested in playing with you “another time”, they can come and seek you out.)

3. Kink is outside of the mainstream, so autistic people feel right at home.

Plenty of people in kink settings have experience of being belittled, mocked or shunned for things they do in their personal lives – and even when they don’t, they’re aware that it’s a possibility. So it follows that plenty of people in kink are empathetic to people who, for reasons relating to neurodivergence, have also never felt too comfortable in mainstream society.

This is not to say that neurotypical kinksters face discrimination and oppression on the same level as neurodiverse folks, but they certainly know more about how it feels to be rejected by mainstream culture than vanilla neurotypical people do. Moreover, there’s a pretty high correlation between people who practice BDSM and people who identify as LGBTQ+, and those people are even more likely to understand what it’s like to exist outside of societal norms and to have to fight for one’s own human rights. This helps kinky spaces to be welcoming and accommodating to neurodiverse people and helps those people feel safer and more able to be their authentic selves.


If you’re autistic and you’re not sure whether you’d be welcome in your local kink scene, I hope this post has reassured you somewhat. Not only will you have built-in conversation topics available to you, since kinksters all have at least one thing in common (kinkiness!), but you’ll probably find your local munch or dungeon to be a welcoming environment where everyone is a little (or a lot) ‘odd’ by mainstream standards. I think it’s pretty likely that you’ll fit right in.

Chicken Wings: A Clumsy Metaphor About Race

Note: This post is in part a response to some of the issues of white privilege, fragility and paternalism in the sex ed community which are expressed super eloquently by Dirty Lola, Jimanekia Eborn and Sunny Megatron in this episode of the American Sex podcast. I wanted to introduce the slightly clumsy race metaphor that I’ve used in the past amongst friends in the hopes that it’ll help other people wrap their heads around the topic.

In the interests of staying in my lane, this post is primarily aimed at my white readers, because they’re the ones who need to hear this. However, if you’re a person of colour and you’d like to give me criticism on it, you can do so in the comments, in my Twitter DMs or at contact@akinkyautistic.com – I would hugely appreciate your feedback.

Additionally, this post makes mention of “my black best friend”, who very kindly gave me her permission to refer to her as such. I wouldn’t usually, but her race is actually relevant here, and I did check it’d be okay with her. Don’t worry.


At high school, we had a hot food vendor that sold potato wedges and chicken wings at lunchtime.

Bear with me here.

One lunchtime, I watched my black best friend point out to our mutual white friend that she’d left meat on the bones of her chicken wings. And she said, memorably, “White people never eat chicken wings properly.”

As another white person at that table, I had two choices. I had the option of assuring myself, or even arguing aloud, that not all white people leave meat on their chicken wing bones, and that I’m not one of those white people. I could have, at fourteen, soothed my white ego by distancing myself from my friend’s statement.

Or I could have, and did, look down into my own grease-stained cardboard box to examine my own chicken bones. And, wouldn’t ya know it, there was still meat on them. Not a lot, but enough – I took the point and quietly, without asking for a Good White Person Brownie Point, picked off and ate the remaining wing meat.

This story is important for two reasons.

The first, and more obvious, is that I did have meat on those bones. My friend was right. There was no use in arguing whether or not all white people did the thing my black friend was criticising them for when I had done it, moments ago, unthinkingly. There was value in examining the truth of her statement as it had applied to me. And even if I had eaten all the meat off those bones, that didn’t guarantee I’d always done so with every wing I ever ate, or that the vast, vast majority of white people ate all their wing meat. It wouldn’t have added anything of value to the conversation to have thrust my picked-clean bones under my friends’ noses and to have proclaimed, “But I’m white, and I’ve eaten all the meat off of my chicken wings!”

The second reason is this: in this story, as with so many stories about POC making “white people” statements, my black friend was trying to help us.

She wasn’t just making a broad statement about white people to be mean. She wasn’t trying to suggest that our whiteness made us inherently bad people. She certainly wasn’t being reverse-racist, whatever the fuck that means. She was pointing out an aspect of our behaviour, presumably picked up from our white and English culture, that was prohibiting us from enjoying all the meat that our wings had to offer. She was being constructive.

This extends to other criticisms of whiteness, or behaviours common in white people. When POC are calling white people out for something, not only is it useless and obnoxious to respond with “Not all white people!” or “I’m white and I would never,” but it’s churlish. When you do a white people thing like leave chicken on the bones of your wings and a POC points it out to you, they’re trying to help you make the most of your overpriced high school cafeteria lunch. Similarly, when you do a white people thing like argue that sometimes the cops are good, actually, and a POC points it out to you, they’re trying to help you gain a richer and more nuanced understanding of an issue that will help preserve your relationships with other POC and make you a better listener, activist, ally and friend.

This isn’t to say that POC criticising white people is only valid because it helps us. That line of argument annoys me when it comes to feminism (as in, “Feminism benefits men because patriarchal masculinity is toxic!” being lauded as equally important to, “Feminism stops women getting harassed and murdered”). It’s important to listen to POC when they criticise white privilege because white privilege directly hurts POC every day in complex and often horrifying ways. But if your argument against “white people” statements is “not all white people” or “your tone is mean”, you’re ignoring the fact that they are expending their limited emotional energy trying to help you be a better human being. They are offering you a kindness, even if that kindness is interspersed with swearwords and angry emoji, and you should accept it graciously.

I hesitated to put this piece on my sex blog because I was frightened I’d phrase it wrong or that it would otherwise hurt, rather than help, my readers who are POC, but I knew it was important to write. Unfortunately, issues around white privilege and the erasure of people of colour are evergreen in the sex blogging community, as they are in every other walk of life, and it’s crucial for white bloggers like me to acknowledge our privilege and do the work to counteract it. Again, if you’re a POC and you think this post could be written differently to be more helpful, please feel free to get in touch. If you’re a white person and this post resonated with you, please share it.

If you’re a white person and this post didn’t resonate with you, shut up and eat your damn wings.