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.

Smut Saturdays #7 – How Does Slutspace Feel For Me?

A faceless picture of a curvy-ish white person (Morgan) lying on their side in bed, naked but with the duvet obscuring their nipple.

This post, in addition to being part of my Smut Saturdays series, is also part of my headspaces miniseries (wherein I explore the nuanced variations upon subspace I experience in different contexts). As always, if you have suggestions for a Smut Saturdays piece (or any other kind of post, for that matter), hit me up @KinkyAutistic on Twitter or in the comments section here on WordPress!

Unlike ropespace, masochist-space or service space, ‘slutspace’ is a term I haven’t actually heard anyone else use. I might have made it up. It refers to a particular kind of subspace that I access through genital stimulation (my own or others’), or through (consensual) degradation or humiliation. And, because I have apparently invented this term and thus nobody else has written about it, I’m finding it hard to explain and explore.

So let’s look at an example.

I’m lying on my back on my Daddy’s bed with my head dangling over the edge. I’m naked except for my collar, and he’s naked except for his boxers. The silhouette of his stiff dick is visible through the grey fabric, making my mouth water, and I don’t take my eyes off it. I can’t.

Until, of course, he pulls it out of his underwear and fucks my mouth and throat. Then I squeeze my eyes shut, fighting my gag reflex and getting drunk on the taste of his cock. At some point (time is as much a slushy mess as I am, in this moment) he manages to reach down my little body and press the head of my Doxy wand against my cunt. I try to make a delighted sound but I just choke on his shaft a little. He turns it on, and I writhe against the vibrations, unsure whether I’m overwhelmed in a good way or a bad one. It doesn’t matter. I love that it doesn’t matter.

At some point, my Daddy gets bored of fucking my throat. Maybe I cum or maybe I don’t – it doesn’t matter. He drags me upright with a fist full of my hair, then yanks and shoves til I’m on my knees in front of him. The wand is discarded on the bed, because it wasn’t there for my pleasure, or even for my pain – it was there to help me generate pretty noises while my lips were around his dick. Now I’m kneeling below said dick, my eyes streaming from all the repressed choking, and he wants more pretty noises, so he slaps me. And he slaps me. And he slaps me. And I don’t know whether it’s the pain or the shock or the overwhelm, but I start to sob. He pauses and looks at me, so I whisper one of the only three words I can hold in my mind: “Green.”

I am barely a person in this scene. I don’t want to say that I’m ‘not doing anything’, because I am – I’m responding to everything best I can, like undulating my tongue whilst my throat is fucked and making eye contact with my Daddy between the hard slaps. But that’s about it. I’m not active, and I’m not thinking. I follow instructions like, “Open your mouth,” or, “Don’t flinch this time,” and I look pretty, and I am used.

And I love it.

That’s the thing – I do love it. That’s what makes it slutspace, rather than masochist-space or some kind of humiliation space. I am desperate for this to continue in some capacity or another. My tear-stained cheeks aren’t half as wet as my swollen cunt. If my Daddy were to walk away now, with me on my knees on the bedroom floor, I would only be able to shuffle after him, maybe grabbing at his legs, maybe whimpering, maybe crying some more. In slutspace, the whole world shrinks – all that remains is my body, and whoever’s dominating me finding uses for it.

It’s incredibly freeing. In slutspace, I don’t have the capacity to be self-conscious. I am no longer in control of my body. If I’m clumsy, it doesn’t matter – my partner can just take control, or can use my clumsiness as humiliation fodder, or both. If I gag on whatever’s in my mouth, I assume that was the goal of whoever put that thing there. All I can ever think about is being the best tool possible for the person using me, and about my own mounting arousal as they’re doing so.

My Daddy, in this example, fucks my throat a little more, then decides he wants my cunt. He manhandles me onto the bed – on my back, so he can pin me down by my throat. He slides into my cunt with ease because it is (as I am) desperately, ridiculously aroused – and then he fucks me, deep, and I wail and I sob a little more and I can feel an orgasm on the horizon. I can’t form words at all now, so I point helplessly towards my mons pubis in the hopes that it counts as asking permission.

My Daddy leans forward and growls, “Cum on my cock,” and his grip on my throat gets tight. I see spots and even in this useless, cockdrunk state of mind I know that he’s getting close. He doesn’t care whether I cum for the sake of cumming; he wants me to twitch and clench around him whilst he cums inside me.

It’s in the essence of slutspace that I crave abundance, so I try to drag my orgasm out as long as possible. I think (in a dim sort of way) of my vaginal walls contracting as I cum and milking the semen out of my Daddy. In this moment, in slutspace, getting filled with cum seems like the most important thing in the world.

And, naturally, I achieve it.

Slutspace doesn’t have to be about fucking, or about genitals at all – but it really swiftly activates mine. As soon as I slide into the greedy, one-dimensional, sensation-oriented state of mind that is slutspace, my clit tingles, my whole abdomen aches and my mouth waters at the thought of other people’s genitals anywhere near me in any configuration they choose.

It’s a little more vulnerable than some other headspaces because I really do surrender a lot of power as an active participant; slutspace functions as a prolonged objectification scene and my only power lies in the use of safewords. As such, once I have a cunt full of cum and I’ve caught my breath, in this example I stumble to the bathroom, clean up, and then get under the covers and make my Daddy watch me play Animal Crossing.

Bite Me: How Does Masochist-Space Feel For Me?

Image of Morgan's shoulder - white skin with deep teeth marks set into it and slight bruising forming around said teeth marks.

Content note: This post features brief mentions of self-harm (but no detailed descriptions or images) and briefly refers to a consensual scalpel scene (again, without details or images).

This post is part of a miniseries exploring the nuances of different headspaces I access through kink! You can find the first one, on ‘ropespace’, here.

You can also find an extended piece of my erotica featured on Erotica at Doxy, which I am fucking ecstatic about, right here. Or you can stay on this webpage and read my musings on masochism.

One of the first essay-type posts I ever drafted, when I was first considering starting a kink-focused blog, was an impassioned rant in response to a recent ex saying that I was using masochism as a proxy for self-harm after he’d seen the aftermath of my first ever scalpel scene all over my thighs. (I should point out that I’d talked to him about the scene beforehand, because surprising a partner – or anybody – with potentially disquieting or triggering wounds is, under most circumstances, a dick move.) I eventually decided that it was too direct, too angry and too personal to be much use to anybody else, but it sits in my Google Drive nonetheless, and it served as a brilliant initial exercise in kinky introspection.

Defining masochism in opposition to self-harm has some drawbacks (primarily, it can be limiting and makes me sound acutely defensive) but it’s a good starting point. Self-harm, for me, is an impulsive action (or series of actions) that I carry out hurriedly, in secret, as a means to an end: I just want to stabilise my brain chemicals enough to survive the day.

By contrast, playing in a masochistic space is a deliberate and shared experience that I seek out and savour. Much like bottoming in a rope scene, bottoming in a sadomasochistic scene requires me to be grounded, present and super attuned to my body and the signals it’s giving me. My job in an S/M scene is to be receptive and responsive, and, above all, to enjoy the array of sensations that my top is providing me with. Self-harm is an attempt to manipulate my body and brain; masochism is an attempt to relax into them.

Masochist-space feels meditative, more so than some other subspaces. Often I’m beaten, pinched, slapped, etc, to a particular rhythm, and reminded by my top in a warm (if condescending) tone to breathe deeply between strikes. I focus almost exclusively on relaxing my muscles and on every sensation I’m experiencing – including non-pain-related ones like the texture of the bedsheets I’m on or the sounds of the impact implements being used. Sometimes I process pain by making noises, and those noises reverberate pleasantly in my chest. I feel as present in my body as it is possible for me to feel, and the pain transforms from something I’m enduring into a catharsis I’m enjoying.

Masochist-space also feels more performative than some other headspaces – but not in an inauthentic sort of way. All the sounds I make (and there are a lot of ’em!) and all the ways I articulate that I’m in pain (like scrunching my face up or writhing) are reflexive and beyond my control, but the process of receiving pain in and of itself is, in part, a way of expressing what a Good Pup™ I can be. I use S/M scenes to showcase my abilities to be determined, resilient, responsive, dedicated to a top, mentally ‘strong’, brave, and/or vulnerable. Like service space, masochist-space allows me to show off, and cultivates a feeling of self-worth in me that I (currently) find impossible to manufacture on my own.

The other thing about masochist-space that separates it from other headspaces is that it requires a sadist in some capacity. Pain for the sake of pain ranges from inconvenient to downright miserable, whether it’s in the context of self-harm or a stubbed toe, but pain for the sake of someone else’s enjoyment is as satisfying as any vanilla thing that brings someone you like some joy – like baking something your partner really likes, or massaging their neck after a long day at the office. I worried for a while that this didn’t make me a ‘true’ masochist: shutting my finger in a drawer didn’t instantly get me wet, and my enjoyment of pain hinged upon someone else’s enjoyment of administering it. It took me a long while to piece together that this was, in essence, a consent issue – I didn’t ask my joints to sublux or the coffee table to get in the way of my shins, but I did ask my Daddy to do whatever he wanted to my ass until I cried “Yellow” or he got bored. And, again, this explained some of the difference between masochism and self-harm, because I was never enthusiastic about the pain I caused myself or the circumstances that forced me to it; the only thing I was enthusiastic about was a spike of endorphins and a quick distraction from my thoughts.

This post has only scratched the surface of my deep love for S/M scenes (get it…? I’ll show myself out) but I hope it’s made clear the uniquely meditative and connective nature of masochist-space as I experience it. I leave you with this quote from the angry essay I wrote to myself last year:

In letting a partner mark my body during a scene, I am consciously handing over ownership and control of my body to somebody else. The marks, wherever they end up placed, will remind me for days or weeks to come that I had enough autonomy to surrender my body to somebody else – somebody who treated it exactly the way I wanted it to be treated.