Consent – There Are No Blurred Lines!

Sexual Conent

What does this word consent mean?

And look like anyway?

 

So let’s break this down, waaaaaay down. You’ve probably heard about consent by now. It is becoming a bigger part of our society so it’s time we added some easy to understand information about it for you.

 

Consent is actively (and hopefully enthusiastically) agreeing to any sexual activity with someone.

 

Not agreeing, or being forced to participate unwillingly in any sexual activity (including oral, penetrative, phone, photo sharing, sexting, groping/genital touching and verbal) is sexual assault and/or rape.

 

Pretty serious right?

 

Planned Parenthood describes consent as easy as FRIES

 

Freely given – it cannot be coerced

Reversible – you can change your mind anytime

Informed – you need the full story

Enthusiastic – only do what you’re excited about, not what you’re expected to

Specific- yes to one thing does not mean yes to everything.

 

You can always change your mind during any sexal act if you start to feel uncomfortable. You can even ask to slow down. The big ticket is communication. Make sure that you are comfortable enough to speak your mind with whoever you are being intimate with. If you don’t feel comfortable it might be an indication that you should wait. Go slow. Take your time. Check in with yourself frequently.

 

Now we’ve looked at ourselves and consent, time to look at the people we are with. We are not mind readers, and sometimes people don’t speak their minds, we get it, so it is very important to take everything into consideration in the heat of the moment even when you are super excited. What is their body language like? Are they leaning closer or leaning away? Are they hesitant? Are they excited? Check in with your partner? Ask them if they like this or that? Ask them if you can kiss them here, or touch them there. Remove this piece of clothing. If they say yes, green light. Do it. If they say no, stop. Ask them if they are ok. If they pause, slow down, check in, see if you need to slow down or stop altogether. They might just need to catch their breath. But you won’t know unless you ask. Communication is the key.

 

Consent violation is more and more pressing and recognised in society and comes in many forms. For years the topic of clothing and how a person dresses has been portrayed in news and headlines as “asking for it.” BBC’s Quickies portrays it quite well that what we wear does equal skiing for anything. We see one of the actors barging into a conference room, dressed professionally and saying “i’m here for my promotion. Clearly I’m asking for it.” or another dressed for vacation and leaving work stating that they didn’t need to clear it with HR because, I mean, look at what she was wearing. Her intent was clear. Wasn’t it? The clip sends a resounding message that what we wear is not consent. It’s a no.

 

 

Over time, many have felt the need to be silent about their consent being violated. But this is not the case. It is important to confide in people you are close to, and if it is a serious offence, to contact the local authorities to ensure that this behaviour does not continue.

 

Violating Consent can look like:

  • Refusing to acknowledge “no”

  • Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing is an invitation for anything more

  • Someone being under the legal age of consent, as defined by the law

  • Someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol

  • Pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear or intimidation

  • Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past

#Thisdoesntmeanyes

World famous photographer Perou started the campaign #Thisdoesntmeanyes, photographing 120 women in london at random to outline the rape culture that was happening in London. Their website could not be more accurate when it comes to consent:

A SHORT SKIRT IS NOT A YES.

A RED LIP IS NOT A YES.

A WINK IS NOT A YES.

A SLOW DANCE IS NOT A YES.

A WALK HOME IS NOT A YES.

A DRINK BACK AT MINE IS NOT A YES.

A KISS ON THE SOFA IS NOT A YES.

WHAT I WEAR AND HOW I BEHAVE ARE NOT INVITATIONS.

THERE’S A MYTH THAT SURROUNDS WOMEN, A MYTH THAT EMBROILS THEM:

WOMEN WHO DRESS OR BEHAVE SUGGESTIVELY,

WOMEN WHO ARE PLAYFUL OR WHO ACT PROVOCATIVELY,

WOMEN WHO FLIRT OR OPENLY DISCUSS SEX – THEY’RE ‘ASKING FOR IT’.

IT’S AN INSIDIOUS FABLE, AND IT NEEDS TO STOP.

EVERY WOMAN HAS A RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION.

NO WOMAN DESERVES TO BE RAPED FOR IT.

NO ONE SHOULD BE ABLE TO BLAME RAPE ON A SHORT SKIRT.

A SHORT SKIRT CAN’T TALK – A SHORT SKIRT CAN’T SAY ‘YES’.

THE ONLY YES SHOULD BE AN ACTIVE AND EMBODIED ‘YES!’

 

But it is not only Women. Consent is important regardless of gender, sexuality and diversity. Too often we disregard a no and even degrade the importance of such topics because men have been seen to “handle it”. Not only is it important to be respectful of ALL consent. It is important to remember that many people have also been taken advantage of saying that consent has been violated when in fact it wasn’t the case. So now in society not only are there Consent Violators, there are also False Stories of Consent. Both can gravely hurt and injure a person’s psyche, mentality, self esteem and trust.

 

So How can we tackle consent?

The above video is a brilliant representation of thinking of consent like offering a person a cup of tea. That you can’t force a person to drink tea if they say no. You cannot get an unconscious person to drink tea. A person can say yes, and then choose not to drink the tea once it arrives.

 

We can talk about consent. Make it normal and break the stigma around keeping silent. If someone discloses a moment when they were uncomfortable or their consent was compromised or broken, listen attentively and supportively. Sympathise and ask if there is anything you can do to help them, or get them in touch with someone who could help. Please try not to be dismissive when someone is visibly hurt or upset by something that has happened to them.

 

We can teach consent, constantly and consistently with everyone. Everyone benefits from talking about consent. The more we talk about our own experiences of asking consent in situations, the more we will all learn different ways to practice asking consent. And it can be sexy.

 

Consent Examples everyone can try:

 “Can I touch your arm.”

“Can I kiss you?”

“Can I take off your shirt?”

“Can I hold your phone to look at that picture?”

“I would love to hold you closer, is that ok?”

“Would you like to try anal play?

“Want to see some pictures of me naked?”

“Is this ok?”

“Does my ***** feel nice?”

 

Consent can be sexy and inviting when you use your imagination, when you’re enthusiastic and when you’re respectful.

 

At your Service,

 

Tiffany

OhZone Adult Shop Sales Assistant, Educator and Consent Advocate.

A Matter of Consent!

Consent for Sex

Sexual consent has been discussed widely in recent years. In fact it is important enough that it is one of the few new ideas to be added to curriculum in high school sex education classes beyond the old safe sex conversation. But how do we define consent, and how do we go about asking for it?

What is consent?

In the University of Michigan’s Code of Conduct, they succintly sum consent up as;

“Consent is a clear and unambiguous agreement, expressed outwardly through mutually understandable words or actions, to engage in a particular activity. Consent must be voluntarily given and cannot be obtained through coercion or force. A person who initiates a specific sexual activity is responsible for obtaining consent for that activity.”

As with lawful terms, their Code also continues to describe what isn’t consent. It isn’t consent if one refuses to acknowledge the ‘no’ said to them. It is not consent should a person be very drunk or high, regardless of their answer. Consenting to a sexual activity doesn’t automatically give consent to the same activity at a later date.

One of the most ignored ideals of giving consent is how someone dresses, or flirting with them, or even kissing them. None of these things are indications of consent. It doesn’t matter what they’re wearing, they can even be naked, but that isn’t consent to anything.

The age of giving sexual consent in Australia varies from state to state, and even then comes with a few caveats that can be read about in the earlier link. Essentially, the consenting age is 16 in all states and territories, except for SA and Tasmania where it is 17 years of age.

What isn’t consent?

Not saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean yes. If they seem unsure, or remain silent, or say ‘maybe’, this is not consent. It must be a clear and enthusiastic ‘yes’.

If someone accepts a ride, or a free drink, is also not consenting to anything beyond those things.

Consent to engage in one sexual activity is not consent to others. For example, consenting to anal play does not consent to anal penetration.

So consent needs to be provided every step of the way?

Absolutely. Even in a marriage, consent for sexual relations need to be given. If that sounds ridiculous to you, maybe understand that data from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) estimates that between 10-14% of married women experience marital rape.

How do I ask for consent?

There are so many different ways to ask for consent. Verbal communication is the most straight forward option, though longer relationships may have developed other shorthand ways of expressing consent.

Wouldn’t it feel weird, or kill the mood, stopping to ask for consent? No, in fact, asking can make things a whole lot smoother, and opens up a greater level of communication between partners. Asking someone ‘Can I kiss you?’ or saying ‘I’d really like to give you a kiss’ and their affirmative response is not going to squash any of that first kiss magic.

Just as if you’re together in bed fooling around, and perhaps you motion to take their top off, along with a little ‘Is this ok?’ won’t dampen the mood. It will help to relieve tension in fact, as your partner will know that you understand about consent, and about how they are feeling, and it’s also a cue to them that you’d like to move forward, because perhaps they were nervous to ask.

Beyond verbal consent, also pay attention to body language cues. If they’ve said yes to the current activity, but seem anxious or nervous, take a step back and ask ‘Is this too fast?’ Remember consent can be given at all stages, but it can also be taken back at any time. If someone changes their mind about consent, that’s perfectly fine and is to be acknowledged immediately.

If consent is refused, or revoked, it is not acceptable to ever try methods of persuasion to get them to change their mind. Consent given under persuasion or acts or physical or emotional threat, are never considered consent, especially in the eyes of the law.

How do I give consent?

Beyond saying ‘yes’ to being asked for consent, there are other ways to let your partner know that you’re ready to go further. Phrases like; ‘Don’t stop’, ‘Keep going’, ‘Faster/harder’, ‘Mm, just like that’, ‘Yes, but let’s keep it nice and slow’ are all great ways to express consent without breaking the mood.

However, it’s also good to have a clear idea of how far you’re comfortable to go before getting hot and heavy. Because let’s face it, sometimes our loins get the better of us and lead us to do things we may regret the next day.

As things develop, keep checking in with yourself. Do you feel comfortable? Do you feel safe? Are you ready for this, both physically and emotionally? Just because you really like them, are you sure they’re not just taking advantage of this and using you for sex?

In any relationship, whether it is long term or for the night, healthy communication is an essential part in making sure everyone feels safe and comfortable. We all have the right to have agency over our own bodies, and to ensure this is the case for both parties, we need to seek consent, and respect the answer, whichever the answer may be, and even if it changes throughout.

Education of Sexual Health for Young Gay Men!

Sexual Health Gay

I’ve spoken before on the failures of the current sexual health education system when it comes to the sexual education of young people. The current system is failing young people that identify as straight, let alone individuals that identify as any other sexual orientation or sexuality. The current system is flawed in that it assumes that the people digesting the content are straight. It assumes that they have sexual relations for biological purposes, and it doesn’t mention or acknowledge the idea of sex for pleasure. This quick guide is not meant to replace that information – but it’s created to facilitate the sexual education of young non-heterosexual men.

Consent

Consent is the most important thing to remember when it comes to being intimate and you should get consent before any type of sexual encounter with everyone involved. Yes, that includes group sex and making sure each individual that will be involved understands what’s about to happen. Consent is more than just yes, or no and it’s extremely important to understand that just because they didn’t say no, doesn’t mean consent was given.

STIs

An STI is a sexually transmitted infection that is passed on from one sexual partner to the other through sexual activity and sexual contact. If you’ve had/have an STI, you’re not dirty – contracting an STI is actually extremely common. The important thing is that you get tested regularly so that it may be treated. STI’s can be shared by:
Skin to skin contact
Vaginal Sex
Anal Sex
Oral Sex
Needles
Contact with body fluids such as blood and semen
While many STI’s have visible symptoms, there are a lot of STI’s that don’t have any symptoms and you may not even be aware that you are carrying it. As such, getting tested is a simple and extremely effective way to make sure that you are STI Free.
What kind of sex is there, and how can you do this safely?
STD
Sexually Transmitted Infections

Oral and Penetrative Sex

You should not engage, or have oral sex if you or your partner has cuts, bumps, or sores around their genitals or their mouth. This could be a sign of infection and can increase the risk of transmitting an STI. When it comes to penetrative sex – defined as the insertion of a body part or toy – inside someone’s vagina, anus, or hole it’s important to note that whilst all involved share some risk, typically, the greater risk applies to the person being inserted – known as the bottom. With the introduction of PrEP, a daily pill taken to prevent HIV there has been a marked increase of other STI’s including chlamydia. It’s important to consider the risk – Yes, PrEP will prevent you from contracting HIV, but it will not prevent the transmission of other STI’s and for a complete spectrum of protection a range of preventative measures can be considered which include the use of Prep and the use of a barrier such as a condom.

Male Condoms (Also outside condoms)

Many young men will be surprised to find that there are a range of diferent sized condoms. That’s certainly not something that they discuss at school. So many young men experience their first condom and they’ll find that it might simply fall off, or be so tight that they can’t feel anything. We have other guides here that will tell you how to correctly fit a condom, but suffice to say if it doesn’t fit right – rest assured that they will make a condom for you. On that note – only wear a single condom at a time, and change it with each sexual activity. If you’re wearing it from oral, to insertion and back to oral – you’ll be wanting to change the condom. You can even use condoms over toys! Say for example you’re both into bottoming and you have the perfect dildo – wrap the dildo shaft in a condom, and then before you use it in someone else, change the condom! Simple. It should be noted that in an ideal situation – you’ll want to be cleaning it as well, just in case.
An important thing to note – it doesn’t matter whether your straight, gay, bisexual (or any other sexuality) nor does it matter if you are male, female, transgender (or any other gender) – there is no sexuality or gender that places you more at risk for STI and other infections. It is the activities that you do, and how risky the sexual behaviour is. There is a very big difference betwen giving someone a handjob, to having regular sex with a monogamous sexual partner, to engaging with bareback sex in the park with recently met men. At the end of the day, you are in control of your body and you choose how much risk to place yourself in. The best preventative care that you can take is understanding your self and your body and to make sure that you and your sexual partners are getting tested. But how do you check in with your sexual partners current health status?
You’re hot, you’re horny and you’ve got a dick as hard as a rock – do you realy need to ask them about their tests? Ideally yes. It can be a quick check in before you meet up with them where you say along the lines of – i was tested two weeks and i came back negative for STI’s, when was your last check? If it’s a regular partner and you’d like to check in with them it can be a little trickier to bring up without making it awkward, but you could approach it like this. Hey, i noticed it’s been a while since i was tested – was wondering if you’d like to come down with me and get tested together? This enforces the idea that you are being responsible and allows them to reveal they were recently tested, or that they’d love to go get tested together.

Every person regardless of sexual identity or orientation deserves the best information that they can get and whilst this doesn’t cover everything it certainly gives you the tool set to begin practicing self-care and taking responsibility for your body.

VIP Interview With Lola D Houston CEO And Founder Of Live A True Life

Sexuality coach, counselor, educatior and workshop leader

Lola D Houston is an inspirational sexual lifestyle coach who offers fully personalised teaching, workshops and counselling services to individuals and couples. Lola D Houston helps individuals and couples find deeper meaning through the personal development of self-awareness, love, empathy and compassion. Lola is one of the very first sexual lifestyle coaches in the community who openly identifies as a transwoman. Her teachings allow us an insight into how people can develop the skillset to understand who they are and what they want as an individual.  Lola truly believes you can:

  • Unlock your power of no
  • Give and receive with a willing heart
  • Learn consent as agreement
  • Deepen your relationships and love

This is a VIP Interview with Lola D Houston the CEO and founder of Live A True Life. It is a truly inspirational read that speaks in depth about the importance of saying “no”. Lola D Houston’s looks into consent as a form of agreement, alongside the differences between the answers of okay, no and hell yes!  Consent is an important topics to talk about to raise awareness alongside the community speaking up about sexual harassment and assault cases especially with it reaching an all time high in the media. This VIP interview also looks into how to say no without feeling guilt or ashamed and how and why people can speak up about sexual assault and harassment in a safe environment.

 

Sex and relationship coach
Image: Lola D Houston

Tell me about yourself

I’m Lola D Houston, and I am the sole force in my little enterprise, Live A True Life.  I’ve been a teacher for almost 20 years, and for the past 15, have focused on adult audiences in relationships, sex and sexuality, gender, BDSM, touch and consent.  My focus is strongly on consent these days, and my client model draws upon the wheel of consent as a central approach.  At present, I work with individuals, couples and groups (including larger companies and institutions).  At the individual and couples level, I’m a coach and counselor in the broad areas of relationships, sexuality and gender.  With groups and organizations, I offer workshops, education and training in the subjects of language, appropriate behavior, attitude, gender and consent.

What inspired you to develop coaching, counseling, education and training at Live A True Life?

My first “moment” was during a 6 day training in Urban Tantra.  I was teaching a lot of workshops at that point in time, and was actually paid for some of those (gasp!) and they involved sex.  When the time came to share our work, I shared this to the small group, and they replied with:

“So, you’re a sex worker?”

Stop! Think! That flash of recognition when I said to myself

“Yes… I … guess I am!”

That moment, in conjunction with the mission statements we developed, led me to recognize for the first time that I loved that kind of work, loved opening hearts and minds and eyes.  The next major moment was a sequence of events: a beloved partner was raped, and I went to New York City for a training in the wheel of consent.  It was a deep and powerful experience, and clarified what I really loved doing, what I was good at, and really wanted to do.  It took many more years to move from concept to something I am actually doing, and not just thinking about doing.

What inspires you?

Openness in mind, strong value systems (I fell in love with a partner and only a year later realized I’d fallen in love with their values), really good cooking (I do that, so I’m picky!), clear, strong touch, and impeccability of words.  I’m deeply inspired by music (many different genres) on many levels, and also by the outdoors, particularly really big mountains.

What is consent?

Consent is complicated!  The etymology of the term is a problem for me: consent has meant, and still does mean for most people, the idea of permission. “I consent to have you till this soil” It essentially has one person giving their blessing (permission) to another to do, have or hold something.  As a result, the “permission” definition has taken root and only recently have we begun to be see consent as much more than that.  This older form of consent also carries a lot of implicit meaning, including materiality and property ownership – a large problem in many societies today!

Can consent be a form of an agreement?

To me, consent is, at its core, agreement.  This is also very complex, because it is agreement borne from an iteration or exchange by both parties.  Both sides actively participate, both sides actively negotiate, and ultimately both sides have total freedom to choose, and thus to accept.  A vital part of this process is the ability to really get the idea of “yes” and “no”, to be able to say yes and no and know that one means it, that it can be fully trusted .  And this yes and no is tied to “okay”, the place where nearly everyone lives the majority of their life.  “Okay” is a fraught position.  Does it mean “yes”?  Does it mean “no”?  If the three terms – yes, no and okay – are put on a line with yes on the far left and no the far right, then “okay” occupies the entire vast distance between them.  How far into “yes” does someone’s “okay” lean?  How far into “no”?  Where exactly is that line between “okay” and “yes” or “no”?

Thus, really learning consent is step-wise process.  We must first understand “yes” and “no”, and to do that, we have to know what it is we want (itself a frequently difficult question for which we may not have an answer). To get this, learning what giving and receiving really mean is key.  Once understood (and it’s most powerful resonance is in the body, not the brain) then we can approach “yes” and “no” because now we can begin to articulate not only what we do want but what we do not want and stick to that answer.  The result: we can trust the yes and no of the other (a partner or spouse) and then feel good about the actions of giving and receiving that might follow.  Consent, when looked at this way, is a pretty straightforward process but one that takes some really hard work to understand and put into practice.  To be clear, then:

Consent, at least in the realm of sex, relationships, touch, play, kink and many other forms of interpersonal interaction can only be agreement.

What is the power of “No”?

This is a recent “aha” for me in work with clients, even though I’ve known about it for a long time.  What the power of “no” means is that the person who can really, truly, deeply assert and own their “no” experiences a powerful kind of freedom. This is the result of both learning to say “no” clearly and recognizing it’s mirror: “yes”.  When we learn to say no to someone, we’re also mindful that it might hurt or be uncomfortable for that other person. Who wants to disappoint a lover? It’s important to notice that “no” becomes a little easier as the social distance between the two people increases: a server in a restaurant that you are in, for example, is unlikely to be offended if, when they ask “would you like wine with your dinner?”, you answer “no”.  We don’t (usually) know the server, so there’s no personal connection or stake beyond basic human respect.  Move a bit closer socially and it changes: you’re at a social dance, and someone you know asks you to dance.  A “no” here is, of course, fine to give as a response, but one might well pause before giving it, thinking that perhaps this person would be a bit hurt if you said “no”.  Do we move on and dance again or struggle with an answer?  Moving still closer, a lover asks if you’d like to go out on Saturday night.  A “no” here could very well be uncomfortable depending on the circumstances, so we often move to “okay” even if we want to say “no”.  Learning that we can say “no” to those we know and love frees us.  It also gifts us with the ability to say a clear “yes”, and when both people understand this dynamic, that “yes” is really, really sweet.

When can people say “No”?

The answer is whenever they want to.  It’s a matter of choice.  Of course, there’s almost always more involved: social context, necessity, personal loss or gain. Perhaps more important is whether or not we say “okay” when we want to say “no”.  To help resolve these kinds of feelings, it can be really helpful to ask this simple question: who is it for?  When we truly know who it’s for, then the “okay” can make an appearance as a result of a full, open and willing heart.  And, similarly, knowing who it’s for can often lead us to feel stronger and safer in saying “no”.

What happens when someone wants to change their mind?

Changing one’s mind is an integral part of the whole “yes” and “no” process.  If we can’t ever change our mind on something we choose, we’re either going to be very, very careful about saying anything at all, or we’re going to live a life with a lot of regrets.  And, changing your mind really works well when the yes and no is crystal clear and trustworthy.

In some cases people are made to feel guilty or ashamed for saying “No”.

How can people place up boundaries without feeling guilty or ashamed by the other person’s negative response?

Part of the problem here is that saying “no” is often taken as a personal slight, and as a result, most of us are deeply conditioned to avoid it: don’t hurt other peoples feelings!  It’s not a matter of establishing a boundary in the usual sense. The “boundary” we need to set here is internal to us in our choice TO make a choice and say “no” if that’s what we want to say.  It means we need to understand and honor our own limits.  Learning to not avoid difficult feelings is part of getting to and embracing the power of “no”.  And it is something we all CAN learn to do and embrace.  Sometimes the person receiving the “no” is going to have a negative response.  If that response is personal (as in “something is wrong with you”), the question we might then ask is whether or not this person is someone we even want to deal with (or be in a relationship with).  Some situations may not be under our control: saying “no” to a supervisor is its own challenge.  But in the context of interpersonal relationships, particularly intimate relationships, “no” should not leave us feeling shame or guilt.  If it does, we might well wonder how (or even if) we want to be in a relationship with that individual.  Part of the challenge here is that, in the ideal situation, both sides fully grasp this power of no to start with.  Both sides need to “know the rules”, so to speak, and understand that the “no” that is heard is not personal.

How can people speak about sexual assault and harassment in a safe environment?

This is a very context dependent situation.  I’d say that nearly all work environments would require the help of a human resources person to navigate a response.  Not all companies have that, and not all companies have clear guidance around sexual harassment and sexual assault.  It’s important that, as workers, we have some knowledge of, or at least know how to discover, the underlying legal framework that might help us.  Assault is more likely to be codified in case law and thus may be easier to navigate.  Harassment, on the other hand, is not so clear cut, and might require many more steps.

In other contexts – relationships, friendships, family – speaking up is vital and can be very difficult to do.  One good first step is finding a neutral third party – a close friend, a well-known acquaintance, a clergy member – all of these might be good listeners.  If you are seeing a therapist, that’s another avenue.  A doctor may or may not work well.  Some of that depends a bit on the nature of the violation – some professionals are mandatory reporters and might feel obligated to defend you in a different way that could be uncomfortable.  It’s also important to distinguish between harassment and assault.   Assault constitutes the “marquee event” – more easily framed in a legal context when a line is crossed, although it’s important to recognize that even with legal protections, there are no guarantees that resolution can be found.  Harassment, on the other hand, is that constant drumbeat of “paper cuts” – actions and behaviors that take place every day.  Speaking up here can be a very challenging process.

Why should people speak up about sexual assault or harassment that they have experienced?

First and foremost: speaking up might help us to preserve our own sanity.  It’s also a key part of recovery from any trauma – say it, name it, don’t hide it and then we can move through it.  In addition, the more we speak up about it, the more we help others find the courage to say something. And, the more we offer up our own experience as a model for being strong and acting in a responsible manner, the more likely someone else is to feel a little safer in saying something.  This is not to suggest in any way that one is not being responsible by not speaking up – it’s a VERY personal matter, and is so often extremely painful.  We must always choose the course that is best for us in that instance and not feel guilt. There is no single solution.

What services do you provide?

I offer coaching and counseling in the areas of relationships, sex and sexuality, gender, consent, touch and play to individuals and couples.  I also offer training, workshops and education for groups, organizations and companies that are trying to better manage the workplace environment and foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for safety, respect and the ability to be truly open and welcoming to everyone.

Risk Aware Consensual Kink

Woman In Lacey Lingerie Wearing Wrist Restraints Photo

In the world of BDSM and kink there is a well-known phrase ‘Safe Sane Consensual’ or ‘SSC’. This term has been the most popular and well-known “rule” that all good kinksters follow. It has been “the” rule of thumb for a while but now there’s RACK. RACK is a newer acronym standing for Risk Aware Consensual Kink, and it also just happens to be a great pun. Now, why not both, why is one better than the other? Here I will compare RACK and SSC to give you a better idea of the difference.

SSC, Safe Sane and Consensual, sounds great right? Let’s break it down.

Safe

What is safe? Nothing we do as kinksters is truly safe really, there are huge risks to both our physical and psychological well-being involved in BDSM and other fetish and kink activities. We can obviously make attempts at safety but at the end of the day there is risk involved, yet safe implies no risk.

Sane

Kinksters, just like the rest of society, are holistic human beings and this includes mental illness, making the word sane here potentially offensive and exclusionary. Should someone with a mental illness not be allowed to make the executive decision to involve themselves in kink? Many kinksters I know use BDSM as a form of self-care and therapy, nothing soothes them more than being bound and tied or having a good session on a St Andrews cross to relax after a hard week of work. I assume this was meant to imply that everyone involved in the kinky activities was not doing it from a place of rage or an abusive mindset, unfortunately, abuse is still common in the world of kink as it is possible in any interpersonal relationship, but it is the wrong choice of word. Not everyone with a mental illness is abusive and not everyone who is abusive has a mental illness. In short, having sane as part of our community’s unofficial rule for kink is ableist.

Consensual

Consent: there’s no kink without it. It’s the main thing that separates the wonderful world of kink from abuse. We love consent in all its forms and it’s something that doesn’t happen just once, it’s constant and something to routinely check in on. Consent absolutely belongs in this acronym and is the only part of SSC I agree with wholeheartedly. Consent has to be freely given by a person of legally consenting age.

On a surface level, SSC sounds good, but let’s look at RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink) and why it’s – in my opinion – better.

 

Confident Man With Leather Whip Sitting Down Photo
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Risk Aware

Risk aware more accurately describes what we do, and also ties into consent, everyone involved in a BDSM or a kinky activity should be well aware of what they’re getting themselves into. For example, rope bunnies and riggers alike should be aware of the risks in rigging and rope play, as you can permanently damage someone’s nerves with the wrong knot, dislocate something, or there’s the potential risk of being dropped.

The more risk aware you are, the more educated on the activity, and that is what BDSM and kink should be about. Being aware of the risk also includes the risk to your mental health – sub drop and Dom/me drop is a thing and should be taken seriously. Also, the risk that the person you are playing with is potentially an abusive person. Being risk aware means being vigilant about who you choose to engage in play with, it can mean asking around for references and learning to trust your gut.

Consensual Kink

Consensual kink replaces both the Sane and Consensual parts of SSC. Someone with mental illness doesn’t have to be “sane” (which is a loaded word anyway), to participate in what they want to. If anyone, mentally ill or otherwise, is lucid and can consent – meaning a sober and INFORMED* – then they have just as much right as anyone else to be involved.

Consent can be revoked at any time. This goes for kink, general romantic and sexual activities. Consent is something that should be checked before, during and after play. If someone feels their consent was violated it’s something that needs to be discussed. In the world of kink we have ‘safe words’ and having a safe word (and in some cases a hand signal, noise, or nonverbal cue) is a big important part of consensual kink.

Consent can be formal, like in some D/s (Dominant/submissive) relationships people will write up a contract of everything they are agreeing to, but it should never end there. Consent should be given before, during and after and this doesn’t have to be formal, it can be fun, sexy and part of the experience. A simple “harder?”, “softer?”, or “do you like that?” are examples of refreshing consent in the middle of an activity. Consent is never because you feel pressured or obligated, even in kink and D/s you don’t owe anyone anything.

* Someone cannot consent to something unless you have explicitly laid it out for them. Kink is all about truthful communication. Details are mandatory.

I hope now you can make an informed decision on which suits you, SSC vs RACK or even something else, it’s really up to you. At the end of the day all that matters is that you are informed and consenting/have consent but also that you are enjoying yourself and getting what you need and want from the experience. You will need to take note of the risks of BDSM Play and be aware of the steps needed to stay safe during couples sex.

About the author: Erin is a consultant from Oh Zone Adult Lifestyle CentresSave

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