Consent is one of the biggest themes of BDSM–if you don’t know that, you really need to read up before you pick up a paddle. BDSM is built on a system that is referred to as “SSC”. “SSC” stands for “safe, sane, and consensual.”
Let’s break that down further:
- Safe: Safety means understanding the risks of the activities you engage in with your partners (or even solo!). It means reading up on the subjects you’re interested in or talking to people who have experience in those areas. It means making your partner(s) aware of any physical, medical, or psychological limitations you have. It also means that all parties involved are aware of the risks of what they are going to experience within a scene.
- Sane: “Sanity,” in this context, is going to be defined by the official distinction between things like masochism/sadism and Sexual Masochism/Sadism Disorder. That difference is made by establishing a healthy mindset on one’s behaviour in regards to BDSM. To meet the standard of being “psychologically healthy” when it comes to S&M, the subject must not experience distress over their urges that affects their daily life and all partners of the subject must be consenting to their activity.
- Consensual: This covers all other aspects of consent, including an excitably expressed “yes!” in regards to sexual activity, regardless of one’s personal relationship with their partner. Remember that an absence of a “no” does not equal a “yes” and intimidation for a “yes” equates to assault. Also remember that all drugs and alcohol revoke one’s ability to consent to sexual activity. Always play sober to avoid problems!
Some people also play under the guise of RACK. RACK stands for “risk-aware consensual kink”. This means that even though some kinks do have dangerous aspects to them that can cause harm, marks, or medical risks, everyone involved is aware of the risks and responsible for their choices. Consent is very clearly established and everyone who practices RACK is educated on the kinks and risks involved in the scene.
So, now that the basics of consent are established, here are some helpful tips when it comes to maintaining a healthy relationship:
- Always keep open communication with your partner when it comes to safety concerns, regardless of whether or not you feel it’s relevant.
- Before any play takes place, you should require that limitations and a safeword is established. If you don’t want a set “safeword,” remember that “no” and “stop” are always safewords unless specifically stated otherwise.
- Discuss consent in the context of your relationship. Let your partner know that you are continuously respecting their rights by asking for consent before you engage in sexual activity.
That last one tends to trip people up. Even though consent should be your number-one concern, some people are nervous about turning off their partner by talking about it.
First point, if your partner is turned off or annoyed by the idea of you respecting their consent or establishing your own–RUN. This is a huge red flag that cannot be ignored. No one should ever get upset that someone wants to discuss consent in a sexual relationship.
If you really don’t know how to bring it up, try these simple phrases that can be used, even in the context of a D/s:
- “Do you like that, little one?”
- “Show me how you like it, Sir.”
- “Would you like me to…”
- “What would you like to do to me, dear?”
- “Tell me what’s on your dirty mind, girl.”
- “Master, how would you feel about…”
Consent is not only mandatory, but it can also be used in a way that makes play more fun, like instructing your shy submissive to tell you everything they want done to them or asking your Dominant if they would like to engage in certain activities.
An older BDSM practice called “kissing the whip” is also a good way to establish consent. In order to get consent for impact play or other painful acts during a scene, the Top party would present the implement they were planning on using on the bottom party. If the bottom party consented to it, they were to kiss the tool. If they did not, the Top party would pause the scene and check in or move on to a different tool. Doing this is a good way to establish consent, but again, not break the tone of the scene by using explicit language to ask for consent.
Consent can be sexy, but it’s always necessary, regardless. Keep that in mind.