Day 10: What are your hard limits?
Completely covered this in my 30 Days of Kink: Day 2 Post.
Apparently I should have read ahead.
Day 11: What are your views on the ethics of kink?
The following is near the top of my profile on FetLife:
I live by my personal code of ethics, which boils down to:
- Do no harm
- Meet people where they are
- Accept people as they choose to present to you
- People first, roles second
And that pretty much sums up my answer to this question.
But to expand a bit…
It’s all about consent.
What’s that? You want a lengthier explanation? You expect more out of a blog post? OK then…
There are two common acronyms people use to describe ethical activities involving kinks.
The first is SSC, which stands for Safe, Sane, and Consensual. This is what I USED to say I followed. However, the reality is, a lot of the things I like to do are not inherently safe activities. Do I do my absolute best to make them safe? Absolutely. I never tie someone with rope unless my safety shears are at hand, I get tested regularly for STDs and insist sexual partners (and their partners) do as well, etc…
And then there’s the thorny issue of “sanity”. Are the things I like to do considered “sane”? Which definition of sanity would you like to use? Legal? Psychiatric? Your own? Mine? Personally, I think the way I live my life is completely sane and rational, but I know that if I was completely open with my mother or my former coworkers at the Catholic school where I once taught, they would say otherwise. Consensual? You bet. See above.
The second is RACK, which stands for Risk Aware Consensual Kink. I like this one better, although that’s a more recent (last couple of years) development for me. Risk-Aware? Yes! What we do is RISKY (probably a better distinction from UNSAFE). Consensual? Always. Kink? Duh. So that fits, but…
Personally, I don’t think either acronym should need to be used. If you have to point out that you practice RACK (or SSC if that floats your linguistic boat), are you implying that others don’t? It comes across as condescending most of the time in my opinion. It’s like announcing, “Well I pay my taxes!” or “I have never been arrested!”.
My opinion is that people new to things (kink/BDSM/D/s in general OR a specific activity) need to get educated about the inherent risks and how to mitigate them. The responsibility for that ultimately falls on the new person, but I do think that more experienced folks have a responsibility as well here: to educate, to explain, to make newer folks aware of the risks.
Only when you know the risks (and benefits) of a specific activity can you fully consent to engaging in it. Only when you’ve gotten to know a person, met their friends, asked around about their style of play/ethics, ideally watched them engage in kinky activities, can you begin to trust them enough to engage in said kinky activity. Knowledge really is power!
Because many things we do in the name of kink or BDSM or D/s are inherently risky, getting to know and trust your partner(s) is critical – on both sides of the slash. This is why I don’t do pick up play (hardly ever) and why I’m not into casual “play” in general. It takes time to know someone well enough to trust them.
Consent is mandatory in my book. And if you’re drunk, or high, or a child, you are not capable of consenting. It also means that if you are so far gone into subspace you are not capable of consenting. Which is why negotiations of what will happen during a scene happen BEFORE the scene begins – NEVER after it’s begun. Renegotiating mid-scene is just never OK in my book.
Consent sounds clear cut, but it can become a thorny issue. Just because someone consented to something once, or twice, or a hundred times, does not mean they consent to it THIS time. Conversely, asking “are you OK with this?” “how about this?” “how about now?” “Can I do X?” “Can I do Y now?” can really be a buzzkill. I had a conversation last week with a friend of mine about just this issue. When do you ask for consent and when do you rely on reading body language/signals? We concluded that for “normal, date type activities” reading body language made sense: Moving in for a hug, pulling him in for a kiss, etc… We both felt a grownup (even a self-professed submissive one) should be capable of saying “no” or pulling away if something like that made them uncomfortable. Consent for specific activities, we decided, makes sense for riskier things.
Where it gets somewhat murkier for me, is when you add the power-imbalance I crave in my relationships. I’ve heard numerous submissives say they “were afraid to say no” to a dominant. That both saddens and scares me a bit. I try to instill in those that are submissive to me, that they can ALWAYS say no. Will there be repercussions? Well, yeah – if someone says no to everything all the time, or to something they used to say yes to, I will sit them down and have a serious discussion about what’s going on. Will I get mad and take it out on them? Oh hell no. I’ve praised those that actually invoked a safeword during a session – I want people to ALWAYS feel comfortable letting me know when they’re not OK with something I’m doing (or want to do). And yet, I get that the fear of disappointing one’s dominant can be a powerful deterrent to saying “no”.
I apologize if this post is a bit rambly – ethics and consent are big topics and could easily turn into an entire book.
But for me, I live by my personal code of ethics listed at the top of this post. And I always seek consent.
(Oh and yes, there’s a huge difference between causing hurt or pain and causing HARM to someone. Just thought I should throw that out there.)