The Birth of Safe, Sane and Consensual

Historically, David Stein is the person who first coined the phrase in 1983 for the Gay Male SM Activists Group that he co-founded. It was then used as the slogan in the SM Rights contingent of the Gay Rights march to the capital in 1987. That's right, the phrase is not that old. He has since expressed a disappointment that the phrase has become what it is, a credo pressed upon novices and relegated to lighter forms of BDSM than what was originally the purpose.

From small beginnings, the BDSM community clung to the mantra-like nothing before. Now, everywhere you go and every club you find, it is likely that this is the safety creed that they have, a part of their mission statement and what they teach at their meetings.

But for my part in this document, we will take it apart and make consensuality the core for all interactions for it is the most valuable part of a D/s exchange. It is not a death for SSC, but rather a reawakening. To do this we must see what this mantra and that of RACK mean and have in common.

What We Are Taught


means maintaining a level of safety in the play that you engage in. It is also knowing all you can about an activity before you play, using protective barriers when necessary and using safe practices.

This part of SSC is the most questioned for how can you really define what is safe when everything we do flirts with risk, danger, and fear. You can not say that you are safe during a flogging, for even the most experienced can miss, you can be harmed and there is always a risk.

But knowing that there are risks is part of being safe when it comes to the play you engage in. You also are aware of safety by knowing who it is you are playing with and being sure that they apply the same level of safety that you believe is appropriate.


means that you know what fantasies can be enacted and which ones need to stay a fantasy. It also means that you are not playing under the influence of drugs or alcohol and will make sure you partner does too.


is subjective, that’s for sure. Some dissenters believe that people with mental disorders shouldn’t participate in BDSM. There is always potential that what goes on in the place space could escalate or undo some therapy and the mind could falter. Even the best of us have the potential to trigger something that leaves us needing help beyond the scene.


means that both or all parties agree to what is going on and assent to honor that agreement beyond the play scene.

As BDSM participants, negotiating play should be well thought out. A lot can happen in a scene that if there isn’t enough conversation before hand could wind up in disaster during play. Agreeing to everything that is going to occur and sharing those risks with each other is paramount.

What I mean by assent is this. Dominants play a dangerous game. All they need is a submissive to later regret what happened and tell someone. It becomes a non-consensual act then and they could be in trouble legally. It’s as simple as that.

But if part of the agreement is that the parties take some personal responsibility and agree that what happens has truly been agreed upon no matter how they feel afterward it covers some of the danger that we can enter.

It is the consensual aspect that becomes most important to people who practice SSC.

Risk Aware Consensual Kink

In 1999, Guy Switch proposed a new term to form a more accurate portrayal of type of play practitioners participate in. Noting that nothing is truly 100% safe, not even crossing the street, Switch compared BDSM to the sport of mountain climbing. In both, the risk is an essential part of the thrill, and that risk is minimized through study, training, technique, and practice. (

The value of RACK, as it is abbreviated is for persons who don't completely agree with SSC. There are many BDSM participants who use both safety mantras. They use SSC to talk to the non-BDSM general public as it’s easier to accept. Then they use RACK when talking to people within the community. It’s perfectly okay to do that.

The people who use RACK feel strongly about their use of that play standard and feel that SSC has flaws within the community and in their own relationships.

In RACK, consent is still the backbone but it applies to each person's awareness of the risks, the safety and the possible things that can occur. So when someone consents in a RACK scene it means they are fully aware of what might happen if things go wrong and take responsibility for knowing and researching the play activity. They don't leave it up to one person.

Which One's Better?

So you might be asking me which one should I apply to my play style? And I'm going to have to respond with whichever one feels right for you. I've always believed that you should start with SSC. It is easier to understand and apply to your BDSM play, groups all over the world use that as their safety mantra and you can accept it into your new-found play in the lifestyle.

As you grow and learn, you may want to adopt RACK and that's okay. Others keep SSC too and that's just fine. BDSM is a wide and varied world and as long as we all consent to be who we are and play as safely as possible.

Thoughts to Ponder

  1. Do you follow either of these safety mantras? Why or why not?
  2. What did you learn about these two terms that you didn't know before?

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