fbpx BDSM Safety Philosophies Anyone Can Use

Sex - Exploration | April 1, 2021, 2:19 CDT

BDSM Safety Philosophies Anyone Can Use
Consent and risk-awareness are sexy practices that bring greater pleasure to everyone.
Alexis Schad

Written by

Alexis Schad
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Photography by David Heisler

"Fifty Shades of Grey" hit theaters in 2015, bringing BDSM to mainstream audiences in a way no movie had before. However, focused as they were on the titillating allure of gags, whips and chains, many fans who jumped on this trend overlooked one of the most important elements of kinky play: safety.

Although it may not seem like the sexiest topic, the ways kinksters address safety during play can set an excellent example for people of any sexual preference.

Exploring BDSM safety philosophies

The BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism) and kink scenes use a number of safety philosophies, each with its own focus. Ultimately, the objective of these philosophies is to draw the line between abuse and consensual, ethical kink, and to prevent safe play from becoming dangerous. The three most common philosophies are:

These acronyms work like a checklist to determine whether a certain act is ethical and responsible. For example, someone who practices PRICK believes that for an act to be ethical, everyone involved must take personal responsibility for their safety, as well as be informed and consenting.

Safety is for everyone

Safety measures are necessary for people who engage in sexual activities that involve pain and physical restraints. So why would the average person need to go to such lengths? While the idea of evaluating and discussing the safety of less-kinky sex acts may seem unnecessary, practicing some of the ideas in these safety philosophies can even benefit "vanilla" people. The two concepts all BDSM safety philosophies adhere to are universally applicable: consent and risk-awareness.

Consent

As the critical cornerstone of any sexual interaction, consent is not a one-time event. It involves ongoing, active communication about what any and all participants feel comfortable doing. Without consent, any sexual act is assault.

There are a few basics to consent everyone should know: 

  • Consent can be withdrawn at any time, for any act—even ones previously agreed upon. This means giving consent one time for one activity does not imply blanket consent for other activities or for the same activities at another time.

  • Consent is never automatic, no matter a couple's relationship status or dynamic. Just because two people are in a relationship doesn't mean either one automatically consents to any type of sex act.

  • The absence of a "no" does not mean "yes." Practice enthusiastic consent by engaging only in activities a partner enthusiastically encourages.

Risk awareness

Another tenet of safety in BDSM is risk awareness, an idea that can and should be applied to any type of sex act. Sex is an inherently risky activity: Nothing can prevent pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection (STI) 100 percent of the time. Therefore, people who choose to have sex need to always be aware of potential risks.

If you're not doing anything kinky, you don't have to worry about the physical risks involved with something like bondage or impact play. Risk awareness, in cases outside of kinky play, means having conversations with partners about a multitude of other issues relevant to safety, including STI status and risk, barrier use, medical issues and anything that may trigger negative emotions. While talking about these details with new partners can seem daunting, discussing them before engaging in sexual activity can create a safer environment for everyone involved.

Put it all together: negotiation

For ethical BDSM participants, consent and risk awareness are ascertained through the process of negotiation, during which all aspects of a BDSM act, or scene, are hashed out by the parties involved, sometimes in minute detail. This process can look different for everyone and may even involve checklists or contracts. During negotiations, people often discuss one or more of the following:

  • The expectations, goals or intentions of the scene

  • Limits, or acts someone is unwilling to do

  • Safe words, or a word or phrase used to stop or slow down a scene

  • Risks, safety and health concerns

  • Preferences

  • Aftercare, or any post-scene comfort needed

Depending on the details of the scene, negotiations may be discussed quickly or occur over the course of weeks and months. People in an ongoing BDSM dynamic may constantly negotiate as situations and feelings change.

You, too, can negotiate with a partner before having sex. The particulars you discuss may be different than if you were engaging in BDSM, but the key concepts remain the same. In fact, just like it does for kinksters, negotiation may build excitement and anticipation, and could strengthen your bond with your partner, making for better sex.

Lessons learned

Of course, filling out a checklist with every sexual partner for every sexual encounter may not always be necessary, especially if no kink is involved and you've been with the partner for a long time. However, having frank discussions about consent and the risks involved in any sexual activity can go a long way to ensure everyone feels safe and comfortable. When everyone feels safe, they can focus on the sexier parts of sex.

Alexis Schad

Written by

Alexis Schad

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