Saftey is never an acronym – no matter how convincing they may seem.

Risk aware, personal responsibility or safe and sane? Spend any time in any kink space; online or in real time, and the inevitable safety debate will emerge. Safe, sane and consensual might be tried and true but the SS and the C are too literal and/or limiting – depending who is on the soapbox. Risk aware makes us know (although who tells us what it is we need to know is still not settled) what needs to be known. And personal responsibility is victim blaming – ooops I mean making sure you own your own shit, even when you didn’t create this shit in the first place.

Look, I don’t give a shit – personal responsibility or otherwise, which bunch of letters you claim, it’s actually quite irrelevant to the bigger picture of what it is that kink is. And dare I say it a smoke screen used to stifle any deeper conversations about the practicalities of safety.

The desire to feel safe is not imagined nor is it exaggerated. Those of us who do this thing called kink, just as every other human being, need to feel safe. To feel safe is to be able to walk into something with the understanding that, as far as I can tell any potential undesired outcomes will be minimised and any unknown outcomes will be address in the most effective way possible.

To be safe, not just to be aware of risk of harm, but to have a genuine feeling of safety is only achievable through action. It’s through the choices that we make that we are best able to remove and respond effectively to the outcomes of what we do. In all reality we cannot remove every possibility of encountering harm. We all have seat belts in our cars, we don’t drive while intoxicated, we drive to the speed limits and we stop at red lights. Yet you could be as sober as the day you were born, wear your seat belt and drive to the conditions within the letter of the law and you can still be killed in a car accident, Accidents do really happen.

Safe is not awareness. It’s not researching on line, it’s not buying a book written by a self or community proclaimed expert, it’s not a workshop or a munch. Awareness is more than knowledge. Yes, knowledge is a must. But knowledge is not understanding. Understanding comes into the equation when you take what you know and apply it to the what it. You take all that you know and you put it into practice.

How is this going to actually affect me?

What do I need to do to ensure that, if the consequences of my/our choices are undesired what is the next step?

What do I know about myself – through past experiences or expectations that could create something that we need to address?

I love being flogged – give me a long, slow flogging on my back and I will sleep like a baby, and just between you and me the last time he flogged me I fell asleep. What I didn’t know was that I can’t play first thing in the morning. I need to, at the very least, drink water before he does anything to me. How did I come to know this? I fainted. He woke up in the mood and something went wrong with my blood pressure, I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything for 10 maybe 11 hours. Nothing could have changed what had happened. I fainted. He made sure I was safe, wrapped me in a blanket, got some water and toast. And then when I felt up to it got me to my GP’s office to make sure it wasn’t anything else. At each point of this experience I felt nothing but safe. Even though I was not aware of the risk of harm his choice had, even though I was on the receiving end of something that was unwanted and unpleasant I was safe

We have been together four years, know each other intimately. Have great communication, and there was nothing to show me that the outcome of what has been done to my body dozens and dozens of times would be any different this time. Unfamiliar or undesired outcomes – including harm, can happen no matter how aware we are of ourselves and what it is we are doing.

By acknowledging that sometimes things really do just happen. By accepting that safe comes from more than awareness. When we remove the acronyms and focus on creating genuine safety I think we can begin to offer some more practical strategies into our understanding of safe kink.

I’m starting to learn that changing behaviours and attitudes don’t come from how to, step by step guides and checklists. They are too simplistic and can’t address the intricate difference and needs that come with the nuance of human sexuality.

So the next time you’re thinking about trying something new I want you to do one thing.

Put the entirety of yourself into the interaction and ask yourself this

Is this going to cause me death?

Is this going to cause me disability?

Is this going to cause me disease?

Is this going to cause me distress?

The 5 D’s are something that we use in health care provision to measure the outcomes of the choices that need to be made for our clients.

Death and disability are pretty obvious – and please no arm lobbing strawman arguments!

Disease – not just STI’s. While the common safe sex message is still relevant to kink, we need to take this a little deeper within our physical and mental health. Is something that I want to do going to interfere with any illnesses or medication? What about skin irritation or infection? A UTI? Food poisoning or an allergic reaction? Sunburn? Is this going to affect your mental wellbeing?

Distress – Is the thing that I want going to, in anyway, interfere with the way I need to live my everyday? Stop you from going to work or affect your ability to do your job? Pay your bills? Having healthy relationships with the other people in your life?

These questions allow us to understand our realities within the expectations that we have and to step back and address or change anything that may be relevant to the situation. I believe that if we stopped focusing on acronyms and arguing the measure of safe and sane (which by the way has nothing to do with our mental health and everything to do with our legal competency) and started merging what it is we want with who we are as individuals then we can truly have healthy, safe and satisfying sex lives and relationships.

The tools we use and the intensity with which we use them are irrelevant here. Whether you are using a knife or handcuffs, a latex hood or a blindfold brought from Kmart, if you are able to walk into something with the understanding that, as far as you can tell any potential undesired outcomes will be minimised and any unknown outcomes will be address in the most effective way possible than you are actively; through your actions rather than an acronym, trying to keep your sex life as safe as possible. And as accidents can and will happen this is the best that we can achieve.

 

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#What is – safe word

Safe words. The always present catchphrase when kink is around.

But what is the safe word?

While most people with even the slightest understanding of BDSM would have heard of a safe word, many fail to understand the reality and relevance of how a safe word actually connects with their actions in the boudoir.

First, a safe word is just a word. While it’s called a safe word, in reality nothing about that word itself can keep you safe. It really is just a word. What keeps us safe is the message and the set of instructions that the word gives us.

It can be any word that communicates the same message. For some the use of an obscure word is necessary; this can range from an individual’s name to something quite unusual. And for others ‘stop’’ conveys the same information. The word you choose has to be something that works for you and the interactions you intend to be a part of.

A safe word in and of itself is useless until the meaning behind it is clearly agreed upon. It’s not enough to put forward a word and call it a safe word if there is nothing behind it. If the submissive/bottom is calling out ‘pineapple’ and the dominant/top has nothing to tell them what to do next the word is nothing more than a bunch of letters strung together being said.

A safe word communicates an instruction. Promptly and clearly to the other person. What that instruction is varies. For some it means the entirety of the interaction is over. For others it’s a ‘pause’ button, or a way of halting what is happening so the submissive/bottom can further communicate something that is going on for them – the need to change positions, a cramp, to catch your breath, lessen the intensity etc. Whatever the meaning is, the what that comes next after the word is said needs to be understood and agreed upon.

A safe word is just one of the ways to communicate with each other. It’s not the only tool in the kinky tool box. Some argue that a safe word is for both (all) participants, and while I can see merit in the idea I’m not going to put it forward here. Why? Because the makeup of the interactions that constitute kink creates the need for two very different communication requirements. While both (all) participants have the obligation to communicate the submissive/bottom often has elements of the play that creates a very unique set of obstacles to effective communication. Obstacles that can be situationally overcome through the use of a safe word. As I said it’s not the everything that some make it out to be, but when it’s used in a way that is realistic and used with the intention of communicating an agreed upon meaning; a safe word can be a positive tool within a healthy sex life.

In saying this I need to make something very clear. The safe word is the not the responsibility of the submissive/bottom alone. Let me say that again – THE SAFE WORD IS NOT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SUBMISSIVE/BOTTOM ALONE.

A submissive/bottom has the right to expect their safe word will be acted upon in the way that was agreed to.

While a safe word is a communication tool predominantly said by the submissive/bottom it is useless if it goes no further than being said. Communication is ALWAYS a two way street. What is said by one must be heard and acted upon by the other. We communicate in dozens of ways and this doesn’t stop when the kinky fun begins. Communication is the only way to great sex and satisfying kink. You cannot get to the great stuff without having the foundations present and maintained. A safe word is a part of this foundation that has to be present.

Now before I become the next ‘kink shamer’ or meeting point for those whom a safe word cannot be present in their world STOP. The safe word is an idea that allows us to convey and discuss a complex need, it a means of communication that is present in kink interactions. By all means tell me how you don’t need a safe word but please understand that I’m not interested! I find the argument a backdoor way to try to recreate what already is. When you deconstruct the argument of no safe word, what you are left with is an agreement that communication is essential and a part of all healthy, functioning relationships.

Check ins.

A check in is another way to use the idea of a safe word. Most often it’s a ‘traffic light’ system of colours: red, yellow and green. Again the meaning behind each word (or number, which is another system of check in) needs to be clearly communicated and agreed upon. It needs to be clearly understood what comes next after the word is said.

As a quick guide

RED– I need you to stop immediately. I have something that you need to know right now.

YELLOW– I need you to alter what you are doing. Stop so I can tell you what it is I need from you to keep this going.

GREEN– I am okay with everything that is occurring and I don’t have anything you need to know.

 Safe word when unable to verbalise a word.

Some elements of kink are used with the intention of removing the ability of the submissive/bottom to speak. It’s one of the obstacles that are present and need to be overcome. If you choose to put an obstacle in the way you need to put something in place to work around it if/when the need to communicate arises.

Again, this is something that must be decided upon before the bedroom door. If the intention is to remove the ability for the submissive/bottom to speak their safe word you need another way to communicate the meaning and instruction.

Some ideas –

Using an open/closed fist to communicate a stop/go message.

A bell or buzzer which the submissive/bottom can ring when they need to get the attention of their dominant/top.

Giving the submissive/bottom something to hold onto and drop when needed.

A tapping signal.

One thing that must be considered when implementing a non verbal safe word is the environment you are in. If you have loud music on or are in a public play space where there is significant background noise that could inhibit your ability to hear the bell or tapping you might want to consider something else. If you are going to give the submissive/bottom something to drop, make sure it’s something that is going to be obvious. A black scarf being dropped onto black flooring could be easily missed.

Safe words seem simplistic and are often presented as such. But they are a part of the complexity that is communication. We must acknowledge that having a safe word is not a magic word that protects us from harm. The best intentions may be present and honourable but if the integrity of what a safe word is – a means of communication, is violated the interaction can very quickly move from kink to abuse. Implementing a safe word that communicates a clearly understood and easy to understand and acted on message is the only way to make a safe word work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#What is – BDSM

#Whatis Wednesday

 

 

The acronym “BDSM” is used to refer to both a subtype of sexual variation (1), and an alternative expression of sexuality (2). It is being used as an inclusive term to describe various and overlapping themes which frames an unambiguous consensual “triplet of two-letter dyads: bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism and masochism (3), from which individual’s experience “erotic arousal and/or personal growth”(4). Within each of these dyads there is a vast and varied collection of interrelated and common language, expectations and sexual behaviours. BDSM is both a subtype of sexual variation (5), and an alternative expression of sexuality (6) .

 

It refers to the eroticisation of these activities and dynamics that create negotiated and consensual sexual interactions. Within the confines of these interaction individuals engage in erotic behaviours, actions, customs, rituals and play which allow them to express their sexual identity and gain sexual (physical and emotional) satisfaction. The diversity that creates BDSM is often only limited but the individual’s imagination and while to the outsider what is most commonly associated with BDSM: pain, physical impact (spanking, flogging) control, humiliation and dominance may seem violent, confronting, over the top or just plain strange what is visible is not all there is to the interaction. In this way BDSM is very similar to other non kinky sexual interactions in that there is a need for relationship, desire, attraction, want and conversation and just as with all sexual interactions consent; that is informed and freely given is crucial.

1.Hébert, A., & Weaver, A. (2015). Perks, problems, and the people who play: A qualitative exploration of dominant and submissive BDSM roles. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 24(1), 49-62.

2. Weiss, M. D. (2006). Mainstreaming kink: The politics of BDSM representation in US popular media. Journal of Homosexuality, 50(2-3), 103-132.

3. Freeburg, M. N., & McNaughton, M. J. (2017). Fifty Shades of Grey: Implications for Counseling BDSM Clients. VISTAS 2017.

4. Wiseman, J. (1996). SM 101: A realistic introduction. San Francisco, CA: Greenery Press.

5. Hébert, A., & Weaver, A. (2015). Perks, problems, and the people who play: A qualitative exploration of dominant and submissive BDSM roles. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 24(1), 49-62.

6. Weiss, M. D. (2006). Mainstreaming kink: The politics of BDSM representation in US popular media. Journal of Homosexuality, 50(2-3), 103-132