Ethics And Safety in Bondage Play

When discussing the idea of Ethics And Safety within kink and BDSM and Kink play you’ll often come across the SSC acronym which forms the foundation of all healthy BDSM and kink play.  This acronym stands for Safe, Sane and Consensual. This acronym was developed in 1983 from the GMSMA records and is divided into three parts. We’ll discuss those three parts, and then move on to the need and use of safe words within kink play.

Ethics Of BDSM, Kink and Fetish Play

Safe

Common dictionaries refer to the word safe as being ‘secure from liability to harm, injury, danger or risk” (LCC, 2011).

Within this definition it’s clear that kinksters see the practice of safe BDSM as a need to care for their partner regardless of the intensity of the scene and what’s going on. There cannot be any unwanted injury, or the transfer of bacteria or disease.  This includes an active attempt to minimize potential dangers.

For a scene to be safe, you need to have done research.  And be knowledgeable about the kink that you’re wanting to engage in so as to protect both your partner and yourself. Yes, there are risks in many BDSM and kink activities.  But to be safe you need to be aware of these dangers and minimise them.  This is so as to prevent permanent or lasting damage to yourself or your partner whether that be emotional, mental or physical.

Sane

When you’re looking at Sane, this is generally considered to be where both parties are of a healthy mind and free from impaired decision making skills.

In a BDSM world, this actively means that all players and participants act responsibly and engage in good judgement. Appropriate self-control is a major part of what is considered to be sane and integral to this philosophy.  An ability to recognise a safe word, as well as to recognise and absolutely avoid a situation where you cannot control yourself.

This is imperative to power exchanges and power play. A second important part of sane, is that BDSM and associated activities should not be used as a replacement or solution to serious psychological conditions or mental health concerns. Professional therapy and help is important in these situations. Where two parties have engaged in play together, and where one has an (un)known and deep rooted concern can trigger an emotional state that neither may be prepared for.

Consensual

The consensual part of the SSC safety acronym specifically refers to the mandate that all parties involved in a scene.  Or in a particular situation have given their explicit, and informed consent. Consensual play is one of the most important aspects of BDSM play and it is paramount to the code of ethics and assurances that a relationship is healthy with all players supported. Lack of consent and sexual consent is not BDSM.  It is abusive and subject to the legality of the law.

Consent must be given before the engagement of play, not before, and not after play. Endorphins and the rush of these chemicals within our body may interrupt safe and sane decision making skills.

Ethics And Safety
Keeping It Kinky

Ethics And Safety in BDSM Play

Ethics are also an important part of BDSM.  They form many of the contracts that might exist between partners, and play mates.

There is a view within the non-kink community that BDSM involves violence and non-consent because it often looks like that consent hasn’t been given. Imagine a situation where two play partners are in a scene and the partner being whipped is ‘crying’ out in pain and begging the other to stop. This might be a part of the scene.  It might look non-consensual to an outsider. But these two partners are following guidelines that they have set up amongst themselves prior to the scene beginning.

Mutual consent is one of the most important part of the ethics acknowledgement and this is the foundation of any form of contract.

So how does someone know when it is no longer consensual? That’s where the use of safe words come in. Most playmates have a safeword system, or in the case of bondage and restraint, a physical sign or movement that replaces a safeword. This can be used for either the top or the bottom at any stage and unquestionably demands the halting of any and all play.  Use of a safe word indicates that there has been a trigger, a pain threshold has been crossed, or that one of the players needs urgent attention.

A safeword should be short, sweet and without too many syllables as well being something that wouldn’t normally come up during sexual encounters. Strawberry, banana, and Netflix are sometimes used as safe words.

On top of the SSC acronym, and within the Ethical Framework of BDSM and kink play.  There are several important moral considerations that need to be applied.

We’ll go through those quickly here.

Proper Knowledge

There needs to be knowledge about the kink that you’re engaging in. If you’re playing in a heavy Japanese rope bondage scene and have never had rope experience before, then you should not continue on this play. There is a need for accountability, and a need for risk management and reduction.

It is always a good idea to practice a new type of kink, before playing on someone else, unless there is a gradual process of mutual learning and understanding. Harm minimisation, in the example of rope play, might be to learn tying someone up on a bed whilst not restricting their mouth.  As opposed to immediately attempting suspension with a ball gag.

Ensure a safe environment

This not only concerns spatial awareness but also to acknowledge risks within your environment.  It might include open flames, equipment that isn’t properly secured, the sanitization of toys, as well ensuring that all equipment is properly set up. Ensuring a safe environment also includes the understanding of your partner, an awareness of their fantasies, desires and needs.  As well as an understanding of their emotional and physical limitations.

You need to set up your play space with an awareness of these limitations and expectations.

Honesty

This goes without saying, but there is often a need to underreport, or not communicate as honestly as you could be if you feel that your admission might end or prevent the play scene. This is a mistake. Both partners should be completely and utterly honest with each other. Do not omit important information that is necessary to the scene, and under no circumstances should you make promises that you cannot commit to.

BDSM is not a form of therapy

There is no expectation that your partner is a substitute for a therapist. An exception being is if that point is actually an explicit part of your relationship. For professional help it is always advised to seek the appropriate professional for assistance in addressing your concerns.

Respect Privacy

Just because you know someone within the scene, does not give you, or anyone else the permission to air this out in forums outside of the scene or community. Tagging people in photographs on social media is a common mistake made with this in mind. People might not be out in their job, their society or their family unit.  Airing of such privileged and private information can be detrimental to their life and lifestyle out of the scene.

Always, if in doubt, ask.

We are aware that some of these points overlap with each other, and are simply rephrased. For some people, these points will not be of consequence to them as they simply play with light kink play in the bedroom, and that’s perfectly okay.

These are still very important points that need to be considered both within the private sphere of kink, and the kink community.