BDSM vs Abuse: Part 1 – SSC, RACK, & PRICK, Oh My!

There are guidelines which have been adopted by the BDSM community to protect the safety of its members. These include SSC (safe, sane, and consensual), RACK (risk aware consensual kink), and PRICK (personal responsibility informed consensual kink). Notice that the word “consensual” is included in all three.

It’s good to have a basic value framework mapped out when you engage in kink. Without it, you might end up crossing lines and doing things that cause serious harm and permanent damage to you or your partner physically and/or psychologically. SSC, RACK, and PRICK are philosophies that aim to give these frameworks in clear, yet simple, terms. The problem that we run into with these is that people can interpret them very differently based on their own ideas and experiences.

Upon reading various online articles attempting to explain the differences in these acronyms, I came across some interesting and quite far reaching ideas about what each of them actually mean. In this article, I give you my best attempt at covering these commonly used terms.


SSC

The term Safe, Sane, and Consensual gained traction in the BDSM community in the early 80s. The community wanted to differentiate the kind of sadomasochistic practices members engaged in from criminal, abusive, and self-destructive behavior that was commonly associated with the term “sadomasochism.”

Now, it can be quite difficult to convince the vanilla public that inflicting or receiving pain, degredation, and humiliation can be done all in good fun. Around the same time that the SSC acronym became popular, the BDSM community started using the term “play” to describe BDSM activities, “players” to describe the people who engage in them, and “toys” to describe the various tools used during play. All of this is another way to separate BDSM from what most people would think of as dangerous, insane, and abusive.

So the question is, how do you define safe? How do you define sane? How do you even define consensual?

Safe: protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost.

Okay, so, right off the bat we can say that the idea of safety in BDSM leaves out a LOT of activities that do carry some inherent risk, from rope bondage to anal sex to wearing a pet suit. I mean, if you’ve ever seen A Thousand Ways To Die, you know that there are a lot of little stupid things that could possibly kill you, especially if you don’t use common sense or understand the risks involved.

Sane: (when said of a person) of sound mind; not mad or mentally ill, (when said of an undertaking or manner) reasonable; sensible.

When technically defined, the “sane” aspect of SSC could exclude anyone who has a mental illness, including things like bipolar disorder and depression, from participating in kink. I think that the use of “sane” in SSC was originally intended to describe that BDSM activities were to be preformed with common sense and awareness of reality.

Consensual: relating to or involving consent or consensus.

What is consent?

Consent: permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.

Okay, so, that one seems pretty simple. But how is consent given? A verbal agreement? A contract? Body language? Consent is a topic I will be covering in my next post more extensively.


RACK

Risk Aware Consensual Kink (RACK) is a term that has become more popular in recent years, and many in the BDSM community feel that it more realistically describes the way a lot of play is conducted.

RACK replaces the words safe and sane with risk aware. Risk awareness is the recognition of the potential for hazards, risks, and incidents that occur within BDSM activities that can result in harm.

The extent and types of risk associated with different partners, settings, and types of play vary widely, and it is important to gauge the risk in any particular BDSM situation or scene. It becomes easier to do this the more experienced you are, which is why a lot of people who are very experienced in BDSM recommend to start slow and small when you’re a newbie. Succumbing to the frenzie of excitement and enthusiasm that comes with being exposed to this whole new kinky world can lead to taking risks you may not have decided to take in a more grounded state of mind.

PRICK

Personal Responsibility Informed Consensual Kink (PRICK) builds on the basic concept of RACK by emphasizing personal responsibility.

Personal responsibility: the idea that human beings choose, instigate, or otherwise cause their own actions.

We all have choices that we make all the time. Even when you say “I had no choice,” what you’re really saying is that the alternative to the choice you made was unacceptable to you. If someone points a gun at you and says “Give me all your money or I’ll shoot!” it seems like the only real choice is to give them your money, but you could choose to run, or fight, or simply refuse and take the risk of getting shot.

PRICK places heavy responsibility on the individuals involved in kink. No matter what role you take on, you are ultimately responsible for your own actions.

You are responsible for making sure you’re educated and informed. You are responsible for the mindset that you bring to the table when you engage in BDSM. You are responsible for using or responding to safewords. You are responsible for being honest about your level of comfort and experience. BDSM is not the setting to put on a false facade by using exaggerations about those things to get attention and feed your ego. (Neither is a vanilla setting, or any setting, for that matter. Just be fucking real.)

Informed is the word in this acronym that takes the place of risk aware. Essentially they mean the same thing.


My Philosophy

When I first started talking about exploring the kinky world with Master Eros, he asked me if I knew about SSC or RACK, which I did not. He told me to go online and look up the difference between them and tell him what aligned more with my ideals. I decided that RACK made more sense to me because SSC seemed over simplified, exclusionary, and a little ambiguous.

Now I would say that my personal kink philosophy combines a mixture of RACK and PRICK, but even that combination is a very simple, basic guideline.

I’ve done quite a bit of research about different types of BDSM play, and I’m always looking into more, because I want to be informed and aware. It’s important to me, as a submissive, to understand what could happen to me during a scene, as well as to watch out for safety concerns and bring them to Master’s attention. He does his part to keep me and himself safe, but he needs me to do my part, too. That means using safewords if/when necessary and just generally communicating if something is off or if I have a concern.

This goes for outside of scenes, too, since my D/s relationship is 24/7. I am to respectfully present questions and issues when they come up. We are very diligent about staying on top of our communication.

PRICK appeals to me because I do strongly believe in personal responsibility. Out of submission and obedience I may want to do something that my Master has commanded me to, even if I firmly believe that it’s morally wrong or far too risky, but I am the one who ultimately has to answer to my own conscience. Would it be a test of my will? Yes. Would I still do it? It depends. I am often reevaluating my own morals and belief systems. Perhaps my Master would reveal something to me that would change my perspective. But if I chose to do it or to disobey, no matter what, I would be responsible for that choice and for the outcome of that choice. Being submissive doesn’t excuse me from that responsibility.

As with everything in the BDSM lifestyle, I take on what works for me and my relationship and leave the rest. It’s a deeply personal decision, and not everyone will ever agree on a perfect guideline or philosophy to outline BDSM ethics. Some will say it’s all black and white. Others will insist that everything is gray, and that there are far more than 50 shades.


I hope that this post was helpful to you and that you were able to gain some insight about these terms and why they are important in BDSM. As always, feel free to reach out either in the comments section or by email to slavepsyche@gmail.com if you have any questions about this or any other BDSM subject.

In my next post (which I promise will be posted by Wednesday night of next week!) I will discuss the issue of consent in BDSM. What is it? How is given? Can it ever be assumed? Can it ever be withdrawn? I will be talking about all these questions and more, so stay tuned!

Love and light.

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