A Little Light Reading

We’d like to present a couple of scraps of writing for the folks interested in boning up on the subject.

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General Dungeon Etiquette, applicable to many dungeon spaces.

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This is a feature article written by Elaine Miller, one of Mayhem’s organizers, for publication in Xtra West newspaper. It offers a mere 2000-word toe-dabbling into the deep waters of SM. Over here: http://elainemiller.com/writing/xtrawest/2004/the-abcs-of-bdsm/

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SM vs Abuse: Compare and Contrast

SM is done for positive reasons: personal growth and erotic pleasure. It requires the knowledgeable consent of each player, and is often carefully negotiated beforehand. In SM, the situation is controlled. SM play stops immediately when someone uses a safeword, in any scene, at any time, for any reason–physical or emotional. SM players do not make an assumption of the right to control another’s behavior. Players follow guidelines for safe, responsible, positive play, and to act out each player’s desires. After play, both parties feel fulfilled. Good SM play brings players closer together, and is often initiated or requested by the bottom. It is done with the support and knowledge of friends and community.

Abuse temporarily satisfies one person’s need to control or hurt. With no rules or agreed limit, abuse is an uncontrolled act, with out-of-control emotions. A victim of abuse has no rights within the relationship, has no control over when abuse ends, and feels used and hurt afterward. The abuser decides what will happen, and does not respond to the needs, desires or limits of the person they abuse. Abusers mistakenly assume their right to control another by virtue of gender, income, or other similar artificial scale. Done in isolation, a dirty secret, abuse divides relationships and fractures trust.

- Elaine Miller, Feb 2001

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Whether as personal credo or acronyms for everyone to live by, BDSM players might find this set of descriptions useful.

1) SSC



SSC – Safe, Sane and Consensual
by Elaine Miller

SSC (Safe, Sane and Consensual) is a frequently heard phrase in BDSM communities, and its roots are deeply entwined with a concern for ethics and, more to the point, fair play.

Safe means that even when we play hard, we avoid causing true harm .

Sane means folks don’t play when they’re angry, intoxicated, or otherwise not fully able to determine boundaries, and evaluate risk.

Consensual means that players in a scene have provided each other with knowledgeable and informed consent, and that every participant has the right to stop the scene at any time through use of a safeword or other pre-designated means.

Comments? email   talk at elainemiller dot com.

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by Gary Switch

During a discussion of SSC (Safe, Sane, and Consensual) on the TES-Friends list, I proposed RACK (Risk-Aware, Consensual Kink) as an alternative. Here’s my motivation: Nothing’s perfectly safe. Crossing the street isn’t perfectly safe. Remember that it’s technically called “safer sex,” not “safe sex.”

If we want to limit BDSM to what’s safe, we can’t do anything more extreme than flogging somebody with a wet noodle. Mountain climbers don’t call their sport safe, for the simple reason that it isn’t; risk is an essential part of the thrill. They handle it by identifying and minimizing the risk through study, training, technique, and practice.

I believe that this approach will work better for us leatherfolk than claiming that what we do is safe. We want to foster the notion that we develop expertise, that to do what we do properly takes skill developed through a similar process of education, training, and practice.

Negotiation cannot be valid without foreknowledge of the possible risks involved in the activity being negotiated. “Risk-aware” means that both parties to a negotiation have studied the proposed activities, are informed about the risks involved, and agree how they intend to handle them. Hence “risk-aware” instead of “safe.”

The “sane” part of SSC is very subjective. Who’s making the call? Person A might think fisting is insane; persons B and C might enjoy it very much. “Sane” always reminds me of Pat Paulsen’s campaign slogan from the old Smothers Brothers show: “Vote for Paulsen; he’s not insane!” If you go around constantly reassuring folks that you’re not crazy, they’ll start to wonder. I’ve heard “sane” interpreted as: “able to distinguish fantasy from reality” and “not intoxicated,” which are both perfectly valid, though the latter is similar to the above — you don’t go around constantly reassuring folks that you’re not drunk, either.

“Consensual” is the crux, implying negotiation which implies being able to distinguish fantasy from reality, as well as dealing responsibly with risk factors. If you don’t know the risk factors, if you don’t know what will happen in reality, then you don’t know what you’re consenting to. Meaningful negotiation must always take place on the common ground of consensus reality.

The “kink” part went in to make a snappy acronym and because SSC doesn’t tell you what you should be SSC about. Safe, Sane, and Consensual trout fishing?

Alluding to the rack, an archetypal torture instrument,has been criticized, but to me it signifies our transformation of atrocity into ecstasy, and admits that though we may enjoy some dark fantasies,we realize them harmlessly.

RACK is admittedly more confrontational than SSC. It’s defiant, the same way the GLBT community uses “queer.” RACK allows us the freedom to have non-PC fantasies. Don’t a lot of us enjoy non-consensual fantasies, either from the top side or the bottom side? We enjoy them in our literature; we may very well enjoy them while we play.

But we act them out responsibly and consensually.

Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute this essay, as long as it’s reproduced in its entirety and is attributed to: Gary Switch, Contributing Editor, Prometheus magazine, GarySwitch@aol.com.

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This FAQ, by some of the gay guys in the leather community, is somewhat entertaining.

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