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The Importance of Safe Words in RACK

Sometimes, the best adventures come from getting out of your comfort zone. But getting out of your comfort zone and into uncharted territory requires structure and boundaries for the optimal enjoyment, not to mention safety. This is where RACK comes in: Risk Aware Consensual Kink. It is inferred in BDSM and alternative sex play you will be doing things considered risky so when we are talking about safety here we mean “as safe as can be in a precarious situation.”

It is important to remember that what may be your comfort zone may for someone else be the most daring thing they’ve ever tried. The hope is that everyone gets what they’re looking for out of their kink experiences. This means that a system for checking in and establishing guidelines is necessary. 

First things first, you need to establish safewords. Why? Keep scrolling and find out more.

What is Risk Aware Consensual Kink (RACK)

Risk-Aware Consensual Kink (RACK) is a staple in the BDSM community. RACK is similar to another common system called SSC: safe, sane and consenual play. Both concepts support that the individuals participating are of sound mind and fully informed about the necessary measures and precautions they need to stay as safe as can be. Consent is paramount!

It is also important to note what is safe can also be determined on an individual level. But what one person considers safe, another will not. This is why it is essential to discuss risks and concerns before the play, to understand where both you and your partner(s) are coming from.

Some kinksters draw an analogy between the decision to engage in BDSM and hobbies such as hiking or skiing. For example, when you go on a hike in the desert you know you need plenty of water due to the risk of heat and sun exposure. You know you must also be aware of snakes, scorpions and other creatures that can interrupt your hike if you’re not careful. Does knowing the possible dangers of the hike make you change your mind about going? Or do you just pack extra water, wear a hat and make sure to wear proper shoes?

RACK and Drugs

RACK also considers the potential of playing while intoxicated. In many BDSM circles, sobriety is preferred when playing as there is a natural drug-like effect participating gives you anyway. This is why it is important to take caution when imbibing while playing as the usual joint or micro-dose can hit harder than usual as it is working with the happy hormones you are also generating from the play. Limits are already being pushed in BDSM, so remember this also includes your limits with drugs and alcohol.

Participating in kinky practices while being under the influence increases the likelihood of things going wrong as most substances compromise motor skills and decision making faculties. Be mindful engaging in a RACK activity while intoxicated means additional hazards.

Safe Words & Signals

Before you get into the play you need to set signals and phrases that stop activity immediately. A safeword is a word that the partners in a BDSM event use to cease an activity when it gets too intense or produces unwanted sensations.

It is important to have both a word AND a signal. For example, when having something forced down the throat, you may have difficulty keeping saliva in your mouth let alone speaking clearly. Safewords, in this case, are useless. This is where a signal or specific safe “sound” is necessary. In other cases, when tied or immobilized, words are a lot better (if you’re not gagged there as well ;) ). It’s a lot harder to snap your fingers or give a wink while you are in a gimp suit or bound and gagged.

As you can see, the most contraversial (and fun) BDSM scenes also come with higher risk of communication interruption. This is why it is imperative to establish multiple safe words and signals, plus have a backup plan devised.

Better to be safe than sorry!

How to Pick the Best Safe Word

Sex can make make the whole process of finding a safe word more difficult, depending on the type of play you’re into. Some of us say so many words amidst pleasure that do not even make sense and have no clear meaning. This means finding a safeword that is even MORE random than your stream-of-consciousness pleasure poems.

Safe words are generally random, clear to hear words that woud not naturally come up in the scene or during sex. This is why typically words like “no” and “stop” are not well chosen safe-words as resisting can be a part of the play!

You can also hear expressions like: hold it, I can’t take it anymore, or other similar phrases typically used to assert boundaries in vanilla circumstances. However in kink, these kinds of things can actually increase the passion and excitement for both partners. After all, we kinksters pride ourselves on being different from vanilla life. 

The safest alternative is to settle on a wholly irrelevant term that you will certainly not call out by accident. While practicing RACK, it is best to avoid complex terminology or words that are hard to pronounce. However, things like “radish” or “taxes” work well. Using your favorite animal (sea cucumber!) is also a creative way choose a memorable safe-word. At times, sex and BDSM scramble the brain and the safe word can be tough to remember during the intensity of the act.

Getting to use Your Safe Word

There are a few different ways to use your safe word. Another method that goes alongside the safeword is the stoplight method: green for good to go, yellow for slow down or “I’m reaching my limits” and red for a hard stop. Decide beforehand what it means to use the safeword with your partner or if you will also use the stoplight system. For example, in impact play it can be helpful to let your partner know you need them to slow down but you do not want to stop yet. Do you use your safeword or the word yellow? This should be discussed prior to the scene with your partner.

The safeword does not have to stop the play all together but can be a safety reminder that you (especially if you’re the bottom or on the receiving end of some precarious play) get to choose when enough is enough.

Some become so driven by the excitement of an intimate moment that they scream in pleasure and it may sound like pain. To the uninformed observer, these screams may even warrant a 911 or ambulance call. This is why it is paramount to discuss safewords and with your partner beforehand so you can be fully aware of their typical behavior and response to pleasure in a scene versus needing to stop. If you are ever unsure of what is going on in-scene, do not hesitate to stop and check-in. As you become a more seasoned kinkster and play with partners more regularly, you will learn to get comfortable communicating and setting expectations in play.

Also, not only will the safeword help prevent misunderstandings, but the participants will have time to properly consider if they genuinely want to quit the activity or not after they use it. Sometimes stimulus is so potent participants can confuse it for overwhelm. Using the safe-word can offer a moment to rethink if you want to continue or quit the play. Sometimes all you need is a little water break and then you want more!

Remember that it is key for the usefulness of safewords to NEVER use them in a playful way. Trust and accountability are imperative for RACK and safe BDSM play. For example, if you and your partner decide you only use the safeword as a hard stop and you use it, expect a hard stop. Do not tie it into the play as another word to be negotiated or ignored as this nullifies the effectiveness of the safeword.

What Might Happen if You Don’t Use Safe Words?

We’ve talked a lot about safewords, but what might happen if you don’t use them when you need to? Some people are shy to use their safeword, thereby making them a dangerous person to play with. In kink, we must be accountable and know our limits. If we cannot do this, we are not a safe person to play with as our partner may unknowingly injure us or cause damage because we were unable to communicate truthfully. Failing to use safewords when needed in a scene may include the following:

  1. Nervous breakdown
  2. Pain as a result of nerve damage
  3. Flashbacks of a terrible event
  4. Injuries
  5. Persistent aches and pains
  6. Violating consent

Some of these signs may, however, be difficult to note if you are intoxicated. This is why we stated before that it’s not a good idea to take drugs or alcohol (or even both) during play. Alcohol and drugs can disrupt your ability to know when something is too intense, either physically or emotionally in a scene.

Speak up! Don’t Be Scared

Many lovers feel obligated to satisfy their partners by all means. Therefore, they withstand everything or assume they are genuinely without agency to their partner or Dominant and have no grounds to speak out. Therefore, using a safeword for these people is equivalent to giving up or disappointing their play-mate.

If you are someone that cannot speak up about your genuine experience during play or a BDSM scene, you are not ready to participate in RACK or BDSM in general for that matter. If this is the case for you, we advise you to start slow and practice communicating bravely with a trusted partner. Keep the risk low and the play very simple until you are more comfortable using your safe-word appropriately.

On the other hand, if your partner chastises you for using your safe-word, that is a major problem and they are not a trusted partner to play with. True consent requires the ability to change your mind without coercion or consequence which protects your agency.

If your Dom teases you saying you’re not a good slave if you use your safe-word to stop harm, they should no longer be your Dom. No one gets to dictate what happens to your body, but you, even if the play says otherwise. That’s why it’s play. Sex, whether with or without whipping and straps, serves the purpose of pleasure and fun, not harm. Repeatedly experiencing consent violation can lead to very real psychological harm and trauma.

It’s Not Only About the Bottom

Remember, in power dynamics both the Dominant and the submissive can use the safe-word at any time. Dominants and Tops have the same right as everyone else to quit playing if they do not feel comfortable or clear with what’s happening. And to do so without being shamed or guilted by their partners and submissives. If the play needs to stop due to unforseen circumstances or limits being reached, no one should be blamed for the scene not coming out exactly as imagined. While RACK and BDSM is all about bringing the fantasy to life, we have to remember that in bringing the fantasy to life it becomes it’s own experience, beyond the day dream.

RACK will help you explore a whole new sexual world and may just change your life forever. Make sure that you get to pick the partners you trust and can communicate with as well. Ones who respect you and listen to you whenever you get aroused or uncomfortable.

Practice RACK with sex-positive neighbors like you. Find them here. If you liked our article, check out our page for other BDSM, Kink, Pleasure content. Hope you have fun!

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