Danger and WIITWD, and RACK

topic posted Sun, November 27, 2005 - 6:23 PM by  klg
So, you've come into this big, new world of kink. Maybe you've been playing privately for years at some level or another, and you're just discovering the public scene and many new ideas you've never encountered before, or maybe you've repressed these feelings for decades and are just now allowing yourself to start to explore. Or maybe you've just discovered this whole world as something entirely brand new, and it's a whole, brave, new world.

However you've come to be reading this, you are probably all full of excitement and enthusiasm about your explorations, and champing at the bit to find someone to play with if you haven't already yet.

This is good; keep that enthusiasm. Explore to your hearts' content, whatever direction your desires take you. There's no right or wrong place to start, although there *are* some more common suggestions, if you don't already have an idea of where you *want* to start, or if you're particularly nervous, but they are just that - suggestions, not mandates of any sort. There's no set sequence to learn and start playing with this stuff.

Ask questions, read, learn, come back here to this tribe for help analyzing what happened in a particular scene if you want, ask what you need to know to do a certain kind of scene you may have in mind, or have heard of others doing, and maybe you wonder how that kind of activity could possibly fit within the guidelines of SSC that we always talk about. It's all good.

There's a lot of positive energy going on around the scene these days, what with so many newbies coming in. There's a lot of encouragement, and people are being welcomed to places like the Citadel with open arms before they've even been to so much as a munch or any sort of class. This is all basically good. The image that is being painted publically lately all over the place is one of how wonderful all of this is, come in and get some, it's all safe, sane, consensual anyways, so don't worry, etc., etc.

This is wonderful, and it's mostly true - but the one thing that has been missing in much of what I've seen going on is the balanced counterpoint, and that is that wonderful as wiitwd most definitely is for those of us who are wired this way, it is *not* as completely risk-free as this happy-go-lucky, warm and fuzzy attitude towards it may have you thinking. "SSC" is rather an oversimplification of the reality, I'm afraid.

I don't intend to scare you away by any means, and I certainly hope that some of the recent discussion has not put anyone off. I do think that pretty much anything you want to do, as long as it is fully consensual, is probably fine (there are some generally accepted exceptions, but that's the subject of a different thread), but I do think it's important that you realize that what you are getting into has *many* potential hazards associated with it, both physical and emotional. This should not scare you so much as it should just make you approach what you decide to do with caution, and a respect for what you do not know, and not think it's all just harmless fun.

This is why we have so many classes on how to do this or that, and I encourage you to take as many as you can, even on topics you don't think you'd be interested in. Despite the many potential hazards, there *are* ways to make much of what we want to do safer. Not entirely safe, since in many cases that's simply not possible, but safe*er*, as safe as is humanly possible when you're playing with something that is inherently dangerous.

I think that some of the biggest hazards in what we do is people not even knowing there *are* dangers inherent in one form of play or another, or that there are some forms of play that are simply more dangerous than others. You can take reasonable steps to mitigate many dangers, and therefore make the play much safer, if you at least know the hazards are there to start with, if you at least know to ask the questions, and ideally, some more specific questions to ask. The people who worry me are the ones who claim that such-and-such form of play is not dangerous at all, especially when there is plenty of information out there to the contrary, and the ones who aren't even willing to let you know that more dangerous forms of play (and their attendant risks) even exist yet, or who won't explain them because they don't think you've got enough experience to understand yet, or they don't want to scare you off, or some such. The latter types mean well, I'm sure, but such approaches really don't serve anyone in the end.

Knowledge is power in all of life, and that holds true in wiitwd as well. It can make the difference between life and death sometimes, or at least whether or not you may be physically seriously injured or come through unscathed or with only minor injuries. It can be the difference between a bad experience that does lasting emotional harm and turns you away from all of this, and an ecstatic one that leaves you stronger and craving more as TeamNoir was talking about in the "Landmines" thread, or even just a run of the mill good experience and a less satisfying one.

Knowledge and risk awareness are the primary keys to playing as safely and happily as possible, and they go hand in hand.

They are also the foundations of "Risk Aware Consensual Kink", or the "RACK" acronym that many in the scene favor over the more common SSC mantra, precisely because much of what we do is *not* either safe or sane, and sometimes perfectly reasonable forms of play even border on the nonconsensual. Knowledge of what's out there, how to do things, and the attendant risks puts you in a much better place of being able to make your own better-educated judgments of what you're willing to do.

As long as you are fully informed about the potential hazards of any sort of play, you can make a much more intelligent decision about whether or not to engage in it. Denying that hazards exist in much of what we do does newbies a disservice, IMO. Not explaining forms of play that are definitely advanced and even controversial, along with how to do them more safely (when that is even possible - and it's not for everything), will only leave you exposed, because the simple fact of the matter is that you *will* encounter these things out there on your own as you meet people and especially experienced prospective play partners.

I'm bringing this up now because, not only is it good general information, but because the "Landmines" thread got me thinking again about it, and I want to make sure that you all understand what may appear to be my doomsday comments vis-a-vis what TeamNoir said about how good it can be, to put that discussion and others like it in perspective.

What TeamNoir was talking about is very advanced play, and he ended up giving a very good explanation of the potential dangers, as well as how to mitigate them, but initially, I thought he was saying it was entirely safe, denying that it was dangerous, and I was reacting to that. He also spoke well about how to read your bottom and how to detect a bad reaction and deal with it, things that are very valuable knowledge for anyone doing any sort of play, and I hope everyone will have read that.

I don't feel so much that as newbies you ought to refrain from advanced play if you really want to do it so much as I believe you really need to understand the risks inherent before you do so - as well as the potential rewards - and to assess honestly whether or not you are yet equipped to handle them or not, regardless of which side of the slash you are on, based on everything you know about yourself, in both the kink context and the rest of life - and based on whatever you know about your partner.

Some of you may very well be able to happily handle this sort of advanced play from either side of the slash, but many others may not. This kind of play involves a lot more than just learning how to wield a whip safely, and many of those skills are generally only built with experience, and simply can't be taught in a single class like knowing where it's safe to hit someone and where it's not can be. They also can't necessarily be honed alone like one can (and should) build accuracy with a whip by solo practice.

My intention, when threads take on this sort of direction in this tribe and go deep into discussion about very advanced forms of play and I've got potential concerns about them, is to make sure that *both* sides of the equation are outlined, so that you newbies have as much information to work with as possible. The idea is to keep in mind that many of you do *not* have the same level of experience and perspective as we might, and to help bring it to a level that serves you at the level you are at, but without dumbing things down, sugar-coating them, or avoiding the discussion altogether.

For people who don't know me well yet, you'll find that I'm a major safety buff. It comes from my background as a paramedic, among other things. Some people actually think I go overboard, which is fine with me.

I'd just rather make sure people know the risks of what they're contemplating before they do it than live to regret something they did that they weren't well-informed about beforehand - and that includes doing my best to be sure you are exposed to as wide a range of play styles and options - and attitudes towards them - as is feasible in this environment.

I should also emphasize that just because I have a more cautious attitude towards the sort of play TeamNoir is talking about, and might not choose to engage in something like that deliberately myself, at least without knowing the top *extremely* well, doesn't mean I think it's inherently wrong, or that others shouldn't do it if it appeals to them, and they are adequately equipped.

My own reactions to his comments are also illustrative of the sort of process that can occur when your mind is open, and you're willing to consider the possibility that maybe what you thought was so dangerous might actually be workable in the right circumstances. At first, I have to admit I was flat out appalled at what he proposed, but the more I thought about my own past experiences and play preferences, and particularly the more he explained his own background and then got into saying things that made it clear he was in fact aware of the risks and how to mitigate them as best as possible, I found my own attitude starting to shift to one of, "Gee, that sounds as if it might possibly have some possibilities, with the right top". And I also realized that I'd actually forgotten that some people push limits in exactly the kinds of ways he was talking about, so I appreciate the reminder myself.

And all this said, many times danger is a very subjective thing in some ways. Some things scare some people more than others. Different people have very different tolerances for what sort of risks they are willing to take. It's important to realize that in this edgy world, just because *you* wouldn't choose to take a particular risk does not in any way mean that the next person who does so is inherently unsafe, or that the activity itself necessarily is.

Yes, there are definitely unsafe people out there, who play in unsafe ways and advocate unsafe things (and they tend to get reputations you can discover if you ask around enough about a particular person), and there are certainly activities, or ways of doing things that are generally regarded as unsafe, but the factors that go into a reasoned assessment of who and what is actually unsafe are much more complicated than whether or not they choose to engage in a particular form of play or not, or whether they even discuss it. We're *all* kind of out here on the edge together, and it's important to not only have tolerance for other people's kinks, even if you are very opposed to them yourself, but to also be very careful who we paint with what kind of brush, since reputations matter in this community. Getting an undeserved reputation as an unsafe player may well quite unfairly prevent people from finding play partners, and otherwise cause a lot of undeserved problems in the community, so even if you are convinced that someone is unsafe, it is generally better to err on the side of caution, and to discuss your concerns in the abstract with others whose judgment you trust, or even with the person whose behavior you question. Odds are very good that there are factors of which you were unaware that may well balance out what that person was doing.

All you have to do to understand this perspective that much of safety is relative and may involve factors we are not aware of, is to think of how the vanillas all think we're *all* unsafe, and how we know that that perception comes entirely from their ignorance of what we do and how we go about it - and from very closed minds that are not open to learning. Think of the damage that can be done to people's lives if their activities are revealed to people who don't understand. As you go through your kink "career", try not to fall victim to that sort of mentality relative to other kinky people.

So, before I ramble on too much more, be careful, but don't forget to have fun in the process ;->

posted by:
offline klg
  • Re: Danger and WIITWD, and RACK

    Sun, November 27, 2005 - 9:52 PM
    Good stuff.

    A couple of minor additions.

    First, the nature of edgeplay is such that if you explore, and you explore the frontiers of consent, eventually you will fall off and do something that is, or was, not consensual. When playing with these lines, this is important for all participants to understand. It will happen, sooner or later.

    This is one way in which wiitwd, (what it is that we do), sometimes veers out of "consent" territory. If you believe the SSC, (safe, sane, and consensual), credo too literally, you might be tempted to believe or trust that most bdsm players, especially experienced players, would never play in nonconsensual territory. But the truth is that experienced players do veer into that territory periodically, often completely by accident. It's one of the risks of playing with those edges.

    And lest anyone confuse me with being a big, bad, dangerous player. There are things with which I have experience and education. Emotional landmines and past abuse are my things. There are things for which I have education, but not experience.

    Just for instance, I haven't opened skin much. I've done a few cuttings in my life, but no play peircing. Frankly, it scares me. While I can find ways to mitigate the risks, there's always a fair degree of risk when opening the skin and there really aren't any definitive sets of safety protocol that are commonly accepted by the bdsm community. Different people simply use different protocols.

    I haven't come to terms with these factors for myself. I know people play with play peircings and cuttings regularly. I haven't. Not yet, anyway.

    Sooner or later, I'll find a partner who is interested in exploring these with me. Likely, we'll talk about safety protocols, do some fresh research, and negotiate up a set of protocols for us to use with each other, much like I did with my cutting partner. And possibly, after I've done this with a few different partners, I'll come up with a set of protocols that I, personally favor.

    Single tails are another personal limitation. I own several. I enjoy cracking them. I'm a kick ass flogger top. Flogging largely came naturally for me and I've done quite a lot of it. But I know damned well that I can't land a single tail crack on a specific target with any degree of proficiency or controlled impact. Other tops can. I simply haven't practiced that skill to the point of being competant with it. This is my limitation. It doesn't mean that single tail tops who have this skill are unsafe or abusive. It just means they have developed a different set of skills than I have.

    I think that's an important thing to keep in mind. We each have different skills and different limitations. What's ok or reasonable or safe for one person isn't necessarily so for another.
    • Re: Danger and Consent Issues

      Mon, November 28, 2005 - 6:45 PM
      >> First, the nature of edgeplay is such that if you explore, and you explore the frontiers of consent, eventually you will fall off and do something that is, or was, not consensual. When playing with these lines, this is important for all participants to understand. It will happen, sooner or later. <

      Yes, that's what I was referring to when I mentioned that sometimes things stray to the edges of the nonconsensual.

      Sometimes it's consensual nonconsent (think things like abduction and rape play where the abduction is staged so that the bottom really doesn't know if what's happening is real or is the planned scene or not come to mind - I wrote extensively about this elsewhere not long ago, but the post was deleted), and sometimes, as you said, it just happens accidentally.

      The thing about consent is that no matter how well you negotiate anything, no matter how detailed the negotiations, it is humanly impossible to cover *every* single possibility, and sometimes, things just happen that are over the line to one degree or another, just by sheer accident, if nothing else. Misunderstandings happen, misinterpretations, you name it. You have to be able to go with the flow at least to a certain extent.

      There are limits to what is acceptable in this vein, of course, and they will naturally vary with different people, and often with different partners, but it *does* happen. And to hold many of these things against a top would be unfair. Not all of them, of course, but many.

      At least one of the keys to working with this sort of thing, IMO, is to consider whether or not the slip is still within the *spirit* and general vein of the consent that has already been given or not.

      I look at whether or not I was clear enough in my communications of my limits, or whether the top might have reasonably inferred that what he did would be OK from whatever I *did* say was OK. I also consider whether the "infraction" was reasonably similar enough to something that was clearly OK with me or totally different.

      If I wasn't clear enough, then I take my share of the responsibility for the infraction. As a sub, it's my responsibility to divulge as much information as I know about myself and my needs, desires, and limits to the top. Yes, he ought to be specifically asking, too, but if he doesn't, or he misses something, it's my responsibility to fill in the blanks that need to be filled in to keep my own self safe before I play.

      If the infraction was reasonably similar enough to something I *did* allow, then I figure that what happened was still basically in the *spirit* of what I'd said.

      Another key is how the dom responds when informed that he's crossed a consent line. A responsible dom will more likely be apologetic, while a less responsible one may be more blase, more likely to make excuses and justifications, etc.

      I guess my point is that accidents and miscues of all sorts happen. You need to be able to live with a certain level of risk and uncertainty in that regard, and some fuzzy definitions, or you may be playing in the wrong sandbox, or at least at a level above where you really ought to be at that point in time.

      And the much-vaunted pushing of limits which doms are so known for delighting in, and which many subs greatly enjoy and *expect*, is probably one of the most common areas in which consent lines may technically be crossed, or at least become the most grey. Pushing limits is part and parcel of wiitwd at its core, and it's just impossible to go there, as I see it, without risking doing something that might be at least somewhat nonconsensual.

      A good dom will pretty much know when and how to push which limits, and when to back off and leave well enough alone - but they are far from infallible, and mistakes of judgment can definitely happen even with the very best of intentions.

      Maybe you can speak more to what a dom ought to be looking out for when he decides to push a limit, TN, so as to keep things as much within the realm of consensuality as possible, or to mitigate problems if the reaction is negative.

      And flogging? Did someone mention flogging? <ears perking up, panting excitedly> <g> One of my most favoritest things in the world <sigh> <g>.


      • Re: Danger and Consent Issues

        Mon, November 28, 2005 - 8:47 PM
        "Maybe you can speak more to what a dom ought to be looking out for when he decides to push a limit, TN, so as to keep things as much within the realm of consensuality as possible, or to mitigate problems if the reaction is negative. "

        I can speak better to what a top should look for. And basically, I already have. It's shock and dissociation in general. Those are situations where your partner may not be capable of expressing themselves. In pretty much any other situation I can think of, your partner should be capable of telling you when/if things aren't right, so long as they know what to look for. And some of that is just training and experience and focus. Like knowing that hands can go to sleep in bondage and making periodic checks to see of this has happened.
    • Re: Danger and WIITWD, and RACK

      Mon, November 28, 2005 - 6:57 PM
      >> I think that's an important thing to keep in mind. We each have different skills and different limitations. What's ok or reasonable or safe for one person isn't necessarily so for another. <<

      Oh, yes, for sure! Let me just pull that out to emphasize it.

      And this is true for both tops and bottoms. A serious pain pig, for example, is going to be able to handle and welcome one heck of a lot more than a fluffy bottom. Someone with a strong self-esteem will likely handle a heavy humiliation scene far better than someone who is very emotionally damaged, who might not even be able to handle any humiliation at all.

      And just because a particular top is good at certain skills does not necessarily mean he's good at others, as your example so clearly illustrated.


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