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Personal Responsibility, Informed Consensual Kink (PRICK)

Updated: FEBRUARY 4, 2024
Reviewed by Dr. Laura McGuire
on January 8, 2024

Personal responsibility, informed consensual kink (PRICK) is a safety protocol for play within the BDSM community. This framework emphasizes the personal responsibility of participants involved in risky sexual behaviors. It asks them to individually consent to each behavior after personally understanding and considering its risks.

How and Where It’s Used

BDSM practitioners can use PRICK when someone decides to play with a new partner or when they decide to try something new with an existing partner. People may also use PRICK if they decide they don’t want to engage in activities they’ve participated in previously. PRICK can work in any setting, from a private home to a BDSM party or dungeon.


“The essence of PRICK is that people should know what they’re getting themselves into and take full ownership of that,” explained Heather Shannon, a licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC) and the host of the “Ask A Sex Therapist” podcast. “Actually putting PRICK into practice could look like doing internet research on kinks, asking around about best practices for your kink du jour in FetLife groups, watching videos to learn more about safety practices, attending educational workshops about specific kinks, and asking questions of your partners. It should also involve internal reflections to notice what types of emotions come up in your body around a particular scene or kink and what types of physical sensations come up for you when you play out the scene in your mind. Notice what thoughts or beliefs arise in your mind as well. Does your nervous system feel regulated? Do you anticipate the need for aftercare? How will you know when to say Yellow or Red (if you’re using the popular stoplight method of safewords)? When you have taken the time to educate yourself and inform yourself, chances are higher for a pleasurable experience.”

Once all parties feel informed and comfortable with what’s proposed, they can grant consent and start the scene. It’s their personal responsibility to deny consent or withdraw consent at any time if they feel uncomfortable.

How PRICK Compares to Other Frameworks

PRICK is one of several frameworks for safe BDSM play. Learning how it compares to other frameworks can help BDSM practitioners decide which model might work best for them.


Safe, Sane, and Consensual (SSC)

In the 1980s, the BDSM community adopted its first framework, called Safe, Sane, and Consensual (SSC). This protocol aimed to dispel myths about BDSM play by emphasizing safety, clear thinking, and consent. While it highlights fundamental principles of responsible BDSM play, some critics say this protocol perpetuates the idea that BDSM is inherently unsafe or insane. Many people were also concerned that this framework was too vague, as what is safe and sane can vary between BDSM practitioners. In comparison, PRICK is much clearer.

Risk-Aware Consensual Kink (RACK)

Members of the BDSM community developed Risk-Aware Consensual Kink (RACK) as a response to SSC. This protocol says BDSM practitioners should be aware of the risks, and how to reduce them, and agree to participate in the kinky activities despite the risks. It aims to be clearer and more specific than SSC by encouraging people to name the risks, safer play strategies, and activities they’re consenting to. It also gives greater scope for edge play activities that may not be viewed as "sane" by the wider community.

Personal responsibility, informed consensual kink is a variation of RACK which builds on the principles of this earlier safety protocol by emphasizing personal responsibility. It puts the onus on practitioners to not just know and agree to kink activities and their risks, but be informed and understand them before giving consent.


Committed, Consensual and Caring (CCC) and Fully, Directly, and Informed (FDI)

Some critics said PRICK and RACK focused too much on the potential negative consequences of BDSM play. In response to this, the 2010s saw the development of two more frameworks that aimed to be more positive. Committed, Consensual and Caring (CCC) highlighted the importance of emotional support and commitment along with consent. While these elements are important for healthy BDSM play, critics of this framework say it fails to address the risks of this kind of play. That’s why some people add a fourth C to this protocol: caution.

Fully, Directly and Informed (FDI) builds on the principles of PRICK. It highlights the importance of being fully informed, having direct communication and making decisions based on all available information. While the framework acknowledges risk, it isn't given the focus that it is in PRICK.


More About Personal Responsibility, Informed Consensual Kink (PRICK)

History of PRICK in the BDSM Community

The concept of personal responsibility, informed consensual kink evolved from RACK. It is a relatively new term that began to gain favor around 2009 through internet discussions. Members of the BDSM community developed PRICK after RACK's critics complained the philosophy didn't stress that individuals had a personal responsibility to accept or reject the risky behavior they engaged in and live with the consequences of their choices. PRICK emphasizes this responsibility and choice.

Critics of PRICK suggest that while it sounds good on paper, it's impossible to be truly informed about any new kink practices you may undertake. A person can tell someone what's involved, but they can't assess their emotional response until they take the leap. This makes it difficult to truly accept personal responsibility for any risky behavior someone engages in.

It's not perfect, but PRICK, like other BDSM models, aims to provide a guideline for kinky people to engage in BDSM activities within a safe, secure, and pleasurable framework. Some suggest that models like PRICK also help keep BDSM and other kinky play separate from abuse.


How to Choose the Right Protocol For Your BDSM Play

Some BDSM practitioners adhere to PRICK or different safety protocols while others prefer recognizing the commonalities of these frameworks, such as safety, communication, and consent, and practicing them in their own way. Researching PRICK and other frameworks can help someone decide whether one of these protocols feels right for them. Speaking to other people in the BDSM community about the protocols they use and how they work for them can also help someone make a more informed choice.

Shannon suggests PRICK’s emphasis on personal responsibility “could be useful to people who want to be more thoughtful about how and when they give consent and to make sure they're not unduly influenced or manipulated by someone else. For those who like living on the edge, are confident in their ability to consent (or not), and are aware and comfortable with their risk tolerance, I think RACK may still be the better acronym for them. One of the reasons SSC has been largely replaced by RACK in many settings is due to edge play. For those who want to stay away from the edges, SSC may be the best acronym. At the end of the day, it's important to keep in mind these are just words and all of them are subjective. The bottom line is to educate yourself and make conscious choices that are in alignment with your values.”

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