Safe, sane, and consensual (SSC) is one of the philosophies surrounding ethically acceptable behavior in BDSM, kink and alternative sexuality communities. How the term is defined varies, but it is typically broken down as follows:
- Safe means that the risk of activities should be understood by all participants and either eliminated or reduced as much as possible.
- Sane refers to the need to approach activities in a sensible and realistic frame of mind, and with an understanding of the difference between fantasy and reality.
- Consensual means that all participants have freely consented to the activity and were in a state of mind to do so.
SSC is believed to have emerged in the 1980s as part of a "statement of identity and purpose" drafted by a group called the Gay Male S/M Activists (GMSMA). The slogan aimed to combat the notion that sadomasochistic sexual expression was predatory and deviant. The document never tried to fully define the phrase, but it took on a life of its own in the wider BDSM community and, to some extent, sexual culture as a whole.
In later years, many in the BDSM community moved to using an alternative motto - risk-aware consensual kink (RACK) - instead, arguing that some activities will never be entirely "safe," so it is up to those practicing them to be educated about the risks they are taking. In fact, for those who want to adhere to SSC, that may take certain higher risk types of play - such as breath play - off the table entirely. Those who stand behind RACK also note the large amount of ambiguity present in both the terms "safe" and "sane."