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Risk-Aware Consensual Kink (RACK)

Updated: SEPTEMBER 7, 2022
Reviewed by Kinkly Staff
on September 7, 2022

Risk-aware consensual kink (RACK) is a philosophy governing BDSM activities and behaviors. The term can be broken down and defined as follows:

  • Risk-aware means that all the participants know the risks involved in the activity (BDSM activities are not always risk-free).
  • Consensual means that all the participants have freely consented to the activity, and that no one has been coerced.
  • Kink refers to alternative sexual activities.

As a concept, risk-aware consensual kink arose in response to another ethos in BDSM called safe, sane, consensual (SSC). Unlike SSC, RACK aims to acknowledge that many BDSM activities are not risk-free. Rack, therefore, emphasizes personal responsibility in understanding the risks involved. Those who go by RACK as opposed to SSC also tend to be open to a larger variety of kink activities, including higher-risk types of play like blood play or breath play.

RACK, as a term and concept, is believed to have been proposed by Gary Switch in 1999, when he posted it to The Eulenspiegel Society's USENET list. The group was a BDSM organization founded in New York City in 1971. Switch was a contributing editor to the organization's magazine, Prometheus.

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More About Risk-Aware Consensual Kink (RACK)

While the term safe, sane, consensual was developed by the gay S/M community in the 1980s as a way to combat the notion that S/M was predatory or deviant, risk-aware consensual kink was developed as a more defiant term that embraces fantasies that might have a darker, more dangerous element to them. This, of course, is part of their appeal, and the aim with RACK is to create a framework in which people can enjoy them responsibly and consensually. Many also argue that RACK is less ambiguous than SCC, because what's "safe" and "sane" can be both situational and subjective.

For people who enjoy more extreme forms of play, often called edgeplay, SSC is seen as a better framework for indulging in these fantasies. It also suggests an element of independence, allowing people to decide what's right for them, rather than adhering to any particular rules or limits, as implied by SSC.

Both SSC and RACK are still used in the BDSM community and among individual players. When playing with a partner, it's important to know and understand their consent philosophy. This is all part of a frank and honest conversation about boundaries that is important for responsible BDSM play.

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