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BDSM Safety Frameworks

By CAGE Staff​(staff)     November 18, 2022

Okay, okay, I admit: talking "safety" frameworks is not the most exciting of articles. But, I'm going to do my best to ensure this is enjoyable to read, easy to understand, and most importantly, provide a basic understanding of safety acronyms to ensure you have the information you need to better evaluate your next kink session.

So let's dive right in:

Why Do Safety Acronyms Exist?

When we're talking about safety, why don't we just, y'know, be safe? Why are there acronyms involved - and isn't this just complicating the process?

Turns out, "safe" is a gigantic, broad-reaching concept. Your idea of safety may not match the idea of "safety" of the person next to you - especially in the world of kink where some people are willing to allow a little risk in order to enjoy new sensations.

To put it into non-kinky terms, let's pretend you need to cross a busy street downtown. You're in the middle of the block. Some people are going to be okay looking both ways and jaywalking across the street. It's faster, but it presents a higher risk of injury - not to mention a higher risk of a financial fine.

Other people are going to take the time to walk down to a crosswalk at the end of the block. Some of those people might wait the seemingly-forever time it takes for the crosswalk light to come on - and others might simply jaywalk across the crosswalk when the light doesn't change fast enough.

Of course, your comfort level jaywalking across the street might depend on the circumstances involved too. Is there a police officer staring you down? Is this rush hour traffic? Are you trying to impress the date you're on - or are you with "your bros/girls/pals" and wanting to show off a bit?

This is why safety acronyms are commonly used across the board - not just in kink! They've been shown to improve outcomes – and to ensure nothing gets left behind. Simply put, checklists give us a small, fast "checklist" to go through to evaluate our risk with whatever activity we happen to be doing.

In kink, we have 3 common ones: SSC, RACK, and the 4 Cs.

What is SSC?

SSC stands for:
S: Safe
S: Sane
C: Consensual

SSC proposes that every kink activity you do should be a safe one, one that most people would consider reasonable, and one that involves consent of all parties. Honestly, SSC is pretty basic and easy to understand - and that's why a lot of kinksters like it!

SSC is the oldest BDSM acronym in the book. While still taught as something you can use, a lot of kinksters have moved onto newer acronyms. Things like:

What is RACK?

Some people looked at SSC and went, "wait. You intentionally want me to lock you into a closet for a week....and we're calling that 'sane'? Or safe?!"

Truth to be told, just like our definition of "safe" and our individual risk profiles, our idea of "sane" is very, very individual. For some people who have never thought about bondage or its benefits, even using a blindfold is well beyond their idea of "reasonable"!

For a lot of kinksters into riskier kinks, the idea of "SSC" simply wasn't a good fit. The kinks they wanted to do weren't safe - and even some people within the kink community didn't think their scenes were sane!

So, out of that discussion, a new safety acronym was formed:

R: Risk
A: Aware
C: Consensual
K: Kink

RACK focuses on risk-awareness of any activity that you're doing - instead of focusing on whether that activity is "sane" or "safe". People into RACK believe that we shouldn't be focusing on whether the activity itself is deemed "reasonable" or not. People gonna do what people gonna do.

Instead, we should make sure that all participants are fully aware of the risks, what injuries or safety concerns they might encounter, whether those injuries are permanent or temporary, and ways to mitigate those risks.

The "Consensual" aspect of RACK is also really important. It isn't enough that one partner is fully aware of the risks involved. RACK focuses heavily on the fact that all partners are aware of all risks - and both fully consent to the risk profile.

This means that RACK highly values research done ahead of your scene - and both the receiving and giving partner being involved in any discussion as to whether this fits comfortably into your risk profile.

This is where one of the RACK's biggest downsides comes in, though: you don't know what you don't know.

A common critique against RACK argue that it's near-impossible for most kinksters to know every risk - especially when you're new to an activity. Even if you're not new, even the best intentions can go sideways. An undiagnosed health problem could mean impact play causes internal bleeding. An unknown blood pressure disorder could make inverted rope suspensions vomit-inducing.

Critique of the RACK acronym points out that, in many of these circumstances, both partners aren't "consenting" by the framework's methodology. Remember, you can only give consent if you're aware of all of the risks.

And this is where the latest acronym comes in. I'd like you to meet the 4 Cs.

What is CCCC in BDSM?

The 4 Cs in BDSM stands for:
C: Caring
C: Communication
C: Consent
C: Caution

According to a paper published about this framework, the 4 Cs are the latest BDSM framework to hit the community.

The 4 Cs take a broader, wider view about safety and focus on interpersonal aspects. Your intention and interpersonal dynamic during a kink scene really matters. If you're spanking someone out of anger and frustration with no care about the receiver's safety, that's clearly not healthy or safe. Proponents of the CCCC framework point out that previous models didn't take this into account.

The 4 Cs focus on the interaction, relationship, and connection between the two participants. Is there care involved? Even if this is a casual encounter, is there care for the person's health and safety – even if you'll never see them again? How does the communication look? Is there lines of open communication, and even if the lines are technically open, do both partners feel comfortable speaking up?

Has the scene been fully negotiated? Does everyone involved in the scene fully consent to what is about to happen, and have they been informed of the risks to make a risk-aware decision? Finally, is everyone acting with a risk-first mindset? Is this scene being undertaken with caution for any of the dangers that are common with the activities?

Which Framework is "Right"?

Each one of these BDSM acronyms carries its own critique - and its own benefits.

That's to say: none of them are really "wrong".

As long as it gets you thinking about your kink scene and the risks and safety of it, each one of the acronyms is doing its job.

Which one is for you? Well, that's entirely up to you. Which one speaks to you? I'm partial to RACK because I'm a huge nerd who enjoys over-researching my scenes ahead of time for lengthy, near-interrogation-level negotiations.

But that may not speak to you. SSC or the 4 Cs might be where you feel your heart tugging.

No matter where you go, though, it's all about thinking objectively about your scene, ensuring you have full, informed consent, and minimizing the physical and mental risks of your kink scene.

Mistress Kay lives in the world of sexuality and kink. With a house that's quickly running out of space for things that aren't sex books and sex toys, she spends what free time she has writing femdom help articles (, trying the latest and greatest in sex toys, and exploring the sexual universe with her partners. She can be reached at Kinky World (

TheEdge​(other male)
Safety is number one at all times. When you are super you g and feel invincible thinking about safety might be a turn off but it's not always like it is in the movies or books where everything goes smoothly according to your detailed fantasy. RACK and SSC have helped me out so many times. It's easy to forget in the heat of the moment. Stay present and stay aware. Thank you for taking the time to post this!
Nov 24, 2022, 2:18 PM
Cognizant​(sadist male)
If I am going to be playing with someone new to me I take many extra safety and consent precautions until the two of us have had enough time together to be able to read each other and are in tune with each others fetishes, limits and otherwise. The Precautions I take are to: 1: do an extra in depth initial negotiation 2: take notes during the negotiation of specific items, specific acts for the scene, limits, health issues, triggers, safeword, safety gestures if gagged. 3. reiterate all consents 4. reiterate flow of the scene 5. Stay vigilant watching her reactions, learning how she responds to my maneuvers so that future scenes can be more free flowing and mostly so that future scenes will be more enjoyable for all involved.
Dec 20, 2023, 4:59 PM