There are two codes within rl BDSM & D/s that are regarded as two of the foundation stones of healthy scening. These are Safe, Sane and Consensual (SSC) and RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink).

Of the two, SSC is perhaps the more widely known. Essentially, SSC holds that any activity between adults is acceptable as long as it is regarded as safe, sane, and consensual to both parties involved. As such, it is perceived as a “test” to whether or not a particular activity is ethical.

However, SCC is somewhat flawed as it can be a subjective measure: what I find to be “safe” and “sane” you might regard as utterly dangerous and completely insane – regardless of what I or the person I am with believes; and if the person I am with is a novice, how can we be sure that they can be fully aware of what is involved and what the implications of a potential scene might be? Equally, if the Dominant is inexperienced, how can a submissive be absolutely sure that they know where any potential lines between acceptable and unacceptable treatment lay?

Obviously, communication and the observation of limits and Safewords should always be observed throughout any scene, but there is a risk within SSC that things might be taken for granted by the Dominant partner, and the submissive may feel under undue pressure to accede to Y in a scene because they agreed to X – and the two aren’t really that far removed from one another.

It is for reasons like these that RACK has grown in popularity within D/s communities, as it hold that a more objective approach to scening is taken. Risk Aware places an additional emphasis to discuss and explore what can / might occur within a scene or activity and determine where any dividing lines between mental comfort and discomfort might be reached, and where potential lines should be drawn; it provides for an atmosphere of Informed Consent to be given – particularly important when dealing with more inexperienced Dominants and submissives alike.

The “X” in the Corner

Within SL, some might argue that both SSC and RACK are redundant; after all, no-one is really at risk here; we have plenty of “outs” if things get uncomfortable from simply walking away from a scene through to Tping out and up to the ultimate of hitting the “X” in to the right corner of the Viewer window and logging off. For the same reasons, no-one can really be forced into doing something BDSM-wise (or any other wise) they don’t want to do.

All true – but irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if people “cannot” be “forced” into something in SL;  the fact is that very real emotional involvement are responses can and often are involved in in-world scenes. Like any other activity in Second Life, D/s and BDSM can, and do, involve people’s feelings. Just because people have the aforementioned outs, doesn’t mean SSC (or more particularly RACK) don’t have a part to play in SL BDSM.

Through the proper application of RACK, misunderstandings between Dom/mes and subs in open play can be avoided. Yes, some “spontaneity” may be lost – but there is far more to be gained if time is taken to ensure the implications of a given type of play are clearly understood.

The more responsible BDSM play areas in SL have taken this on-board. Notecard givers ensure visitors receive a full explanation of what they can expect to find and see within the sim / parcel they are visiting. Rules are clearly laid out.

But this does not absolve Dominants who visit these places from the responsibility of ensuring the subs they find / take have actually a) read the aforementioned Notecard; b) really do understand the implication of the specific rp being entered into.

And yes, I appreciate the above may sound like a directive from the Department Of The Bleeding Obvious – but the fact is, RACK and SSC frequently get overlooked in SL in the headlong rush for vicarious fulfilment. As a result, people do get hurt; and the only way to prevent such hurt occurring (however unintended) is for Dom/mes to take the responsibility to ensure the sub(s) they are scening with understand the possible risks (in terms of personal taboos being crossed, etc.), involved in the play.


Another important aspect in engaging in initial discussions around RACK or SSC with a new partner is understanding what you are both seeking from a potential scene: is it “just play”, or something potentially deeper or which might lead to something more lasting? No everyone visiting a BDSM role-play sim is there just for “fun”; similarly, not everyone exploring D/s and BDSM in SL is investigating the lifestyle – they may be there for “simple” sexual kicks. Discussion helps to reveal things that might in turn help shape how a scene plays out.

A further aspect of observing RACK and SSC in D/s and BDSM in Second Life is that there are many looking in on the broad D/s BDSM community with an attitude that any form of D/s is “wrong” -that it is, for example, akin to assault. While such people cannot be dissuaded from their misplaced views and ideas, the clear, demonstrable use of precepts such as SSC and especially RACK can help diffuse the hostile sentiments such individuals frequently express towards the SL D/s community as a whole.

For those seeking a deeper relationship in SL D/s, RACK helps lay the other foundations that are intrinsic of any relationship – honesty, communication, trust and respect. As such, it doesn’t matter that the world in which we-re operating is virutal – the rules remain the same, as do the potential results.

Related Links

Note: first published on 24th April, 2008.

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