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Mottoes are short sayings intended to encapsulate an idea or principle in an easy-to-remember way. BDSM has two common mottoes. Coincidentally, these both have to do with consent:

  • Safe, Sane and Consensual (SSC)
  • Risk-Aware Consensual Kink (RACK)

Safe, Sane and Consensual (SSC)

History indicates that the SSC motto originated from work done by New York’s Gay Male S/M Activists (GMSMA) in 1983[1], and was an attempt to differentiate abusive, reckless, and even psychopathic S/M from that practised by community- and health-minded leatherfolk.

Risk-Aware Consensual Kink (RACK)

RACK appeared later than SSC, apparently as a reaction to the perceived vagueness inherent in SSC. One can argue that RACK is not much clearer though it does introduce the idea of risk.

Risk is an important concept because many of the activities engaged in by BDSM practitioners ride the ragged edge of disaster---with risks ranging from minor injury (cuts and bruises), through major physical trauma (broken bones or internal injuries), major psychological trauma, medical consequences (infection), through to death.

Summing up

The common factor in both mottoes is consent, and consent is predicated on information, education, and communication.

Three or four words can never be a complete guide to how to think and behave in an environment as rich as BDSM or prevent problems occurring any more than safe-driving sayings will stop you ever having an accident in your car. But, what they can do is highlight some of the things to keep in mind to decrease the chance of things going pear-shaped.

So, merely asserting that you practice SSC or RACK, is not enough to be a good, safe, reliable, and effective partner.

As slave david stein says:

Safewords can’t save you from a bad scene or a bad relationship with someone

you didn’t know as well as you thought you did, and chanting "Safe Sane Consensual" like a mantra can’t replace years of study and practice in guiding you through the maze of choices we all must make. Whether you do S/M to achieve ecstasy, intimacy, or self-transformation, or simply to have a good time, all that the terms "safe, sane, and consensual" can do is suggest where to begin drawing some


Inherent, but unfortunately not explicit in both SSC and RACK, is the role of education. One cannot be safe without having learned potential dangers and how to avoid or mitigate them. Likewise, there are many risks associated with a lot of BDSM and without having had the benefit of some teaching or training many risks, particularly the ones which aren't obvious, can be hard to avoid.

See also


  1. [Stein2002]
  2. [Stein2002]