I like your RACK
By: Anna Sweetland
RACK. It’s more than just a synonym for boobs. In fact, it’s an acronym! RACK stands for Risk Aware Consensual Kink, a safety protocol for those participating in BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Domination and Submission, Sadism and Masochism).
RACK was created in 1999 by Gary Switch, a contributing editor for the kink-focused magazine Prometheus, in reaction to the first BDSM safety protocol coined SSC (Safe, Sane, Consensual). They felt that nothing can ever be guaranteed 100% safe or 100% sane, and the BDSM consent guidelines should reflect that. For this reason, RACK is specifically popular among those who engage in edgeplay: riskier sexual activities with a greater chance of injury. If an injury is the antithesis of safety, then many in the edgeplay community felt SSC was inapplicable to them because injury and risk were the appeals.
Rather than prohibit injury, RACK encourages risk awareness. To be risk aware within BDSM means participants acknowledge that their sexual activities may have physical risks like bruises or burns, mental risks like stress and anguish, as well as emotional risks like humiliation. For example, if my partner and I were down to incorporate choking in our sex life, we would need to be aware that this may interfere with my bloodflow or ability to breathe. By knowing the risks, we can prepare to combat them. In this case, my partner might decide to pay close attention to my breathing patterns during sex, we could research methods on how to continue breathing whilst being choked, and we should establish a safeword or signal if either of us wants to stop.
One BDSM blog explains that we are all risk-aware in our everyday lives — checking both ways before we cross the street, fastening our seatbelts in the car, etc. — and this willingness to take precautions allows us to take risks while still enjoying ourselves. The same goes for edgeplay: by assessing risks at the moment and abiding by the boundaries and plan you prepared with your partner(s) priorly, you ensure sex can be simultaneously safe and fun.
Beyond risk awareness, the C in RACK stands for consensual. For sex to be consensual, all parties involved need to enthusiastically agree, in a comfortable environment safe from coercion, to all activities that are going to take place. There should be a conversation prior to sex in which every individual establishes their boundaries and agrees upon a safeword.
As a self-identified masochist, I’ve been brainstorming how to incorporate RACK into my sex life. I once asked a sexual partner to spank me in the heat of the moment, but then they got flustered, unsure of how hard to hit me in fear of inflicting pain. This awkwardness occurred because my partner and I was not risk-aware. To abide by RACK, before sex, my partner and I must discuss our desires, their potential risks, and how to best respond to those risks. This conversation is critical to respect both my boundaries and my partner’s during sex.
Even if you wouldn’t consider your sex life to be very high risk, there are important lessons to take away from RACK. Any interaction with another individual incorporates risk, especially when considering one another’s boundaries. One’s own definition of risk will likely be different from another’s, so making open and honest communication among all parties is imperative; before sex starts, all the way until the end. This ensures safe informed and risk-aware sex!
There is heated debate within the BDSM community over whether RACK or another safety protocol is the best to follow, but I say do whatever resonates most with you and your sexual partner(s). At the end of the day, if you dream of someone pouring hot wax on your vulva, stomping on your testicles, or electrocuting your nipples, you can make that happen! If you ensure all parties involved are consenting and risk-aware throughout the entire sexual experience those dreams can become reality.