Consensual Non-Consent, Safewords, and Overall Safety

Cuff-Link strives to be a safe place for the lifestyle community to interact with one another, which includes emphasis on personal responsibility and attempting to keep predators out of the community. Because of the nature of some BDSM and kink play, it’s important to address several factors to help everyone have a safe place to play.

Intent and Consent

This applies to Cuff-Link specifically and the world in general. Some use Cuff-Link strictly as an online sexual outlet and have no interest in moving anything offline. Others have no intention of meeting anyone offline, but they do form real relationships and engage in various forms of play. Others yet are interested in having online-only interactions as well as occasionally engaging in all manner of offline activities with people they’ve met on Cuff-Link or any other Internet forum.

Because of this wide cross-section of intent, it’s important for everyone to understand that consent is the key to everything. While it is an online venue, we have tossed out the idea that it is “just the Internet”. Since we have no way of knowing all the time what any given users’ intentions are, we treat interactions largely like we would if Cuff-Link were a physical space in terms of interaction. So this means that we have an expectation that people will be clear about both their intent and their consent.

Consensual Non-Consent

This is probably one of the most misused forms of play. Consensual non-consent [CNC] encompasses any form of play where consent is given at the start of play for any form of action, usually controlled by the dominant party or parties. This type of play generally concerns the pushing of limits into territories that can be violent, emotionally tumultuous, and potentially questionable to society. It exists to allow people to explore darker aspects of sexuality, social interaction, and power exchange with relative safety and trust. This is the short of it, and we intend to explore the long of it in a later article.

Safewords, Signals, and Limits

Safewords and Signals – When engaging in CNC activities, it’s wise to establish either a safeword or a signal, and this applies to text and physical interactions. Safewords are used when it is possible to verbally communicate. A traditional format for this has been the “traffic light” system:

  • Green – begin or resume play. Whatever the dominant is doing or saying to the submissive is accepted.
  • Yellow – proceed with caution. This is making one uneasy, and the activity may have breached consent, established limits, or the submissive has discovered a limit they didn’t know they had. The dominant should cease immediately to communicate with the submissive whether play should continue, change, or stop altogether. Do not resume play until the submissive has signaled “Green” once more.
  • Red – stop immediately. Play is over.

Non-verbal signals:

  • Establish a series of signals you can use to indicate similar levels of comfort or discomfort as above. Obviously, in text, it’s easy enough to just cease typing responses and stop to discuss, even when bondage involved. However, in an offline setting, using actions that the submissive can easily perform and that the dominant can easily see is required for maximum safety.

A responsible dominant will colour or signal check with the submissive periodically during play even if the submissive does not signal on their own. If a dominant doesn’t do this or becomes even mildly hostile when the submissive has signaled Yellow or completely ignores the signal, it is in the submissive’s best interest to stop play altogether. In the context of Cuff-Link, this is easy enough to do by simply disengaging, and we encourage people to report this behaviour to the staff. In an offline setting, we encourage people to seek out proprietors of dungeons or law enforcement when necessary.

Conversely, safety checks and signals are not just the responsibility of the dominant. Submissives need to do their part as well. It is not the dominant’s sole responsibility to colour or signal check during play. Submissives should also make sure to recognise when they are feeling uncomfortable or when they need a break and communicate this before it becomes an issue. It is understandable that in the heat of the moment, everyone engaged in play may not be entirely aware of subtle signals, so it is best to establish something overt. When it comes to the safewords, it is not really okay for a submissive to berate a dominant for missing a single declaration of Yellow or Red. Repeat yourself if necessary! Even in sub space, it is important to maintain enough awareness to know when something has gone too far.

Limits – Fantasy has few, if any limits – it is what you can imagine, yet societal norms vary from place to place, and it is best to avoid engaging in activities which may result in jail time or prosecution of the law. With regards to Cuff-Link, specifically, it’s a good idea to have a look at the TOS to determine what is allowed. We can’t see what you do privately, but we have an open avenue for people to complain and have issues addressed, and many offline play dungeons have similar restrictions and avenues in place to protect themselves and play participants.

Negotiate limits before play. We get that people sometimes like to get right into it, but there’s a potential issue with this in that consent cannot be entirely established without discussion no matter how minor or detailed. We suggest, whether online or offline and especially with regard to CNC and edge play, that any hard and fast limits of both parties be established prior to beginning.

High-risk activity such as sharps or blade play needs to come with an element of understanding of the safety concerns. Obviously, when online, it is a matter of fantasy, but it should be understood that when coming together offline, the fantasies are not necessarily conducive to safe physical play. A dominant who is uncomfortable with their skill level should not be pushed by a submissive to engage beyond their knowledge and personal limits. Likewise, a dominant should not coerce a submissive into allowing something they aren’t comfortable with.

Safety Guidelines

There are several safety guidelines around the community:

  • SSC – Safe, Sane, Consensual. This boils down to making sure anything you’re engaging in is safe for all parties, is considered to be ‘sane’, and that it is consensual between all parties involved. While this is the longest standing ‘standard’ for BDSM/kink play, it is not necessarily the ideal solution. Sanity, for instance, is relative, and safety for something like sharps play would be different for a regular person than someone who is a hemophiliac.
  • RACK – Risk Aware Consensual Kink. All partners should be aware of risks involved in any play; everyone is of sound mind prior to engaging; and everyone has consented to everything.
  • PRICK – Personal Responsibility Informed Consensual Kink. This came into being because SSC and RACK don’t expressly cover the notion of personal responsibility, which can lead to consent issues. This is probably the better of the top three for those who practice any form of kink with one another, as it ascribes an element whereby all parties need to own their own actions.
  • CCC – Committed Compassionate Consensual. This one is relatively new, and it is mostly applicable to TPE [Total Power Exchange]. This one puts an emphasis on the emotional and physical safety of both partners, and it largely relies on a dominant’s ability to properly assess situations with the submissive and address issues accordingly. While submissives may practice SSC, RACK, or PRICK with their dominant(s), if involved in any form of CNC play, it would be prudent to also ensure that the dominant practices with CCC in mind as well.

If you have any issues amongst one another or need assistance on the IRC network with any of these things, even if you’ve brought something offline, we’ll do our best to assist. When it is an IRC-related issue, please bring with logs and screenshots of incidents to #help or file a ticket on http://support.cuff-link.me so we are able to look things over. Please also be aware that all of the Network Staff deal with issues with the starting point of whether consent was given, and if so, if it was, at any time, expressly taken away. These are important details, especially when looking at matters involving CNC. We recommend that CNC only be engaged in when there are extra parameters put in place for those situations when “No” doesn’t actually mean that.

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