Risk-aware consensual kink (RACK, also risk-accepted consensual kink) is an phrase or acronym used by some of the BDSM community to describe a view that risky sexual behaviors should generally be allowed, as long as the participants are fully aware of the risks.
The ideas of RACK are best described by explaining the acronym:
- Risk-aware: Both or all partners are well-informed of the risks involved in the proposed activity.
- Consensual: In light of those risks, both or all partners have, of sound mind, offered preliminary consent to engage in said activity.
- Kink: Said activity can be classified as alternative sex.
While “Safe, Sane and Consensual” (SSC) attempts to describe and differentiate BDSM from abuse in ways that are easy for the non-BDSM public to comprehend, RACK differs from it in that it acknowledges that nothing is ever 100% inherently safe. By acknowledging that what may be safe or sane to one person may not be considered the same to another, the RACK philosophy tends to be more inclusive of activities that others may consider as edgeplay. There is no “safe” or “not safe” within RACK, only “safer” and “less safe.”
RACK can also be described as a mindset which pays more attention to perhaps unexpected consequences of BDSM play. Its theory revolves around reasoned, ex-ante commitment, including the possible consequences of riskier play. In contrast, SSC revolves around the end results of play, or the ex-post. It tries to minimize any potential harm despite the risks BDSM players might be willing to partake in. Both philosophies aim to minimize foreseeable harm, but RACK puts more emphasis on individual commitment to possible risk, beforehand, while SSC tries to minimize total harm foreseeable over the longer term. Thus, RACK adherents stress the value of individual prior consent to even risky fun, while the SSC contingent counters that people often do not choose as freely as they seem, they might behave irrationally at times, and so the consequences of rash individual choice perhaps ought to be mitigated from the start.
Origin of Term
In 1999, Gary Switch posted to The Eulenspiegel Society‘s USENET list “TES-Friends” proposing the term RACK (Risk-aware consensual kink) out of a desire to form a more accurate portrayal of the type of play that many engage in. Noting that nothing is truly 100% safe, not even crossing the street, Switch compared BDSM to the sport of mountain climbing. In both, risk is an essential part of the thrill, and that risk is minimized through study, training, technique, and practice.