Author: J. Mikael Togneri ©

Used With Author's Permission


No one who has spent five minutes in BDSM will have failed to become acquainted with the concept of SS&C: “Safe, Sane and Consensual”. Ostensibly created to instil some sense of responsibility in the wild hordes of callous, bloodthirsty wannabe dominants, it is in reality being used by the politically correct factions within the lifestyle in order to regulate the uncontrollable, and to placate the unappeasable.

Needless to say, it has thus far been an abysmal failure on all three counts. And this is a very good thing.

On the face of it, given that most of what we do is inherently dangerous, it is of course commendable that the lifestyle be self-regulating, and to what higher goal could any of us aspire, than the beatific trinity of safety, sanity and consent? It also seems quite reasonable to promote the concept beyond the lifestyle, so that those who don’t fully understand what it is that we do, will at least know that we are doing it safely, sanely and consentingly.

The trouble is, of course, that the lifestyle has always been self-regulating. The overwhelming majority of BDSM practitioners are sensible, conscientious people to whom safety, sanity and consent are givens. Meanwhile, the very few truly callous, bloodthirsty wannabe dominants, who are neither sensible nor conscientious, are not going to be any more so just because the term “SS&C” shows up in 95% of all BDSM venues and fora.

In a similar fashion, those among our non-BDSM surroundings who hate us enough to actively persecute us, don’t listen to anything that comes out of the BDSM community anyway. Their reasons are their own, and nothing we could do or say has any effect on them whatsoever.

In short, as far as its stated goals are concerned, SS&C is either redundant or totally ineffectual.

Since all of the foregoing would be painfully obvious to any child of three, it must be assumed that those self-styled authorities within our lifestyle who are peddling the slogan, would have found it equally obvious. This, in turn, suggests an altogether different reason for doing so anyway.

Despite the fact that the principle of SS&C is totally self-evident across the board, to say “I am for SS&C” is to leave the impression that someone else might actually be against it. It’s a bit like having an organisation called “Wives Against Spousal Abuse”. It sounds good, and “WASA” has a sort of snappy ring to it. But it doesn’t really say much, because where on Earth would anyone dig up a wife who was in favour of spousal abuse?

Now, let’s say that our WASA organisation works hard for a few years, gains membership and wealth, and ends up in a position where even the government can no longer ignore it. Votes in the next elections might depend on a politician’s relationship with WASA so to be on the safe side, he publicly supports them and in return they endorse him. So far so good. I mean, if it really does limit spousal abuse, that’s progress, right?

But what if WASA then begins to define what constitutes spousal abuse and what does not? What if the government suddenly finds itself under pressure to pass a law according to which merely raising his voice to his wife would land a man with a ten-year prison sentence? Sensible people would of course begin to withdraw their support, and eventually speak out against WASA’s agenda. And the response would naturally be, “well, if you do not agree with Wives Against Spousal Abuse, you must be for spousal abuse.”

The concept of SS&C not only contains the potential to work in precisely this fashion, but seems to only be used these days to do exactly that.

Who, ultimately, gets to define what is within the boundaries of SS&C and what isn’t? “Everyone decides that for him/herself,” is the usual response, but that is not borne out by reality. SS&C is in the eyes of the beholder, and if you’re the one being beheld, your interpretation carries no weight whatsoever.

Having established that nothing in BDSM is truly safe, and that some people actually do consent to the weirdest things, the whole SS&C concept pivots on that little word “sane”. The Oxford Dictionary renders “sane” as “sound of mind; sensible and practical”, from a Latin root meaning “clean; pure”, as in “sanitation; sanitary”. What is so often forgotten when using the words “sane” and “insane” is that they are not psychiatric terms at all, but legal terms – and there is nothing as subjective and debatable as a legal concept.

Originally invented by British barristers and subsequently adopted and adapted very successfully by American lawyers, the legal issue of sanity versus insanity simply establishes whether or not the perpetrator was capable at the time the crime was committed of distinguishing between right and wrong.

But right and wrong according to whom? Who in this lifestyle has the authority to determine what is right and wrong for anybody else – let alone everybody?

So, what the concept of “safe, sane and consensual” in practice boils down to, is this: it is safe if I feel able to take the full consequences; it is sane if I consent to it; I will only consent to what is safe. Conversely, it is unsafe if I could not take the full consequences; it is insane because I do not consent to it; and since I cannot consent to it, others are insane to do so. Or put more simply: SS&C is a means by which I can impose my personal limitations on everybody else.

And sure enough, wherever SS&C is promoted it is almost invariably accompanied by a list of practices that are deemed unsafe or insane, whether consensual or not. These practices just happen to coincide with the writer’s own personal squick-threshold, for the most part just about everything that lies beyond common, mainstream BDSM, but which is standard fare in the absolute lifestyle.

On the Internet, for example, the SubNation website is a case in point, with page after laborious page on the topic, and the Powerotics website flatly states that sadism is sick. The message is clear: as long as BDSM is just a game we play, everything is fine; but when it gets real, it’s suddenly very wrong.

SS&C is nothing more noble than an attempt to regulate the entire lifestyle so that it remains little more than kinky sex. It allows the self-styled BDSM Police to keep peddling their own superficial and shallow approach as the only acceptable way, whilst condemning anyone who disagrees with them. If something isn't safe according to their standards, it cannot be consensual. If it should prove to be consensual nonetheless, it cannot be sane.

And if it isn't sane, they feel justified in intervening, and do so by ostracising those of whose lifestyle they do not approve. People get excluded from various venues, in some cases they are even reported to the authorities (anonymously, of course), their names appear in public on certain websites together with a detailed description of their alleged "crimes", and so on.

SS&C has nothing to do with a sound principle that everyone adheres to anyway. Its only practical function is character assassination. To be for SS&C is to be in at least tacit support of witch-hunts against groups and individuals in this lifestyle, with whose practices one does not personally agree.

Back To Essay 8: Awaiting The One

Forward to Essay 10: Absolute Misunderstanding.




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