"Safe Sane Consensual"
by slave david stein
under the Guardianship of Master Steve of Butchmann's
The following essay is an early draft that has been superseded by the version on the author's Web site, www.boybear.us. Please do not repost or reprint this draft, which is copyright © 2000 by david stein.
History is what happens while youre doing something else and it may not be until years later that you discover what you did was "historic." When i agreed in mid-1983 to be part of a committee of GMSMA (Gay Male S/M Activists) charged with drafting a new "statement of identity and purpose" for the two-year-old organization, i had no idea that the lasting significance of our work would be reduced to a single phrase: "safe, sane, and consensual S/M."
Today GMSMA is the worlds largest S/M organization for men and one of the oldest and most respected S/M organizations of any sort. Yet there are thousands perhaps tens of thousands? of kink-lovers all over North America and around the world who have no idea what the letters "GMSMA" stand for. But they do know "safe sane consensual." Those words appear on T-shirts, on Web sites, in personal ads, in the bylaws and foundation statements of hundreds of organizations, on porn videos, in virtually every kink magazine, in every book or pamphlet or instructional video produced for kink-curious audiences. Its become a cliché, and some people are heartily sick of it but no one has yet proposed an alternative that rolls off the tongue as easily, covers so many bases, or boasts nearly the same degree of acceptance.
Blame me for it, if you like. The August 1983 report of that GMSMA committee represents the earliest use of the phrase anyone has found, and it seems very likely that i was its author. The statement of purpose we drafted began, "GMSMA is a not-for-profit organization of gay males in the New York City area who are seriously interested in safe, sane, and consensual S/M." This wording was adopted without change by the Board of Directors on August 17, 1983, and since that fall the sentence has appeared in every GMSMA brochure and membership application as well as in most program schedules, newsletters, and other literature. The only changes made over the years have been to drop the reference to New York City and to replace "males" with "men."
Both of the other members of the committee, Martin Berkenwald and Bob Gillespie, are now dead, but a few months before his death last year, Bob said he thought it was me who came up with the formulation. It does seem likely: i produced most of GMSMAs key early documents, and im sure i was the only one of the three of us to come to our meeting with a complete draft ready for comment. Martin and Bob critiqued what id written, and we made revisions on the spot until we came up with something we all liked.
Frankly, i dont remember who contributed what, but "safe, sane, and consensual S/M" certainly sounds like my style. Other pieces i wrote in the years just before refer to "consensual vs. involuntary S/M," and i was always keenly interested in drawing a line between the kind of sadomasochistic sexuality that open-minded, ethical people can support (at least if they are also broad-minded and unprejudiced) and the kind of abusive, exploitative, coercive activity they rightly condemn.
The Past Recaptured
It seems obvious to me now that "safe" and "sane" derived from the good old American practice of urging people to have a "safe and sane" 4th of July celebration. i heard that exhortation every year while growing up, and it stuck. It stuck with Tony DeBlase, too, and appears in an unsigned essay he wrote for the Chicago Hellfire Clubs Inferno 10 (1981) run book: "In 1980 the following was adopted as the clubs statment of purpose: . . . to provide education and opportunities for participation in S&M sex among consenting adult men and to foster communication among such individuals. Responsible S&M has become more popular and less feared in the gay community and Chicago Hellfire Club continues to serve its community striving always to educate and promote safe and sane enjoyment of men by men." Since Inferno 10 was the first Inferno i attended, and it made a big impression on me, Tonys words may have reminded me of "safe and sane," and even suggested the association with "consensual." But the GMSMA statement was the first place the three terms were actually conjoined.
As a kid, what i took "Have a safe and sane 4th" to mean was something like, "Have a good time, but dont be stupid and burn down the house or blow your hand off." A couple of decades later, that seemed to fit S/M just fine. What we meant by "safe and sane S/M" in 1983, and what i believe GMSMA and most other organizations still mean by it today, is something like, "Have a good time, but keep your head and understand what youre doing so you dont end up dead or in the hospital or send someone else there." Possibly the echo of a familiar phrase explains why so many other kinky Americans have also felt immediately comfortable with "safe, sane, and consensual S/M," which still isnt nearly as popular in Europe or elsewhere as it is in the U.S. even aside from the issue of language.
Spreading Like Wildfire
Clearly, GMSMAs use and dissemination of the phrase through the mid-1980s laid the groundwork for its later explosive spread. And the fuse was lit when the Community Involvement Committee (GMSMAs political arm), chaired by Barry Douglas, decided in late 1986 to use a streamlined form of it as the slogan for the S/M-Leather-Fetish Contingent in the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
Barry is also no longer with us, but i was a member of that committee, too, and when we commissioned a 20-foot-wide banner for the march bearing the words "Safe Sane Consensual," the bomb was set. It didnt hurt, either, that they also appeared on the T-shirts produced for the event or that for the entire day before the march the same banner hung across the stately portico of the government building on Constitution Avenue that hosted the contingents huge S/M-Leather-Fetish Conference. That weekend thousands of men and women from all over the U.S. and many foreign countries read those words, identified with them, and took the memory of them back to their local communities. The rest is history and commentary.
Let me give a little of both.
GMSMAs Community Involvement Committee chose "safe sane consensual" as the slogan for the contingent and the conference because we felt these words were the best sound bite to distinguish the kind of sexual expression we were marching in support of from the typical association of S/M with harmful, antisocial, predatory behavior. While no one at our meetings felt that "safe sane consensual" was the last word on the subject, or that it "defined" S/M, we felt it did the job that needed done: to say to anyone coming to us with a stereotypically negative view based on lurid headlines and exploitative movies (we all remembered Cruising), "Thats not what were about."
We had no idea the slogan would have the success it did, or that so many people would take it as more than a starting point. But if it hadnt been spontaneously embraced by so many people, because they felt it fit what they were doing, or wanted to do, it wouldnt have had such "legs." There was no way that GMSMA, or anyone else, could have imposed the slogan on the community if most people hadnt liked it.
Misuse of a Slogan
The understandable popularity of the slogan has a downside, however. Those with few or no roots in the struggle to bring S/M out of the shadows who take for granted todays world of BDSM clubs in every large town and kinky images all over the mass media tend to apply the slogan in a simplistic way, even using it as a stick to beat anyone whose style of play offends them for whatever reason. The implication is that whatever is safe, sane, and consensual is good, and whatever isnt is bad, which goes far beyond what we intended back in 1987.
In 1987, we were trying to draw a line between what is clearly defensible, in terms of both social structures and personal well-being, and what is either indefensible or at least very questionable. It was a conscious, deliberate attempt to shift the debate onto grounds where we thought we could win, instead of having to keep proving we werent serial killers, spouse beaters, and child abusers. Of course, the morality of such a strategy depends on who is left out.
The organized gay-rights movement has been accused many a time of marginalizing those who dont fit a "respectable" or "straight-acting" image, and in some cases thats a fair objection. But when it came to choosing a slogan for the S/M-Leather-Fetish Contingent in the 1987 march, that wasnt our intention. People who rejected "safe sane consensual" principles werent exactly clamoring to join our organizations or march in our parades. Such people, we thought, tended to be loners and to exclude themselves by crossing any line that anyone else draws; they thrive in the shadows, not the light.
Of course, once an idea is reduced to a slogan that fits on buttons, T-shirts, and bumper stickers, no one can control its meaning. Each person who sees it interprets it with whatever prejudices and preconceptions he or she brings to it. While its evident that thousands of people have taken "safe sane consensual" as a welcome validation for a type of sexuality still considered "sick" or "crazy" by much of our society, others read it as devaluing their own "edgeplay" in favor of cautious, conventional, and completely scripted sex games.
Sometime after the 1987 march, at least one prominent member of the S/M community was seen wearing a T-shirt emblazoned "Unsafe Insane Nonconsensual," and i have seen that phrase used elsewhere. i have also heard and read more thoughtful criticisms of the slogan. The more popular and widespread it has become, the more common it is to see it angrily rejected as either trivially empty, too far removed from what makes BDSM exciting and meaningful, or else menacingly intrusive representing yet another attempt to force individual styles of living and loving into a boring conformity.
Which is it? Both? Neither?
Context Is the Key
Lets return to the origin and look at the full statement of purpose GMSMA adopted in 1983:
GMSMA is a not-for-profit organization of gay males in the New York City area who are seriously interested in safe, sane, and consensual S/M. Our purpose is to help create a more supportive S/M community for gay males, whether they desire a total lifestyle or an occasional adventure, whether they are just coming out into S/M or are long experienced.
Our regular meetings and other activities attempt to build a sense of community by exploring common feelings and concerns. We aim to raise awareness about issues of safety and responsibility, to recover elements of our tradition, and to disseminate the best available medical and technical information about S/M practices. We seek to establish a recognized political presence in the wider gay community in order to combat the prevailing stereotypes and misconceptions about S/M while working with others for the common goals of gay liberation.
Note that this first use of "safe, sane, and consensual" occurred in a context that also included concepts like community, responsibility, tradition, education, and gay liberation. Moreover, the rubric "safe, sane, and consensual" itself was explicitly presented as embracing all degrees of commitment, from "a total lifestyle" to "an occasional adventure," as well as S/M practitioners ranging from novices to veterans.
In other words, the strategy was not to try to redefine "S/M" itself as inherently "safe, sane, and consensual," something that seems all too common today. Neither those of us who drafted the statement nor GMSMAs board were that naive. We knew that the full range of real-life S/M briefly defined as sexual arousal or gratification through the infliction or suffering of pain, bondage, or humiliation can embrace much that is unsafe, insane, and nonconsensual by anyones standards. S/M involves powerful emotions and intense vulnerability, and it can be scary stuff. This must not be forgotten or swept under the rug in the quest for social acceptance.
The "dark side" of S/M the injuries, the abuse, the exploitation, the violence was well known to us back in the early 1980s because we were still close to it. We hadnt already had two decades of S/M education and activism, which sometimes have the effect of making it seem like a flogging, tit piercing, or mummification are routine activities for a first date. We all knew about bottoms whod been traumatized, or tops whod gone berserk and sent someone to the hospital. The emerging iconography of S/M in Drummer magazine and elsewhere was very edgy, very "noncon." In the early 1980s, as again today in certain circles, being known as "dangerous" was more of a badge of honor than a liability. Knowledge of S/Ms potential for harm was one of the chief things that led us to form GMSMA in the first place. The organization was intended to shine a light into some very dark corners.
Therefore, rather than saying, "This is what S/M is, and its okay, nothing to be worried about," the GMSMA statement of purpose said, in effect, "This is the kind of S/M we stand for and support. S/M can be damaging, crazy, or coercive, but it doesnt have to be, and together were going to learn how to tell the difference." If someone was deliberately careless or irresponsible, or broke agreements about limits, we didnt say, "Hes not doing S/M" but rather, "Hes not doing the kind of S/M we can support."
As an organization, GMSMA never tried to officially define "safe," "sane," or "consensual." From the beginning, we knew that beyond the obvious applications of these terms, there are vast gray areas. Moreover, we knew that "safety," especially, differed from one individual to another. A maneuver thats perfectly safe for one gymnast or ice skater to perform could easily lead to a broken neck for another. A flogging that one bottom finds pleasurably exciting might leave another with serious damage. A session of rigid bondage and sensory deprivation that leads to fulfillment and ecstasy for one person might send another into a psychotic breakdown. A year as a 24/7 slave might be the peak experience of a lifetime for me, yet cause you to have an emotional collapse.
Go back to the full statement, where it says, "We aim to raise awareness about issues of safety and responsibility . . . and to disseminate the best available medical and technical information about S/M practices." Thats the context in which the "safe" in "safe, sane, and consensual" has to be understood: being responsible, being aware, doing your homework, taking precautions thats what we meant by "safe." We did not mean, back in 1983 or 1987, to promote only G-rated S/M, a lowest common denominator that restricts peoples play to a risk-free sandbox where pain isnt really painful, bondage isnt really constraining, and dominance is being ordered to do only what you want to do anyway.
We left "sane" and "consensual" much vaguer, "sane" because its pretty vague to begin with once you get past the obvious meaning able to distinguish fantasy from reality and "consensual" because we didnt realize how tricky it is. We didnt have the benefit of todays more nuanced perspective, which has developed from a couple of decades of rising awareness of just how hard it can be to leave an abusive spouse. We did not discuss, back then, whether consent was something you could give once and for all, or if it had to be renewed continuously.
The distinction we were trying to draw was much simpler: between, on one hand, the kind of controlled bondage, torture, and dominance that bottoms willingly seek out from cooperative partners and, on the other hand, the kind that predators and sociopaths impose on unwilling victims (it doesnt help that coercive S/M is far more common in our own erotica as well as in sensationalistic journalism). It took another decade and a half for people to start talking openly about the puzzles of "consensual nonconsensuality" but would these debates even occur if we didnt agree that S/M should be consensual in the first place?
Freedom from Fear
Just as in the GMSMA statement, Tony DeBlases CHC article from 1981 surrounds the now-familiar terms "safe," "sane," and "consensual" with other concepts education, participation, communication, responsibility, community that provide a context for interpreting them. i am especially struck by the clause, "Responsible S&M has become more popular and less feared in the gay community . . . ." That the "safe, sane, and consensual" slogan was coined at a time when S/M was becoming "less feared" is one of the keys to this whole history.
For most people in my generation and earlier, the practices and images of S/M were very scary. And taking the first steps toward realizing our fantasies of pain, bondage, dominance, or humiliation from either side, top or bottom was even scarier. But from the late 1970s (when the original "old guard" began dying off, though thats another story) to now, S/M has grown progressively less scary, to the point that many teenagers today are more familiar with what goes on in our subculture than most adults were back in the 1950s. Why? Madonna and Trent Reznor cant take all of the credit! These and other "mainstream" artists would not have been able to exploit such themes, i think, without the increasing visibility of an S/M community that promotes responsible, ethical practices, thus raising the comfort level for everyone, whether kinky or vanilla. Coming out into S/M through our community today is infinitely less scary than doing so in isolation, or with no resources except the bars, baths, backrooms, sex clubs, and porn magazines to guide you.
In contrast, when i first realized back in the 1960s what made my dick hard, i was terrified. i obsessed about the horrible things that could happen to me if i ever gave in to my masochistic and submissive urges and put myself in the hands of a dominant, sadistic man. i read William Carneys novel The Real Thing and was sure id end up on a slab in the morgue if i took the first step down that slippery slope. By the time i moved to New York in 1977, still a virgin in every sense of the term, i knew that leather bars existed and that some of the scenes portrayed in Drummer werent totally fictional, but i was still worried that i would be damaged irreparably if i allowed a man to use me and hurt me in the ways i also knew i needed.
"Fear is the mind-killer," they say in Frank Herberts novel Dune, and mine took a long time to fade. But it probably also kept me alive by making me think early and often about risk-reduction strategies. And when i joined with others at the end of 1980 to create GMSMA, i finally made contact with enough men committed to doing S/M in a nondestructive way that i was able to overcome my fears and begin participating actively.
Thats the historical and personal context in which "safe sane consensual" emerged: overcoming fear, shame, and silence to learn what we need to know to make our own choices. On the whole, i think the phrase has served us well and it can continue to do so if we dont try to make it do jobs it was never designed for. Chanting "safe sane consensual" like a mantra cant save you from a bad scene or a bad relationship, and it cant replace the years of study and practice that guide an experienced top or bottom, dominant or submissive through the maze of choices both must confront. While "safe, sane, and consensual" may suggest the outlines of an S/M ethics, actually articulating one will take a lot more work than coining a useful slogan. But its a start.
Here are a few pertinent texts by other authors, reprinted by permission; copyright retained by the authors. Comments in brackets are mine. d.s.
SAFE, SANE, CONSENSUAL
by Gil Kessler (email@example.com)
[Gil is a longtime Board member of GMSMA and for many years was president. While his formulations are not "official" GMSMA policy, they have been widely disseminated and formed the basis of those in the "S/M vs. Abuse" statements adopted at previous Leather Leadership Conferences. This most recent version, however, seems to rule out "consensual nonconsensuality" which is important not only for S/M edgeplayers but also for lifestyle dominants and submissives purely by definition.]
SAFE is being knowledgeable about what youre doing.
This means knowing your equipment and how to use it, and knowing your partner and how to keep him healthy both physically and psychologically.
SANE is knowing the difference between fantasy and reality.
And observing that difference. You may know how to do something, and even get consent for it, but it may be best left for one-handed reading.
CONSENSUAL is respecting the limits imposed by each participant.
Consent is an ongoing right, and can be withdrawn at any time. Thus you cannot consent to give up the right of consent! "You can do anything you want to me, even if I really want you to stop" is a statement that only an irresponsible top would take seriously.
SAFE SANE CONSENSUAL: DEFINITIONS
by Tammad Rimilia www.ms.ha.md.us/~tammad/over21/essays/safe_sane_consensual.html
[These are extracted from a longer discussion of the concepts that is well worth seeking out online. Tammad is a longtime player in the Baltimore-Washington area who is especially known for his bondage skills he was unable to be with us today because of a prior commitment to teach a bondage workshop.]
SAFE. That all parties to the activity have considered the potential risks involved, and have decided that the risk is ACCEPTABLE TO THEM.
SANE. That all parties are engaging in this activity by direct intention and can judge the effects of their actions.
CONSENSUAL. That all parties have consented to being involved in the activity. Consent might be given for every scene, or in more long-running relationships this consent might be given just once, at the beginning of the relationship, to cover all subsequent activity.
by Scott from APEX (Arizona Power EXchange), a.k.a. NoCyberDom online
[Extracted from a post on the sm-activists list. While the formulations for "safe" and "sane" are not especially useful, and indeed may be considered circular, the "sub parts" 1) and 2) for "consensual" make important points.]
Safe: Safe from unreasonable risk of physical injury.
Sane: Safe from unreasonable risk of mental, emotional or psychological harm.
Consensual (3 sub parts): Consent of all parties involved must be given of their own free will.
1) Involved parties does include spouses or significant others of participants who may not be participating themselves. This statement is meant to clearly show that if a person is cheating on their spouse or significant other that this is not condoned. The reason that this is not condoned is that, in SSC BDSM, trust is the most important factor and if a person is cheating on their life partner then it is unreasonable to think anyone else could truly trust them.
2) To give consent an individual must be of legal age to make decisions on their own behalf, not have been deemed mentally incompetent to make legal decisions on their own behalf and not be under the effects of chemical substances that would inhibit their ability to make decisions. In short: no kids, no booze or drugs and the mentally impaired cannot give consent. If a person is truly incapable of making a sane decision then they are covered by this.
3) Neither animals nor the deceased can communicate consent.
THE THREE CS:
COMMITTED, COMPASSIONATE, CONSENSUAL
[SARRAS is an Australian leather Master who was initiated by "old guard" practitioners. His Web site features very extensive and thought-provoking writings about the ethics and spiritual context of leathersex, of which the following is only a snippet.]
Safe Sane and Consensual then, is an attempt to give the would-be dominants of the world a users guide to the management of the sexual force they are wielding, and the would-be submissives a philosophical structure for trust and the limitations of permanent damage. For what it is, as an ideal for those who are actually using it, I can say by experience and observation that Safe Sane and Consensual does a reasonable job as a widely held belief. But to me, personally, its not a true code of life, not a structure or set of wisdom protocols capable of actually producing the results that those who use it think they are aiming for i.e., the creation of self-powerful and emotionally resonant S/M Leathermen from the practice of sexual interplay.
I was brought up in Leather under its predecessor the Three Cs. Youll find various translations of this around the world, wherever you find remnants of Old Guard Leather S/M thinking (Incarnations of the old Gay Bike Clubs like Chicago Hellfire for example), though its spoken of in whispers these days if at all. Anyway, the code that I was born into Leather S/M under is Committed, Compassionate, Consensual or the Three Cs. To get your head around this one you almost have to come at it from the opposite point of view than safe, sane, consensual. For example, in common with many of my dominant brothers, I know about anger the god of war in our lives. It is a powerful emotion and spirit and it does make us naturally powerful humans, albeit in a coarsely rendered form initially, for better and worse, and the Three Cs are a management tool or sexual power philosophy for shaping and using that terrible anger that lives in most humans. Its a code for the wise use of this anger the shaping of it into a sexual power.
THE DRAWBACKS OF SSC TODAY
by Gloria Brame, from private e-mail
[The following puts in a nutshell some of the key ways that "safe sane consensual" tends to be misused today, particularly by dominants. i would add only that it isnt het male doms alone who are guilty of it!]
I think het male doms in particular (with many notable exceptions, of course) often use SSC as an easy out from their extreme guilt/shame about doing SM. In a perfect world, doms deal with the demons of their sexual repression before they take on the leadership role in a power relationship. SSC provides lazy, dull-witted, or malicious tops an easy out. In the 80s, Id hear from male doms who said they were afraid that if they did SM, they were "just like" Ted Bundy. Nowadays, by loudly announcing that they are SSC, they chase that demon away . . . or do they? As bad as it may be to compare yourself to a criminal, if you are struggling with profound guilt, its better to do the comparison, IMO, and then, point by point, logically analyze the ways in which one is different.
People are using SSC as if its a magic cloak wear it and no one sees the guilt! not a philosophical point of departure for deeper analyses of their behaviors. But if you havent tackled the underlying issues, come to terms within yourself with your own ethical standards, and if you arent living up to the true spirit of SSC, then really you havent overcome the "am I a vicious criminal or just a nice guy who likes to beat consenting partners for fun?" conundrum. Youve just put a fresh coat of paint on your termite-infested house.
In this way, stuff like SSC, safe words, negotiation, and all the other truly marvelous concepts designed to help us create a moral structure, and which should protect submissives from dangerous tops and assist tops in establishing ethical principles, have become so diluted and distorted, they almost seem now to be used more frequently by unsafe and casual players than real sadomasochists.
Also, whats particularly galling to me, personally, is that its part of another trend in the Scene: this need people have to assert their superiority and place themselves in some imaginery hierarchy of sexual enlightenment. Obviously, over-compensation for insecurity . . . but also something that is very dangerous in a dominant, i.e., Major Ego Problems! Its used at times to enforce an "us vs. them" mentality . . . . All you have to do is say youre SSC (whatever it means, whether or not youve really given any thought to what it means, whether or not what you think is right or not or has any basis in reality) . . . et, voilà! youre a top who deserves respect and even kudos for "playing by the rules."
BEYOND SAFE, SANE AND CONSENSUAL
by Phil Julian
[Although i could not get approval to reprint parts of this essay, it is still freely available online at Leather Navigator under "leatherworks/black and blue." Despite an annoyingly wrong-headed account of the origin of "safe sane consensual," the authors reflections on the limitations of the slogan are not merely provocative but genuinely helpful.]
by Grey (firstname.lastname@example.org), excerpted (with a few edits for clarity) from a post to the gl-asb list, September 1999
After a few go-rounds of "Chex Party Mix SM" (lots of nuts and flakes but little of any substance and not very satisfying) I have changed a lot of my ideas about SSC.
Ive expanded "safe" past "physical safety" and more into the realm of, "Is it a good idea to have this person in my life?" I dont think Ive ever had any problems with basic SAFETY. I dont do anything nutty, I try stuff out before doing it in a scene, I have a first-aid kit, safety shears, panic snaps, condoms, dams, lube, and UL approval. . . .
Im now defining "sane" as "emotionally stable enough that I am convinced this person is able to engage in BDSM without having any negative repercussions." This includes the necessity that dealing with the person does not challenge my own sanity. . . .
What Im replacing SSC with these days is something closer to HRCHonesty, Regard, and Communication. Im only playing with bottoms who can clearly and honestly define what they want and what works and doesnt work for them. This gives me the opportunity to match it against what I want and what works and doesnt work for me. I like this much better than
"Do whatever you want."
"Oops! That wasnt what I wanted you to want."
Im only playing with bottoms who can demonstrate a grip on reality, success somewhere besides "in the scene" (not to put down scene success, but so much of it is simply claimed, unprovable, and subjectively determined), and ability to be together with me as a friend in a relationship where there is true regard.
Im no longer using safewords. Im using English. "Im having trouble with this," or "Oh, I love that," gives me information. Moans and gasps give me information. Weird code words give me weird code words.
Im no longer using contracts. Im using the same skills I use to work things out with friends and lovers to work things out with friends and loversoh, I mean slaves. I suppose those same skills have replaced "consent." I dont have to sit down and say, "On October 14, you consented to anal play," because being clear about what each person wants and enjoys, and feels like doing today, is the way Id do other things with my friends. Like organizing a barbecue:
"You want burgers?"
"Well, lately Im avoiding red meat."
Scenes/SM/sex should work that way. I think weve let a lot of things become cool slogans or almost equivalent to secret passwords, and we don't know what they mean anymore. . . .
I have dropped a LOT of the trappings, which may make me a heretic, but like most heretics, I am having fun. I still think what I thought back when I started in BDSM, which is that the safest route is to hang with (or, hang) people I really care about, who care about me, and who are honest, rational people with common sense who have values similar to my own and are interested in having a relationship in which we both are getting our needs met.
The chances of someone who is rational and has common sense letting you do something truly dangerous are reduced. The chances of someone who cares about you and is a friend turning on you are reduced. The chances of misunderstanding consent with someone who is honest and can communicate with you are reduced. And, if BOTH of you are the same way, its even MORE reduced.
And, I think that what works best is forgetting all the opinions and rules and doing what works best for me and my partners.
That is the road Im on lately, and it feels like the high road.
"The author's views on the matter of SSC continue to evolve, and as of mid-2001 he has shifted farther toward the position of the more thoughtful critics of SSC than he'd ever have thought possible. Two factual corrections about the history: The S/M-Leather Contingent banner for the 1987 March on Washington did *not* include the SSC slogan; this was added for the S/M-Leather-Fetish Contingent in the 1993 March, but the slogan *did* appear in all of the Contingent's publicity in the months leading up to the 1987 march. Also, the slogan was *not* chosen by a GMSMA committee but was adopted at an open planning meeting for the Contingent, held in New York City that July and sponsored by GMSMA along with other participating groups."
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