NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, January 10, 2022

Sexual Wellness: What You Can Learn From Kink Culture About Consent

In kink culture negotiating consent before any sexual activities begin is a normal and accepted  practice (see my article: Destigmatizing Sexual Fantasies of Power and Submission in Relationships).

What You Can Learn From Kink Culture About Consent

Even if you're not engaging in kinky sex, you can learn a lot about how to arrive at consent between sexual partners, which is an essential part of sexual activity.

Consent involves clear communication, honesty and mutual respect (see my articles: How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex - Part 1 and Part 2).

What's the Difference Between Arriving at Consent vs Giving Permission?
When you and your partner arrive at consent, it's different from just giving permission. 

Giving consent is an active process where you think about what each of you want and both of you have an active voice. Whereas when you give permission, you're often agreeing or just going along without thinking about it much.

Active Sexual Consent:
  • Must Be Explicit: An absence of a "no" isn't consent. Consent is an explicit "yes" to particular sexual activities.
  • Can Change at Any Time:You or your partner can change your mind at any time about sexual activities--even activities you have engaged in before.
  • Requires that You Check In If You're Unsure About How You or Your Partner Feels: If you and your partner agree to a particular sexual activity, but you sense your partner is tense or uncomfortable while you're having sex, check in with yourself and your partner to make sure neither of you is just going along when, in fact, you don't want to do it.
  • Might Require You to Slow Down: It's okay to slow down or stop if one or both of you aren't sure you want to continue.
  • Does Not Involve Alcohol or Drugs: You and your partner can't give active consent to sexual activities if there is excessive alcohol or drugs involved and you're impaired.
What is SSC and RACK?
  • Safe, Sane and Consensual (SSC): In the kink community, Safe, Sane and Consensual means that all parties are involved in sexual activities that are safe and they have the mental capacity to consent to the particular activities.
  • Risk-Aware Consensual Kink (RACK): Some people in the kink community prefer the concept of RACK, which stands for Risk-Aware Consensual Kink.  RACK emphasizes individual responsibility for sexual activities.  This means that each person is responsible for his/her own well-being.
Lessons to Learn From Kink Culture About Sex and Consent
  • Have a Dialog About Consent: Negotiation about sexual activities (as opposed to just a "yes" or "no" conversation) is a core concept in kink culture. It's a collaboration to enhance pleasure and ensure emotional and physical safety.  It involves negotiating sexual boundaries beforehand, whether you're engaging in kink or "vanilla" sex, to ensure that everyone is on the same page.  Never agree to anything you don't feel comfortable doing or try to push your partner to do things s/he doesn't want to do.
  • Be Aware that Consent is an Ongoing Process: Consent is an ongoing dynamic process--not a one and done matter.  You can't assume that what someone consents to on one day will be acceptable on another day, which is why there needs to be an ongoing dialog.  Also, you and your partner need to be specific in terms of defining what you mean.  For instance, if you're talking about spanking, be specific as to how, when, where and what you want.  This applies to any sexual activity.
  • Be Playful and Seductive, if You Like, in Your Dialog: Having a conversation about consent and what is pleasurable for you and your partner doesn't have to be overly serious and boring.  You can be playful and seductive as long as you both have a clear understanding.
Getting Help in Therapy
If you have problems talking about sex because of your family history, religion, culture, values or a history of trauma, you're not alone (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

You could benefit from working with a skilled psychotherapist who has experience helping clients to overcome these obstacles.

When you're free from obstacles that keep you from communicating your needs, you can have a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 or email me.