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Pleasure and pain: Playing it safe in BDSM

Safety in BDSM may seem like a contradiction in terms, considering the dungeon is where some people willingly go to be tortured, tormented, violated, and humiliated.

However, safety does set the scene for all BDSM play, professional or private.

At the forefront of professional BDSM practice is the risk-aware consensual kink (RACK) philosophy, which acts as a guideline and industry standard when there is any risk of (unwilling) harm.

Discuss beforehand what your safe word is to stop the session – don’t make it a word like ‘stop’ or ‘don’t’ that may be confused in consent play.

A plain word like ‘mercy’ is fairly standard in the industry.

This ensures that if any injuries occur, there is a plan to stop and check on what is going on. Always have the necessary equipment to cut through rope or chain in an emergency, such as a bolt cutter or scissors, and never leave a bound person unattended.

Be aware of breathing, sounds, smells, skin colour, and temperature, as well as what is being said.

Consider avoiding drugs or alcohol, but if anyone will be taking drugs, it’s safest to plan ahead, have all your own equipment, and dispose of your equipment properly.

The nature of sex and BDSM means the potential for direct or indirect contact with blood, faeces, urine, saliva, and semen is high, with an associated risk of exposure to sexually transmitted infections, from herpes to HIV – but you can take steps to minimise these.

Very little risk exists of transmitting most infections if you use condoms and water-based lubricant correctly.

Syphilis is one infection that has been on the rise and can be passed on by skin contact. Band-Aids or towels can be used to cover anything that looks like a symptom, helping to make the play protected.

Most of us in the sex industry are aware of how to do sex work safely – it’s our livelihood and in our best interests.

A higher number of sexual partners does not necessarily mean an increased likelihood of a sexually transmitted infection – on the contrary, sex workers are more vigilant about condom use than the general public.

As well as using condoms and lubricant, safer sex practices can include using anti-bacterial toy cleaner, dental dams, latex rubber gloves for needle and anal play, new needles or picks, needle disposal units, lined rubbish bins, baby wipes, and hand sanitisers, as well as equipment sterilising and frequently cleaning sheets and towels.

Needles and sharps bins can be obtained from pharmacies and needle and syringe programs.

Cleaning and caring for your sex toys will stop the transmission of infections.

In most cases, warm soapy water will suffice for waterproof rubber, latex, silicone, or glass. For non-waterproof materials, a good-quality anti-bacterial toy cleaner spray can be used with a tissue.

Boiling dildos for three minutes or putting them through a hot dishwasher cycle will also work but may damage them a lot quicker.

Similarly, whips, paddles, canes, and chains can be washed in warm soapy water and dried or shined with polish.

Most of what I have talked about is common sense – if you keep things simple, you can’t go wrong.

Everyone will be happy and enjoying getting off on whatever tickles their fancy… arse…clit… or nipple. You get my drift.

Now, go, fuck off and start organising your dungeon and practising risk aware consensual kink!

In the meantime, I’m feeling horny! I might just let my fingers do the talking…

This story was edited for Pink Advocate. It was first published in Tracks Magazine for Illicit Drug Users Volume 9: All You Need to Know About Sex (2012).

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