Safety Is A Virtue

But it’s not a damned hall monitor.

People have asked me fairly often why I rarely mention spanking or other BDSM safety tips here. Or, more notoriously, why I often delete well-meaning comments that try to interject safety-ish warnings into my posts. I’ve given various answers, all true: The web is awash in BDSM safety info, it tends to be boring to more experienced players who’ve seen variations on the same warnings a zillion times, a lot of the safety info other people try to post on my blog strikes me as wrong, or too simplistic — that sort of thing.

All true, but incomplete. Another reason, one I’ve tended not to discuss much, is that too often people use faux safety concerns to mask and delimit their own kinkiness, or to condemn the kinks of others. “We just do spanking, I’d never want to play with a bullwhip, that’s dangerous, can’t it cut the skin?” can be a convenient way of not facing up to your own darker impulses, especially if you do have moments when you think it would be most excellent to whip the hell out of your wife and leave her sobbing on the basement floor covered in livid red stripes and oozing the odd drop of blood. (Perhaps even more so if she’s hinted that she’d enjoy that sort of thing on special occasions, as an alternative to boring old birthday sex.)

Worse yet, I find that a statement like “But don’t forget, if you tie someone up you must never leave the room because rabid weasels might come out of the woodwork and devour their genitals if you don’t monitor them constantly” is code for “I don’t approve of the sort of roleplaying where you tie someone up and make them think you’ve gone off to get a lapdance without them.” “Remember, whip marks can be difficult to heal, and there’s a risk of cutting the skin” sometimes stands in for the speaker’s true agenda: “Ewww, whips are too kinky, we don’t approve of playing that hard, anything with a chance of blood is something nobody should do. You filthy pervert.”

Thus, I tend to think that BDSM safety info is mostly common sense, it’s easily available to newish or concerned players, and so I avoid it here so as not to risk encoding my own prejudices and internal squick-factors into nice safe deniable crypto-condemnation.

Imagine my delight to discover that Bitchy Jones has some similar viewpoints:

What sort of safety advice do vanilla get? Use condoms, don’t leave your drink unattended. That’s it.

Not us though – we have books of the stuff.

And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, but Bitchy, we do far more dangerous things than vanillas. And I’m thinking, oh yeah? Do we really? Or do we just like to think so?

‘Cause hour for hour, mile for mile, pound for pound is basic domestic kinky sex really anymore dangerous than crossing the road or making a cup of tea?

Okay, some people hang themselves off of hooks. But not everyone is so goddamn the huh?. Me, personally? My crappy playtime – the most dangerous thing I probably do is run with scissors. And I think a lot of people are the same. Asking a man to get on his knees carries very few risks that I’m aware of. Power exchange itself isn’t – a priori – a risky business.

Most of the time I don’t really even have proper safe words. I’m never really so away in The Valley of the Bitches that if he looked at me and just said, Sorry, I can’t do this anymore or I need to stop a sec, I wouldn’t understand the difference between that and Oh, god, please, please, don’t.

I do *have* safe words. I think Pan technically has one. I don’t actually remember what it is.

I want a divorce, maybe.


Back to the point: this kind of thing, I find, does not require a formal risk assessment.

But okay. Some nights… some days… Well, you know – I stumble through some trademark moves. And do I get that you have to be safe. And I realise there are a few issues you need to know about to be sure you don’t break him. But most of that is pretty fucking obvious, frankly.

I do think I honestly *knew* you couldn’t just dangle men from the ceiling by their wrists without having to get some self-appointed expert to tell me.

Most BDSM safety advice is the most fucking obvious bollocks – delivered by some po-faced bloke with a beard for extra Bitchy-tetchy-making.

The repetitive check list of the bleeding obvious. Yes, I *know* knives can kill people. I live in a country where we don’t have guns. What do you think we *use* to kill people over here?

I understand there is a risk at least to the point that if something *does* go wrong my main problem won’t be being unable to deal with it because I am so fucking paralysed ‘n’ shocked knives can hurt people.

If you are doing bondage with rope have some scissors ready. In fact, not scissors, special bent safety scissors in case in your frantic emergency you snip your submissive’s head off by mistake.

And, ZOMG, what if he has a heart attack while he’s strapped to that rack? Yeah, but what if he has a heart attack on an aeroplane? And he’s the pilot? What if he has a heart attack driving his car past a primary school? Yes, that would be awful. But, you know, living our lives as if we are about to have heart attacks really isn’t healthy. (In so many ways.)

Then of course, there’s, a real favourite – what if the house catches on fire? Well, yeah, but what if the house catches on fire when I *haven’t* got a man tied to my bed? What if the house catches fire when I’m asleep? Or in the bath. What if I go to the loo, lock the door, the lock jams and then my house explodes and I’m shot fifty trillion feet into the air and my charred remains end up spread over several counties?

Yeah, well that’s quite unlikely. Well, yes. Quite. That’s why I tend not to worry about it.

So why must I run every kinky encounter as if my house if made of tinder soaked in vermouth?

I mean, calculated risk. I’m 34 and I have never been in a house that has caught on fire. I’m a non-smoker and my electrics are fine.

He’s more likely to get killed on the drive to my house than during an abandonment scene in which I leave him in chains for twenty minutes and he spontaneously combusts. Fuck’s sake.

What she said. Plus what I said, which boils down to this: If somebody strikes you as being too preachy about BDSM safety, look for the hidden agenda.

See Also:

  1. Jaie commented on June 24th, 2007:


  2. Dave commented on June 24th, 2007:

    Hear hear!

  3. kaya commented on June 24th, 2007:

    Can I kiss you? And her?

    No? Okay. I’ll satisfy myself with nodding vigorously then. :)

  4. SpankBoss commented on June 24th, 2007:

    LOL, Kaya, you’d have to take that up with Bethie…

  5. kaya commented on June 25th, 2007:

    I’ll bribe her with one of them butt coolers. *grin*

    Seriously though, I admire your stance on the safety police. It does get incredibly ridiculous at times. It seems some people equate ‘getting kinky’ with ‘getting stupid’.

    I just erased a whole comment because I’m running it over to my journal. Tee hee!

  6. calliope commented on June 28th, 2007:


    Life around here just isn’t the same since we had the place sprayed for rabid weasels. All the thrills and fears I used to feel never knowing if tonight would be the night that they would attack and nibble on my naughty bits.

    Nope, it just isn’t the fun it used to be. Take my advice- say NO to the man who comes to spray for rabid weasels and tell him you changed your mind before it is too late!

  7. Tara commented on July 8th, 2007:

    Wow, I really enjoyed reading this post. Especially the quote from “Bitchey.”

    I agree with most of what was said. And I think that often there is a hidden agenda- sometimes as simple as the person wishes to appear more experience than the people he or she is speaking with. I’ve personally been accused at times of being “too risky/ edgey” for ridiculous reasons.

    Interestingly though I am on several message boards- both lifestyle and professional, and I think that in the professional world there is a lot more space/necessity for safety discussions. For example, a thread was started about toy cleaners on one board and the answers about what was appropriate toy cleaner were insanely inaccurate, so I was very happy to see it happen so that all of the curious people who read the board got the correct information.

    There is a balance necessary though and taking a look at the *whole* picture of why someone is saying what they are saying is always good.

    Or wait- am I just saying this beacause…

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