How to stay safe while practicing kink

Illustration by Madison Cohen

Editor’s note: Only the first name of sources were used to protect their identity.

Kinky sexual encounters, often referred to as BDSM, can be fulfilling and exciting, but there are many risks involved. Many are uncomfortable with the topic, but members of the kink community offer insight on the practice. For reference, those who practice kink classify the activities they take part in as playing.

Tom said the world of kink has become more popular and accepted. He said many people enjoy expressing that side of themselves but cautioned those wanting to rush into it.

“Learn, educate, explore slowly. Please don’t dive in completely,” Tom said. “I know the energy and frenzy is intoxicating. Slow down and enjoy the experience of growing.”

Physical risks can come into play, as Tom explained an incident where his partner sustained a severe injury to her ankle requiring a trip to the emergency room. This was simply due to an uneven floor and the aggressive nature of their interaction.

Scott said when people decide to cross over into kink, the risks increase even more because of other factors involved.

“Without a clear understanding of physical anatomy and functions, serious injury can occur,” Scott said. “Rope bondage can result in damage if the tie is done across nerves or too tightly, or again for too long. Spanking or flogging, if done to certain parts of the body, can damage organs.”

Not all injuries are physical and Tom said that is mainly attributed to the nature of the mental and emotional aspects explored in the world of kink.

“Emotions sneak up to get you. We’re playing with some deep stuff, things tied to trauma, things rooted deeply inside ourselves, things we hide from,” Tom said. “It’s part of the attraction.”

Rachel said some misconceptions about the riskier activities involved in the kink lifestyle cause many to judge and victim blame for putting themselves in those situations.

Rachel said someone crossed the line with her, which she said was sexual assault, even though she had consented to initial contact. Rachel expressed she didn’t feel comfortable reporting the incident because of the stigmas attached to people practicing kink.

“Even though people are having a more open mind about kink, I felt that it would be seen as I was basically putting myself in that situation and nothing would come out of it,” Rachel said. “I think that there isn’t a whole lot of education among law enforcement about what kind of things people might agree to … people wouldn’t necessarily take me seriously because I’m already branded as a freak or something.”

Larry, teaches and lectures on the topic of kink while referencing his 50 years of experience. He said one of the biggest underlying issues is lack of knowledge.

“Never assume that you know what you are doing if you have not thoroughly investigated the activities [that] you want to be involved,” Larry said. “Learn what your partners like while learning what you like. Not everything in your kink fantasy has to happen the first time you try.”

Larry also explained that people don’t understand the concept of negotiating and consent, and that leads to a lot of issues of violation by crossing boundaries.

Another person active in the kink lifestyle is Lily, who agrees there is a lack of education and information. Lily referenced this issue as it pertains to the medical field.

“We most definitely do not see kink incorporated into sexual health education and few medical doctors know how to talk about it with their patients,” Lily said. “The risks are infinite, just as human sexuality is. However, I feel like I have seen more educational opportunities in the past few years.”

Those who practice kink on a regular basis can all agree there are dangers, but also that the experience can be intensely satisfying if proper care is taken.

“Kink touches the core being and is far deeper than the simplicity of sex, which is what makes it so appealing and tantalizing to many,” Scott said. “Positive intent and actions are key to a healthy enjoyment of kink.”

Sex, in whatever form a person chooses to practice it, is risky, so education is important.

“Negotiation shouldn’t just be about what you want and what you don’t want,” Rachel said. “But also, what happens if something goes wrong.”

Regardless of how vanilla or kinky a person’s sexual encounters might be, negotiating wants and clarifying consent are good practices to incorporate.