Safe, sane and consensual

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Note: This article is about a philosophy. For other meanings, see SSC.

Safe, sane and consensual (or SSC) is a slogan representing a set of principles that many in the BDSM community see as representing accceptable or positive forms of BDSM. The meanings of the various elements are not clearly defined, and each individual or group may interpret them somewhat differently.


  • According to Gil Kessler (quoted by David Stein, see links below):
    SAFE is being knowledgeable about what you’re 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.
  • According to Tammad Rimilia (also quoted by David Stein):
    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.
  • According to Elaine Miller (quoted on the Vacouver Leather site below):
    Safe means that even when we play hard, we avoid causing true harm.
    Sane means folks don't play when they're angry, intoxicated, or otherwise not fully able to determine boundaries, and evaluate risk.
    Consensual means that players in a scene have provided each other with knowledgeable and informed consent, and that every participant has the right to stop the scene at any time through use of a safeword or other pre-designated means.


The phrase "safe and sane" appeared in a 1981 event booklet published by the Chigago Helfire Club for one of their events. The phrase "safe, sane, and consensual S/M." appeared in an August 1983 report of the Gay Male S/M Activists (GMSMA), and this is the first documented use of the phrase in a BDSM context. The full statement was:

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.
  — GMSMA, August 1983

That statement was widely distributed, and the phrase caught on widely.

See also[edit]