Safe, Sane And Consensual is the philosophy covering most BDSM practices. The principles being to ensure that as much risk of danger has been minimised from your play and the fear of actual long-term damage or harm is removed, making it safe. Approaching your play with a common sense mindset, discussing and planning activities in a rational way to make sure you know what you’re doing and the difference between fantasy and reality, remaining sane. Consent pretty much is self-explanatory, it must always be obtained before any sexual play. It’s hard to factor risk out of life entirely and BDSM sex is no different. There will always be some elements of potential danger however the idea behind the SSC philosophy is to promote applying thought to play to maximise safety. It would be fair to say that some BDSM practices would seem far from safe, sane or consensual to the vanilla world but most are perfectly safe. The risk of actual danger to health is very minor and participants often take time to learn about the practice they’re experimenting with. Within normal BDSM practices the peril is most often enacted or created in some kind of way through role play or scenes. Then there’s edge play.
Edge Play is literally defined as play which can be dangerous or hazardous to your health. For want of a better term it’s the extreme of the extreme. Practices that are considered edge play include knife play, erotic asphyxiation, blood play, gun play, needle play, fire play, sexual drowning etc. The risks are fairly obvious. With knife, blood and needle play there are HIV and other transmittable disease risks. Not to mention potential blood loss should things go too far and you aren’t sure what you’re doing. Severing or puncturing an artery is definitely possible. Asphyxiation holds the very real possibility of suffocation. There are famous instances of people dying during asphyxiation sex games and this is not uncommon. Unlike normal temperature play, fire play can very easily get out of hand and end up burning someone badly leaving them scarred for life. Gun play can go wrong resulting in a horrible death for the submissive partner.
The problem with pushing boundaries is it’s very easy to normalise something over time which started out as kinky. If everytime you have sex you do it in full hogtie wearing a ball gag pretty soon this becomes as ho-hum as missionary with the lights off. The urge to recreate that original high is hard to resist and you look for greater and riskier thrills to scratch your itch. This is often how couples arrive at edge play. Edge Play is by no means limited to purely the risky practices listed above, these are just the pretty much universally accepted ones. If you’re playing outside your comfort zone then that can be classed as edge play. I’m a claustrophobic and whilst I’m quite happy to be restrained in an open area if you try to lock me in a confined space I will have a total melt down and probably a panic attack. So for me confined spaces also count as edge play. It’s also worth noting that practices can start out being considered as edge play and with time that can change.
The psychology behind edge play can be attributed to all aspects of life. As humans we know we aren’t meant to fly and yet we regularly board planes knowing if there is a mechanical failure leading to a crash we will most likely die as a result. Some take that same calculated risk further by indulging in sky diving or parachuting. It’s all part of the adrenaline rush and sex thrives of that. There are also strong D/s elements to edge play as it taps into the peril element of our psyche.
Edge Play falls under the category of RACK (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink). This philosophy echos SSC in underpinning personal responsibility within BDSM play but accepts that not all activities can be deemed “safe” in any circumstances. I admit none of the terms sound particularly sexy but the importance of thought behind kink can’t be reinforced enough to safeguard wellbeing.
My own personal experience with edge play has been minimal. I have dabbled with it but not particularly successfully. I had an ex who was obsessed with the idea of trying erotic asphyxiation. At least once during play he tried breath control on me without my prior knowledge knowing it was something I’d not tried. The sense of panic was immense, as he blocked my airways with his hand I fought hard against him and when he realised it wasn’t achieving what he hoped he stopped. I remember my vision fading and darkening and as I sucked in great lung fulls of air afterwards I saw stars but not in a good way. This totally reinforced my fears and as my temper kicked in he got it both barrels as I felt he’d over stepped the mark wildly.
He had avoided auto-erotic asphyxiation due to his fears of accidentally suffocating himself and felt like trying it with me was a better way of play. Despite my Domme side I was very reluctant to asphyxiate him. I have all kinds of fears of not being able to breathe tied into my claustrophobia and this wasn’t ringing my bells however he went on and on and in the end I agreed on the condition that he did it to himself during sex. I didn’t want to ultimately be responsible for someone’s life. I read a bit about asphyxiation and why it’s such a turn on before hand and once we’d worked out how it would go I agreed to give it a try. To say it was a disaster is an understatement. In his rush at finally achieving what he had ached after for so long he left the bag over his face far too long and passed out due to oxygen deprivation. I thought he had died and had a near total nervous breakdown. Suffice to say this wasn’t a sexy experience for me at all. When I eventually calmed down I told him that suffocation asphyxiation would be a hard limit for me from that point, and it remains as such. I enjoy mild choking during sex but nothing which totally impairs my breathing.
I’ve experimented with knife and blood play in my youth, which I enjoyed more although not enough to want to regularly indulge. Knife play does turn me on but it’s not something I’d want to become “normalised”. With age my fear of disease has increased although I still am quite happy to have bareback sex which confuses me as the risks are just as high and is definitely considered edge play in some quarters. Gun play doesn’t appeal to me at all. I’m quite happy to stick lots of items inside me but a loaded weapon isn’t on that list nor will it ever be. The same with fire play as much as I can see the draw here.
Sex is driven by adrenaline and thrill and edge play is an obvious way to extend that for seasoned BDSM players, however I strongly believe this isn’t something newcomers to this lifestyle should dabble in as the risks are so high it’s simply not worth it. If you want to experiment with edge play read as much as you can. Seek advice from the community, there are plenty of forums online where you can speak to like-minded people. Definitely make sure you have a sensible discussion with your partner beforehand and if they are remotely reluctant this is one best not pursued. For me most edge play will remain a hard limit. As much as I love and live for sex I don’t want to die for it too.