Kink (including BDSM, fetish, consensual power exchange, and many similar activities) is based on the ethical principle that what we do is done by informed agreement amongst all of the participants, which means all the participants communicate what they agree to do and not to do, as well as the nature of what they agree to enter.
It is impossible to eliminate the risk that the activity or relationship may turn out differently than everyone involved anticipated. Though it may not be possible to entirely avoid the risks of kink, that doesn’t alter either the ethical or legal responsibility to ensure that kink activities and relationships are consensual.
- Consent is choice. The people giving consent to engage in a kink scene or enter into a power exchange relationship must do so voluntarily, without being subjected to threats, fraud, coercion or deceit.
- Consent is informed. Everyone involved must know enough so that the consent is given on an informed basis to the activities that are planned or to the power exchange relationship.
- Consent is given by an adult with a sound mind. Kink takes place among consenting adults. A person must have sufficient mental capacity to give consent, and each person has a legal obligation to make sure that this is the case with all of their partners. In order to consent you must be in a clear-headed state of mind, not impaired by intoxication.
- Consent is given within limits. Consent is not a blank check. Consent must be clear as to what activities and/or what type of power exchange relationship is being agreed to.
- Consent is revocable. Anyone can revoke consent to anything at any time during the activity. If a pre-negotiated and agreed upon safe word or safe sign—or any other pre-negotiated expression of a withdrawal of consent—is ignored, consent has been violated.
- Consent is communication. It is ethically and legally important in any scene that there should be a mutually understood means of communication between the participants, whether it’s plain speech, safe word or safe sign.
Note: Consent is not a legal defense for causing serious injury. When “serious bodily injury” occurs during a scene, it is possible that criminal prosecution for assault will take place even when consent was clearly and validly given for the kink activity that caused the injury.
Citation: National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. “Consent Counts Project – Consent Statement Summary,” accessed May 10, 2017.