Consent is sexy: Kink Club at Berkeley gives advice on kink safety

Matt Gibson/Staff

Let’s cut to the chase — you’re reading this because your sex life is yawning and you’ve taken notes on the steamy scenes from “Fifty Shades of Grey” more times than you’d like to admit. Alternatively, you already know a thing or two about getting kinky and want to explore the sex culture just a little deeper. In either case, or any we didn’t mention, cheers.

The Bay Area offers many safe spaces, such as the SF Citadel, to get familiar with age-old kink practices and comfortable methods. On the UC Berkeley campus, the Kink Club is the premiere community to not only explore various subgenres of kink, but to learn about the greater culture and discuss the stigma surrounding kink.

At the club’s Feb. 6 meeting on kink and consent, the Kink Club identified consent as a mutual and voluntary agreement to engage in an individual or set of activities or relationships. In short: open, honest and complete communication.

But for some subgenres of kink, consent can take on a more nuanced form. For example, people who are restrained in bondage scenes or have vocal disabilities may not be capable of verbally expressing what they want or are okay with in a heated moment. In these circumstances, it’s important to talk to your partner or partners to establish clear alternative methods of communication, such as exaggerated head nods.

Something that can be particularly relevant to kink culture and its relationship to consent is the idea of headspaces. If a person is playing a scene — that is, a moment when something kinky may be happening or some kind of roleplay may be in act — the intensity can put some individuals in a swinging headspace. This feeling is almost comparable, some Kink Club members said, to being intoxicated.

For those who enjoy playing with power dynamics, these headspaces can make some participants in submissive positions feel as though they can’t say no to some dominant counterparts. So before adding something new in the bedroom (or wherever you’re legally able to be gettin’ down), be sure to check in and make sure your partner is in a substantially clear headspace to give the green light.

And whatever that green light may be for, it’s crucial that everyone engaging in a particular activity is clear on what’s going down — literally or figuratively. For practices of kink that involve knife play, fire play or anything that could be particularly risky in a scene, go through each participating person’s safety concerns before taking the flaming whip out of your closet.

Having in-depth conversations about the details of your romp, what’s called “negotiation” in kink culture, is important to making sure everyone is on the same page before going at it. For example, some may have different interpretations of what breath play could entail, and getting clarification on that ahead of time could prevent a really awkward and unsafe moment later on.  

It may be hard to admit at times, but power dynamics can be sexy. In reality, this is only if boundaries are clearly communicated ahead of time to know what a person is and is absolutely not comfortable with. Ultimately, a person’s level of experience with sex should not and does not dictate what role they take on in a scene; rather, reflect on personal interest and go with what gets you going.

It’s important to note, however, that power dynamics in roleplay can be vastly different from power dynamics in real life situations. Kink can apply to physical action, but also applies to psychological action, emotional action and so on. Because of the range of effects kink can have on a person, aftercare is one of the most important steps to a safe and sexy experience.

“There is an enormous line between kink and sexual violence,” said the Kink Club co-president, who requested to be anonymous for fear of social stigma. “That line is consent.”

For some, bringing up the subject of bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism, or BDSM, or other kink practices can be awkward. If you’re feeling shy, try playing the Yes/No/Maybe game. In a comfortable setting, sit down with your play partner or partners and dissect what it is you want to do, don’t want to do and what you might be willing to explore. There are helpful websites like MojoUpgrade.com that can ease the awkwardness out of the act.

The kink community tends to come with an unfortunate cloud of negative stigmas that can turn many people away from exploring their less-than-vanilla sides. Some in the Kink Club noted feelings of exhaustion and frustration, especially toward the stigma that just because one is in the kink community, it means they’re probably into every spicy fetish and wouldn’t be too selective when choosing a partner or partners. The Kink Club at Berkeley serves to dispel these stereotypes and empower people to talk about different aspects of sex.

If you’re interested in joining Kink Club at Berkeley, find the organization on Facebook or send an email to [email protected]. Before you can become a full member, you’ll be set up with a short interview to flesh out your intentions for joining, go over key kink terms and explain safe words and other common kink practices.

In the end, put those Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey fantasies to rest. Make your own fantasies happen. And remember: Consent is always sexy.

Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected] .