Taking Kink to the Edge

by Kristin T.

March 8, 2024

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With the advent of the internet and what MANY people use it for, it has become increasingly obvious that there are a lot of kinky people in the world. Venture beyond the confines of “vanilla” sex, and many lovers discover an enticing world of kinks and fetishes that pique their interest so they want to explore them. But what about those that truly want to take things to the limit? Those whose sexual interests and fantasies lurk in the shadows and like in the darkest parts of the imagination? Enter edge play.

What is Edge Play?

The definition of edge play can be hard to pin down, because many people understand it differently, but here are the generally agreed upon basics: Edge play is an extreme form of sexual activity which falls under the umbrella of BDSM. It pushes the limits or takes things ‘over the edge’ when it comes to exploring activities solely for arousal, pleasure, and sexual stimulation. Sometimes also referred to as ‘playing the edge’, edge play activities are usually riskier than activities most people engage in during sex, and they are typically considered some of the more ‘hardcore’ kinks or fetishes.

Edge players are all about pushing the boundaries of kink and venturing further out of their own comfort zones, as well as away from what most of polite society considers ‘normal’. They regularly flirt with danger, always venturing closer to or over the edges of what they’ve done before, all in pursuit of the absolute limits of pleasure and the enjoyment of human eroticism.

While many aspects of edge play used to be considered extremely taboo or even “freakish” behavior, the stigma has decreased a great deal. More exposure to BDSM and kink in mainstream TV & movies, the glory of the internet, and the Sexual Revolution have helped to shift some of those attitudes. People are exposed to an idea that interests them, research and educate themselves on it, and maybe even try it if they’re so inclined, then BOOM! It’s not so scary or freaky anymore. Especially if they find that it can bring them sexual pleasure like they’ve never experienced before.

There is a great deal of subjectivity when it comes to deciding what is and is not considered edge play. Ask 20 different psychologists, sexologists, etc. what is considered edge play, and you’ll probably get 20 different answers. Remember that a major part of the definition is ‘pushing you beyond your comfort zone’; well, everyone’s comfort zone is different! Therefore, what seems like a totally harmless, normal little kink to one person might seem really out there for another. There is a pattern of anything being automatically considered edge play if it A) Involves exposure to bodily fluids, and/or B) Carries a risk of serious bodily harm including burns, injuries which break the skin or draw blood, or asphyxiation. A lot of what qualifies something as edge play also depends on the degree or extent to which something is taken. While this post can by no means cover all the possible varieties of edge play, here are some of the more common types of play under the BDSM umbrella that you may be familiar with, and that most folks consider “on the edge”:

  • Water sports/Golden showers (urine play)
  • Scat (poop) play
  • Knife play
  • Needle play
  • Fire play
  • Blood play
  • Consensual non-consent
  • Breath play/choking
  • Forced orgasms / orgasm denial / ruined orgasms
  • Rope play / suspension
  • Restraint bondage / body binding or straitjackets
  • Role play of dark or dangerous scenarios (kidnapping, mugging, etc.)
  • Medical / Institutional role play

Some Alphabet Soup to Remember

SSSC

SSSC is a handy little abbreviated reminder good for anyone engaging in any kind of kinky play. It is widely used by those in the scene for public play parties, swing or kink events, and/or with those who play with new or multiple partners on a regular basis. The letters stand for Safe, Sane, Sober, and Consensual – read on for a few more details about each term.

  • SAFE: While some kinks, especially those that could be considered in the realm of edge play, just aren’t inherently safe, an agreement to SSSC play means that you are at least doing everything within your power that you can to play safely. You’ve done your research, watched experts, negotiated and/or practiced with your partner, and have all necessary equipment that may be necessary in an emergency (shears for rope play, first aid kit, etc.).
  • SANE: As mentioned, this portion is very subjective. It may help to at least think about things in terms of what you yourself consider ‘sane’ or what someone close to you would think or say if you told them you wanted to do it. Conversely, if your BFF told you they wanted to try this thing, would you be more like, “that’s sounds interesting, go on with your bad self!” or, “OMG WHY?!?! What if you DIE???”. This can be a good barometer on your feelings about the sanity of the edge play activities being discussed.
  • SOBER: If you are going to be engaging in any kind of edge play – even as simple as rope bondage or using handcuffs for restraint – you should not be under the influence of any substances. Drugs like alcohol & marijuana, while usually very socially acceptable and common at parties, lower your inhibitions and can make you more likely to make careless mistakes or cause accidental harm to yourself or your play partners.
  • CONSENSUAL: Both partners/all participants involved in any kind of BDSM or edge play scenarios need to enthusiastically consent. Everyone should feel that negotiations have been thorough enough that they fully understand what will take place. Remember that consent can be revoked at any time, and that safe words and nonverbal signals must be set and honored if invoked.

RACK

The key limitation of SSSC is that some people – particularly those who engage in various types of edge play – know that their play isn’t necessarily safe. Nor would it be considered sane by most people if you were to take a survey! That’s where RACK comes in. Standing for Risk-Aware Consensual Kink, it’s a more suitable acronym for many edge players. Abiding by this framework simply means that everyone involved in a scene is aware that – no matter how safe they try to be – there are risks inherent in the nature of their activity. It also requires an understanding of what those risks are and how to best work to mitigate them. And finally, fully aware of and despite those risks, they choose to enthusiastically consent and participate anyway.

Can Edge Play Spice up Your Sex Life?

Since edge play is for those looking for something more thrilling than basic BDSM, there is definitely evidence that engaging in it with your partner can help make a lackluster sex life full of passion again. As Sandra LaMorgese writes for Huffpost in ‘How Can Edge Play Spice Up A Monotonous Sex Life?’:

“For couples who know each other very well, edge play has a lot of benefits. You can get to see a new side of your partner and of yourself, one where all the social layers have been stripped away. You may feel we know everything about your partner, but once you have a knife at their throat and they are begging for mercy, a new side of their personality emerges. This type of play can increase the level of trust and closeness you both feel since it can help each person discover, explore, and share the darkest corners within themselves. It also keeps things fresh.”

Sandra LaMorgese PhD , Contributor

It’s not for the faint of heart, though, nor for the couple that is already struggling with trust or intimacy. Engaging in edge play requires a great deal of trust, understanding, and caring communication between participants. It’s not a good idea to try any of these activities with someone you’ve just met, nor with a partner you struggle to trust wholeheartedly. If you’re doing it from a place of mutual trust and emotional intimacy though, as well as a shared interest in trying it, these types of play can bring a breath of fresh air into your bedroom.

While you may not be as “into it” as the initiating party is (though that definitely helps), you at least need to be open-minded and willing to try what it is they’re asking you to try. Educate yourselves together through informative books, and watch videos of the activity you’re interested in. Make sure to have all the necessary negotiations and discussions before you begin. Talk about safety precautions, risks, boundaries, and safe words. Set a plan for aftercare and how to handle any problems that may arise during the scene.

In the Cosmo article Everything You Need to Know About BDSM Edge Play, erotic educator Taylor Sparks offers this great list of things to consider and discuss with your partner before you engage in any kind of edge play activities:

  • Whether or not you’re comfortable going to the “edge” of this type of play.
  • What “the edge” is for you.
  • What experience you want to have.
  • Why you want to give or receive this experience.
  • What the expected outcomes of this type of play are.
  • Negotiate everything that might come up.
  • Outline your safe words, signals, and plan in case something goes wrong.
  • Plan for aftercare.

So what can you do if your partner absolutely isn’t on board with trying your particular edgy kink or fetish? Well, most of the population simply resorts to watching porn that includes that kink. If this “does it” for you, simply talk with your partner to establish if that’s something they’re okay with you doing to enhance your arousal and sexual enjoyment. You may also wish to introduce the possibility of attending kink parties or play spaces where you can get to know individuals who may wish to enjoy these activities with you. Since this does venture into the territory of ethical non-monogamy, it may not be an option for everyone, and it’s not a conversation to be had lightly. But if being able to enjoy your edge play fantasies with someone who shares the same interest is important to your sexual fulfillment, it may be a worthwhile discussion to have.

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