Sex educator Gigi Engle on kinks and how to explore them safely

Q&A: Sex educator Gigi Engle on kinks and how to explore them safely

Certified sex educator, Gigi Engle, teamed up with Vivastreet to answer your questions on all things kinks from the safety aspects to the importance of aftercare.

Want recommendations on the best days, times and places to have sex? Read the previous Q&A with Gigi here.

What are some important safety considerations to keep in mind when exploring kinks?

There are so many things to consider when it comes to kink and safety – both physical and emotional.

Here are the top 3 steps to take to ensure your kink play is A-OK:

1. Learn your stuff

Workshops, books, and articles online – find sex-positive resources. There are many sex-positive places to look online to help you delve deeper into your sexuality. Being good at sex and kink is not something we inherently know how to do. It is a learned behaviour.

Take time to learn your stuff – with all forms of sex, but especially with kink. And when it comes to kinks – things that are not a part of the normal sexual script – these skills are even more important. With things like breath play, rope tying, and impact play – it can be dangerous if done incorrectly. Taking time to sharpen your skills is necessary to make sure everyone stays safe.

2. Follow the rules of RACK

In order to engage in kink in a safe way, you need to understand RACK: Risk Awareness Consensual Kink. In RACK, you’re engaging with kink with full awareness of the risks and taking steps to ensure the safety of yourself and your partners – as well as ensuring everyone involved is fully consenting to all aspects of play. Enthusiastic consent is an absolute must with kink.

Subscribing to RACK means negotiating through a scene (a fantasy acted out IRL) thoroughly with whomever you’re playing with. If you’re playing with bondage, for example. You need to negotiate your (and your partner’s) limits, safewords (we’ll get to that), and desires. It’s all about creating a context where both people are safe and enjoying the experience.

3. Take your time and go slowly

Sometimes people are open to trying something, but can still be a bit nervous or unsure. Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s your partner(s), or maybe it’s both. It’s okay to be nervous when you haven’t tried something before. Take your time and go slowly – checking in as you go to ensure both people feel safe. There is no rush with this kind of play.

What are some methods for establishing clear boundaries and consent? 

In the intricate landscape of intimate relationships, ensuring clear boundaries and enthusiastic consent is extremely important. These are some of the key steps you should take:


BDSM comes with risk, which means every scene needs to be highly negotiated and talked through with partners. You need to be crystal clear about your boundaries and respect your partner’s boundaries. This means that we need to be aware of every single boundary and work within their confines for the duration of play. Communication throughout the scene can ensure everyone is feeling good and safe. 

Employ a safe word

A safeword is a *non-sexual* word designed to *stop* all sexual play in its tracks. This word basically means, “I’ve reached my boundary”, “I’m uncomfortable”, “I don’t like this”. It’s a hard STOP. This word is very helpful when you’re feeling overwhelmed, upset, or anxious during sex.

A safeword is designed to safeguard your sexual comfort, but shouldn’t be something that evokes sexual meaning. It should be something you both understand means, “The boundary has been reached”.

These safewords are useful for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, in certain sexual situations, the word “No” doesn’t work. For instance, if you’re engaged in a ravishment fantasy or a BDSM scene, saying “No” might be a part of your or your partner’s character. So if you say “no”, your partner might not know you literally mean, “NO. STOP”. This has worrying implications. You don’t want to say “No” and not have your partner understand – this can be traumatic. 


Sex educator Gigi Engle on kinks and how to explore them safely


I suggest using the “Traffic Light System”.

Green = I’m all good. Let’s keep playing! Yay!

Yellow = I’m reaching a limit/I need to check in.

Red = STOP.

It’s straightforward and ensures everyone can feel comfortable and confident while playing.

Check in regularly

We love a good check-in. This ensures everyone feels safe at all times. Figure out a way to make this a part of the scene – use those safe words! Sometimes ‘yellow’ can denote – “I need a check-in”. This is an opportunity for partners to briefly stop, make sure everyone is doing okay, see if any additional care or precautions are needed, and decide how you’d both like to proceed.

What are the potential risks associated with kinks and how can we mitigate those?

BDSM comes with many risks and fully considering them is essential if we want to engage in this play in a safe and ethical way. Here are some things to consider.

Potential risks in BDSM

  • Injury (this is especially true with bondage and impact play)
  • Emotional overload
  • Going past a limit when it isn’t fully negotiated or listened to
  • Trauma if scenes are not done with care
  • Triggering traumatic memories
  • Death (for example strangulation in breath play when not done with care and consideration)

This might sound very dark, but these pitfalls are easily avoidable with proper instruction, consent, safewords, and boundary adherence. Refer back to the rules of RACK above.

Let’s use impact play as an example here to paint the picture. In all play, the most important things are safety and consent. Each scene that involves impact play needs to be highly negotiated between partners.

Communication is essential. You want to assess what the person’s “threat response” looks like – this Fight, Flight, Freeze. BDSM play should not activate this in a way that makes your partner feel unsafe. This can be highly traumatic. Hitting someone without consent and negotiation is violence.

The safety and consent checklist for impact play

  1. Do your homework. You need to know which parts of the body are safe to hit and which aren’t.
  2. Practice your skills. Both partners need to be fully aware of the risks involved in their chosen activities as well as the skill needed to perform them well.
  3. Negotiate everyone in detail: What are your boundaries? Do you have a safe word? What BDSM tools will you be using for this scene?
  4. Have an aftercare plan in place.
  5. Check in regularly throughout the scene to be sure everyone is enjoying themselves.
  6. Check in after the scene and the following day to make sure your partner feels good about the scene.
  7. Be willing to learn from any mistakes (if you make them) and instil those learnings into your future play

What are some recommended practices for aftercare?

BDSM can put us into a highly overstimulated state and because of this overstimulation, it is important to consider the ways you’re going to bring yourself and your partner back down into a state of calm once the scene ends. Aftercare is unique for everyone. 

It can include:

  • Talking
  • Cuddling
  • Comparing notes on the experience/talking in general
  • Having a snack
  • Watching a show
  • Taking a nap
  • Going off to have a breather alone
  • Taking a shower alone/together
  • Cleaning cuts or bruises that may have happened during play (consensually)

And more!

Failing to create a plan to ensure emotional safety post-play can lead to sub-par and even traumatic experiences. No one deserves to feel this way, ever. Be sure you consider the following when creating an aftercare plan to make sure everyone feels great after the scene.

Start with some essential questions:

  1. What did my last great sexual experience look like?
  2. What do I want right after sex that I’ve been afraid to ask for?
  3. What would make me feel safe and cared for after sex?


Sex educator Gigi Engle on kinks and how to explore them safely


Each and every person we have sex with has a right to a good experience and this includes emotional safety, too.

About Gigi Engle

Gigi Engle, ACS, CSE, CSC, is an award-winning feminist author, certified sex coach, sexologist, and sex educator. As a brand expert with Lifestyle Condoms, she promotes and teaches about pleasure-based sex education, masturbation, and safer sex practices. Gigi’s work regularly appears in many publications including Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire,  Elle Magazine, Teen Vogue, Glamour and Women’s Health. Her articles have been shared over 50 million times, with her top posts reaching over 150 million shares. In 2019, Gigi was named Journalist of The Year at the Sexual Freedom Awards. Her book, All The F*cking Mistakes: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life, is available wherever books are sold.

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