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Consensual Non-Consent: The Misunderstood Paradox of the Kink World

Maybe it’s time to look deeper.

W R / Pexels

The world of consensual non-consent (or ‘CNC’ for short) is one that has often been interpreted as a sphere of dangerous, immoral sexual practice. But is there more behind the kink than meets the eye? 

As the name might suggest, CNC is a kink that falls under the umbrella of BDSM, in which two or more consenting parties agree to engage in sexual activities that mimic rape. While it may sound shocking to those who aren’t familiar with it, the r/CNC_Connect subreddit, designed for people with an interest in CNC to meet up IRL, has over 50,000 active users.

Some examples of common CNC activities (or ‘scenes’) include: 

  • A pre-planned ‘kidnapping’ of the submissive by the dominant.
  • The use of restraints or bondage equipment.
  • Impact, pain, or choking during sex.

In an interview with Vice, an anonymous CNC enjoyer described the appeal of the experience in more detail:

“The point of CNC is a way to have those real feelings in a way that is conscious, intentional, and risk aware. It’s sexual extreme sports”

Likewise, another confided:

“I want to be manhandled, and pinned down, but not choked within an inch of my life. I want to be forced and held in position, but not punched until I bleed. I want to be violated… consensually”

But is there a real danger to be found in encouraging these behaviours? According to psychologists, it’s minimal. As all of these activities are carried out in safe, consensual, and controlled environments, the reality is much further from real instances of assault or rape than it might appear on the surface. 

Dr. Leon Seltzer states: 

“In such idealized “pretend scenarios,” a woman can experience her rawest, most unconstrained sexuality as fully, wondrously, even miraculously expressed — in no way impeded by any viscerally felt sense of peril. Diametrically opposed to actual rape, the fantasy really isn’t about losing control as such. It’s about willingly surrendering it.”

That being said, research on the topic is far from conclusive. There have been some studies that suggest the consumption of BDSM material can be harmful to long-term mental and sexual wellbeing. 

But that still leaves the question: in a world where women are constantly subject to unwanted sexual advances, what is it about CNC that has such a broad appeal? There are a number of potential reasons. 

Some speculate that it is a result of the guilt many women are made to feel by a society that only normalizes male sexual attraction. In a similar vein, it could be the opportunity for women, who are expected to appear presentable and pleasing at all times (even during intercourse), to finally let go. 

CNC has proven to be beneficial to those who have suffered trauma as a result of sexual assault or rape. The re-enactment of such moments with a newfound sense of control allows victims to reemerge from the scenario in a different state of mind. 

Whether CNC is your cup of tea or not, it seems that it’s much less uncommon than you think.

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