Consensual Non-Consent: CNC Kink Isn’t What You Think

by Sunny Megatron

Content Note: This article describes CNC kinks that are alternatives to role-plays between consenting adults that mimic rough forced sex. While not discussed in detail, phrases and concepts related to “rape play” are mentioned for context and comparison. If you find this type of content triggering, please practice self-care in deciding whether to proceed.

Google “consensual non-consent” and you’ll find dozens of articles that say things like: 

  • CNC is an alternate term for rape play kink
  • Consensual non-consent is extreme BDSM edge play in which participants agree to an intimate encounter mimicking aggressive forced sex
  • CNC describes negotiated role-played reenactments that emulate rape

I’m going to clear the air right now: Despite what the internet may lead us to believe, consensual non-consent, also known as CNC, is NOT synonymous with rape play. 

CNC is an umbrella term that refers to any type of BDSM play or relationship dynamic in which ignoring someone’s “no” is part of the consensually negotiated role play. 

During CNC people usually rely on traditional safewords to revoke consent, stop a scene, or take a time out to address issues on neutral ground. Making “no,” “don’t,” or “stop” part of play allows those who enjoy distressing situations they can’t control to cry, scream, beg, and plead for a way out even though they want it to continue. In other words, “no” really means “yes” in these cathartic sexual improv scenes. This is why using a word unrelated to the role play like “red” or “pineapple” as an agreed-upon stop mechanism is vital. These tools give everyone involved a way to maintain ongoing consent and control over their own autonomy at all times.

Why Do So Many Websites Claim CNC = Rape Play?

Forced sex fantasies, sometimes called ravishment or resistance play, are incredibly common among people of all genders. Dr. Justin Lehmiller surveyed 4,000 Americans about their sexual fantasies and found that 61% of women, 54% of men, and 68% of non-binary people had fantasized about being made to have sex against their will. Roughly a third of each group reported having these fantasies often. It’s no wonder so many of us want to play out these scenarios in consensual, controlled, and safe ways. 

This is also why discussions about CNC and rape play have gone mainstream – the demand for this kind of content is clearly high. On one hand, reassuring the masses that the forced sex fantasies so many of us have are common, normal, and nothing to be ashamed of is a good thing. The downside is that CNC has been distorted and sensationalized by mainstream media to such a degree that BDSM websites regularly regurgitate harmful misinformation published by popular outlets. Like a game of digital telephone, trusted professional publications twist the inaccuracies further with statements implying that CNC requires “Giving up the ability to use a safeword in kinky encounters.” 

Let me be clear: There must ALWAYS be an agreed-upon stop mechanism in kink. If there isn’t, it’s not consensual. If there’s no consent, it’s not BDSM – it’s coercion, abuse, or assault.

When respected publications legitimize dangerous myths about BDSM it puts people in harm’s way. Curious kinksters reference these articles for self-study. Educators and kink content creators unknowingly amplify this misinformation by teaching others what they’ve learned. Skeptics attempting to verify facts mistakenly deem them credible unaware they’ve been duped by a tangled web of circular references

Now that we’re clear rape play is only one type of CNC and not all CNC is rape play, you might be wondering if I’m making much ado about nothing. Isn’t interchanging the terms CNC and rape play just a matter of semantics? I wish it were that simple. Glossing over this nuance sets the stage for unpleasant kink encounters, physical injury, emotional trauma, and abuse in BDSM. This is especially true for new kinksters who, due to the media attention it gets, believe extreme CNC is entry-level kink. Not to mention, normalizing the notion that kink 101 and heavy edge play are one and the same contributes to BDSM stigma by reinforcing the myth that kinky people are reckless and irresponsible. 

Rape play, other types of CNC, and heavy edge play, in general, are valid choices that can be fulfilling and enjoyable. But, similar to extreme sports, their high-risk nature and required level of skill gives these kinks the potential to be just as devastating as they are exhilarating. 

What Is Edge Play?

CNC scenarios including kidnapping, interrogation, faux-blackmail, fantasy rape, somnophilia, and roleplays emulating sexual exploitation or coercion are all considered edge play. Activities like choking, blood play, golden showers and scat, knife and gunplay, heavy psychological torment and mindfucks, plus some types of rope bondage fall under the edge play umbrella too.

I define edge play as, “any type of BDSM activity that pushes us to the edges of our comforts, boundaries, or what we believe is safe.” Additionally, edge play carries significant physical and/or psychological risk that can be mitigated (but never eliminated) with extensive consent negotiation, compassionate communication, expertise, education, trust and familiarity with partners, careful planning, and self-awareness. Even when done as thoughtfully and carefully as possible, things can still go wrong. With edge play missteps tend to have a significant and potentially long-lasting impact. 

Contrary to popular belief, edge play isn’t a goal all kinky people work toward. Many kinksters have no interest in it. However, because extreme BDSM receives the lion’s share of media attention, many without connection to kink communities mistakenly believe it’s common, low-risk, and the only way to play.

@sunnymegatron Reply to @sunnymegatron This misinformation about CNC has spread like wildfire online. It's a circular reference & dangerous! #kinkeducator #edgeplay ♬ original sound - Sunny Megatron

Types of Consensual Non-Consent Kinks

The world of kink is one of infinite choice that allows you to customize your experiences to match your desires and comfort level. Each new play idea you explore can increase your potential for choose-your-own-BDSM-adventure success exponentially. If CNC piques your interest but forced sexual role plays and aggressive domination aren’t your cup of tea (or maybe they are but you’re not quite ready to jump into the deep end of the pool), consider these scenarios instead:  

Brat Play

One of the things that makes kink play so much fun is that it gives us license to lean into facets of our personality that don’t get much air time. We can even adopt a persona that’s the polar opposite of how we typically act just for the thrill of it. Brats are typically submissives (but not always, bratty D-types exist too) who are defiant and mischievous. They dish out playful sass as opposed to mean-spirited disobedience. 

It’s common for bratty submissives and their D-types (who sometimes call themselves brat tamers) to engage in cheeky banter or play-argue about rules and protocol. Brats may respond to orders with, “no, I don’t want to!” or “if you want me to do that you’re gonna have to make me!” In turn, the brat tamer may snap back with, “stop being difficult!” or “cut it out right now or you’re really going to get it!” In this lighthearted battle of wills, the brat eventually acquiesces and the dominant regains full control. 

This kind of play requires lengthy negotiation and frequent boundary check-ins to make sure the teasing doesn’t go too far. Some consider it psychological edge play. When we’re wrapped up in play, we may say something in jest that oversteps an unknown boundary hurting our partner’s feelings. As with all CNC play, safewords should be used since verbal resistance is part of the role play.    

Funishments & Pain Play

Funishments are fun punishments. They also pair well with brat play. If you’re in the mood for an over the knee bare handed spanking, for instance, you can negotiate a role play that allows you to “earn” it as a pretend punishment for misbehaving. It doesn’t have to stop there either. During the spanking, the brat might wiggle around pleading “No! Stop it! Ouch!” trying to cover their butt cheeks with their hands. That resistance could be part of the plan too and serve as a reason to add wrist restraints to the scene.  

SAM stands for Smart Ass Masochist. Some say SAMs act exactly like brats with the only difference being that they identify as masochists. Others will tell you they’re “brats on hyperdrive” because they egg their partners on with extreme smart-ass behavior in hopes of receiving very heavy impact, pain, or psychological edge play in return. Kink identities tend to be personal and subjective so how SAM is defined depends on who you ask. 

Additionally, forms of primal play in which partners physically compete for dominance similarly rely on the give and take of consensual resistance albeit to a greater degree.  

@sunnymegatron Reply to @uncerillo Yes, I've found true punishments are used a lot less than people assume #kinkiscustomizable #funishments ♬ Good impression VP company introduction (3 minutes)(983023) - RYOpianoforte

Getting What We Want Without Having To Ask

CNC can be ideal for trying new things without having to muster up the courage to initiate them in the moment. Like aggressive ravishment play, this may include sexual scenarios that trigger shame. This version, however, requires a gentler approach. Instead of someone taking from you against your will for their own pleasure, what if they lovingly persuaded you to do something for your own enjoyment? 

Through this lens, consensual forced bi scenes become playful “encouragement” scenarios. Anything you need a little permission-giving push to get into fits the bill – crossdressing, overcoming the self-consciousness of having sex with the lights on, or pushing any boundary you’ve decided to explore. 

Chastity & Orgasm Control

Orgasm games are often played out as CNC arrangements. With long-term chastity, orgasm restriction, and edging participants negotiate and agree on terms before the play or chastity contract begins. The s-type may beg and plead, “Oh please let me cum! Just one little orgasm! I’ll do anything you want, please! I can’t stand it!” That’s part of the fun – the delicious distress of mounting arousal intermingled with the anticipation of release. 

Forced orgasms go in the opposite direction. Responses like “I’m too sensitive! It’s so intense I can’t stand it! I have no more orgasms left in me! Turn off the vibrator!” are all part of the erotic improv.  

Accountability, Task Management & 24/7 TPE

Kink isn’t always about sex and neither is CNC. Sometimes consensual non-consent is used as a tool for long-term goal setting or self-improvement. Let’s say I’ve committed to going to the gym three times every week for the next month. I have a hard time with follow through so I ask my dominant to be my taskmaster. When negotiating I tell them to force me to go to the gym on my designated days no matter what. If I skip out I consent to stern consequences. I also have a safeword I can use if an extenuating circumstance prevents me from accomplishing my goal or receiving discipline. 

When a day rolls around when I’m just not feeling it but must fulfill my obligation anyway, I might find it cathartic to moan, cry, and play-argue over having to comply. Or maybe the thought of making my dominant proud and earning a reward is all the motivation I need. 

Taking this everyday-CNC concept a step further, some 24/7 D/s couples use blanket consent or meta-consent and consider their dynamic to be a CNC relationship. This means the s-type allows the D-type to make all consent decisions at any time. Often they say they “don’t use safewords” or that submissive has consensually “given up safewords.” 

This gets tricky. Online this type of arrangement seems much more common than it actually is. It’s also portrayed as healthy and successful much more often than it is in practice. Unfortunately, those with ill intent often use this to their advantage. They may tell new-to-BDSM partners that submissives aren’t supposed to have safewords in D/s dynamics and are required to deprioritize their own basic needs to focus solely on their dominant’s pleasure. This is not true!  

While 24/7 D/s style blanket consent works well for some people, they’re the vast minority. Typically considered advanced D/s play, the most successful have slowly arrived at this equilibrium after fine-tuning their dynamic agreements over many years. While the s-type has consented to do things they don’t particularly like at their D-type’s request, this blanket consent does not permit the violation of hard limits. While safewords might not be used, in emotionally healthy dynamics there’s still always an agreed-upon way to revoke consent that’s unique to those in that dynamic. For some that may be removing a collar. Others may have a verbal cue they don’t consider to be safeword in the traditional sense but serves a similar purpose.  

 This, by no means, was an exhaustive list but hopefully, it got your wheels turning. Elements of CNC can be interwoven into so many play styles and role plays. In many cases, consensual non-consent has more to do with how you play than what type of play you’re physically engaging in. I’d love to hear some of your outside-the-box CNC ideas. Drop us a line to continue the conversation on Twitter or Instagram

"There must ALWAYS be an agreed-upon stop mechanism in kink. If there isn’t, it’s not consensual. If there’s no consent, it’s not BDSM – it’s coercion, abuse, or assault."

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Sunny-Megatron

Sunny Megatron

Sunny Megatron is an award-winning BDSM & Certified Sexuality Educator, Certified Relationship Coach, and media personality. She’s the host and executive producer of the Showtime original television series, SEX with Sunny Megatron, plus co-hosts AASECT Award winning American Sex Podcast and Open Deeply Podcast. Sunny was also named XBIZ Sexpert of the Year 2021 and is Editor-in-Chief of Zipper Magazine.   

Known for her one-of-a-kind build-your-own-adventure approach to sex, kink & relationships, Sunny coined the BDSM community catch-phrase, Kink is Customizable™. In her sell-out workshops, her unique brand of “edutainment” seamlessly combines her humorous lecturing style, interactive exercises, and the latest sexuality research. Sunny’s passion is helping others overcome shame and find power through play and pleasure. Currently, she’s working on her first book, “Customizable Kink: A Strategic Guide to Adult Play.” 

You can find Sunny Megatron on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Patreon

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