CNC (Consensual Non-Consent)
Table of Contents
(Honorary Community Member)
Content warning: Mentions of sexual abuse and physical and/or psychological trauma
What is CNC?
Consensual non-consent (CNC) is an umbrella term for certain types of roleplay. The common aspect of all practices that can be considered CNC is that all scenarios call for at least one of the parties involved pretending not to give consent to the acts being performed.
CNC is considered to be an advanced and nuanced play and thus not recommended for beginners. This sort of play requires an intimate knowledge of one’s partner(s), not just sexually, but also in terms of their history of trauma, medical conditions, idiosyncratic responses, mood patterns, etc. This usually comes with time and extensive communication throughout a relationship or dynamic history, and even then, there can be situations that result in upset or safe wording.
In CNC play, there is often a lot more that can go wrong than right, and the risks of this play can be quite severe. Such consequences can include, but are not limited to, physical and mental trauma.
CNC is not synonymous with “rape play”, which is a type of CNC, but not the only one. It is not just a type of sexual play either, as it does not need to be connected to sexual acts or done in a sexual context.
It can be a popular kink that acts as the introduction to BDSM (either gentle or not) for many. However, as previously mentioned, it is an advanced type of roleplay and it is not recommended for beginners or for new relationships between people (whether it’s romantic or not). CNC should be seen as a goal to be achieved (if the people involved want to dabble in it). Once you’ve gained confidence and trust in your partner, as well as knowledge about them and their background, you can try and introduce CNC practices into your dynamic.
Safety recommendations for CNC
Risk Aware Consensual Kink (RACK), as previously mentioned in the Safety article, is an acronym that is especially important considering risk factors for this play, due to the complexity surrounding the kink. There are risks in engaging in CNC, so being aware of those specific risks to effectively minimize them is the goal in being safe and enjoying this play.
In our research to find reliable resources to practice CNC, we not only found a scarcity of articles, but also texts encouraging outright unsafe behaviors when performing such kink. If you are to roleplay a CNC scenario, your negotiations should be even more thorough, and you should strictly follow safety guidelines, such as having safe words or safe gestures.
Safe words and communication prior/during/after with your partner(s) are important even if you strive to not safe word. When the play is especially new, it may be helpful to have those safeguards in place, and it is advisable not to trust someone who does not allow you those safety measures.
Something important to mention about CNC is that it must always be a type of roleplay, otherwise it becomes abusive. It is essential to understand that abuse doesn’t necessarily mean physical aggression and can present itself as psychological abuse. Words and attitudes can hurt and cause psychological trauma just as much as physical aggression.
Another key point to keep in mind regarding security is that in CNC, aftercare is even more important for all parties involved. Be sure to make some time for it once your session is finished. Keep in mind that different people need different types of aftercare too. For more information on this, read our Aftercare section.
Types of roleplay that can fall under CNC
This is what people usually associate with CNC, but as we explained before, it is only one type of roleplay that falls under that umbrella (albeit a rather popular one). We understand that some would rather not use the words “rape play” and choose to use CNC, because rape is a very strong word that can be triggering for some. If that’s your case, we recommend using CNC to refer to it, but keeping in mind that CNC itself can encompass other types of roleplay.
In legal terms, rape can have a very specific meaning in most countries. In the United States, for example, it has been defined as the following: *”The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”* (source: The United States Department of Justice)
Therefore, rape implies penetration of some sort, which is not always going to be the case with rape play scenes. The broader definition of “rape” is technically called *sexual assault*, which we also avoid using in a healthy CNC context due to its legal connotations. Sexual assault, in legal terms for the US, for example, means *”(…) any nonconsesual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.” (source: The United States Department of Justice)
As previously mentioned, CNC can be a popular kink that introduces people to BDSM, and this can happen specifically because of rape play. We would like to reiterate that this is an advanced practice that should not be done with people you don’t know or don’t yet have a good rapport with, or as one of the first scenes in a relationship (regardless of whether it is just a sexual/kinky relationship or a romantic one). You should follow all safety protocols and have a safe word or any type of safe signaling as well as iron clad negotiations before you proceed.
Sleep play is defined by starting sexual acts with a person while they are asleep. As with any type of CNC, this requires a lot of negotiations to happen beforehand. If any vaginal or anal penetration is to occur, it should involve lots of lube.
The person sleeping/being passive in this situation will likely wake up during the act, but they can pretend to be asleep all the way through it or wake up and develop the session into something else (either a scenario that doesn’t involve CNC, or continue under the CNC roleplay with something like rape play). By waking up, the person being passive has full power to safe word and stop the scene if and when they wish to.
A different subtype of sleep play is sleepy play, or popular referred to as morning sex. Sleepy play is defined by starting sexual acts when one or all parties involved are sleepy. It doesn’t necessarily fall under CNC.
This involves roleplaying a scene that includes kidnapping and being coerced into sexual acts. Again, don’t do this with strangers and people you don’t fully trust. We see personal ads on kinky spaces all the time of people wishing to do a kidnapping scene with completely random internet strangers and we strongly advise against it.
This type of roleplay might require knowledge about other kinks (like bondage, for example), and it should not be done in public spaces with other people around. They might panic when witnessing the situation and call authorities. Watching such a scene unfold (even if it’s just a roleplay) can be very traumatic as well, so be mindful of that. Don’t include non-consenting bystanders in your fetish.
Potentially problematic instances of CNC
There are some instances of CNC that, as healthcare professionals and fellow kinksters, we advise against. We don’t want to kinkshame anyone, but such types of roleplay potentially violate some aspects RACK/FRIES and can result in serious consequences.
Drug play is the act of drugging someone with a substance that makes them sleepy or less inhibited, and then starting a scene with them. Even if the passive person in this situation consents to this, being under the influence of any substance can diminish their capacity of revoking consent later on if they wish to do so. Furthermore, certain psychoactive drugs can cause respiratory arrest very easily, a serious situation that can evolve into death.
Free use is a type of practice that may or may not fall under CNC, depending on how the people involved choose to do it. It pertains to the notion that one of the parties is always available for sexual acts, regardless of what they’re doing. It also involves the concept that the person being passive has no hard limits.
This can become unsafe because “having no limits” and “being available all the time” are very bold claims for anyone to make, and it puts a lot of responsibility on the dominant part of the relationship, which can generate an instance of abuse coming from the submissive side.
In this case, negotiations need to reoccur frequently, to make sure all parties involved are still comfortable with what’s happening.
Combining CNC with other riskier kinks
Considering CNC is already a complicated type of roleplay, combining it with another kink that’s considered advanced can be tricky. For example, trying *breathplay* in a CNC scene. If not done correctly, breathplay can result in loss of consciousness, thus incapacitating the person and removing their ability to revoke consent. We recommend being extremely careful when dealing with more than one advanced kink at once.
Myths about CNC
Can CNC be done gently and thus fall under gentle BDSM?
Yes. It’s okay to not like it and not want to dabble in it, as it can be an intense kink. However, as we previously stated, any kink can be performed gently, as the gentle aspect depends a lot more on the relationship and actions of the dom(s) and sub(s).
Are all CNC Tops Dominant?
This is a commonly asked question and is not particularly specific to CNC, but the short answer is no. As with any other kink, being a “top” does not imply dominance. You can check out our article on tops and bottoms if you are curious what exactly it means to be a “top”.
Positive aspects of CNC
Most of this article discusses how careful you need to be when navigating CNC and how it can end up being traumatic to any parties involved if not performed correctly. However, there are many aspects of CNC that can be very positive in a relationship of any nature and can create a positive psychological mindset for the people involved.
Deepening relationship bonds and trust
Given that you need to know and negotiate a lot with a person before dabbling in CNC, this fetish can be a nice way to deepen the bond and trust levels between all parties involved. Letting go of all control/being given all control, as well as allowing yourself to be completely vulnerable with someone else (which happens not only to the submissive side, but to the dominant side as well) is a very unique experience that, if done correctly, will create a very deep bond between the people involved.
Coping mechanism for trauma
There are some cases in which people choose to use CNC and other kinks to deal with their own traumas. *This is not to say that all people that have been through sexual assault should dabble in CNC*, as each person reacts differently to their own traumatic experiences. But some folks who have been through sexual abuse see CNC and other kinks as a way to reclaim their own sexuality, which ultimately helps them heal from such a horrendous ordeal.