Consensual Non-Consent: What is CNC Kink?

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Consensual Non-Consent: What is CNC Kink?


When it comes to exploring sexual kinks, it can seem like the sky’s the limit in terms of what folks are into.That doesn’t mean, however, that some kinks aren’t hotly debated and maybe even a little scary to ask a partner  to engage in. In a long list of kinks you or they may have (or just be interested in) is Consensual Non-Consent (CNC) Kink. 

Fantasies about non-consensual and/ or rough sexual behavior (whether as the dominant or aggressor or as the person being acted upon) are very common. When done correctly and with ongoing enthusiastic consent, consensual non-consent play can give participants an opportunity to immerse themselves in power dynamics that would not be safe in real-life, non-consensual contexts. CNC can be a healthy, fun, and in some cases, a healing way to engage in sexual play.  It may even get you looking into more bondage and fetish possibilities.

So, what is consensual non-consent? What does it look like? What activities does it involve?  How do you go about CNC safely? We’re going to talk about all that and more! Get ready, folks, it’s time to learn the ABCs of CNC! 

What is CNC Kink?

CNC kink is when adult partners consent-- before play starts-- to being forced into sexual activities and situations. It often involves hard limits and guidelines that are negotiated prior to playtime that allow everyone involved to stay safe and get what they want out of the encounter. Again, this is a consensual kink that should involve the use of a safe word that allows participants to say “no” as part of the scene but say something else --sometimes an uncommon word like “kumquat” or maybe traffic light terms like “red light” is they change their mind and actually want to stop the CNC play scenario. 

Due to the “non-consent” part of consensual non-consent, people sometimes associate it with sexual assault, and, indeed, rape fantasy play does fall under the umbrella of CNC kink. However, clearly negotiated boundaries as well as enthusiastic and informed  consent, and the ability to stop the scene at any time create a safe and consensual way to play with the illusion of forced sex.  

Consensual non-consent isn’t all about rape play, however. It can refer to many forms of dominant and submissive play. 

Forced orgasm -- sometimes using a very powerful vibrator-- is an example of CNC. Here are some other activities that can fall into this category: 

  • “Punishing” a submissive with spanking, whipping, or flogging
  • Performing sexual acts on a sleeping partner with explicit prior consent
  • Playing with impact play or electrostimulation that test’s the recipient’s limits
  • Restraining and/or gagging a partner during sex
  • Dressing up as an attacker (be sure your partner can still see your face and know you are not a real attacker) and acting out a sexual assault scenario

No matter how consensual non-consent plays out, it is vital to remember that dominant partners must always have permission to engage in this kind of power exchange and boundaries-- including a safe word that means “stop” --must be mutually agreed upon before you get started. 


Are CNC Kink Fantasies Normal?

Simply put, yes. Studies have shown that a huge amount of people fantasize about some form of power exchange play in which they are dominated. CNC kink can be all about handing over complete control to a trusted partner, as well. 

Sometimes, even learning that handing over control to a partner or taking total control of a partner turns you on can be a bit jarring. Consensual non-consent can look an awful lot like sexual assault, which we would never dream of inflicting on our partners. It’s important to remember, as, with any sexual activity, CNC is not something anyone has to do if it feels too uncomfortable. If you are game for giving it a try, however, communicate openly with your partner and put some emphasis on the consensual part of consensual non-consent which will make things feel a whole lot more comfortable. 

Whatever your interest in CNC is, remember that you don’t need to feel bad or guilty about it, as long as you approach it in ways that are, as the saying goes, “safe, sane, and consensual”.

What About Sexual Assault Victims?

At first glance, CNC may sound like something that no victim of sexual violence would ever be interested in, and that’s true for some people. But it’s important to remember that sexual assault affects people in different ways. Some survivors enjoy consensual non-consent because it gives them a feeling of control that they didn’t have when they were assaulted. The consent, boundaries, and ability to stop the scene at any time can give survivors a bit of psychological power that helps them feel empowered instead of feeling like a victim.

Now, a key thing to remember here is that everyone is different. Some sexual assault survivors feel compelled to withdraw from sexual intimacy completely or may simply not be interested in playing with power exchange. There is not a right or wrong way to engage with sex as an assault survivor so if you or your partner are one, give yourself the space to pursue the relationship with sex that feels best to you. 

As the partner of a sexual violence survivor, you may be afraid or feel guilty about engaging in something like consensual non-consent, as some aspects may seem like they will be triggering to your partner. This is why it is so incredibly important to talk openly before you engage in any intimate play. Ask each other questions, talk openly about concerns, agree on boundaries, and make it clear that autonomy and consent are valued above all else. 

How to Prepare?

As we already discussed, even the idea of CNC can be a bit daunting if you’ve never tried it, but there are definitely some things you and your partner can do to gently tiptoe your way into this type of play. 

We’ve already said this a bunch, but a great first step is just having an open and honest conversation. Talk about what each of you is interested in trying, what appeals to you about CNC, how you think it will make you feel, and what each of you needs to feel safe. Some folks even enjoy writing these things out or even drawing up a game plan of sorts. What do you want to wear, what toys and props might you use, an order of events, or whatever else feels like it will prepare you for a hot, fun, mutually pleasurable experience. A bonus to all this planning is that it can help everyone feel safe and in control (even if they are the partner giving up control!). 

When it comes to playtime, you don’t need to jump right to intense rape play scenarios (or even explore those at all!). A good way to start with consensual non-consent is to start with little consensually forced actions and take the time to evaluate how both partners feel about what’s happening with becoming overwhelmed by the intensity of full-on CNC. Additionally, adding some light consensual non-consent to your typical sexual encounters can help you both associate CNC with safe pleasure. 

Consensual Non-Consent Vs. Rape Fantasy Explained

Something we should discuss while we are learning about CNC is its relationship to rape fantasy play. Some people use the terms consensual non-consent and rape play interchangeably, but that’s not quite right. While rape fantasy play does fall under the umbrella of CNC, not all consensual non-consent is rape fantasy play. Even though the two things are quite similar and have a good deal of overlap, rape play or rape fantasy, tends to refer mostly to the sexual act, while consensual non-consent can refer to a whole range of power exchange activities. 

In your own relationships, you may choose to use one term or the other or something different entirely. Just make sure that whatever you call it, everyone is on board with that. Remember that the word “rape” can trigger all sorts of emotions, and so for some folks, they would rather not apply that word to their sexual play. 

Consensual Non-Consent Meaning in BDSM

Consensual non-consent is often practiced in BDSM context relationships where one partner is dominant and the other submissive in all aspects of their relationship. In that case, just as when it is practiced in the bedroom, it is a mutual agreement when the person in charge (the Dom) is expected to act as if the submissive partner (or Sub) has waived all consent. But, as with CNC kink play, consent is given beforehand, just in this case, it can be viewed as a permanent understanding in the relationship.    

CNC in a power exchange relationship is something a sub has willingly and enthusiastically agreed to- that’s the consensual part. The “non-consensual” piece comes into play when a Dom has to make their Sub obey. In this case, Subs may “disobey” or disagree with their Dom but ultimately derive pleasure from serving them.  

Do You Need Safewords Or A Contract in CNC?

Yes. The foundation of safe and pleasurable consensual non-consent is trust and, for this reason, using a safe word is a good idea. Safewords offer a clear delineation between when someone cries out “no” as part of the fantasy and when they actually want and/or need to stop. This allows the submissive partner to feel secure in the knowledge that the dominant partner will stop if necessary and it lets the dominant partner be sure that everything is still safe and consensual even if their partner is saying “no” or “stop”. 

Now, for partners in 24/7 Dom/Sub relationships, as we discussed above, there might be a formal contract or agreement laying out the terms of consensual non-consent, including the use of safewords. 

Subdrop and aftercare will be different

After any type of kink play, submissive partners may experience a psychological, physiological, and emotional phenomenon known as “subdrop”, this is why aftercare is so important in kink play. However, in the case of consensual non-consent, this all might look a bit different. Partners who typically like to be held and cuddled as aftercare may instead need space to process the experience and return to a feeling of safety and control. 

This is largely because, while the CNC play is consensual, it can bring up some of the same emotional and physical responses as actual violence. Submissive partners may feel angry and upset in a way that is similar to if they were actually abused. If this happens, it is important that dominant partners don’t become defensive or argumentative (“but you wanted this!!!”) and instead understand that it’s a natural process and their partner still needs aftercare, it just might look a bit different. Discuss it beforehand but also be prepared for their needs to change. Stay present and supportive. 


Rape Play Is More Than Just A Kink Fantasy

We touched on this a bit earlier but let’s take a moment to expand on the role of rape play in CNC. While many BDSM players may use the terms rape play and consensual non-consent interchangeably, rape play is just one small aspect of a CNC kink.  Rape fantasy is actually very popular and not at all limited to folks who engage in BDSM, surveys have shown it to be common among even people who consider themselves “vanilla” (aka not kinky),

Remember that for some survivors of sexual violence, consensual non-consent can have a deeper meaning than it does for others. It can serve as a therapeutic way to relive the experience in a safe context. This can be empowering and healing as it puts survivors in control of the experience because they have the ability to make it stop.

Before engaging in rape play it is vital to discuss limits and boundaries including what activities can happen as part of the play, as well as ways one is or is not comfortable with being touched. All consensual non-consent should involve the submissive partner actively and enthusiastically agreeing to everything that happens but in the case of rape play -- especially with survivors of sexual violence -- creating a safe experience is paramount. 

If you are considering engaging in a CNC kink, know that you are not alone. The desire to be dominated or “forced” to engage in certain activities as well as the desire to dominate or “force” a partner to do things, can be a huge turn-on and is actually a pretty common fantasy. With open communication, firm boundaries, safe words, and aftercare you can ensure that any consensual non-consent play is safe, comfortable, and pleasurable for you and your partner.

If you have more questions about kink, like what is the difference between kink vs fetish, what is cbt kinkwhat is wax play or even if you are just starting out in kink and looking for tips on kink for beginners, read our linked blogs!


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Written By: JoEllen Notte

JoEllen Notte is a writer, speaker, sex educator, and mental health advocate whose work explores the impact of depression on sex and relationships. Since 2012 she has written about sex, mental health, and how none of us are broken on her award-winning site The Redhead Bedhead as well as for Glamour, The BBC, Bitch, PsychCentral, and more. JoEllen is the author of The Monster Under the Bed: Sex, Depression, and the Conversations We Aren’t Having.