A Study in Relinquishment and Safekeeping (R/S)

What is Relinquishment and Safekeeping?

Relinquishment and Safekeeping is a game designed to play on feelings of vulnerability, trust, and being entrusted. It works by the Relinquisher making themselves vulnerable to the Safekeeper and trusting that the Safekeeper will respect that trust and not to hurt the Relinquisher. The idea is that vulnerability is exposed so that trust can be validated, not to see how far one can be pushed before trust is lost.

At some point in your life, you’ve probably been in a situation in which you were vulnerable that ended well. Maybe you told someone something you’re ashamed of, and they were supportive and accepted you as you are. Maybe you told someone you admired them a lot, and they liked you too. Everyone is different, but you may have had strong feelings of safety and trust.

You’ve probably also been the other party in such situations. You may have felt honoured by their choice to trust you, and it may have caused caring feelings.

Relinquishment and Safekeeping (or R/S), is a term for play meant to cause those feelings on purpose.


Relinquishment means to put oneself in a position that makes one feel vulnerable to another person (Safekeeper) and to be able to trust that the Safekeeper will not hurt you, either physically or emotionally. The intent is not to feel pain or humiliation, but to see ones trust justified. The Relinquisher does not ever have to give up control of the situation, only to make themselves vulnerable to the Safekeeper.

Safekeeping is to respond to the person who has put themselves in a vulnerable situation (Relinquisher) in a caring manner. Normally, the Safekeeper would not initiate play, to avoid making the other person feel unsafe by accident. The Safekeeper is not in control of the situation, they are there to be supportive and caring to the Relinquisher, to honour the trust that has been placed in them. The Safekeeper would behave in a way agreed at the start of the Game respecting the Relinquisher’s wishes at all times. There is no point at which the Safekeeper should attempt to push the Relinquisher’s boundaries.

A Game is an agreement to play following some set of rules. R/S can be spontaneous, and you may already have played spontaneously, but it’s not a good idea to relinquish control in more extreme or unexpected ways to someone who does not understand what you’re doing.

Mention Rolequeer and Continuous Consent then link to decent further reading for them. Maybe if I get round to it write some of my own thoughts on Rolequeer and Continuous Consent.

There appears to be a type of attraction that is not romantic or sexual, that causes an interest in R/S play with the person one feels attracted to. One or, better, two words need to be coined for that.

Further discussion of R/S will most likely lead to needing even more words. Maybe the feelings caused by R/S need names.

How do I play?

This is going to be some basic advice and a very high level overview, as ideas for games will be the subject of their own file. For now see examples.md for some very basic examples of R/S games.

Collect more examples for examples.md

For simplicity it is being assumed that {mono-directional}. If you both want to play with Relinquishing and Safekeeping at the same time you should have a look into [Rolequeer][link] and apply what you learned from that to R/S.

Before you play, it is best to make yourselves comfortable and have a conversation about risks and desires.

Some categories of risks to consider:

Making yourself vulnerable can be done in lots of different ways, which can of course be combined:

by the rules of your game

Finally, you need to decide on when and how the game is to stop and {give back control}.

After you agree on how to play, and both agree that it is safe, you are ready to consent and start playing. There are two sides to consent: Legally, if you obey the letter of the agreed upon rules and stop when told to, there is consent. Emotionally, you must make sure the person you’re playing with will not think “I do not want this”.

expand on consent

Remember that the Relinquisher places themselves in a vulnerable position so trust can be validated, not to see how far one can be pushed before trust is lost. If you have any doubts whether the other feels comfortable, ask them if they want to stop.

The advice above is mostly to protect the more vulnerable player. Do not forget that the Safekeeper has needs too. Trust is a great gift, but even so, you should make sure they feel appreciated.

ToDo: write some basic guidelines [continuous consent, avoiding power trips, bidirectional control transfer, combination with rolequeer…]

Examples of Play

Person A has a collar and leash and hands the end of the leash to person B trusting that person B will lead them around without pulling on the leash or forcing them to go somewhere they do not want to.

Person C allows person D to draw on them with markers than do not immediately wash off. Person C is trusting that person D will not draw anything on them that would upset them or cause them any problems after the game.

Person E tied up person F in an artistic or sensual way, person F is trusting person E to not tie them in any way that would hurt or distress them. e.g. Person E might have issues with being restrained but still like rope work, they are trusting person F to put rope on them in such a way that it does not restrain them.

Person G enjoys being a brat and being playfully defiant, but has issues with being hurt or told off. They trust person H to allow them to gently struggle and that person H will follow their lead in seeming like they are restraining them where they give without forcibly restraining them. Also that person H will not tell person G off.

Why would I want to do this at all?

The short answer is “why not?”. The long answer is that there is a variety of possible reasons. Maybe you want strong feelings of intimacy, but don’t want sex. Maybe you enjoy submissiveness or someone acting submissive towards you, but want to avoid objectification and dehumanization. Maybe you want to play with control while still being equals. Maybe you want to express trust and caring, and words and more typical behaviours are not enough. Maybe you just think it’s fun.

to do: add reasons others come up with


Is R/S a kink?

A kink is broadly defined as “unconventional sexual behaviour”. But then there are a lot of things that are considered kinks at are not inherently sexual, it is just the assumption that anything intimate is sexual. So a more open definition of a kink is “unconventional intimacy” which R/S would fall under.

But like all things that could be considered a kink they are only a kink if the person practising them considered it to be so. So to some people R/S will be a kink, to others it won’t be a kink.

Is R/S part of BDSM?

No, not at all. BDSM is an umbrella term that covers Bondage and Discipline (BD), Dominance and Submission (DS), Sadism and Masochism (SM). This is a commonly confused thing with a lot of things that could be considered a kink. While BDSM are kinks, kinks are not BDSM.

Also some activities under the BDSM umbrella are what one might call simulated abuse. It would be harmful for R/S play to be grouped together with those, because a desire for trust, safety, and caring implies a rejection of abuse. Trying to fit two concepts as conflicting as these under the same umbrella term will make the term almost meaningless.

Safekeeping and Relinquishment sound like Dominance and submission. Are they the same thing?

No. The key difference between R/S and D/S is that the Safeguarder is not trying to control the Relinquisher. Almost the opposite, the Safeguarder is trying to make the Relinquisher feel as safe and free as possible, not trying to control them.

Because of assumptions about heteronormality we’re used to the idea that sexual intimacy involves a participant who does (a subject, typically thought of as a dominant) and a participant who is done to (an object, typically thought of as a submissive), especially when it involves submission. This is also carried across into non-sexual play, and so leads to the false assumption that non-sexual play must involve objectification too. Being treated as an object doesn’t usually inspire feelings of safety and trust. The definition of R/S is a response to these observations.

Still why invent new terms? Why not use D/S and explain the difference?

If you’re looking for feelings of safety and caring, and tell someone you would like to play with dominance and submission, you’ll have a lot of explaining to do to avoid ending up in a situation that causes very different feelings. This is because of the previously mentioned assumptions about a necessary connection of submissiveness to objectification often being made more strongly about BDSM. It takes less explaining to pick two different words, for example Relinquishment and Safekeeping, and explain starting from nothing.

Is R/S an Asexual only {thing}?

While R/S isn’t inherently sexual it can be, so no it’s not an asexual only {thing} but it is just as compatible with asexual intimacy as it is with sexual intimacy.