KEMS is still a work in progress. We’d love to hear your feedback on it, but it isn’t ready to adopt yet.
This FAQ answers many common questions about how to interpret and use KEMS.
Keep in mind that KEMS is written in plain English rather than legalese. It’s meant to be interpreted using good faith and common sense: if you’re looking for loopholes, you’re missing the point.
How do I adopt KEMS?
Can I get a printable copy?
Why do we need KEMS?
Who is KEMS for?
Does KEMS replace the KECC?
Do I need to adopt KEMS if I’ve already adopted the KECC?
What about other codes of conduct?
Why didn’t you include _____?
1. I model visibly excellent consent in my classes.
2. I practice robust consent in my personal life.
3. I create an accessible and inclusive classroom environment.
4. I maintain appropriate boundaries with my students.
5. I do not use coercion to prevent anyone from sharing information about me.
Why are the mandatory disclosures necessary?
How do I make these disclosures?
Why these specific criteria?
What if someone omits a mandatory disclosure?
Is a “Yes” answer disqualifying?
1. Was convicted of any non-consensual sexual or violent crime.
2. Was the subject of any type of restraining order.
3. Was banned from a venue, organization, or event.
4. Was banned from teaching at a venue or event.
5. Used coercion to prevent anyone from sharing information about me.
Adopting KEMS is easy:
It should be posted where it’s easy to find:
You don’t need to add it to your instructor bio, although you are welcome to.
Kink instructors have great influence on the culture of their communities. Ethical instructors are powerful forces for good, but unethical instructors drag their whole communities down.
KEMS sets a benchmark for ethical kink education. The code of conduct provides guidance to ethical instructors who want to do the right thing, and the disclosures help students and producers identify instructors who are in alignment with their values.
Not sure why you should bother with KEMS? Here are three reasons.
KEMS isn’t just for instructors. Students, venue operators, and event producers can all help improve kink education by choosing instructors who have adopted KEMS.
The code of conduct is education-specific, but the mandatory disclosures are useful in many other situations: you might consider using them when vetting event staff, hiring performers, or even negotiating with potential play partners.
The Kink Education Code of Conduct is an extensive set of ethical guidelines for kink educators and producers. The KECC has been adopted by numerous individuals and organizations and we recommend it highly.
Experience has shown, however, that the KECC is too long and complicated for many well-intentioned instructors to adopt. In addition, the KECC contains provisions that some instructors don’t agree with. KEMS is designed to address those issues by being short, simple, easy to adopt, and uncontroversial. We believe every ethical instructor should be able to agree with and adopt KEMS.
KEMS sets a minimum standard, but we encourage you to set a higher bar for yourself and your organization by also adopting the KECC or some other more comprehensive code of conduct.
The KECC is more comprehensive than KEMS. If you’ve adopted the KECC, you just need review the KEMS mandatory disclosures and make the appropriate statement on your instructor profile.
KEMS sets a minimum standard we can all agree on. It can stand on its own, but it’s designed to be compatible with other codes of conduct. In many cases, if you’ve already adopted a code of conduct, you won’t need to change anything to become KEMS-compliant. You should, however, check the KEMS mandatory disclosures and make the appropriate statement on your instructor profile.
KEMS is designed to be short, simple, and uncontroversial. Adding too many provisions—or adding provisions that some people don’t agree with—would defeat the purpose of it.
The KEMS code of conduct is intentionally open-ended. It establishes goals for instructors but doesn’t specify exactly how to achieve those goals. As with the rest of KEMS, the code of conduct is meant to be interpreted using good faith and common sense.
The code of conduct primarily addresses classroom behavior, but some parts of it apply to your personal life as well.
Consent is the most important part of kink, and consent education is the most important part of kink education. The primary way students learn is by example: if an instructor talks a good game but models poor consent practices, their students will learn poor consent habits.
For this reason, your classroom conduct must be unambiguously consensual:
It is self-evident that in order to teach something, you have to be good at it. If you’re bad at consent, you are unqualified to teach it—and therefore, you are unqualified to teach kink.
There are many valid ways of practicing consent, so KEMS doesn’t prescribe specific consent practices. Furthermore, KEMS doesn’t require perfection, because nobody is perfect at consent.
Robust consent means:
The kink world has problems with accessibility and inclusion: we’ve made some progress, but too many people still feel unwelcome here. Education has an enormous influence on kink culture, and for many people a kink class is their first (and perhaps last) encounter with the kink world. Accessibility and inclusion in the classroom are vital to improving kink culture.
Accessibility and inclusion are context-dependent, but here are a few starting points:
Instructors hold positions of power relative to our students. As part of practicing and modeling good consent, ethical instructors maintain boundaries with our students that are appropriate for that power imbalance.
Maintaining appropriate boundaries during class doesn’t mean we can’t have fun, and it doesn’t mean we check our sexuality at the door. It just means that during class we interact with our students as students, not as potential dates.
Touching a student without explicit consent, making gratuitous comments about a student’s appearance, and arranging a date are all examples of inappropriate behavior.
Flirting with students is a high-risk activity that can undermine your effort to model visibly excellent consent. It is never appropriate to engage in heavy or sustained flirting with a student.
At a minimum, you should maintain appropriate boundaries from the moment people show up for class until class is over. Beyond that, you should exercise good judgment in how you practice and model consent.
Because of the classroom power differential, it is hard to flirt with a student while modeling visibly excellent consent.
An instructor who flirts with a student creates an uncomfortable environment for other students who may be worried about receiving inappropriate attention, or who may feel the instructor gives more attention to students who flirt with them.
Figuring out what to say in the moment can be tricky. Here are a few phrases you may find helpful:
In your class introduction:
As ethical instructors, we won’t hit on any of you today. And we ask that you show us the same courtesy.
In the middle of class:
I’m flattered that you asked, but because I’m your instructor, I need to maintain appropriate boundaries with you.
Thank you for asking! As part of my code of conduct, I don’t date my students. But you have my contact information: if you’re still interested after 30 days, I’d be pleased to hear from you.
Students and producers have a right to fully informed consent when they select instructors. Hiding important information about yourself removes their ability to give informed consent.
The kink community is experiencing an epidemic of abusers using defamation lawsuits and other forms of coercion to silence, intimidate, and further harm people they have already harmed. While it does occasionally happen that innocent people will use coercion to defend themselves, experience has shown that the great majority of the time, tools like defamation lawsuits are used abusively.
This section should be interpreted broadly: you may not use coercion to prevent anyone from sharing information about any other person, and you may not ask another person to use coercion on your behalf. It includes coercion to prevent someone from making a statement and coercion to get someone to withdraw a statement.
Coercion includes using or threatening to use:
Coercion does not include:
It is ethical and appropriate to respond to an accusation by telling your side of the story, which will sometimes involve making derogatory statements about the other person. But it is a violation of this section to make or threaten to make derogatory statements as retaliation.
It is very painful to have your reputation damaged by someone who is being untruthful. But using coercion to silence them is the wrong response.
Students and producers have a right to informed consent when they select instructors, which means they have a right to know about major consent or safety issues in your history.
If you have made mistakes in the past, it may be awkward or painful to tell other people about them. In our experience, most people are reasonable and believe everyone can change. If you’ve made a good faith effort to do better and are honest about your history, most people will accept that.
If some people choose not to work with you because of your history, that is their right. You may disagree with their decision, but you do not have the right to violate their consent by hiding information from them.
Many predatory instructors are able to keep teaching because they hide or minimize their histories. The mandatory disclosures create a powerful tool for identifying those people and reducing their ability to cause further harm.
If any of the mandatory disclosures apply to you, you should post the following statement on your instructor profile:
“I’ve adopted the KEMS code of conduct. As part of adopting the KEMS, I have chosen to disclose certain incidents from my past.”
You can choose whatever format you prefer for your disclosures, so long as you link to them from your instructor profile. For each disclosure, you should describe:
1. What happened
Briefly describe the incident, giving enough detail to let others assess the magnitude of what happened. Use good judgment when deciding whether to name individuals or organizations.
2. Your current understanding of the incident
Briefly describe how you currently understand the incident. That might involve:
3. What changes you’ve made
If you’ve learned from the incident and made changes to keep it from happening again, explain what changes you’ve made.
4. Anything else you think is relevant
Feel free to include additional context, a statement from your accountability circle, or anything else that seems relevant to you.
The mandatory disclosures create a bright line for disclosure, so there is minimal ambiguity about whether a given incident needs to be disclosed. That makes it easy for instructors to decide what they have to disclose, and it makes it easier for other people to assess whether an instructor is being honest.
For that reason, all the mandatory disclosures have been carefully selected for having clear, objective criteria for disclosure. It’s tempting to add items like “Any time I was at fault in a serious consent incident”, but that would require a degree of judgment that would undermine the purpose of the mandatory disclosures.
KEMS sets a minimum standard: we encourage you to consider setting a higher bar for yourself by disclosing other, non-mandatory information that students and producers might want to know about you.
KEMS is a set of standards, not a certifying body: there is no central authority in charge of verifying disclosures.
The purpose of the mandatory disclosures is to give students and producers the information they need in order to give informed consent to working with an instructor. Someone who misrepresents their disclosures is therefore committing a deliberate consent violation. It is hard to imagine how such a person could be qualified to teach.
While there is no KEMS enforcement organization, it is entirely appropriate to publicly call out instructors who deliberately misrepresent their disclosures.
Absolutely not. We have all made mistakes, and we all have the capacity to grow. We believe a “yes” answer indicates a conversation that needs to happen, rather than a door that needs to be closed.
The criminal justice system is far from perfect: innocent people sometimes get convicted of crimes, and many guilty people do not get convicted. Nonetheless, a conviction for a consent-related crime is concerning and requires explanation.
This only applies to non-consensual crimes because laws against consensual behavior are unjust and irrelevant to the purposes of the KEMS. (At the risk of pointing out the obvious, minors cannot consent to sexual activity with adults.)
Being the subject of a restraining order raises serious questions about your consent practices and the likelihood of you causing harm to others. It doesn’t disqualify you from teaching, but it requires explanation.
This item applies to restraining orders, protective orders, orders to surrender weapons, and all similar court orders.
Far too often, predatory instructors are able to keep teaching because they are able to hide their past misconduct. It’s obvious that having been banned by an organization is important information that students and producers have a right to know about you.
These two items can be complicated to interpret: here is some guidance on what they do and don’t apply to. They should be interpreted broadly and in good faith: err on the side of disclosure.
They apply not only to kink and sex-positive spaces, but also to other social or recreational spaces such as yoga studios, comic book conventions, Burning Man camps, and dance halls. They do not apply to private residences.
They apply to any entity with which you had an existing affiliation, such as an organization you had belonged to, a club you had attended, or a convention you had applied to teach at. They do not apply to organizations with which you had no prior affiliation.
A ban is any prohibition on attending or teaching at a venue based on concerns about your conduct, including a consent incident, an accident, or a violation of a code of conduct. It does not apply to decisions that were not based on concerns about your conduct, such as:
You do not have to disclose that a venue chose not to hire you unless you know their decision was based on concerns about your conduct.
You must disclose any ban that was active within the last ten years, regardless of when it was imposed.
The term “ban” also applies to any situation where you withdrew from a space that was in the process of investigating a concern about your conduct, and to any situation where you and a space reached a mutual agreement that you would no longer participate in that space, even if there was not an explicit “ban."
See item 5 of the code of conduct for an explanation of what counts as coercion.
This item should be interpreted broadly, to include any incident where you used coercion to prevent someone from sharing information about any person, and any incident where you asked someone to use coercion on your behalf.