Whether you are familiar with BDSM or not, chances are you’ve heard of “safe words” in some sort of conversation, movie, blog, etc. And while this post’s intention is to educate you on what a safe word is, most importantly I want to teach you when and how to use them the right way. Having a safe word is no better than having a car that doesn’t start if you don’t feel confident and comfortable using them when a situation or scene begins to shift to a place that makes you feel unsafe, begins to approach your hard limits or if you are just plain not into it anymore. And spoiler alert: Dominants, this blog is for you, too.
A safe word is a term or phrase that automatically and immediately ends a scene and is one of the essential building blocks in the level of communication needed to participate in all the fun kinks that our lifestyle has to offer. I am a strong believer, however, that safe words should be normalized and used in all sexual encounters, so even if you’ve stumbled here by accident I hope you will continue reading and find some information that serves you.
Do I really need one? How do I choose a safe word?
Yes. 1000% yes. If you only learn one thing from my entire blog, hear this: At the end of the day, your emotional and physical well-being is yours and yours alone to protect. No one, not even the best Dominant in the world, is able to read your thoughts or know your limits in the way that you do. Choose a word that is easy to remember, not too complicated and can be said easily, even if you’re hanging upside down and just orgasmed for the 4th time. (Yum). My suggestion is to only choose a couple syllables and keep a word and stick to it. We want to choose a word that’s jarring enough that even if your Dominant forgets your safe word they will be able to recognize that this is not normal bedroom dialogue. Even if you have multiple play partners, you can keep the same safe word so it’s always on the tip of your tongue.
The reason that we do not use “no” or “stop” as safe words is because some kinks, such as consent-non-consent and edge play have themes of resisting our partners woven into their fabric. Even if CNC isn’t your cup of tea, as submissives we need to communicate in way that leaves zero room for doubt or interpretation, no matter the headspace of our Dominant partner. And yelling “pineapple” or “yellow” has been proven as a sure fire way to do this.
What if my Dominant does not want a safe word?
Throw. Them. Out.
Ha. Okay, maybe I’m kidding but not as much as you think. If your Dominant does not think a safe word is necessary because he or she will be able to “tell” when you need to end a scene I would be very hesitant to trust this human with my safety, body and emotional well-being. No one can truly know how another human is going to react to pain, pleasure and degradation on any given day of the week. A deeply Sadistic or humiliating scene may have been the time of your life last week, but this week it triggers something and you feel close to tears- and not the good kind. And that’s okay. We may be kinky as all get out, but we are also human and you cannot separate the two.
Side note: While some Master/slave dynamics and more traditionalists within the lifestyle believe that a slave gives up his or her right to a safe word or to end a scene, I firmly believe in any submissives right to protect themselves from harm.
What if I’m gagged or my mouth is otherwise engaged wink wink?
Nonverbal safe words needs to be negotiated prior to any scene that is going to restrict your ability to speak or communicate and are just a good idea in general. This can be a double tap to your Dominants leg, for example, but needs to be obvious and distinct from any common movements or actions you do during a scene. Blinking multiple times, for example, may an option if you are bound and gagged, but ensure your Dominant knows what the signal is so they can watch your face and not just assume you have a stray eyelash causing you issues. Think big exagerated signs, yall. Safe words or signals should never be subtle.
Am I a bad submissive if I safe word out of a scene?
Although all the best Dominants I know deeply believe in and encourage safe words, there still seems to be a theme in the submissive community to view a safe word as a “failure” or “tapping out.” Listen to me, your Dominant wants you to use your safe word if you feel unsafe. Period. Their job is to protect you at all times, even from themselves. The last thing your Dominants wants is to find out at the end of the scene or during sub drop that they caused harm to your physical and emotional well being.
What is the Dominants responsibility?
Make sure your submissive knows and feels comfortable using their safe word, no matter how into a scene you appear. Always have them repeat their safe word before a scene out loud so you both have the information on tip of your tongue. Do not argue, ignore the safe word or do not push to continue if your submissive uses his or her safe word. This is not a negotiation- this is a immediate end to a scene. Using a safe word as a sub is deeply vulnerable and may cause them feel like they have failed you. Reassure, comfort and discuss what yall can do differently when they are emotionally ready. Remember, a submissive using her safe word is not a failure for you as a Dominant but a testament of creating a dynamic where she feels safe and secure expressing her needs to you.
It is also worth noting that as a Dominant, even if you do not use a safe word per say, it is your responsibility to end a scene if you feel uncomfortable, that it’s getting out of control or are unsure if you will be able to keep your submissive safe. I have heard many Dominants say that they have chosen to end a scene when feeling like their submissive had met their limit but couldn’t or wasn’t using her safe word. Safe words are meant to protect the Dominant just as much as the submissive, and are meant to keep you both safe. B speaks about this a little bit in His interview for the blog, here.
How do I incorporate safe words into my own dynamic?
In my triad, we use something called the “Stop light system” which I highly recommend to any submissive who feels nervous or anxious about using a safe word. The stop light system is really simple and consists of three words: green, yellow and red.
Green: Green means go. I am comfortable and happy, please continue.
Yellow: Proceed with caution. I am getting uncomfortable, but don’t want to stop. Please change course or slow down.
Red: Stop. Now. End of Scene.
There are a couple reasons I love this system, the first of which being it allows us to have easy and effective communication during a scene. B will ask me “what color?” periodically, and I can quickly check in without breaking our pace or mindset. “Green, green, green” is one of my favorite responses so He knows I am loving it, please don’t stop, game on. I also love that yellow allows me to shift gears without ending the scene. I may still be very into what we are doing, but am reaching my pain threshold, for instance. This allows us to switch gears, but not stop entirely like a traditional safe word might.
Remember my darlings, it’s only fun as long as it’s safe, sane and consensual. There’s a big kinky world out there and we need to be healthy and happy with appropriate boundaries and precautions to fully explore it.