A lot of people new to kink get the impression that a safeword is only for emergencies, and that if they’re managing to bear what’s going on there’s no reason to stop it just because they’re wishing it was over already. The truth is, though, moments like that are no good for either you or your partner. Healthy communication means letting them know when you’re struggling in a way you’re not enjoying, no matter what the reason.
Whether it’s pins and needles or something right at the edge of your tolerance but not quite over it, you can and should let them know what’s going on if you feel like you want to. A safeword doesn’t need to completely stop play. I’m a big advocate for using them to mean “I need to stop and talk about this” rather than “this entire encounter is instantly over”. They’re a lot more useful that way, in my experience.
Kink clubs and fetish events are often amazing, but there can be a strange atmosphere of competition at some of them. Many subs seem to be quite competitive people, and that means not wanting to be seen to crack first. However, that really isn’t a healthy way of thinking about your play.
We all know really that what’s right for someone else might not be what’s right for us. If you feel too awkward using a safeword in front of people other than your partner, it’s worth talking to your partner themselves about that. Between you, you might be able to come up with some kind of more subtle signal you can use to communicate with when playing in public.
It’s true that some Doms take the use of a safeword as meaning that they’ve failed, and that’s probably not a feeling you want to give them. A healthy approach to safewords means you need to work through that together, though. They need to reassure you that you’re being heard and you need to reassure them that everything’s okay now you’re communicating. If this is something you’re worried about and you’ve never actually used your safeword as a result, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised if you do.
Every experienced sub knows that pain thresholds are strange, fickle things. I have one friend whose pain threshold reduced after she lost a lot of weight and another who enjoys actual red-hot-iron branding but can’t cope with nipple clamps. I also have one particular ex who could cane me till I almost bled despite the fact that I’m a total wuss about canes with literally everyone else I’ve ever slept with. Go figure. If you find that you handle different things differently with different people, that’s okay.
This is the one thing on this list I’ve never dealt with personally, but I’ve heard other people mention it more than once. If you’re not the sub in this situation, it’s important to remember that you can stop play too if you need to. If your partner doesn’t understand that you also have things that are past your boundaries, that’s something you need to talk about with them ASAP.
Important note: Some safeword related issues are not touched on in this list. If you feel like your safeword might be ignored or your partner might get angry with you for using it, then you’re in a situation much more serious than the ones we’re discussing here. It’s worth giving serious thought to the state of your relationship with that person. In BDSM relationships, not respecting safewords is actively abusive - and that’s not something you should feel you have to cope with under any circumstances.
Share your safeword stories in the comments below or on the Fetish.com forum.
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