What comes to mind when you think of safewords?


Dark rooms with half-naked women strapped to the wall while leather-clad men wield whips and chains? Maybe the frantic screeching of, “Pineapple, congress, monkey, asshole!” when someone forgets their BDSM safeword? Or is it just something “paranoid” kinky people use to stop all the “fun?”

Take your pick, a safeword is all of that and more.

It doesn't matter if you follow Safe, Sane, and Consensual (SSC), Risk Aware Consensual Kink (RACK), or even Personal Responsibility, Informed Consensual Kink (PRICK), safewords have a place in all of them. They shouldn't be the only method you and your partner rely on to keep everyone healthy and whole, but they shouldn't be ignored either.

What is a BDSM Safeword?


In a situation where one partner gives up control and the other one takes it - whether you consider yourself into BDSM or not - no doesn't always mean no. Most of the time “No” means, “Yes, please, God, more, hurt me!” In a situation like that the only way to let someone know you really need to stop, you're in pain or distress, or something bad has happened is to use a word that is completely out of context with the situation.

A BDSM safeword can be anything. Eggplant. Snickerdoodle. Schmoopsy Pants. In my relationship, we use the color system. During scenes, my Dominant frequently asks me for a color. Green means keep going, don't stop. Yellow means slow down. For me, it often means “Slow down with that particular torture device.” Red means stop everything. Outside of a scene, when we're just having good old kinky sex, “Red” is what I use if I feel pain (in a bad way), sick, or something seems very, very wrong.

What do you do if you can't say your BDSM safeword?


Maybe you're bound and gagged. Verbal communication is completely out. But you still need to play safe and need something to help communicate distress or a problem. A gesture of some sort is a common alternative. Some tops/Dominants will have their partner hold something, and if they drop it, that's the “safeword.” Others might ask for a specific hand signal, snapping of fingers, something out of the ordinary that allows you to communicate that you need to stop.

On the other hand, even that isn't a failsafe. Subspace - the floaty feeling that some submissives/bottoms feel when endorphins and feel-good hormones and brainwaves kick in - can impair a person's ability to communicate. Tops and Dominants should keep their eyes on their partner at all times. If they can't respond to questions or are no longer reacting to stimuli, play may need to stop even though a safeword or gesture wasn't given.

What happens after a safeword is used?


safewords basicsWell, the obvious answer is everything stops. In most cases, a top or Dominant will stop all play. Everything shuts down. The ropes, blindfold, gag, and whatever else come off. The paddles, floggers, and other toys are put away. Aftercare should begin immediately. For anyone like me in a long-term loving D/s relationship, aftercare probably involves a lot of cuddles, kisses, and warm fuzzy feelings.

Play partners who aren't that intimate should have some sort of aftercare ritual. Whether it's water, a blanket, and quiet conversation or even sitting silently until the bottom/submissive comes back around, something needs to be done. Once everyone is safe and able to communicate again, you need to talk about what happened. It doesn't matter if it was an awkward angle that caused scary (not good) pain or a fear that was triggered, it's all worthy of discussion. Talking it out is one way to prevent the problem from surfacing again or to deal with issues neither of you might have ever considered before.

Some people will say they don't need to use a BDSM safeword. Whether you've been with your partner for 30 years or you just met yesterday, I caution you against that kind of thinking. Anything can happen at anytime. And as focused as a Dominant may be, no one is infallible. They could miss the signs of illness or extreme pain. They might not see the awkward angle of an arm or leg. It doesn't mean they're careless - it means they're human. You both need a way to be able to stop your scene or kinky fuckery before something goes terribly wrong. A BDSM safeword should always be an option.

Kayla Lords is a freelance writer, sex blogger, and a masochistic babygirl living the 24/7 D/s life. Follow her on her website or on Twitter @Kaylalords.
Images by Lucas Cobb und Clover Autrey via Flickr with CC BY 2.0 license

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[…] respect safewords. The absolute crux of trust in BDSM relationships is, of course, the safeword. To a certain extent, this is where that trust begins and ends. A dominant who ignores a safeword […]

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