Why Are Safewords Necessary?

So, you and your partner have decided to try kink. In this instalment of Kink Aware we’ll be expanding on the topic of safewords, their use, and tips to pick your own.

Hopefully, you’ve read our post on introducing BDSM to your relationship and agree the foundation of any good relationship is clear communication. Even if you’re not a kinky couple, safewords can certainly work with ‘vanilla’ sex if you’re trying something new.

What Are ‘Safewords’?

Safewords are words, phrases, or even hand signals, that you choose beforehand to act as safeguards during BDSM scenes. They are a way to check in with your partner, allowing you to pause play and make adjustments before continuing or stopping completely. These can be used by any and all parties involved.

For example; a couple are in the middle of a spanking scene. One blow lands particularly hard, and the submissive shouts out their safeword. This signals to their Dominant to pause the spanking. Another time the Dom may use the safeword to confirm there is consent to continue. If anyone feels they have reached their limit for the day, they can end the session safely and begin aftercare.

You may never end up using your safeword, but as these can be used in emergency situations it’s still good practice to agree on one. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Picking a Safeword

Safewords can be anything, but the best ones are simple. Your safeword must be something you can remember, and that stands out against a BDSM scene so it can be easily recognised. Think unusual, unsexy, or funny! Whatever you pick, agreed on it in advance so everyone is on the same page.

The Stoplight system is a great place to start, especially if you think you might feel silly crying out “Broccoli!”. As you might have guessed from the name, the Stoplight system follows the rules of the road – green means go, red means stop, and yellow or amber means slow down/proceed with caution. If you can’t think of your own, “mercy” is also a common safeword.

While you could choose any word, it’s best not to use words that may be mistaken as encouragement, like how ‘duck’ could be misheard as ‘fuck’. Nicknames, terms of endearment, or expletives (i.e. the things you might call out in pleasure) should also be avoided to prevent confusion.

Going Non-Verbal

Maybe you’re using a gag, or maybe the submissive is prone to “subspace” (a trance-like state where they can become non-verbal), there are plenty of reasons why a verbal trigger might not be appropriate. Here are some examples of ‘safesignals’ that you can use.

  1. Double Tap – Two, or more quick taps from the submissive to their Dom.
  2. Hand Signals – Similar to signalling while riding a bike, agree on some simple ‘go, slow, stop’ gestures.
  3. Squeaking Toys – Rubber ducks, squeaky pet toys, anything that will grab the Dom’s attention.
  4. Brush Drop – Choose an object the submissive can comfortably hold and that makes a loud clatter when dropped or thrown. If the brush leaves their hand, it’s time to stop.
    • We don’t recommend using a ball as it won’t make much noise and the Dom may miss it.

Staying Safe

Unless you have very specifically agreed otherwise, safewords are not an excuse to ignore words like ‘no’ or ‘stop’. Kinksters must use their common sense to recognise when to pause, long before a safeword is used. In many cases, you can still use normal language to keep a scene fun. A sub should not need to safeword to ask for rope to be moved from a pressure point.

They are also not an excuse to do anything and everything to the submissive until they safeword. Safewords are a limit, not a goal.

As a submissive, using your safeword when reaching your limit is part of your responsibility. You will not be disappointing your partner, and the Dom is not a mind reader.

If your play partner vehemently refuses to include a safeword in their practice, this is a red flag, and you may be better off finding someone else to play with.

Getting kinky may seem daunting, but with a safeword you can feel more confident stepping into the restraints. Remember that the backbone of any BDSM relationship is trust, and willingness to use safewords is a mark of that trust.

Whatever you get up to, whether clad in leather or lace; keep it safe, keep it sane, keep it consensual.

If you have any tips for budding kinksters picking their safeword, or your own system of nonverbal signals, we’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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