Stop, no, don’t stop! The importance of having a safe word

Written by: Jenny Woodward

Regardless of having met via a BDSM dating site, in real life or vanilla online dating, at some point you’ll be discussing your kinky interests (see How to tell your date you’re into BDSM.) Whether you’re having sex for the first or fiftieth time, discussing use of safe words is an important part of BDSM pre-communication. But why are they important?

Consent checker

Where consent is being challenged, use of a safe word is the easiest way of letting someone know you need to stop what is happening. A safe word helps keep play within the RACK guidelines.

Risky business

With most BDSM play, particularly in dom sub relationships, you’re putting your health and safety at risk. The danger might be half the turn on. Having a safe word is an excellent way to protect yourself.

Medical emergencies

If you’re feeling faint, dizzy or require medical attention of any kind, play can be stopped immediately.

Bathroom break

You might have got your hair stuck in the headboard or maybe some of the equipment is pinching (and not in a good way!) or perhaps you have an itch you just HAVE to scratch. Sometimes you might just want to pause play to readjust or attend to a small matter.

Complete clarity

It can be awkward to talk about what turns you on, especially if you’re new to BDSM dating. It can be particularly difficult to communicate your pain threshold. Using a safe word can help you and your partner understand your pain limits and boundaries.

Your security blanket

Having a safe word can allow you to truly let go and indulge in your wildest fantasies unhindered by fear. A dom sub dynamic will enjoy the freedom safe words provide knowing the other is fully protected.

Change of heart

One minute you’re being spanked because you haven’t done your chores and next you’ve been bound, gagged and whipped into a frenzy. We get it, things can escalate quickly. But what felt good at first can also not feel great just as quickly.

Something’s different

You may have done it a gazillion times, but sometimes a position or scene just doesn’t feel the same as before, or even hurts.

It’s not as you imagined

Perhaps the idea of a particular role play sounded hot at the time it was discussed, but in reality it feels creepy or dangerous. Perfect time to bust out that safe word.

Dom protection

Safe words aren’t necessarily just for submissives. A dominant or dominatrix may also use them if they’re being begged to do something they’re not comfortable with.

Pacemaker

You might just be utterly exhausted and need a timeout or a change of pace. BDSM sex can often be totally draining and sometimes you need a breather to recharge.

Protects your emotions

Because a safe word lacks the emotional charge of an accusation, partners can feel less defensive if enjoyment in an act or play is not reciprocated.

What are the best safe words to use?

Your chosen safe word needs to be able to snap you and your partner out of BDSM fantasyland. Words like “stop” and “no” are not going to cut it especially if you’re into a bit of CNC role play where indeed those words may be used as a signal to continue. So what words should you use?

Vibe killer

BIt’s generally recommended that you use words that are either instant turn-offs (Grandma? Donald Trump?) or that have absolutely nothing to do with sex. Giraffe, Pineapple or Tofu perhaps?

Make it memorable

Make sure it’s something easy to remember as often you might need to bust it out in a stressful situation. A knee-jerk reaction can have you yelling out the first thing that comes to mind.

Traffic lights

Sometimes the situation might not be as black and white as yes and no and the popular traffic light system is used. Red for “stop right now”, yellow for a warning that you’re close to your threshold so tread carefully and green for “go, go, go, ohhh!”

Mute button

If a dominatrix has gagged you ready for whipping then you’re not going to be able to shout Gobbledygook. If dabbling in asphyxiation or any other scenario where you can’t open your mouth at the point you need to stop, hand signals or gestures can work just as well. Some might bandage a bell to their hand or drop an object they’ve been holding.

When do I discuss using safe words?

The chat

It’s recommended you always have a good ol’ chat before any kind of sexual encounter (like, way before, not just before) particularly if you’re with a new partner. This is a good time to introduce the topic of safe words.

Chatting online

If you’re online dating then it’s easy to bring up the topic beforehand and ask if someone uses them. Remember safe words aren’t limited to BDSM activities, they can be an incredibly useful tool in any kind of sex or stressful situation.

Ignore the nay-sayers

You may come across some people in the BDSM community who say they don’t agree with safe words or by using them you’re not truly practising BDSM. That’s total BS. Of course it’s posible to have sex without safe words, ultimately it’s all about your trust in that person. But if you want one, don’t be made to feel bad about it. It’s in your power to decide and it’s your right to refuse to play without one.

When and how do I use them?

You’re entitled to use your safe word without judgement or anger. The minute anything becomes painful or uncomfortable there’s no need to wait, just yell it out.

Be loud

Say it loud and say it clearly. A quiet “yellow” could be mistaken for “yeah, oh.” Make yourself heard so that you and your partner are on the same page.

Be specific

Sometimes it can be useful to your partner if you expand such as “yellow - I’m getting cramp in my calf” or “Pineapple! This hurts too much.”

Do not feel ashamed

Some people may feel uncomfortable using them and don’t want to stop play for fear of disappointing their partner. However your safety is your responsibility. Your partner can’t always assess your comfort level and could be more angry that you allowed them to unintentionally harm you.

Practice makes perfect

If you really want to feel comfortable using a safe word then you can gently rehearse a particular position or scene whilst fully clothed, practice using the word and stopping. Make it feel like a natural reaction.

No jokers

Don’t be the man/woman who cried wolf. Using your safe word in jest could seriously hinder playtime. No one wants to play (or take the risk) with someone that doesn't take their own safety seriously.

What happens after a safe word has been used?

Play might just be paused or cease altogether. The important thing is that everything comes to a screeching halt once that word has been used.

Chat it out

Try and tell your partner the problem, even if it is difficult. They need to know what the issue is which can sometimes be a subconscious mental reaction if not obviously physical.

Be considerate

If it’s not you that’s used the safe word be sure to help your partner understand what the issue is and be attentive to their needs.

Fix and continue

Sometimes it might be an easy fix (untangling that hair from the bedpost for instance) or allowing them to catch their breath.

Aftercare

Sometimes it may be too emotional to carry on, at which point aftercare should begin to start the healing process.

Whatever your take on safe words may be, it’s important to question yourself and your partner frequently to make sure you’re on the same page. What works for you both today may not work tomorrow. Talking about limits creates openness and builds trust in a relationship. If your partner respects your use of a safe word then you can feel confident that you’ve found a selfless lover who is as concerned about your enjoyment as much as their own. Afterall we all want great sex, right?

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