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Safewords and Safeguards

Written by Rover. Posted in BDSM Related Articles

Many of My articles find their genesis in conversations and posts that I participate in. This article is an example of one such occassion. Special thanks to dixie for the inspiration.

 

To begin, let's define what a "safeword" is. It is a word chosen by a submissive and known by the Dominant (or bottom and Top) that will halt a scene whenever a submissive feels that their physical, emotional or mental safety is threatened, or that a hard limit has been reached. In addition to a safeword, many couples also rely upon "safe signals" for the same purposes, since submissives may participate in scenes in which they are gagged or otherwise unable to communicate verbally.

 

The first question many people have is, why have a "safeword" over a simple "no" or "stop". I've heard it postulated that during the course of a scene a Dominant in "Domspace" might not react to "stop", but I can't imagine that to be true. For a Dominant to be so lost in the scene would be inherently dangerous. On the other hand, "stop" is often an integral part of a scene, as it would be in a rape scene. And so use of a specialized safeword helps avoid confusion.

 

Use of a safeword also enhances a submissive's feeling of "permission" to use it, while retaining her feeling of submission. Casinos give us chips to bet with, because we don't give chips the same value as "real" money, even though that's what they are. We use the chips with greater ease. Similarly, a submissive can use a safeword with greater ease (hopefully not with abandon) without feeling as though she has stepped out of her role as a submissive.

 

At the very same time a safeword is personal. It's something uniquely chosen by that submissive and as such, makes him/her feel special, cared for and valued. Having that peace of mind can make any scene or experience much more pleasurable.

 

Safewords are of course used in ways that express the approach or surpassing of some limit. But they can also be used in more innocent ways. Such as indicating that a rope is too tight, or a chain has become painful, or the cuffs are in an uncomfortable position. And used in such a manner, it doesn't disrupt the scene. Many couples use colors along with the safeword in order to convey additional information. Red meaning stop and check something out that's not right, but don't stop the scene entirely. Yellow for something is not quite right, or I'm uncomfortable, please go slowly. And green for "go, go, go" or "more, more, more". Use of a safeword in many relationships requires the complete cessation of a scene, and thus the additional color designations can convey information without bringing the entire scene to a halt.

 

The various types of safewords, and manners in which they are used, require that both the submissive and Dominant (or bottom and Top) fully discuss those matters prior to any scene so as to have the same understanding. No Dominant is a mind reader. We rely upon such forms of communication to indicate what our submissives are thinking and feeling. We can tell much by using our powers of observation, but we can't know everything.

 

Some submissives or slaves claim no need for a safeword. That their Dominants know and understand them well enough so as to make one unnecessary. They may even see this as some sign of not having limits. I would surmise that for these slaves/submissives, it helps to enhance their "feeling of submission" by making them feel more "vulnerable". And while all of that may be personally pleasing to think, in my opinion (please note that it's my opinion only) I see it differently. I can't imagine that those submissives wouldn't make their concerns known in some other manner, verbally or by use of body language, if a limit was being approached or surpassed, or if some other more innocent situation arose such as described earlier. And I can't further imagine that their Dominants would ignore such expressions of concern unless they were an abuser and desired to inflict such pain upon them and would not honor limits or safewords in the first place.

 

I'm not sure it's credible or intellectually honest to claim that limits don't exist, and therefore the need for a safeword does not exist either. It's my opinion that everyone has limits. Some are just more or less extreme. Yet, they exist just the same. At the very least, the universal limits within both D/s and BDSM are Safe, Sane and Consensual. Being part of the lifestyle and adhering to those rules requires that those limits exist, and that they be respected. The mere fact that a Dominant has not approached or surpassed them does not mean they don't exist. And if someone claims that even the limits of Safe, Sane and Consensual don't exist for them, then they are practicing something outside of the boundaries of D/s or BDSM. Call it what you want, but it's not part of the lifestyle.

 

Depending upon the relationship, safewords can be used anywhere and for any reason. Not exclusively in a scene. As a communication tool, safewords can be appropriate any time a submissive feels that their physical, emotional or mental well being is threatened. But that does beg the question, "What is an appropriate or inappropriate use of a safeword?". In general, the answer to that depends upon what the couple has mutually agreed upon. But it's important for a submissive not to misuse a safeword so as not to detract from the magnitude of its value. And above all, a submissive should never use a safeword as some sort of "punishment" for a Dominant.

 

I've never disciplined a submissive for misusing a safeword, but if the misuse was intentional as in the form of some "punishment", I might consider doing so. On the other hand, I do want her to feel free to use it whenever she feels her physical, emotional, or mental well being is being threatened.Here are a few suggestions on the use of safewords:

  • Choose a safeword that is personal to you.
  • Choose a safe signal for any scene that may impede your ability to speak.
  • Communicate that safeword and safe signal to your Dominant.
  • Discuss and agree upon their meaning, and any other communication tools you may use such as red, yellow and green.
  • Discuss and agree upon the proper use of safewords in your unique relationship.
  • Discuss your limits with your Dominant and make sure they are fully understood.

As a final thought, it's important to keep in mind that no matter what the safeword, its value is only as great as the trust you have in a Dominant. No safeword has any worth if it is ignored. When you are bound and gagged it's too late to start thinking about whether you trust the one you're scening with.

 

Rover

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