“I Don’t Use Safewords”
That statement probably upsets some people. There are a lot of safeword advocates in the BDSM community, but if you give me a few moments, I can explain to you why safewords are more trouble (and more risk) then they’re worth.
The purpose of a safeword (according to wikipedia as of the time of this post) is to:
…unambiguously communicate their physical or emotional state to a dominant (or “top”), typically when approaching, or crossing, a physical, emotional, or moral boundary. Some safewords are used to stop the scene outright, while others can communicate a willingness to continue, but at a reduced level of intensity. Safewords are usually agreed upon before playing a scene by all participants, and many organized BDSM groups have standard safewords that all members agree to use to avoid confusion at organized play events.
And to that end they are useful for two purposes:
- During a roleplay scene where resistance or other false protest is expected.
- At a public event where dungeon monitors need to be able to distinguish between false protests and actual distress.
But other than that, they really are useless and, in fact, dangerous.
Lots of interesting things happen to a bottom during a scene, especially an intense one. Chemicals move, cognition is altered, and it becomes difficult to focus on things or remember things. Safewords, which are rarely used and are often changed between scenes and partners, might not be within your grasp to remember (or articulate). So suddenly, your ability to stop something that you are unwilling to do is gone. Hopefully, you have a top who will be able to tell that something is wrong, but you can’t always count on that.
What’s more, using a safeword can be intimidating for a bottom who is also submissive. The starkness of it can equate, in their mind, to a demand that is not their right to make. Over time, most subs and bottoms can become comfortable with the use of a safeword, but the threat (whether actual or internal) of facing disapproval from their top/dom can mean that they will choose silence over protest.
So what’s the alternative? Simple…
When I start a scene with someone who I have not played with before, I say something like, “I do not use safewords. I will certainly recognize and respect yellow or red or anything else you wish to have and use, but I would much prefer that you simply tell me if something is wrong. We are not roleplaying today, so if you tell me that your foot is asleep, I will adjust you and if you ask me to stop, I will. And if I ask you what’s wrong and you don’t answer, I will likely end the scene, so speak up.”
So far, this method has worked far better than any safeword ever has. Communication, actual communication, is far superior to code words and clues. And on the rare occasion that I do need a code, I prefer gestures. Rather than a word that can be forgotten, I tell my bottoms to make any sort of repetitive noise or gesture, such as snapping their fingers or knocking on the headboard. When that happens, I will stop what I am doing (remove a gag, if necessary) and ask them what is wrong, at which point, there are no codes, just talking.