Take “Safewords” Off The Pedestal, Please

Posted: August 5, 2015 by Isaac Cross in Learn Something, Philosophy


In a recent statement by a person describing their experience with consent violations, they described how the top in the scene had ignored her limits, attempted to renegotiate the scene while she was in subspace, and ignored her saying “no”. She blamed herself for not using a safeword.

So here is me asking, begging, pleading with everyone to please take safewords off of the pedestal.

Safewords only have power if they are specifically negotiated and if you are in an environment where someone can enforce those safewords. And unless you specifically negotiate otherwise, “no”, “don’t”, and “stop” still mean “no”, “don’t”, and “stop”.

In the orientations at the Sanctuary, I used to tell everyone that “no” was not a safeword. But I amended that and instead having been saying something like “The word ‘no’ will not bring help to you, because we do not know what you have negotiated. However, unless you have negotiated otherwise, you should expect the person your playing with to stop if you tell them to stop and respect your decision to say no. If they do not, then that is the time to use a safeword to alert DMs and others nearby that you need help.”

Unfortunately, the incident that I am referring to did not take place at a club, it took place in someone’s home, at a private play party with no DM’s. And the top was the owner of the house. She blamed herself for not using a safeword, but the fact that he had already ignored her limits and the word “no” means that he would not likely have given any more respect to a safeword.

And that is why I have posted repeatedly, and many places, and made clear to everyone that I play with that I Don’t Use Safewords. <Click the link to read my full explanation of that statement

I expect the person that I am playing with (unless we have specifically discussed role-playing with non-consent) to use real words to tell me what is wrong and what they want or don’t want. And they should expect me to respect their wishes. Someone asking me to top them is not ever, in any way permission to ignore a “no”.

NO does still mean NO, even in kinky settings. Anyone that tells you different is wrong. And no one should ever feel guilty for not using a safeword when NO was (or should have been) sufficient.

We, as a group, need to stop building up safewords to be more powerful than they are. A safeword is a communication tool, nothing more. It will not save you from someone intent on violating your limits if there is no one around who is willing to do anything about it.

  1. […] Recently I have seen posts from traumatized and scorned bottoms and submissives about being harmed when they didn’t use a safeword. With this came the realization that not only is love not enough, but safewords are not enough. When we hide behind the excuse that someone ‘didn’t safeword’ we are still hiding behind the same problematic excuses we use all over our lives to violate consent and hide from out mistakes. We, as supposedly ethical kinksters, cannot tell the rest of the world that we are a consensual community when we continually allow one word to become the thing that keeps us from harming a person. We need to take safewords off of a pedestal (XCBDSM). […]

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