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KINK COMMUNICATION: What safewords are and how to use them

Whether you’re infusing some light kinks into your sex life or pulling out all the stops; as in, floggers, chains, and blindfold sort of thing, you can never overemphasize the importance of a safe word when trying out any BDSM practice. Especially a safe word that is easy to remember.

I can’t tell you how easy it is to go from writhing in ecstasy to screaming internally, and in terror, because you forgot the safe word and your partner is on a roll, oblivious. All of this might sound pretty hilarious now that you’re reading it, but it’s a thing. Your safe word should be something easy to remember like Carrots or Blue, not Keanu Reeves birthday or the year man first landed on the moon.

Hold up! I know what you’re thinking. Before you shove this article aside as ‘unnecessary’ info because you think just saying ‘NO’ is enough, I’ll have you know that there’s a twist to it that you and most likely, lots of other people aren’t aware of. Now I know that there’s a sufficient number of voices on the internet who are clear about the need for nothing other than regular words to communicate during sessions, but like you probably know, there are no limitations to how creative sessions could be.

What I’m I saying in essence? There are instances when part of the whole play or fantasy is saying ‘STOP’ when what you mean is ‘CONTINUE’? See where I’m going with this? In such a scenario what would advise parties to do? That would be getting a word that’s not a regular word to communicate that you want the play to cease or that there’s a problem.

Another instance is a partner who has their safe word. Often, guides or content like this article you are reading tend to focus more on the interest of the submissive than the dominant. This is me putting it out there that signals and safe words are for the comfort of the dominant too. The entirety of respect or sensitivity in the relationship should involve the needs of the dominant as much as it does the submissive. So, if the top in the relationship wants an irregular word then everybody just has to go with it. I hope you get it now.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, what is a safe word? This is a special word or signal used by parties in a BDSM session to communicate the state one is in whether emotionally or physically. It is commonly used when one of the players is nearing or has approached a boundary. This could be a moral, physical or emotional one. Safewords are clear signals usually communicated to the dominant to stop the play immediately, slow down or alter it. It depends on the particular safe word used and what it means.

That being said, it’s okay to stick to a simple NO or STOP. This is still a very effective choice. You just have to check if your partner agrees or has something else in mind. This piece of advice also applies if you’re playing with a select number of people you trust. If you’re going to experiment with BDSM clubs then be prepared because they are going to ensure you have one and use it where necessary. You may say “to hell with it” or “who needs those?” But chances are you’ll probably not get an invite ever again. A lot of BDSM groups are closely knitted and word could get around really quick. The average BDSM group consists of very responsible players who adhere strictly to the Sane, Safe, Consensual rule of BDSM practices.

Communication between players in any session can be in different ways.  By this, I mean verbal or non-verbal ways.  This is because there are tons of ways this game goes. Some people get on using chemicals, subspace, and other intense stuff which may render Bottoms incapable of putting together a complete sentence or a phrase as the case may be. At this point, a non-verbal signal like a touch should do the trick or just something to coax out of the high of the moment. Some sessions also include mouth gags which hinder verbal communication hence the need for something like a touch or a tap-out. All the same, exercising caution by having an ultimate caution will not harm at all.

A dominant’s key responsibility to his/her submissive is the maximum safety of the submissive. Some people will outright tell you that a dominant without a safe word is a red flag for them and I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think there ever was a good reason for not having a safe word. There never will be.

The whole skedaddle with safe words is more or less the toolbox for BDSM. There’s a whole lot of useful stuff to keep you safe as you go for the kinks. These include:

  • Verbal safe words
  • Rules and risks are stated clearly and understood accordingly
  • Agreed duration for plays
  • Non-verbal safe words
  • Practice and control (when using items of play)
  • Safety measures for scenes
  • Sensitivity and awareness from dominants

Just so you know, most people use the traffic light colors to get their kink on. If you’re having a hard time choosing something, it’s okay to simply use this. Red stands for, “there’s something wrong,” stop immediately. Yellow means “you’re close to your limits” while green stands for “keep going.”

Now for a little icing on the cake, let’s talk about consensual non-consent for a bit. This is quite a controversial topic in BDSM circles but I’ll spell it out in black and white. There are two common meanings to consensual non-consent. There’s Total Power Exchange and then there’s Ravagement. The former includes total yielding of all rights (in sessions and/or without) by the sub to the dominant partner while the latter indicates a scene where one player says “stop” or “no” but the other player keeps on because the actual safeword has not been used.

Of the two meanings, ravagement is the most common and you can guess why. Total power exchange raises red flags for some people. I, on one hand, don’t recommend it but if this is something you’re comfortable with then go for it all the way. To live a satisfactory BDSM lifestyle, you have to know what you want; also, what you are in any BDSM relationship. Finally, your partner has to be a pretty decent, responsible person for the whole thing to work.


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