There is nothing “safe” about a safeword.

      12 Comments on There is nothing “safe” about a safeword.

If you are a believer in The One True Way™ doctrine of BDSM, now would be a good time to get off my cloud.  I have zero interest in following the dogmatic tenets set forth by the bunch of zealots who comprise the Church Of Dominance And Submission.  So if you are expecting me to adhere to the Ten Commandments Of Kinky Play, then I’m sorry (not sorry, not sorry AT ALL) to say, you will be vastly disappointed.

Because if that’s your frame of reference, I need to be very clear on one point:  I don’t Domme right.

Offense #1:  I don’t “munch” – I mean, I do if you’re referring to Cookie Monster type munching, but if you’re referring to social gatherings in which kinky people come together in vanilla spaces to discuss Jimmy Choo’s latest shoes or whatever the hell it is they do…  NOPE.  That’s a big nope.

Offense #2:  Inflicting pain is NOT my primary pleasure in my relationships – But but but…  True Dominants™ are supposed to wield whips and draw blood and punish and leave bruises and and and — !!!  Sorry (not sorry), that’s not my thing.

Offenses #3 thru #99:  I don’t __________.  Whatever it is, I just don’t do it.  I don’t wear a leather catsuit, I don’t use contracts, I don’t Fetlife or Collarspace, I don’t utilize bondage implements that my partners can’t get out of themselves (because, emergencies – DUH), I don’t ‘do’ humiliation, I don’t believe in funishments.  The list is long; take your pick.  The point is:  I don’t, I don’t, I don’t.  I just DON’T.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, some of these ‘offenses’ are pretty trivial.  However, there is one thing that seems to get people up in arms when it comes to not following The One True Way™, and that is this:

Offense #100:  I don’t safeword – Go ahead and get all puffed up with your righteous indignation.  I don’t care.  I don’t safeword.  As far as I’m concerned, a safeword is not even a thing.  Because there is nothing “safe” about a safeword.

I’ll wait a moment while you all collectively gasp.  Oh, and to those of you who are clutching your copy of 50 Shades of Idiocy to your chests and moaning with horror:  FUCK OFF.

To the rest of you (some of whom are probably scratching your heads, saying “Wha…?”), I will explain.  But before I expound, perhaps I should define.

What is a safeword?

definition of safeword: a word serving as a prearranged and unambiguous signal to end an activity

The basic premise is that if one partner wants to call a halt to an activity, they use a mutually-agreed-upon word that will do the trick.  Typically, the partner given the safeword option is submissive; the partner expected to heed the safeword is Dominant.  Reasons for “safewording” (using one’s safeword) include but are not limited to:  physical or psychological distress, needing to use the bathroom, being pushed beyond one’s pain threshold, not/no-longer in the appropriate headspace for the activity, or perhaps, the alarm has just gone off, signaling that the children are due home in five minutes.

For a safeword to be effective, it typically must be jarring enough to throw the listening partner off their game.  It is not – and cannot sound like – a word typically used during the activity.  (Which, depending on How You Kink, can eliminate every option from “watermelon” to “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas!”)

And for a safeword to be useable, the following conditions must be met:

  • You have to remember what it is.
  • You have to speak it loud enough to be heard, which means
  • SPEAK.  You have to be able speak.

Let’s tackle these one at a time, shall we?

You have to remember what it is.  You’d think this would be easy, because – ideally – the person using the safeword is the person who chose the safeword to begin with.  Except, one of the primary reasons a person needs to use their safeword is because the activity is causing distress.  And people in distress usually cannot think clearly.  So they may be able to say, “Ouch” or “that hurts” or make grunting noises that indicate discomfort.  But a lot of people – especially those who practice CNC (Consensual Non-Consent, otherwise known as “rape play” and I will save my thoughts on that for another day) – have already pre-negotiated that those sounds don’t mean “stop.”  But if STOP is exactly what the person who can’t remember their safeword needs you to do…  See?  This gets really ugly, really fast.

You have to be able to speak.  Nevermind the fact that safewords are discriminatory and ableist in this way (another rant for another day), the sheer fact that speaking is required for stopping play can be problematic.  People can go non-communicative during vanilla (hate that word, but it’ll do til a better one comes along) sex.  Of course they will go non-com during kinky play.  Sometimes it’s a matter of endorphin rush or subspace soar, but it can just as easily be an issue of fight or flight freeze, flashback nightmares, or being pushed so far past their limits that they “leave” the space mentally.

If you are able to remember your safeword and speak it, YOU MUST SPEAK LOUD ENOUGH TO BE HEARD.  Have you ever tried to speak intelligibly when you’re crying?  Or had to shout to be heard above the ambient noise?  Combine the difficulty of those two things and multiply by ten.  Add in the fear of failure (it is very common for submissives to feel as though they’ve ‘failed’ their  Dominant if they use their safeword), and double that.  Oh, and if you’re playing in a public space?  Multiply the level of difficulty by 50.  It’s a ridiculous expectation.

So I don’t safeword.

To be clear:  If my partner asks for a safeword, I’m happy to oblige.  I don’t disallow them.

But if my partner believes “This word will keep me safe,” I disabuse them of that notion right away.  There is nothing “safe” about a safeword.


12 thoughts on “There is nothing “safe” about a safeword.

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      The links I included in my post illustrate far better than I ever could the way both those systems can fail.

      That said, I’m a fan of forthright communication: say what you mean and mean what you say. I’ll take a real conversation and true words over a “safeword” any day.

  1. Dawn D

    I must say I understand your point(s). Yet, for me, I also know that not having a safeword failed me (not in the way you’d expect it though).
    As with everything, open and honest communication is a must. If it hapens during play, great. If not, it has to happen before/after it. It’s not always easy, but I must say I find it much more effective than anything else. I don’t want to have to safeword. Not because I feel I failed if I do, but rather because it means that something went wrong during play, that my partner wasn’t able to read me and the trust I have in someone may have waned considerably.
    Mind you, I don’t do very heavy play, so it’s easy enough to speak up, or make it understood. I don’t know. I guess I’m not kinky enough (NOOOO! I don’t want you to start another rant, I was kidding! I like my kinks just the way they are, thank you very much! 😉 ).

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      Communication is key, and communicating *what* you need, in the *way* you need, is what’s most important. You do YOU. 🙂

      And I understand what you mean about not wanting to safeword, and the reasons why. Trust is important, and I think it’s vital that both partners have a clear understanding of what it means to safeword (as you say, for you, it would mean something has gone terribly wrong), and the circumstances/triggers that would cause that safeword to be used.

  2. Bee

    I believe the only ‘true way’ is your true way, how you as partners have decided what works for you. Your play, your rules!

    I prefer to have a safeword, after our fuck up i’m aware it’s not the be all an end all. I feel more secure having one, that’s secure not safe.

    Communication is the key, we talk throughout a scene now, along with before and afterwards. I don’t do non-verbal so if I did he’d know there’s an issue which would need further discussion once I’m back on planet earth.

  3. Molly

    I totally think it is each to their own on this subject and if it is not your thing then that is cool. We do have a safeword but as I said in my post my real problem with it is its name SAFEword. It implies that it is something that it is not, for us it is just another layer to our communication especially when it comes to explore CNC.

    Molly recently posted…I wantMy Profile

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      Depending on how people play – and how well the people playing actually know and trust one another – yes, that can be a problem. I’m not into hardcore BDSM, but I’ve heard horror stories from folks who are. For me, “no” means NO. It’s a line I don’t cross.

  4. Bill

    There are a lot of things I find interesting enough to read about or to talk to affectionados about but have no desire to try.

    And then there are the things that some people get really worked up about doing that are mildly interesting but just sort of odd. Furries and pony-play come to mind, but I I think that also applies to the leather, vinyl, latex enthusiasts. Leather lovers don’t tend to be into vinyl or rubber and vice versa, perhaps vices versa. There were a couple of segments of 1000 Ways To Die that mentioned accidents that could happen. One was a guy who attempted to join a group of furries and found a real bear that also rejected his advances. The other was a guy who decided to try the rubber hood without realizing that he had a latex allergy.

    I can understand the desire for a safe word, but I see your point also.

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      I have a latex allergy, and my body reacts rather viciously to spermicides. Back when latex condoms were laced with nonoxynol-9 for “added protection” I very nearly swore off sex because I figured – quite logically – that anything that gave me hives (on my snatch!) was something I should avoid at all costs.

      Luckily, I figured out the problem. And sex wasn’t it. (Thank fuck.)


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