Safewording is a really basic practice that seems to give a lot of subs a lot of trouble. So I want to talk about why I want my subs to do it.
First, for novices, I should explain what a safe word is. Simply put, it’s a code word or phrase that the sub uses to signal that they need to stop the play. It’s something that wouldn’t come up in the course of a scene, like ‘pineapple’, so when the sub uses it, he’s unambiguously sending a message that he really does need to stop.
The reason we need to use this system is that lots of doms and subs like playing with the illusion of violation. Lots of subs like the idea of saying ‘no, stop’ when they really mean ‘yes, keep going’. They want to feel like their cries for mercy are being ignored and that the dom is taking something they don’t want to give. But in order to be able to do that, you need another way to tell the dom you need to stop. In other words, if you want ‘no’ to mean ‘yes’, it can’t also mean ‘no.’ So you use another word to mean ‘no.’
Most kinksters understand why subs needs safe words. They understand that there are times when the play gets too frightening or too physically painful to keep going. They understand that sometimes bondage can cause joint pain or make it hard to breathe and the dom needs to re-tie a rope or something like that. So the idea that the sub needs a safe word is pretty common knowledge, although sadly it rarely turns up in the porn or the erotic stories.
But there’s another side to it that doesn’t get discussed very often is that doms need safe words too. When this does come it, it’s usually in the context of doms having limits. Sometimes a scene gets too dark and scary for the dom, who is, after all, sometimes in the position of letting out his monstrous desires, which can be extremely frightening. That’s definitely a reason a dom might need to use a safe word. But that’s not actually what I mean today.
What I mean today is that I need you as the sub to use your safe word.
There are several reasons for this. The most urgent reason is that I need to not harm you. I REALLY don’t want to injure you beyond the level of the occasional bruise. I want our play to be fun for both of us, and I unintentionally harm you, you won’t be able to play again soon. You might not want to play again at all. We might have to rebuild our trust. And I will feel incredibly guilty if my pleasure actually injured you. I don’t want that. So if you have hit a limit or are starting to feel bad pain, I want to know.
A second reason is that when you safe word, you are helping me learn where your limits are. Over the course of several sessions, I will start to learn that when you start making a particular noise, it means you’re approaching your limits. And that allows me to take you close to your limits without pushing you over the edge of them. That makes both of us feel that I’m a skillful dom, that I’m reading your signs even when you don’t know you’re giving them. It helps build trust, because you know I’m watching you closely.
A third reason is that safewording facilitates healthy communication between us. You’re expressing your needs and giving me a chance to respond to them and take appropriate action. That teaches you that I care about you, your well-being, and your pleasure, and that helps us build trust in each other that we really can talk about whatever issues we need to discuss, whatever feelings we have, and so on.
A final reason is that if I know you are going to safe word, if I trust you to be honest when you’re approaching a limit, that means that when you -aren’t- safewording, I know I can keep going. Novice doms are often unsure if the sub is enjoying himself. They tend to be tentative or to say “is this ok?”, which makes the sub feel less satisfied. Subs want doms to be confident. Knowing that you are going to safeword when you need it makes me feel confident in my ability to push forward.
Too many subs think that using a safe word is an admission of failure. It’s not. Think of it this way. When my car’s gas tank light comes on, I don’t think my car is being weak. I take it as a sign that I need to pull into a gas station and refuel my car. If I ignore that light, eventually I’m gonna be stranded by the side of the road. So when you safeword, you’re just telling me that you need to refuel. Maybe that refueling is a 15 minute break. Maybe it’s the end of the play session for a week. But hopefully, it’s just a break and the ride is gonna continue at some point.
So don’t think of safewording as bad or a sign of weakness or failure on your part. I need you to do it, and I’m pleased when you do.