Ever since Fifty Shades of Grey, the meaning of “safewords” has become more popular. But many people, even in the BDSM community, still don’t know how to use them the right way. The definition of a safeword is a code to communicate when a submissive is at their limit, or close to it. I’ll show you some practical examples and a list of ones you can use in your next play session.
1. Why “pineapple” is a good safeword to use
By definition, the words “No” and “Stop” are not safewords. A safeword needs to be something you would not normally say in a play session or scene. That’s why “pineapple” is such a good example. If you pick a word that is too common, the meaning can become unclear.
Why Fifty Shades of Grey used “Red” and “Yellow”
There’s a good reason why Fifty Shades of Grey chose those two examples. The most popular safeword is “Red”, meaning the sub cannot tolerate any further demands. When this word is said the Dominant’s actions cease completely with immediate effect. The safeword “Yellow” is used to bring to the attention of the Dom that the sub is close to their limit of endurance.
Red and Yellow are my favorite and the ones I use with my Dom, but we also have an alternative. Back when we were vanilla but also doing kinky things, I would use his middle name as a code. I had used it for so long that it was still a habit so we decided to keep it.
When you are in the middle of a very intense situation, it is somewhat of a knee jerk reaction to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. So pick a safeword(s) you feel comfortable with.
List of popular examples:
- Dom’s middle name
2. Safewords can help establish BDSM limits and boundaries
If a couple is exploring something new like anal play, safewords can help guide the Dom as to what is acceptable and what is too far. One of the roles of a good Dom is to push the boundaries of their sub a little, to see what they are and aren’t OK with.
To use safewords in this way a Dom can check in with the sub during a scene and ask, “What color?” The sub can then replay “Red”, “Yellow”, or even “Green” to indicate that they want to go further. You could even practice this technique to get a sub comfortable using safewords.
3. Subs can abuse their safewords without meaning to
Let me start off by saying that there is nothing wrong with using safewords. They are a sacred part of BDSM, and are there to make sure everything stays safe, sane, and consensual. A sub should never feel guilty when they use them legitimately.
The problem arises when it becomes a way to get out of something they just don’t want to do. It can become the vanilla equivalent of saying they have a headache. Besides sexual requests they may use a safeword when a situation becomes emotionally challenging and they just want a break.
In short, the sub becomes the one in control when they safeword because they just don’t feel like doing something. Find out what the Dom and the sub can do to fix this here.
4. You can try getting rid of them… maybe
In some Master/slave relationships there is the concept of Total Power Exchange (TPE). This means that the slave has relinquished all rights, even the right to a safeword.
If the sub consents to this (and they have to consent) there needs to be complete trust in the Dom’s control, skills, and their knowledge of the sub. This is best for long term, 24/7 relationships.
If you’re not ready for this step, an alternative could be agreeing to forgo safewords during discipline. This has the advantage that a sub is more liking to learn from their punishment or not misbehave, if they know they cannot safeword out of it. The Dom would then have total control over the discipline and not the sub.
Another possibility would be to not let the sub use “Red” while being punished, only “Yellow”.
5. You need a nonverbal signal too in BDSM
If choking or gagging is acceptable you won’t be able to talk, so agree beforehand on a safe gesture instead of a word. This can be a hand signal or placing an item in the sub’s hand that they can drop when they have reached their limit. Attaching a small bell to the hand with a bandage also works well.
The downside to these is that their arms and hands would have to be free at all times. And there is the risk that the Dom may not be able to see the signal during a BDSM scene.
To get around this my Dom and I have the agreement that my hands and arms are always free during choking, and our “safeword” is that I will tap his body anywhere I can. Once he feels it he releases me immediately. Try a practice session before committing to your signal.
6. Subs can forget to use their safewords
Sometimes the Dom may make demands of the sub that cannot be met without incurring physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or other harm. That is when the sub should use their safewords.
However, in that circumstance the sub may already be distraught because of the severity of the situation, and they may forget their safeword. Or it may not instinctively come to their mind. If the Dom is sensing that the sub’s condition is becoming deeply upset and agitated, they should remind them of their safewords.
Also if something new, or if something extremely intense is going to happen, then the Dom should remind the sub of their safewords again beforehand.
My Dom is very good about this, but one thing I like to do during something very demanding is to repeat my safewords to myself in my head. This way they will more readily come to mind if I need to use them.
No one should ever say, “A real sub doesn’t have safewords.” If a sub is new to BDSM or coming in to a new relationship, it is a huge red flag if they say they don’t have safewords. Safewords build trust and bring meaning into the relationship. Be comfortable using them and you will experience greater pleasure.