So the rule of thumb is typically that it’s better to stick with the more widely known Safewords. In Southern California we use the “traffic light” safewords of green, yellow, and red. It may or may not be different in different parts of the country or internationally – however, since I didn’t research that I won’t presume to know.
First I will explain what (basically) these safewords mean in case any readers are newer to the scene. Green means the bottom is enjoying what’s happening. Now, you don’t hear “green” very often because typically if a bottom is really enjoying themselves they are just in the moment and perhaps all that’s coming out of their mouth are pleasurable moans, screams, etc. Red means the Top needs to stop whatever they are doing and check in with the bottom. It may mean there is one aspect of the scene that needs to stop or that the entire scene needs to end. Yellow has a more flexible meaning. To some it may mean don’t stop and check in – just lighten up on what you’re doing or switch to doing something else or use a different implement. It could, however, mean to others that they want a verbal check in from their Top – although they aren’t in as much distress as if they call red.
Now the reason I typically don’t recommend changing the safewords you use is for two reasons. One – if you keep changing them it will be harder to remember them in the moment you may need to use them. Two – if you are playing in a public play space then the DMs (Dungeon Monitors) will know what words to listen for in case they need to step in.
So let’s discuss the only time I suggest changing your safewords. Let me say first – if you decide to change them you NEED to let the DMs know and maybe even a few more people who may be around for your scene. If you call one and your Top doesn’t stop, you have people around who will know that and can step in if you need help.
Ok, so, in the 7ish years I have been playing I have only changed my safewords twice. Both for scenes that leaned heavily on role-play. In my case, interrogation role-play. The reason they were changed was to be able to call safewords while still staying in character and using words or techniques to maintain the scene itself.
Both scenes involved my Top trying to get information out of me. In both cases we also had several other people involved in the scene to various degrees of involvement. In one scene she was trying to extract a location. In this case we had one other person who was the only other person (besides me) that knew the “location” who was not directly involved in the physical aspects of the scene but was there the whole time. When I would “give in” and state a location, my Top would verify with the other person. If she stated that was not the location then the scene continued, however, the check in gave me a little break and also represented my “yellow”. If I gave a location and it checked out – that was my “red” and indicated that the scene was over. Basically that the interrogation “broke me”.
In the other example my Top was trying to get a “secret code” out of me. In this case I would give a password for my email. (Yes this was someone I was in a relationship with and trusted.) If I needed to “call yellow”, aka needed a break, I would give the wrong password. It gave me a few minutes while she attempted to use her phone to open my email. However, when I was ready to end the scene (aka red) I gave the correct password. Once she could open my email she knew I was calling the scene.
Yes I changed my password the next day.
I hope these examples made sense. If not, feel free to comment below with questions. The bottom line is that it’s better to stick to the universally recognized safewords. Only change them if you feel it will otherwise be a detriment to the scene and always make sure the DMs or others around you know what’s up.
Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. Read more about Jennifer on her blog, A Kink Shrink.