For as long as I exist in a space of teaching for and existing within the kink community, I will never stop promoting, encouraging and inviting any conversation or action that promotes safety and empowerment. While completely eliminating any risk is not possible and frankly, some risk is welcomed, it is still incredibly important to protect the space and hold firm the boundaries that are agreed upon within any scene.
Historically, we have been programmed to follow many rules both consciously and unconsciously. Consciously, we subscribe to the laws created for us. We know that a red light means we must stop and if we drive through that light we risk a consequence. We also follow rules unconsciously, playing into the social scripts that have been created for us, like our fixation on socially constructed beauty ideals or that relationships must exist in a certain structure to be valid. As we reflect on our lives, while we like to think that we are running the show, there are many areas where we have little to no control. The force that pulls us is often not coming from within but from the outside and let me tell you, that force is strong.
When safe words are discussed, it is typically in a conversation about safety only but safe words are so much more than that. Safe words allow for us to be empowered in our erotic lives. They allow for us to be vulnerable and to develop deep trust between anyone participating in play. In a world where so much of what we do is controlled and so many of our “nos” get ignored, safe words allow for us to feel the power of having decisions in our own hands. How incredibly freeing to know that we have a decision that we can make that is entirely our own, without influence or pressure by another? Safe words are more than just opting out, they are empowering within.
I am often asked about the do’s and don’ts of safe words. Where do we begin? When should I use them? How do I choose which one works for me? These questions are all extremely important and while many folks have differing opinions on safe words, I will provide my standard rules. Please note that these rules may not apply to everyone but have been a solid base for myself, my friends and many clients who participate in kink play.
The first and most important rule of safe words is simply to have them. I have heard the debate many times that folks do not want or need a safe word and of course, we all have the power to make those decisions for our own lives, but I do not in any way encourage that. If you are new to the kink scene, it is paramount that you have safe words integrated into play. Consent and boundary violations are far more likely to occur if safe words do not exist and negative early experiences in the kink world can be highly influential on the future of your kink exploration.
A safe world simply existing in the realm of your consciousness is not enough. It needs to be shared, discussed and agreed upon. The question often remains, how do I choose one? Well, one of the most important aspects of choosing a safe word is selecting a word that you will not only remember, but one that does not naturally come up within an erotic encounter. Words like “no”, “stop” or “don’t” are often integrated into play and can create confusion within a scene. Safe words should be obscure, but not so much so that they will pull you entirely out of the erotic space. If you pick a word that makes you laugh or uncomfortable, you may struggle to get back into the erotic space if you choose to do so.
The most common safe words that I have heard are based on the traffic light system. Green indicates complete comfort with where the scene is at and designates consent to continue. Yellow indicates that the comfort zone is being pushed but that there is still consent to continue with the awareness that any further may be too far. Of course, there is red, indicating a full stop. There is no confusion about the use of the full stop safe word. Play stops, period. You and your partner/s have the freedom to choose words that you will use in your play but keep in mind that there needs to be no doubt whatsoever regarding what the words are and what each of them means.
So, let’s be real for a moment here. There are plenty of situations that an individual can be in where their mouth is not free or their ability to verbally communicate is no longer existent. These are the moments that reinforce the importance of not only having a safe word but having a safe gesture. Whether you agree on squeezing a hand a number of times, tapping out, or creating your own gesture, these are vital for those who play with breath, gags, or any activity where your mouth is full. Erring on the side of caution can only enhance play so having both a safe word and a safe gesture can allow for a safer, more comfortable and more connected experience.
Now, if a safe word has been established, shared and agreed upon, there is one more component that is crucial to discuss. This is the actual use of safe words. I have heard far too many times stories of individuals hesitant or even against using safe words. The problem with this mindset is that it is doing a disservice to every person involved in the play. Safe words are meant to keep boundaries in place and crossing those boundaries can result in the type of physical and/.or emotional harm that deters folks from playing again in the future. As much as a submissive trusts that their Dominant will adhere to the use of safe words, a Dominant trusts that their submissive will use it if necessary as well. Trust that a safe word will be respected on ALL sides is key to play and if safe words are not used when needed, the boundaries are violated for everyone involved.
In addition, it is important to note that submissives/bottoms are not the only people that benefit from or are entitled to the use of safe words. Limits can be crossed for all folks within a scene and the idea that Doms do not or should not safe word is problematic and dangerous. All of those involved have the right to opt out of play at any given time and we must remember that boundaries are not limited to only subs and bottoms.
All in all, the use of safe words is an incredibly important component in kink play. To allow ourselves to be completely immersed in the play with the knowledge that we have the freedom to opt out at any point is what can make the play itself even more intense and powerful. Trust is built when all parties involved adhere to the boundaries created and trust is the key to unlock the endless potential of pleasure that we can all experience.
About The Author
Elyssa Rice is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in the Kink and Alternative Lifestyle community. She is a writer, lecturer and advocate for sexual empowerment and sexual freedom. She has a private practice in Los Angeles, CA and is dedicated to shifting the narrative about both the mental health and Kink community.
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