Safewords and More: Staying Safe During BDSM Play!

Posted by Andrew Schroeder on

The BDSM scene has blown up in recent years, with so many people engaging in BDSM activities and even more considering adding these practices to spice up their sex life. While experimentation is often welcome in the bedroom, there are specific rules that the BDSM lifestyle has to adhere to. These exist for a reason — not take the fun out of things like impact play, but to provide additional safety. That is where safewords come in.

Is BDSM Dangerous?

BDSM stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism, and it (most commonly) entails sexual activity involving dominant and submissive roles. It can also include acts of bondage, whipping, spanking, and choking, etc., all to cause pain in order to achieve pleasure.

From the above paragraph, you may be wondering: “Is BDSM safe?” The honest answer is — most of the time. The main aspects of BDSM are roleplaying and communication. That is where safewords come in. Safewords are words or short phrases that you use to let your BDSM partner know that what they’re doing isn’t something you’re comfortable with. That makes them cease the action immediately, thus, keeping both of you safe.

You can think of BDSM as putting on a performance since it shares a lot of concepts, such as playing characters (roleplaying as either a submissive or a dominant) and creating scenes. Communication is essential to having safe, fun, and exciting play. If something goes wrong, then the character (roleplay) must be broken so that you can mend the issue.

Safewords Exist to Be Used!

In a nutshell, when someone uses the safeword, all play must stop. A submissive using their safeword to look after their well-being is not a sign of weakness. After all, not everyone enjoys the same things. That is why one of the vital aspects of BDSM is respecting your partner’s limits. So if anyone uses a safeword, the other party can quickly adjust the play so that it better suits their partner.

However, if anything goes awry, you should stop the scene immediately. Allow your submissive to recharge, and be there to comfort them. They are, after all, your partner, and making sure they are safe and well should be your priority!

Another important safety factor worth mentioning is that it takes practice to learn the art of being a good dom. And we don’t say that just referring to your demeanor. We’re talking about different kinds of gadgets and actions that are often a part of BDSM scenes. Activities such as whipping and spanking may seem simple, but they are more than meets the eye. Learning a few useful techniques can come a long way! One can say the same for more advanced practices, such as predicament or suspension bondage, electro play, medical play, pain play, etc.

Safe, Sane, Consensual

One of the primary mottos of BDSM is safe, sane, consensual, aka SSC. This slogan is the foundation of proper and safe sex play that you should always keep in mind throughout every BDSM scene. That can only be achieved through open and honest communication before the play, during it, and in the aftercare. The motto is relatively easy to remember.

Safe indicates that you and your partner are both out of harm’s way at all times. The existence of safewords or gestures achieves that. Also, as we’ve already mentioned, knowing the proper technique for using different types of toys is also imperative.

Sane means that you are both in the right frame of mind and are open to trying new things. That also refers to one’s state of mind. That means no participant should be under the influence of any substances during a scene. Your reaction times will be slower, so if anything goes wrong, it might take you too long to notice.

The final aspect, consensual, should need no special introduction. After all, ANY sexual act requires it… But it is especially crucial in BDSM. Therefore, both you and your partner need to be on the same page before you start. Again, everything links back to communication, so keep that in mind.

Another motto that exists in the BDSM realm is RACK. That means, “risk, aware, consensual, kink,” and it highlights the fact that kinky actions are risky. Thus, all participants should be aware of the risks before commencing a scene.

Finally, “hurt, not harm” is another motto. This one means that some pain (hurt) will be involved, but that it should not lead to long-term harm that could ruin the experience.

What Is a Safeword?

Now that the basics are out of the way, let us move on to what a safeword is. A safeword is a code word the BDSM partners use to protect themselves. If anyone uses it, that is an indication something is wrong or needs to be adjusted straight away.

It is a “panic button” for the submissive or dominant if they need to stop or take a break. Subs are usually the ones that use the safeword, but even dominants can do it at times. Now, the word should be something that is not often used in play so that the partner can snap back to reality and see what is going on. Overall, safewords are the foundation of any BDSM relationship as they symbolize the trust that the partners have for each other.

Moreover, there are various levels of safewords. These can mean anything from “stop, something is wrong,” and “please, slow down,” or softer, “I am reaching my pain limit,” to “keep going, it is all good.”

However, safewords are not only limited to vocal cues but can include actions as well. A predetermined gesture can be used to indicate how the submissive is feeling, especially if they cannot speak due to being gagged or any other reason. These can be anything from raising a finger to shaking their head while mumbling.

Finally, we must mention that you should never partake in a BDSM activity without first determining the safewords. And if your partner refuses to do so, just leave. After all, the essence of BDSM is pleasure, not violence.

How to Pick a Safeword

You and your partner should always decide on what safewords you’ll use before a scene. They should be easy to remember and quick to say. Many people use a BDSM light system. This example is straightforward, where red means “stop,” yellow is “slow down,” and green is “keep going.”

However, couples can get more creative by using strange-sounding words that are uncommon during sex — for example, pineapple, or even Harry Potter. Your safeword ideas must stand out from the typical “script” of the play so that you can’t overlook it. Therefore, you should not use words such as “stop” or “no” because they can take on a different meaning in roleplaying.

Think of a couple using “no” or “stop” in-between giggles or playful teasing, and you can see the potential problem. Keep it short, simple, and attention-grabbing so that the dom can stop what they’re doing and resolve the issue. While phrases can also work, short, easy-to-say words typically work better.

As mentioned, you two should not only stick to vocals but include gestures as well. A pet training clicker or bells could do the trick to get the dominant’s attention and break their character. Otherwise, a combination of movements and sounds can also work to break immersion and tell your partner they need to cease what they’re doing.

When to Use a Safeword

There are a number of factors which influence when to use a safeword, and they are usually brought on by the submissive. That is because they are the ones that will be in pain during sex play, as well as the only ones who know their limits. Aside from that, some other factors could be:

  • There is something wrong with the sex toys/equipment
  • The environment no longer feel safe
  • They/you got tired
  • They/you just want to stop for any reason
  • The bondage is choking them
  • They/you are feeling uncomfortable or triggered
  • One of you no longer consents

Another example of a good time to pop the safeword is if you don’t like the play that is going on. If the whip or sex toy used on you is not to your liking, you can signal your partner to change mid-scene to something more up your alley.

However, if you’re feeling unwell, immediately use the safeword. The following can indicate that there is something wrong with your body:

  • Feeling dizzy/lightheaded
  • Feeling like you may throw up
  • Head or chest pain (even mild)
  • Not seeing or hearing clearly
  • Anything that you may feel is wrong with your body (even if you are not 100 percent sure, just use the safeword/action)

These medical issues could be due to a few things, such as having low blood sugar or even being dehydrated. You can stop your play even if you are not sure what is wrong. It is better to be safe than faint on your partner.

Never Involve Non-Consenting People

What does involving non-consenting people mean? Well, it’s simple — engaging in BDSM in public places, for example. As tempting as “doing it” in front of strangers may seem, you should never do it if they don’t agree to it. Some people are not interested (or comfortable) watching you in action. These people are non-consenting, and you would be technically going against the SSC motto. But if you are into voyeurism, there are special places/clubs where you can do it! Just look it up online and find one nearest to you.

Another notion to be aware of is if you are thinking of including others in your play, you should only do that if all members are interested and you have set the ground rules beforehand. But if for any reason someone says “no” when you offer them to join your BDSM group (usually in a private, comfortable setting before anything happens), it means no. Plus, if Facebook events have taught us anything, it is that “maybe” means “no” too. So keep that in mind when looking for potential playmates.

Furthermore, keep in mind that when you begin a scene (regardless of how many participants there are), you should ask permission throughout. And if you feel uncomfortable or are just not keen on something, speak up!

Communicate Constantly

In order to have a healthy and successful BDSM relationship, you and your partner need to speak to each other about your scenes regularly. That can be done before, during, and after them. You two should make a safe space where both the submissive and the dominant can voice their views and concerns about the play that took or will take place. Remember — they are your partner who has ideas and worries they need to voice.

Another critical aspect is the aftercare. This part takes place when the scene ends and the emotions of it have dropped (also known as a sub drop.) This time can be crucial for the two of you to reconnect and offer some form of comfort to each other. You should do aftercare to mentally and physically guide each other back into the real world.

It would also be a good idea to check in with each other a few days after the event to see if all is well. It may happen that the emotions of the play hit later. If that happens, a simple phone call will do wonders for your partner, so don’t hesitate to make it.

Wrapping Up

BDSM could indeed be dangerous if there is a lack of communication between everyone involved. So we have to re-emphasize the importance of determining safewords beforehand and making sure everyone is on the same page regarding everything you’ll be doing. That is the only way we can make the play fun and enjoyable for both parties. After all, isn’t that the whole point of BDSM?


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