Safewords – Do I Need One?

Do I need a safeword?

I have mixed feelings about safewords. On one hand I think they are an important part of keeping safe in a BDSM relationship and, on the other, I wonder if they are pretty superfluous in the type of D/s relationship that I have now. In truth, we tend not to use safewords and the only times we have, were at the beginning of the relationship. I suppose, starting out, it was something we read that we needed to do, so we adopted the colour system where green means keep going I am enjoying it, yellow means slow down or pause and check in, and red means this is too much I need to stop.

Using safewords and lessons learnt

The first time I used a safeword was very early on. HL was disappointed with me over something, I forget the details now, and had said that at bedtime there would be a punishment. It turned out what he had planned was actually a mindfuck but I hadn’t known that and, part way through, I became frightened by his demeanour and the suggestion of what the punishment was going to be, so I safeworded. This was a lesson to both of us for a couple of things, but the key one was not to listen to the types of things other people said we should be doing, and to try to find things which fitted with us, our personalities and our relationship.

The second time it happened I was at work, so it was actually a safeword by text, which sounds a bit odd. We were part way through the process of deep throat training at that time, and I had been using a dildo to practice with at home. HL decided to follow this up by messaging me at work and instructing me to practice my gag reflex by putting my fingers down my throat until I gagged. His idea was that, over time, I would be able to take increasingly more without eliciting a gag. I really wanted to do this for him. I was in that phase where it was all new and different and I wanted to do everything he told me, but I put my fingers towards my mouth and knew that I couldn’t.

I felt upset and panicked. I had asked him to Dominate me and I wanted to submit to him, but as much as I wanted to succeed and to please him, I knew I couldn’t do it. This request had triggered some negative feelings for me which went back to my eating disorder days. To be honest, I did not even known that I had an issue prior to this, but as much as I wanted to do as asked, I wasn’t going to be able to conquer it sitting there alone at my desk at work. I thought about it for a while before I sent a text containing one word – red. He asked me why, and I told him. Lesson two; you won’t get it right every time and it is always better to say if you have an issue with something.

Safewords as communication

So based on these two examples, surely I would be advocating the use of safewords? I used one both times and on both occasions I needed things to stop. Well, in my opinion, neither of these situations really warranted one. In the type of relationship we have, and in the two scenarios outlined above, a simple explanation of how I was feeling would have done. HL would not have pushed me. He would not have continued, thinking that really ‘no’ meant ‘carry on’. He would have stopped, as he did, and we would have discussed the issue, as we did.

The first time was a case of lack of experience leading to something that was never going to work, and the second was a lack of awareness of a negative emotional triggers. We have hit issues similar to these since, despite more experience we still get it wrong sometimes, and have not used a safeword. We have stopped and we have talked and this is what works for us. We know each other really well. Yes we are Dom and sub, but we are also husband and wife, mum and dad, and best friends. We deal with life together, and all the ups and downs of emotions that brings out way, and we know when it is time to drop the protocol and switch to another hat.

I am not saying that safewords aren’t good. They are quick and effective and clear. What I am saying is that the way we are together, I am confident that I would be able to make myself understood without an actual safeword. Even in heavy play, I don’t usually ask to stop when really I mean I want to carry on.  Usually I am not really vocal at all, much to HL’s disappointment, so it may be that things work differently for that reason. During play which includes consensual non-consent, we would discuss and agree ‘the rules’ beforehand, so that might be slightly different.

What I do, and I would like not to, is to allow my anxiety over pushing some boundaries to get the better of me. What I have been open to on a theoretical level, I can pull back from when it is presented as an opportunity. In that way, to have no safewords, only previously agreed limits, might allow me to be pushed further into my submissive mindset and to go past some of the barriers and obstacles that I set for myself. This is something that we have discussed and something that we need to look at more carefully, as it requires a level of confidence and trust that we both know that the other has a precise understanding of where the boundaries lie.

Find what works for you

At the end of the day, what works for each person is different but from my experience, safewords, like contracts, are structures that fit more easily into other forms of D/s relationship, than into the married lifestyle type that we have. Although there are similarities between them, there are a lot of differences too and, over time, we have identified a number of practices which we have found fairly superfluous to us. I have always thought it is important to understand why you do something and if the answer is simply  that it is something you thought you were supposed to do, I would question its place and say either ditch it or make it your own.

Having said all that I have done above, I do think there is a time and a place, and recently HL has been writing about public play and playing with others.  Having a set of safewords tucked away inside my corset is somehow reassuring when I think about situations like these which feel unfamiliar and a bit scary. In addition, I find it quite hot when he does a check in before a scene and asks if I remember my safewords; it suggests to me that the coming play will be intense and that maybe I am going to need one. So despite the fact that I associate the existence of safewords from a world of BDSM clubs and erotic novels, at that moment I am capitulated there, and it feels good.

Update: we had a chat tonight at The SafeworD/s Club on the topic of safewords and I remembered during the discussion that there was a third occasion when I had used a safeword.  We were playing and for the scene HL had selected ‘The Carpenters’ as background  I kept thinking, please let him realise, but to no avail ( he is not a mind-reader after all).  By track 4, I was totally out of the headspace and called red, so perhaps there is a need for a quick get out after all  


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  1. I love the way you talk about your relationship, and not needing the safewords.

    For me I know that any person I play with would stop if I was to say stop, or that I couldn’t carry on. However, when I’m pushing those boundaries I have an internal dialogue. That goes something like “no, no, no, no, no, no, no… Don’t be so silly n, you want to try this… OK, count me in” This works in any situation, vanilla or otherwise. In a kink scene if one of those nos were to slip out without a safeword in place the scene would end, and I would never be able to push myself past my perceived boundaries.

    • Yes I understand that and it is a good point. I need to be better at not letting anxiety get to me too but I tend to block things before they have even begun which is why I wonder about working with limits. It is interesting to read all the different posts and see how it works for different people. Thank you for your comment ?

  2. Great post missy. I think you definitely have to find what works for you, when you’re in the kind of relationships we are (married/living together) it may be that safe words are not used often, but I think it’s always a good idea to have one. None verbal ones too. I remember once I’d forgotten to breathe in between thrusts during a deep throat face fuck and I found myself panicking as I couldn’t breathe. We hadn’t thought to set a non verbal signal but of course I couldn’t speak! We now have a tap out lol!!!

  3. Great post missy and you are right, you have to do what works for you and your relationship. I have never thought about it in that way, but the reminder of the safewords or how to end play does add to the anticipation of it. It is something we will do before most play and it definitely gives some excitement.

    • I was a bit nervous posting it as I appreciate that the way things work for us may not be the norm and for most they seem to be a good thing. ?

  4. I think safe words have more of a place within a play scene, especially where you don’t know the other person well, the relationship is new or the other person is a novice. Day to day, in an established relationship then I think you are right. Only this week I asked G to stop when we were playing and he did. After a while I was able to carry on. If I shout ‘red’ it feels much more final.

    • Yes I think so. I would probably change my mind if I was to have any other partners or be in unfamiliar surroundings. ?

  5. I appreciate your take, Missy … it is most likely why in our previous dynamic, despite eventually coming around to having a safeword in place, it was never used. The way I look at it now … having one in place? … no harm, no foul … and if it’s never needed or used … all good as well … nj … xx

    • Yes I think that is a good approach to take and we still have them there despite not using them at the moment. ?

  6. I just want to echo your comment:

    “…but from my experience, safewords, like contracts, are structures that fit more easily into other forms of D/s relationship, than into the married lifestyle type that we have…”

    We have been doing this dynamic while also married for over a year. We don’t have a safe word. I think those are good and necessary in relationships where trust is less guaranteed. For us, we have 20+ years together, kids, family, etc.

    While good in some situations, ours is one where needing a safe word would indicate a greater relationship breakdown. I hope we never need one!

    • Thank you QH. I think that the topic can be a bit controversial but for us, as you say, we adopted them more from convention than from the experience that we needed one. The need to communicate with each other is there, however, we just do that in different ways. Thank you for adding your thoughts 🙂

      • This is a fantastic topic and as you say, safeword necessity varies in every relationship. We too are married, been doing this quite a while, etc. I am strongly in favor of having a safeword or movement. If it’s never needed, awesome! But never is a long time. Physical and emotional limits change – sometimes from day to day.

        In our case, I’ve always had issues with being gagged and restrained at the same time, particularly if I am face down. I have a hard time breathing through my nose in that position, and then, no way to say my safeword or anything else! This scenario, and others including suspension, breath play, and cage play require forethought regarding “what if x, y, or z were to happen?” How can the submissive be safe in every situation?

        I appreciate different opinions and perhaps there isn’t one correct answer for everyone. As others mentioned, no harm at all in having it there just in case.

        • Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I can appreciate that some of the activities you outline would need a lot to discussion and agreement as to how you communicated any issues. I have also enjoyed reading all the different thoughts on the topic ?

  7. It’s great your you are looking at this from the perspective of your relationship, but also from your own desire to want to become a good sub, despite some anxiety. I think what QH is adding about the type of relationship, in your case being also married, mother and father, best friends, makes a big difference. What I find fascinating is trying to explore yourself as a sub. That takes a special relationship, which no everyone has. Thanks for a great post and responses to the comments.

    • Thank you so much Francesca. I do think it can be different when you are in a married lifestyle sort of dynamic. There is obvious overlap but then other things are really not the same. Always great to read about how it works for others for this reason. I always learn a lot from others ❤️

  8. The key thing is – “what works for you” – that’s where I stand I think – I kinda feel I may need one on occasions but they will be rare – we just are not kinky enough lol x

    • Maybe you don’t push the boundaries further than you are both comfortable with. We are kinky but still that doesn’t happen. He knows when to stop and reads me well I guess. However if we were in unfamiliar territory then I think I would need one for that ?

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