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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