Safewords are one of the most important forms of communication in the BDSM scene. When you’re acting out any kind of scene, no matter how intense or how light, part of the joy of it is roleplaying. You get to release your inhibitions, and if you’re into pain, for example, part of the thrill might be literally crying and begging the top to stop. This isn’t because the person actually wants the beating to stop – it’s just part of the scene. However, because pretty much anything that comes out of someone’s mouth during play is part of play, there is always a safeword needed that basically acts as a key turning a lock, or flipping a switch to off. The safeword might be something bizarre or out of place, to grab the other person’s attention. For example, if a woman is being verbally abused and punished, she might cry and beg for mercy. The top takes her over his knee and starts to spank her, and it gets to be too hard. She reaches her limit, so she says the safeword, which might be something bizarre like “KETCHUP.” This alerts the top that it’s time to stop. Here are a few tips about how to navigate the safeword maze, because sometimes a random word doesn’t quite work.
Kinksters will frequently not just have a single safeword, but a series of safewords that mean different things. A common system is green, yellow, or red. Green means it’s okay, so if a top is hesitating because they’re unsure, the bottom can simply say “green,” and he understands he can keep going. Yellow means that the bottom is approaching a limit, so the top should scale it back a bit. Red means stop. Using this system of safewords means that a bottom doesn’t approach their limit abruptly, because that can be jarring and mentally traumatizing. Always check in with your partner if you sense something is awry.
There’s probably going to be some time when a woman you’re topping is going to be wearing a ball gag. A ball gag is literally a ball attached to a string that comfortably fits around your head, and gags the wearer. They can make noise, but they are incapable of speech. It can be integrated into humiliation play, for example. However, this leaves you without a safeword. One approach to this is holding onto something that makes noise, like a set of keys or a bell, and the person can jingle them when they want the scene to stop. This takes intense attention and focus, though, because you have to make sure they don’t drop the noise making item. Another possibility is to simply tie a bell or some other type of jangling item to an unrestrained limb on the bottom that has movement, so the sound that means stop isn’t lost. No matter what kind of scene or play you engage in, having a safeword is of the utmost importance. Responsible, consensual play means the ability to say no.