Book four of Daddy Takes the Reins, Forever His Brat, came out a few weeks ago. It completes the story arc for Sam and Charlie. They get their happy ever after and I really love how everything wrapped up. The series is going to continue, but with a new couple taking the lead.
I still have plans for Sam and Charlie, so you’ll see them again– probably sooner than you think.
But today I want to talk about one facet of Charlie and Sam’s dynamic. Even though Claiming His Brat came out well over a year ago, I still get complaints about the fact that they don’t use safewords during punishment.
I wanted to write a realistic couple who play by R.A.C.K. or Risk Aware Consensual Kink rules because you never see that in romance. I’m not sure if I came right out and mentioned R.A.C.K. in the books or not, but I showed it when Charlie decide she didn’t want safewords, and they discussed why.
Authors either completely skip safeword conversation altogether, or they mention it a few times just to reassure readers that everything is above board, and then it really doesn’t impact the plot in any way.
Readers seem fine with those vague reassurances that everything is in compliance with SSC because safewords were mentioned. But as someone who has a lot of experiences in the scene, I try to incorporate variety into my worlds and characters.
I know that most romance books are covering only a section of the kink world. They’ve pretty much chosen one dynamic to hold up as an example of how a D/s relationship should be. Which is fine, a lot of people do play like that, but I wanted to show a segment who don’t.
So, I drew on my experience in the scene, and that of many people I know, to create a situation where the main character, Charlie, didn’t want a safeword. She wanted the discipline to feel real, not like a ‘scene’ they were acting out.
I never really anticipated it upsetting people because I know so many who do live like that. And while I don’t like getting 1-2 star reviews for it, I’m actually glad that it gives me an opportunity to talk about these subjects here. There are a lot of people out there who just don’t understand there is a huge variety in how people play and what has become the popular norm in fiction, is not always how things go in real life.
For those who don’t know, RACK is the acknowledgement that all kink comes with inherent risk. Some things are riskier than others, but nothing is completely safe. It is my preferred philosophy for living a kink lifestyle because it treats you like an adult and lets you choose how much risk to accept in your play.
In my opinion SSC (Safe, Sane, and Consensual) has a lot of flaws, but the biggest one is that it’s fake. It’s a nice philosophy to strive for, in theory, but it was basically created to reassure vanilla people that we weren’t crazy.
It’s bland and flavorless, because it was designed to be soothing to people who didn’t get kink to begin with. It wasn’t meant for us to build our lives around and that’s an issue because when you start to look too close, it falls apart.
I’ve broken this down and compared SSC and RACK in other posts. Here’s one if you want to read the whole thing: https://kessilylewel.com/2019/04/18/weve-outgrown-safe-sane-and-consensual-ssc/
What it comes down to is this, there is no completely safe way to do most kinks. Fireplay, bloodplay, heavy spanking, whipping, caning, suspension, bondage—NONE of these are 100% safe. You can minimize the risks of each in various ways, but you should always go in with your eyes open and know that injuries do happen.
Sane is in the eye of the beholder and once you remove the tame surface level kinks and trot out the more intense stuff you will never convince everyone that those activities are sane. I don’t kink shame but even I squint at some of the kinks people consent to play out.
That leaves consent. And consent is the only part of SSC that stands up and must be maintained.
So SSC was discarded by many experienced players years ago. And while we still trot it out to reassure the vanillas, and it’s a great public facing slogan, most of us are aware that it’s the training wheels version of understanding how the lifestyle works. It sounds nice, uncomplicated, simple. It’s what we use for people who don’t really want to have a deeper understanding of it all, and don’t need to.
R.A.C.K is more like a college level education. It might not be as reassuring but it’s real, it’s logical, and it works.
Risk-Aware understands that every kink is inherently risky. None of it is safe. It accepts that people will do them anyway and that the best plan is just to take steps to mitigate the more dangerous aspects. Or at least go into things being completely aware of the danger and potential problems.
This gives people a lot of leeway in terms of how they manage their kink lives and in what ways they mitigate those risks.
So for those who use RACK as a basis for their kink it comes down to discussing what risks you are willing to take, and which you’re not. Both partners should be on the same page. Both partners need to understand the risks, and consent to them.
Mutual consent defines the difference between healthy kink and abuse. Safewords are mentioned almost as often, not just as the simple safety feature they were designed to be, but as a way to decide whether or not someone is being abused.
The option of having a safeword should ALWAYS be there for a sub. If you don’t have that option, then that’s a huge red flag. But having been given the option of a safeword, you, as an adult, can choose when and how you want to implement it.
The extreme focus on safewords by the world at large has also given the idea that there’s only one way to play these games. Either you have safewords and all the other trappings, or it’s nonconsensual– period. No discussion allowed.
That’s very much an SSC way of looking things. It’s trying to push scary things into a box labeled ‘not sane’ because you don’t like them. And once it’s in that box you can insist that it’s the wrong way to live the lifestyle.
But just because you wouldn’t do something like that doesn’t mean other people don’t. You may not like the idea of not using a safeword, but it’s actually fairly common and realistic for many people in a discipline relationship. It’s also fairly common in TPE (total power exchange) relationships where the sub is consenting to give up a lot more control.
Does that mean it’s nonconsensual?
No, because consent and safety features aren’t the same thing. One is agreeing to do something with someone. The other is for making sure that what you’ve already agreed to do is safer than it would be otherwise.
Here’s the thing about safety features. Every day people chose to skip them, and they do so for their own reasons. Kink is no different. Declining to use a safeword might add 5% risk to a scene. But using a wooden implement instead of your hand also adds 5%. Using an implement that requires skill and concentration like a heavy whip? That adds 10% risk or more.
Fireplay? 10% added risk. Bondage with gags 10% added risk. But no one is saying you can’t use implements, rope, or gags even though they clearly add a level of risk. So why is there an assumption that you can’t possibly play without a safeword?
Are you telling me I can consent to my partners tying my arms and legs behind my back, putting a gag in my mouth, paddling my butt with a thick piece of wood, dabbing alcohol on my skin and then setting it on fire— but I’m not allowed to say I don’t want a safeword for some scenes?
As far as I’m concerned, as long as you understand the inherent risks in what you’re doing, and willingly consent to it then your style of play should be accepted in the scene.
I think safewords are important. I think they are necessary in some situations, especially when you’re playing with people you don’t know well. I also think that clubs, parties, and play spaces should make them mandatory (most do).
If you are new to the scene, or with a new partner, then I think you should use safewords. If you are in a new D/s relationship and the safeword discussion never comes up, then that should be a red flag because you need to be on the same page.
I do not recommend playing without a safeword until you are experienced and playing with a partner who is equally experienced and knows you well. But once you have reached that stage you have informed consent and it’s up to you.
RACK lets adults decide how much risk to take and that includes playing without a safeword if you choose that. Should you decide to skip that level of safety then the decision to do so should always come from the sub—not the Dom.
A Dom who pushed to play without a safeword would be out the door in two minutes. And even if the sub suggests it, the Dom isn’t required to agree. They are also adding risk and have a right to say no.
For me personally, I prefer not to use a safeword with my own Doms during punishment. That is my choice, which I’m allowed to make. Let me explain my thoughts on this.
For fun scenes I do prefer to have a safeword. Those scenes should be enjoyable and if something isn’t going right then you want to be able to pause it to figure that out and fix it. I also like safewords for intense conversations and I think that should be normalized.
But punishment is different. I don’t want an escape hatch because it makes the punishment feel less real for me. It feels like a game of pretend—like most scenes are, and not something that I hope will actually impact my behavior.
If you only enjoy kink in the bedroom because it’s a turn-on, you probably won’t get this. If all your scenes are based in sexual arousal, then you may not understand punishment at all, except in roleplay.
But for those who live a discipline lifestyle and need the structure, rules and consequences that come with being in that kind of dynamic then kink isn’t always for fun. Sometimes it’s punishment and it’s meant to be unpleasant not arousing.
I can and do enjoy scenes. I can and do get turned-on by BDSM. But that’s just one aspect for me.
I can be spanked for fun and laugh my way through it. The exact same spanking for punishment will have me crying, and kicking my legs because the emotional impact is different. I want that punishment to feel real and intense because it’s supposed to.
But in the midst of the scene, when I’m feeling all those emotions, and in pain, or even having an attitude or pouting about being in trouble— I don’t want a safeword because I would 100% abuse it by ending the scene as soon as it got to be too ouchy.
I would regret it later. I would probably end up getting in more trouble because that unfinished scene would have me upset and out of sorts and I would feel guilty. No catharsis. No forgiveness because I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself.
Instead of helping me feel better the scene would leave me feeling worse.
So, how does the Dom know when to stop? How do you know they won’t go too far if you don’t have a safeword? These are questions I see asked a lot.
This is why you need to make sure you’re playing with someone who knows you very well, because that’s how you minimize the risk. I have certain tells that indicate when I’ve reached the right place. Doms who have been playing with me for a long time know this.
And let’s be honest. We’re all conditioned to stop immediately when we hear red. I know, in my head, I don’t have a safeword, so I’m not going to be tempted to use it for no reason. I also know if there was an actual emergency and I needed things to stop I can guarantee calling red will be instinctive anyway.
And if my Dom who knows that I don’t use a safeword, hears me say red… chances are good they are going to stop, at least for a second, to check anyway. It’s just instinctive. If that failed, I would probably say “Emergency!” because anything that’s not in the usual kind of scene protesting is going to catch their attention.
In every other circumstance where I’ve ever come close to where I would have needed to safeword in punishment, my Dom noticed and paused before I even got to the point of saying anything. So, for me the risk in playing without one is minimal. For others it might not be, and that’s a decision they will have to make on their own.
I have enjoyed writing Sam and Charlie. I love their dynamic because it resonates with me and I’m still glad I chose to go that way because these are conversations that need to be out there.
That being said, if the lack of safewords bothers and upsets you, I completely understand. You might prefer the Action Daddy series better. Olivia is new to all of this, and her Daddy Dom, Mitch is walking her through everything properly— including discussions on safewords and using them.