Today we’re going to discuss a use for safewords that most people haven’t thought of or considered. We all know how useful they can be during scenes, a way to stop or slow things if something has gone wrong.Read more: Safewords Aren’t Just for Scenes
Saying ‘Red’ (or whatever you choose) is a way to let the Dom know that there is a problem, in a way that won’t be mistaken for part of the play. It removes the ambiguity.
One reason safewords were created was because many submissives/bottoms/brats like to get into a headspace during play that allows them to struggle a bit. Saying ‘No, no, stop!’ doesn’t actually mean they want you to stop. There needed to be a way to make it instantly clear that it was a real protest, not dramatics as part of the scene.
It’s also important that when people see a scene, they know that the person being spanked/whipped/hurt has an escape route. The fact that they aren’t using it means everything is consensual and okay. So, in some ways the safeword is also there to reassure the community also.
It’s a tool, one of many, that make the scene a safer place. Can you play without one? Sure, lots of people do, but it does mean you have to be more careful. The Top needs to pay closer attention and even with that you need to remember you are adding additional risk.
It’s never a good idea for people who are new to the scene or playing with a new partner—but we’ve discussed these things before.
But what about using safewords outside of a BDSM scene. They can be useful during sex, of course, and I think a lot of people have already figured that out. There are times when sex actually borders on BDSM or includes it, so some people make the jump naturally to include them.
If you haven’t… you might want to consider it because it’s easy to make mistakes and misunderstand things during sex too. And the rougher the sex the more danger there is of making a mistake.
But … that’s not our focus today either.
Today we’re going to discuss emotional safewords. We’re going to talk about using safewords during intense or difficult conversations.
Stop for a minute and consider this.
Not all pain is physical. Words can be hard to hear, and hard to say. Every relationship will eventually need to have a difficult, painful, conversation.
Romantic partners, and D/s partners especially will hit these places. When you’re sharing intense emotions with people, criticism can feel like an attack. Requests to change or do things differently may seem like you’re being told you’re not good enough.
Whether you’re romantic partners, Dom/sub, or both, there will come a time when a conversation twists into something painful, and maybe even harmful to both of you. What is a safeword for, if not to stop you from getting harmed?
And I want to make it clear that even if we’re talking about a D/s dynamic, the safeword shouldn’t just be for the submissive/bottom. Tops/Doms can be hurt by words too. Tempers get heated. Words fly out of your mouth without thought on both sides.
If you know you’re going to have a difficult conversation, or you can feel a regular conversation starting to turn… stop. Suggest using safewords. Simple yellow and red stoplight colors would probably be best. Especially if your partner isn’t kinky and isn’t totally used to safewords.
I think we’re at a point now where most people know what they are, even if they’ve never used them. So you shouldn’t have to explain how they work. But it might be a shock to consider using them for a conversation.
But think about it like this… wouldn’t difficult discussions be easier if you knew when you were triggering your partner, upsetting your partner, or even hurting your partner? Do we get anything accomplished when we’re both hurt and angry?
No, because once you reach that point people shut down. They stop listening. They can’t take in what you’re saying logically, once emotions are engaged.
Let me give you a quick example:
Donna notices that things have been left undone for the fourth day in a row and decides it’s time to address it with her sub. “Katie, I’m really angry with you. I feel like you’ve done nothing but ignore me and your rules all week. I’ve given you lists every day and half of it isn’t even done. Are you even trying?”
Katie, who has been having a very stressful week and is feeling overwhelmed at the beginning of this is not going to be able to respond with calm logical reasons about why the lists weren’t done. Katie is probably going to shut down. There might be tears, or there might be angry snapping back—either way this is not going to be productive.
I find yellow is good for needing a minute. Red is good for when something has seriously been triggered and the whole conversation, or some part of it needs to be tabled for a little bit.
So, let’s try this instead.
Katie tries to explain and realizes it’s too much. “You don’t understand! I— Yellow.”
Then they both take a minute. They both calm down. Nothing gets said that will be regretted later.
After a minute of organizing thoughts, Katie can explain. “I have been trying, but this has been a difficult week. My boss doubled my workload because a co-worker is out sick. I’ve had to stay late every day. On top of that my car broke and was in the shop so I couldn’t get to the errands.”
Donna may have been vaguely aware of some of what was going on, but they hadn’t specifically discussed it. She had her own busy, hectic week and hadn’t put it all together. Because Katie was able to interrupt things and then calmly explain, they can now discuss ways to fix the problem.
You can reverse this too.
“Ma’am, I did everything I was supposed to do this week. You promised me a reward scene the other night and then you fell asleep. It feels like it’s been forever since we played. I’m hurt and struggling. And you don’t even notice I—”
“Yellow!” Donna has been struggling all week just to take care of herself. She has been trying to take care of Katie too, but she’s exhausted and worn out.
When Katie, clearly upset, starts to complain all Donna can think is that she’s failing them both. She’s shaky and on the verge of breaking down. But instead of falling apart, or worse, lashing out at Katie… she says ‘yellow’.
She takes a minute to get a drink of water and calm down. And then she comes back, and they talk about why things have been a struggle for them both. Donna as the Top is allowed to have limits too.
People forget this.
She is allowed to put her own needs on the table and that might mean she can’t give Katie everything she needs at the moment. That kind of conversation can be extremely difficult. Both want things to work, both are trying and there is no bad guy except for the world around them making things difficult.
In a conversation like that you both might need to safeword, more than once, before you finally reach a resolution that you can both live with. But being able to stop or slow things before they escalate can be a big help.
Do you find, as a sub, that your Dom reacts defensively when you discuss needs not being met?
Do you find as a Dom, that your sub falls apart and starts putting themselves down any time you try to discuss behavior issues?
These are things that a safeword can help with and the great thing is that either of you can use them. Is your sub being defensive and cutting you off to say why none of it is their fault? Is your partner not listening because they are getting too upset?
As with a D/s scene using the safeword removes the ambiguity from the situation. It can also be the shock you need to break out of a spiral.
For myself, I’ve found that just being able to say ‘Red!’ when I’m struggling with a conversation is a release valve in a way. I can feel myself starting to calm down as soon as I get the word out.
I wish I had learned that it was possible to use a safeword in other situations earlier, because when I think back, I can see many times it would have helped. It was until my current relationships that it became a thing.
G normalized it and it’s been a big help when navigating relationship discussions. I’m not sure why I had never thought of it. I think probably a lot of people haven’t—so now you have a new idea to try.
Let me know how it goes if you end up using it!