Safe words are a very divisive subject. For me I wouldn’t even consider playing without a safe word but I also won’t criticise those that choose to play without them, that is their choice and a choice that is likely to have taken serious consideration.
As we always play with safe words, do I think that means I am safe, absolutely not. It is one tool to use to make play safer. It is rare that I’ve ever used mine and when I do I feel awful about myself, I feel I’ve let both myself and Sir down. Now I’m certain that he’d much prefer I use it and he wouldn’t consider it letting him down, however in the moment that isn’t what my brain says! He will on occasion push me into using my safe word, not only does he want to push me to the edge he wants to know that when the time comes I know what that safeword is. There are also times he does remind me that saying OW really loudly doesn’t count and I need to be quiet or safeword instead.
When we started out we used the traffic light system. RED for stop, AMBER for just hold back a little and GREEN for keep going, I’m fine. It seemed the logical choice at the time, most clubs or events have it as their recognised safe word. However, it went wrong for us, very wrong.
I was tied face down over the bed, he was hitting me with various implements and it was beginning to get a little too much to process. I didn’t want to stop the scene altogether but I needed him just to hold back for a moment so my mind could regroup a little. I called out AMBER but he kept going, harder. In that moment I was genuinely terrified. I’ve always felt very safe and secure with him but he wasn’t listening to my AMBER. Somehow I managed to get some strength and twisted around in my bonds so I could see him. He saw the terror in my eyes and in that moment we both realised what happened. He misheard my AMBER as aghhhhhhhh! Everything stopped in that instant, the hitty thing he was using was dropped, he lunged forward holding me and untying me and scooped me into his arms. I know he felt terrible, in fact I want to give him the opportunity to tell his side of the story.
Right, let me start by saying this was not my finest moment. I like to think, at times of play, I am in control of the situation but this was something of a wake up call that made me realise that you should always listen. Any little noise could be an indication that something’s not right and no matter how experienced you think you are or how well you know your partner. I love my Bee and it upset me that I had failed in fully understanding the situation and protecting her, it took me a while to recover my confidence. Thankfully we were able to learn from the situation and evolve how we play. Remember, just because you have a safe word it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re safe. I shall now hand you back to Bee.
Now don’t get me wrong, none of this was his, or my, fault. In some ways I’m glad it happened, it made us really think about what happened. The outcome of this was we changed our safe words and how we play. We discarded the traffic light system and picked something that is just for ourselves, only one or two others are aware of what it is and so far, whilst it’s rare I use it, it works for us. Whilst I’ve never gone non-verbal we know there is a risk. By taking away a graded system and using only one word we ensure we communicate with each other all the way through a scene.
I hope this example just proves safe words will not keep us safe, even between people who know each other well. They are, however, a tool to help communication.