Safe words, safe practice

 On a few social media sites lately, I have seen questions come up about safe-words.  

I honestly wish I didn't need to address this subject.  It would be great if anyone practicing kink did so with a full dedication to safety and consent.  Unfortunately, from some of the toxic stuff I have seen online, it seems clear that this is not the case.  

On Twitter, on Reddit and on TikTok, It feels like there are more people with questions and concerns about safe-words, if they need them, when they should be used, when they should be honored.   

I can answer all of that very quickly before we go on.  Yes, you need a safe-word, You should use them whenever you feel the need to, Your partner damn well better honor them!  

Now that I have clearly stated my position on the subject, there are a few things I have seen come up and I would like to address each of them.  

Safe words are for submissives

WRONG! In a D/s relationship, the safe word is important to both the submissive and the Dominant.  

Submission is not a "gift the sub gives her Dom" Submission is an exchange of power that can be reclaimed at any time. A submisive has wants, desires, and goals involved with that exchange and should withdraw that power if those goals are not being met. 

At the same time, a Dominant has responsibility that they take on in return for the submission they accept. They become a kind of erotic tour guide with a duty of care. They need to be watching the scene, not just enjoying it, to make sure that the submissive is safe and within the bounds of where they want to go. That's MORE Than just stopping on a safe word. Non-verbal signals, mood, etc. all play into this. If a sub seems less than enthusiastic about an activity, it may be a good idea for the Dom to call Yellow and do a vibe check before continuing.

What is a Safe Word?

Simply, a safe word is your exit strategy for any activity you are involved in.   If you want to stop activity, a safe word is your way to express that need to your partner.  If you are participating in kink related activity, you need to stay aware of safety and consent.  

Many kink related activities are inherently unsafe and you need to be taking precautions to reduce your risk.  The safe word is your last line of defense.  When it is called, it may be for some valid safety reason.  Everyone needs to stop immediately or someone could be seriously injured or killed. 

Consent is king!  Any participant in any activity should have the ability to withdrawal consent and stop that activity at any time for any reason!  The safe word is also a consent safeguard.  It allows participants to signal that they have withdrawn consent to continue.  

The phrase "safe word" conjures mental images of people clad in leather screaming "Pineapple Pineapple Pineapple!"  or cause people to ask "what if I forget my safe word?"  I think the term can confuse some people.   In most cases the word "stop" or the "red, yellow, green" system are all you need to remember.   The need for code words only shows up when roleplay or CNC are on the menu.  So there is no need to drill on "sea cucumber" unless you are playing in those realms.  

In my opinion, I think kink is safer than vanilla relationships in many ways.  Safe words are one of the reasons.  "Me too" has done more than enough to illustrate that many men don't yet understand enthusiastic consent

Did I misuse my safe word?

I have seen this question asked almost every week on r/BDSMadvice.   I have read almost all the ones I have seen and the answer remains the same.  


See above.  The safe word is a way to withdraw consent. It does not matter what the reason is.  If a safe word is being said, someone is withdrawing consent.  You do not need to justify your consent or lack of consent.  There is no "right reason" or "wrong reason" to withdraw your consent.  It is YOUR CONSENT!  It belongs to you.  

It does not matter if no limits were crossed.  It does not matter if you have done this 1000 times!  For some reason, this time, you felt the need to stop.  You should feel safe using your safe word!  

My Dom punished me for using my safe word. 

I'll repeat myself.  You should feel safe to use your safe word!  

I have a lot of concern about a Dom who is acting in a way that discourages their sub from using their safety precautions.  A safe word is there to protect the sub.  By accepting their submission, the Dom has a duty of care and the safe word is part of that care.  

What takes place in a scene or as part of a dynamic is all part of the fantasy.  It is play.  Even if you live in a 24/7 TPE free use dynamic, you are in those roles because you choose to be in those roles.  

Imagine a couple who uses whip cream in the bedroom. 
Imagine that EVERY time they play, they use whip cream.  
Imagine they have done this for years, hundreds of time 
Suddenly, the sub realizes she has a developed lactose intolerance and cannot take the whip cream 
She calls a safe word 
Why would anyone punish some one for this? 

Think of the safe word as an Out Of Character moment!  That word is a withdrawal from play and takes place outside the fantasy.  When you go back into the fantasy, the Dom should not be letting that external OOC event influence his actions.  

My Dom does not want me to have a safe word. 

My short answer when I see this, and I see it a lot, is RUN!

This person is not looking to be a Dominant in a mutually rewarding BDSM relationship.  This is someone who has a sex slave fantasy they are trying to make into a reality.  Maybe they just don't know better.  Maybe they are under the wrong expectations.  Regardless of the reasons, this person is asking you to enter into an unsafe situation.  

In a Dom/sub relationship, you are exchanging power.  It is called a power exchange not a power surrender.  Submission is not a reward that a Dom wins by being "alpha." As submission is exchanged, it can be taken back at any time.  A safe word is one of the ways to take that power back. A Dominant asking you to not have a safe word is asking you to release that power without a way to reclaim it.   

My Dom ignored my safe word.

It makes me angry to see someone committing sexual assault under the guise of participating in kink.  

Anyone who ignores a safe word is committing assault.  There is no other way to parse that.  We established earlier that the use of a safe word is a way to withdraw consent from your activity.  

If they do not honor a safe word, it is sexual assault. 
If they breech a negotiated hard limit, it is sexual assault. 

There is no debate of these facts

If you are in a relationship and this happens, you shouldn't be asking if you should stay with that person.   You should be asking how soon the police can get there.  

I fear that too many people get into BDSM not understanding the difference between fantasy and reality.  We must never forget that other HUMAN BEING on the other side of the leash.


  • BDSM is not inherently safe but safe words help make it safer
  • Everyone gets safe words
  • Always have safe words
  • Safe words: Are absolute!  Failure to honor them is sexual assault
  • Hard limits are absolute! Failure to honor them is sexual assault
  • Enthusiastic Consent is sexy.  Consent violations are criminal


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