Shadow's Essays

"Words are loaded pistols."Jean Paul Sartre ~ "The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." Anais Nin

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Location: San Jose, Ca, United States

Saturday, December 16, 2006

# 43

The Umpire in a Corset
Safewords, and their many uses

Essays on a life of P.E.

by shadow

New or old, being into BDSM ("kink") means that you might be doing things with a partner that can be more than you can handle, scary, edgy, dangerous, or just flat out wild.
There are so many things a new person learns coming in from the Anne Rice Novels and too many adult videos that are not part of the fiction.
These things are not "romantic" or "spontaneous".
Some of them seem to contradict the notion of Top and bottom, Dominant and submissive.

Nothing more exemplifies that issue than the discussions around "safe words".
Go into any chat room in America and if you utter those two words, the "twoolu dommly dommes" will scream that THEIR slaves HAVE NO SAFEWORD.

They might go on for days about how disgusting that is for someone to allow their partner control in a power exchange by allowing them to control the scene with safe words.

Some "slaves" (and bottoms, and middles, and switches) will also proudly point to themselves and say "I have no safeword" and then spend 40 min. going on about how perfect their owner is and that they have too much trust to ever NEED to do that. They are not only thrilled to be safe word free, but they are so sure that they will never ever be in a position where they would need one that they do not even want to entertain the idea.

Some argue that they would be unable to even use them- they just cannot do something so awful as safeword out on their partner. That would be displeasing and giving in too early.

Most newbies come into the scene thinking that they are NOT SUPPOSED to use safe words-- that it is a bad thing to not play through, as if this was some kind of naked gold tournament and all the holes count.
It is very easy to push ones own limits and ignore fear and pain when playing to please the other partner.
Self preservation, the magical moment when you KNOW you need to stop, can be overwhelmed by emotions ranging from endorphin rush to the need to PLEASE the partner giving you this feeling.

Some dominants argue that if they were playing with someone who NEEDED to safeword, then they are rotten tops who aren't doing their job right. The argument goes that if the Top (master, lord of the realm) is paying attention to his partner, and actually KNOWS them, then if he (or she) allows them to get to such a point that they have felt the need to safeword , that they must have missed something. They should have "known".

They should have been watching the breathing and the sweating and the toy and the twitching and the moaning and the lighting and the music and their own breathing and ...well, they are supposed to be perfect. The argument often finishes with something about how they have NEVER needed to have a parnter safeword and anyone who does is unsafe-- but not them.
The top or dom has "failed" if the bottom needs to safeword.

Safe words are important, useable, and- yes, they can also be taken away or ignored. NEITHER of those is a bad thing, *if* both parties KNOW what they are getting into because they have BOTH had lots of experience and have played together. More on that later.

There are also the feelings of the Dom or Top to take into consideration. MANY of the people you will play with might call themselves sadists or mean bastards, but most of them do NOT want to play with someone that is suffering through a scene and not deriving any pleasure from it. It brings out both the obvious feeling of doing true damage and not having a consentual partner, and it takes away from what pleasure they might feel from a partner that hates/loves the feeling and is happy rather than suffering. Yes, there are those that want only the suffering- but they are going to lose partners and not get much play if they truly hold that attitude long. Without enjoyment, suffering is just consented torture- and that is something you might regret later on when the endorphins quit flowing.

"Safe words" or safeword is the term for something that a bottom player can say or do to stop or slow a scene. They can be used to notify the top of an issue without stopping the scene, and can be verbal or non-verbal.
They are for private as well as public play, and can be very elastic in their meaning and usage.
Play is not a one way street, and you are communicating with every breath, each jump and squirm, every growl or squeak.
Safe words are just pre-set communications that are well known and easy to remember.
Nothing is set in stone in BDSM, and no one has the *one true way*, although some ways are probably more adhered to and taken more seriously than others.

Safewords are often thought of as either "RED" or "SAFEWORD" itself.
We (the larger play community) have adopted those words for a number of reasons.
First off, when playing, a bottom often has loss of thinking skills and even contact with reality. Something engrained and easy to remember like RED seems to work well. Traffic signal colors are pretty universal, everyone knows what the red and the green mean (yellow is often used as a "slow down" or "hey, got a problem, help" or even "this is close to a red" signal). Saying either RED or SAFEWORD traditionally STOPS the scene and both parties fix whatever went wrong, the top helps the bottom if they are at their limit, or some other "finishing" with that scene or playdate. RED does not HAVE to end a scene. Negotiate with your partner just how much or how long play will cease. The newer the relationship, the better it is to have RED as a "done" signal.

Secondly, Those two words are the most common and are fairly well known because other words are usually USED in scenes and not something that people will either pay attention to or understand as "stopping". A GREAT many people play loudly and scream, argue, yell, beg, plead, and call out everything from "STOP STOP" to "I'm gonna kill you motherfucker!" and more.
They LIKE to feel comfortable yelling verbal things and not having that affect their play. They do NOT want someone (their partner, a bystander, a DM, the party host) to come over and stop the scene because they yelled "NO MORE, THAT HURTS".

Keeping RED and SAFEWORD "sacred" for that express purpose means that all the rest of the words in the world are fair game. Bottoms have a much larger vocabulary to babble if they are limited to avoiding ONLY those 2 words. Many players want to always have use of words that will work in a variety of settings and in any situation. Familiarity breeds safety to them.

Using RED and SAFEWORD are also the only way anyone can play in most of the public dungeons i have ever been to (Western U.S.). The bigger dungeons and parties have trained DM's (Dungeon Monitors) that are there to watch for issues, help players if needed, keep crowds at a distance, make sure dungeon rules are followed, and be extra help in an emergency. These folks are always watching, and RED or SAFEWORD will instantly get their attention. Using anything else will, most likely, not even be noticed. Big dungeons and parties have insurance and liability issues, and they will post their rules when you enter or when you arrive- and the safe words of the house will be prominent. They WILL be RED and Safeword, the universally approved words to use.

This is a traditional situation. But there are more ways to skin a cat (or a cute slave) than meets the eye.
Often, a bottom will be gagged or bound and unable to talk. Some play so "deep" that they lose the power of speech. Most "fly", and very often quit worrying about damage or pain.
When playing with someone where their verbal skills are absent or in question, using a safe drop is advisable.
Have the bottom hold something that, when let go of, is a signal to stop/ red/ or that they have lost the ability to process. Hankies, balls, or any easily seen object that they can comfortably hold will do. Players using these in monitored play spaces (parties and public dungeons) will usually TELL the DM in advance so that they are aware of an unusual signal and watch for it if needed.

Private play ( at home or with friends in private areas) often is not as formal and folks tend to not have DM's. Safe words are often not as needed - or wanted. But getting a bottom comfortably trained to know them and be able to instantly "find" them when playing is not only safe, it is a serious service that any smart Top will give to that partner. They might not always play with the "no safewords" top. Relocation, breakups, death all intervene and a bottom without the basic skill to RED is not an asset.
MANY great Dominants and tops will NOT play with anyone that cannot safeword. It is unsafe for THEM.
A bottom that cannot say they have had enough will be more easily damaged, is not giving fair feedback, and is putting the top in a dangerous situation. Even the best partners can miss the moment you suddenly "flash back" and want to RED. Even the most skilled players don't always know when the bound bottom suddenly has a HUGE cramp that is going to tear their leg off. It is impossible for anyone to read someone's mind- and knowing that, as good as some Tops are, it is important to be able to protect them and yourself by safewording.

If you are new, and have issues with saying it (bottoms often say they do not want to dissappoint their partner and so cannot possibly safeword), tell your new partners. They can move slower, push more carefully, and find ways to help you make that safe connection with recognizing your limits and verbally sharing them. Once a dominant KNOWS that you will tell them when you have had enough, THEN they can go all out and play with one less worry. They now know they have a PARTNER in their scene rather than just a body to use.

There are people who like to use "odd" safewords. i have met people that swore up and down that "their girl uses MY personal safeword"-- and they have everything from vegetables (yes, one was zucchinni) to their partners names ("Oh Bobby YES"!). Their reasons are short sighted, and they will be ejected from public dungeons in some areas if they try to tell the management that all the DM's have to train themselves to hear "dirigible" and respond as a RED.
Can you imagine a room with 30 or 40 couples playing and the DM's need to know the personal safe word of each player- and listen for them? What a horror-- a room of babbling screaming people and the DM's are supposed to tell the safe words from the play babble.

Now that you understand the basics and the reasoning behind it, there is also the play where the safeword is deliberately ignored.
There are MANY well bonded play couples and experienced players that LIKE to play past their limits-- to be pushed, or to do the pushing.
They often have negotiated scenes where the Top will play up to the threshold of the bottoms limits-- and then deliberately keep going and FORCE a safeword out-- and then play on past even that.
It is edge play-- it is a headspace and place that is not for everyone. It is giving someone MORE sensation (pain) than they can handle, and breaking their inner mental limit. It is also very hot, very erotic, and something that many M/s couples do. It requires a great deal of trust, experience, and knowledge and is not for everyone.

When a scene like that is happening in public, the Top will make sure the DM's or the party host knows that they are going to do that kind of thing so no one interrupts their scene early.

copyright 10-31-2006 by shadow, all rights reserved.
This document may be reposted and reprinted only in it's entirety including copyright and author contact **WITH PERMISSION from the AUTHOR**. (i like to know where my stuff is being reprinted). Failure to abide by the laws of common decency will result in inhuman revenge. Ask around. i can do that. It will be painful.


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