The safeword minefield




A PM from a Follower, abstracted in the interests of privacy …

“just now I saw a question a submissive asked you about the possible
overuse of her safe word (well think it was a girl, don’t want to be
sexist here). Anyway, I know I need to get some reading done and
possibly find a real life mentor but life happens and some things get
pushed to the back of my mind. Point is, why do subs feel so bad when
they use their safe word? I also have seen a question where a dom asked
why his sub uses the safe word all the time and you set him straight.
Why does it seem like this is so hard for some doms/subs but can be
fixed with a little communication?“

This is an outstanding question. And you are right: a bit of communication and setting the proper tone with safewording would save both people a lot of grief. Because here’s the thing: more than any other aspect of a D/s relationship, the safeword is a fucking minefield. There’s so much going on there, emotionally and psychologically, and so many ways to screw things up …

For the submissives, their safeword is the only absolutely unequivocal guarantee of safety they have. Unless their Dom is a psychopath or a dangerous noob, the safeword is going to be respected. But here’s the thing about subs: they hate to safeword. There’s a whole bunch going on there, but I think it boils down to two things. One is the desire to please their Dom, no matter what it takes (subs in my view tend to be very strong “people pleasers”). The other is a certain quiet, stoic pride: “I am very uncomfortable right now, and need it to stop, but I’m taking it for my Dom.” Both of these things make it very difficult for a submissive to safeword. And when they do, they tear themselves up:  “Could I have taken a bit more? Was I really at my limit, or was I being lazy? I deprived my Dom of something important and exciting.” And, above all, “Will my Dom still love me even though I safeworded?” So, a lot of sumissives are going to put themselves in situations where they can get hurt or get pushed well beyond their limit. This is not a good thing.

For Dominants, there’s a whole minefield to navigate as well. Let’s be clear on something: Doms are human beings, subject to all the vagaries and psychological quirks of other humans. For some Doms, when their sub safewords, they feel like they have failed, because they let things go too far and they put someone they care about in a position of doing something abhorrent to that person – using their safeword. For other Doms, there’s a twisted sense of triumph in “forcing my sub to safeword.” Sort of like the old “cuttting a notch in my bedpost” mentality. And yes, there are Doms who parrot all the right phrases about “respecting the safeword” and “letting the sub know how proud you are,” but who, when the rubber meets the road, act like sulky little bitches when their fun and games are iced because the sub safeworded. Also not a good thing.

So, as you can see, safewords are a right old mess, emotionally and psychologically. Here’s the way it should work:

Submissives: safeword any damn time you feel that you need to. Without guilt, and without shame. Period. Full stop.

Dominants: when your submissive safewords, say “I am so proud of you for trusting me enough and trusting us enough to safeword.” And when you say it, you better goddam well mean it. Period. Full stop.

Excellent explanation. I fall into that “oh my God, what have I done, I’ve made her safeword” crowd. We each wrestle with this concept of safewords in our own ways.


Guess it all boils down to what you think your partner’s there for.  Partner first, Sub, Slave, Masochist, Little, Prey, etc., after, right?

You know when it’s just motherfucking fine for someone bottoming to use their safeword?  When it’s not working for them.  When regardless of what you’re doing to them, and however much you’re getting off on that, you’re not doing it for them.

“Enjoyment” is a funny word for someone who might be getting off on something that might take a week to heal from.  “Enjoyment” is a funny word for someone who might get off on being reduced to genuine crushing tears of humiliation, pain, and negation.

But if that’s the enjoyment your Sub seeks, and they’re getting something they’re not enjoying?  

Sorry, mate.  They can stop you right there, just like you can the kid at the pizza parlor who’s about to put pineapple on your pizza when you don’t want it.  It’s not what you want then you don’t have to have it – even if the last 10 customers or Subs thought it was awesome!

Taking pride in getting your Sub to safeword is about as clever as taking pride in forcing a customer to return a pizza you put pineapple (or pepperoni) when they didn’t want it.

This isn’t some kind of “a Dom (or Daddy or whatever) exists to serve their Sub” bullshit – that’s just another way of putting Subs on a pedestal, and that’s as dumb as putting a Dom on one.

Instead it’s about what are you there for with your sex or kink partner?  And what are they there for?

If you don’t get that you’re not a Dom or Daddy, you’re a clueless newbie, a class-A doofus, or maybe a dick.  And maybe a menace!

Look.  If someone you’re topping safewords out it’s not the end of the world.  But it’s not a goddamn gold star.  It just means you gotta stop the ride and make sure your partner is ok.

Your partner!

That’s the difference between BDSM and criminal sexual assault: you do the former with a partner, the latter with a victim.

You don’t know the difference then stop.

Kink is awesome!  Legitimately amazingly awesome.  Make sure it’s that way for everybody, not just you.  And (for Subs who need to get this too) not just your partner by the way.