"PALOMINO!" Safe Words 101 (with examples)
AVOCADO! PINEAPPLE! TOMATO!!
No, we are not making the best guac ever. We could, though, because after an intense kink sesh, we are definitely going to need snacks. But before we go there, let’s talk about how to turn a good kinky romp into a great one. We know that cleanliness (unless that goes against your kink), lube, safety, and consent are hard mainstays of any sex play. In kink we take the safety and consent a bit further to include safe words.
What are Safe Words?
Safe words are words used during sex, particularly BDSM or other kink, to signify that someone has reached a physical, mental, emotional, or moral limit. It’s a way of setting a boundary so that each act remains safe and consensual for all parties. Sometimes safe words are limited to just one which translates to a hard stop, but in other cases, safe words are used as a part of a system akin to a traffic light. Using a color system with words that would never be associated with your current session is a great way for gauging and communicating your comfort level.
Green means go. This feels good and I like it here. Continue what you are doing in the way that you are doing it. I am open to an increase in intensity.
I like this, but it’s intense. I’m not sure I can keep going at this pace. Please don’t increase speed or intensity. Perhaps you should slow down a bit. I’m nearing my limit, but I am not particularly uncomfortable with what is happening.
Stop. Stop everything. Stop everything now. I’ve hit my limit. I don’t like this. Something doesn’t feel quite right. I need a break or I choose to stop.
Of course you don’t have to choose salad ingredients for your safe words. Ideally, safe words are going to be easy to remember, but not words you would would typically say during sex play. Words like “no” and “stop” seem like the most logical to use but there are instances where these words could cause confusion. Some people like the traffic light system of using green, yellow, and red, and choose to use these specific words to keep it simple. Others like words that signify these colors like fruit or vegetables. Some people like to use humor. It changes the mood a bit, while establishing a word or name that is decidedly unsexy for halting the action quickly. Try a politician’s name, your sub/dom’s middle name, a country, or game title.
Non-Verbal Safe Words
In some cases, having safe words or a system of safe words is ineffective. If your partner is wearing a gag, or speaking clearly isn’t possible due to disability or a heightened emotional or mental state, having a verbal safe word just won’t work. In this case, many partners agree on having nonverbal safe words. This could include a gesture like tapping, making a fist or snapping fingers. Alternatively, holding an item that they will drop when they reach their limit has been proven effective, as is using noisemakers like a bell, whistle, or a dog clicker.
Bad Safe Words
As mentioned earlier, there is such a thing as a bad safe word. Any word that is commonly used, especially during sex play, is not ideal. Since BDSM is a kink that pushes boundaries, words like no, stop, and wait can be misunderstood or even disregarded.
Other words are not good safe words because they are easily forgotten or difficult to pronounce. For this reason, words in a language you don’t speak, or words you don’t know the meaning of are probably not the safest way to go.
The Safety Talk
The best way to figure out which safe words work best for you and your partner(s) are to have a discussion about them before starting to play. You should always have a conversation negotiating the terms of your consensual session, but particularly when playing with new partners. Discussing safe words, hard boundaries, and triggers each and every time ensures safe fun for everyone.
It may be difficult to know when to use your safe word. One way is to check-in with your partner by asking them how they feel to create a space for them. Some people throw out their green word as a way of letting their partner know they are enjoying themselves. However, if you feel lightheaded, nauseated or like you may faint, shout out your red safe word or gesture so that your partner knows that you are not okay. You should feel comfortable in using your safe word in any moment of discomfort, even if you need a break to change positions. One thing to never do is to use your safe word jokingly. We’ve all heard the story of the boy who cried wolf. It got him in a lot of trouble and it can get you into an even worse situation.
Safe words exist to enhance our fun, set boundaries so that everyone is safe, and give us the vocabulary we need to talk about the sex we want to have. Have fun with choosing the safe words for you and your partner and don’t forget to discuss non-verbal options too. BEETHOVEN!!!