- This article is about the use of safewords in BDSM, for their use in contact sports see Safeword (sports).
A safeword is a codeword or series of codewords that are sometimes used in BDSM for a submissive (or 'bottom') to unambiguously communicate their physical or emotional state to a dominant (or 'top'), typically when approaching, or crossing, a physical, emotional, or moral boundary. Some safewords are used to stop the scene outright, while others can communicate a willingness to continue, but at a reduced level of intensity.
Safewords are agreed upon before playing a scene by all participants. Many organized BDSM groups have standard safewords that all members agree to use to avoid confusion at organized play events.
Safewords are generally used by those whose practice of BDSM falls under the guiding philosophy of safe, sane and consensual. Those who practice the more permissive philosophy of risk-aware consensual kink may abandon the use of safewords, especially those that practice forms of edgeplay or extreme forms of dominance and submission. In such cases, the choice to give up the use of safewords is a consensual act on the part of the bottom or submissive.
Forms of safeword
, the safeword
is generally used so that the 'bottom' can scream "no, stop", etc. as much as he/she wants without really meaning it, and still have a way of indicating a serious desire that the scene stops. Accordingly, in theory a safeword is usually a word that the person would not ordinarily say during sex, such as red light
, big tree
, scrambled eggs
, Alabama, aardvark,
. Because in the midst of the intensity of a scene a bottom may not remember what the current safeword is, in practice commonly the words safeword
are used as a safeword. They are often the default at many play parties, or respected as a safeword in addition to any negotiated safeword. A DM
would likely expect either of those words to be respected.
With the range of safewords in common use it is important that the safeword be negotiated beforehand.
Green, yellow and red
Some partners have different gradations of safeword — such as green
to mean "OK" or even "harder" or "more," yellow
to mean "slow down" or "stop doing that" without stopping the scene, and red
to mean "let's stop the scene".
Another way to use safe words is for a 'top' to ask the 'bottom' "What is your color?" -- So in addition to red and yellow, green is a common safe word used to indicate, "I'm fine" or even "push harder."
In other circumstances the safeword may not be a "word" at all, which is very useful when the submissive is bound
. In these instances a signal such as dropping a bell or a ball, the snapping of fingers, or opening and closing both hands repeatedly or making three clear and rhythmic grunts as a pre-defined signal to stop or otherwise slow down the scene. There is also a convention of tops to put a finger in the 'bottom' 's hand as a sort of 'check in' when the 'bottom' has become non-verbal, such as may happen as they reach subspace
. In this scenario the 'bottom' squeezes the 'top's finger to indicate OK.
In the case of sexual role-play
, some simply drop out of character to safeword, such as having the submissive address the dominant by his/her first name.
Who can use
It is a common misconception that safeword is only for the bottom's physical and emotional safety. It is in fact important that it can be used by all participants in a scene: bottoms, tops, dungeon masters at play parties, and sometimes even observers.
For example a common practices in BDSM involves a bottom misbehaving intentionally to indicate the desire for harsher treatment. Sometimes a top will need to safeword the scene to let them know they have gone too far for them.
Third parties observing the scene may have the ability to spot something dangerous going on that both the top and bottom have missed, and need to stop the scene to point it out.
Probably the most common reason that bottoms and submissives hesitate to safeword is fear of disappointing the top. This can cause a scene to go on where it should have stopped, causing some form of harm to its participants. As such it is considered important in many parts of the BDSM
community that the use of safeword remain no-fault
so that participants feel as safe as possible using it. Reassuring the party that safeworded is a common practice for this reason as well.
Discouraging the use of safeword runs the risk of future scenes becoming non-consensual and harming the bottom's trust.
Play without safeword
While many in the BDSM
community consider safewords an essential part of safe play, there is a significant contingent that does not have any such term in their relationships or their play. Some of these people simply use the word Stop,
but this may be risky as it may be misinterpreted as role-playing.
Others rely on the 'top' to monitor the condition of the 'bottom' and stop if necessary, at their discretion. In such circumstances the 'bottom' or submissive must have consented not to have control over the duration of the scene in advance.
During the filming of The Blair Witch Project
, the actors used the safeword of "taco" to indicate that they were going to break character and discuss the progression of the film.
In the 2004 movie EuroTrip, Jacob Pitts' character Cooper is unable to pronounce the written safeword "FLÜGGĂЭNK∂€ČHIŒβØL∫ÊN".