Saturday, August 15, 2009

Why I Hate Safewords and How Not to Use Them

I don't like safewords. I know why they're there and I understand the philosophy behind their existence. I know there are all kinds of techniques out there for the verbally challenged when someone is deep in subspace--holding onto car keys or a red hankie (dropping them is the same as uttering a safeword). But I believe (for me, personally, anyway) that safewords aren't necessary. Why? Once again, I come back to one of my five keys to a successful scene: communication. (The five again, for the newer reader: Respect, Trust, Honesty, Compassion and Communication.)

I never just walk up to someone and go play when it's going to be a long, detailed or complex scene. Sure, at a party, a quick spank is fun and even then I'll ask a few questions first. But if I'm doing BDSM or a longer, more intense scene talking through (some call it negotiation but I hate that--read that blog entry here which also features a little more of those five keys discussed above) what works and doesn't, what a person's limits are, where they want/need to go are all extremely important. Understanding where the bottom is in her head is also very important.

"Great," you say. "Good for you. You communicate. We all do in one way or another. But what about during the scene? What then?" The communication continues. I check in with my bottom a lot. I "read" them, listen to their sounds, their breathing--how are they communicating with their muscles, their physical movements. I watch them. Typically, the combination of checking in and reading their bodies is more than enough to avoid any pitfalls in a scene that might, under other circumstances, result in the use of a safeword. But there are times, when things are really intense, when I'm really into the moment, going crazy, and the bottom is feeling like "enough is enough" when a safeword could be a good thing--at least a "yellow light" word. But still, the bottom always just says to me in one way or another, "Okay, I can't do more of that." And I change it up.

Personally, I think a safeword is a crutch. I think relying on them takes the onus off the top to pay attention, to be psychically in tune with their play partner. And I've never played with a bottom who, after I explained my philosophy, insisted on using one.

Communication. Sure, there's more to not using a safeword from the bottom's perspective. The bottom must have a great deal of trust in her play partner to know that not using that safeword will work. She has to believe the top respects her and won't ignore her signals or communication (and I know tops/doms who play on, not when a safeword is used, but when they see "signs" they should change things up but continue on because they want to be cruel).

I'm not advocating that safewords shouldn't be used with others. Everyone has their way of playing, of how to do things that work for them. I'm merely speaking from my perspective and my opinion.

10 comments:

  1. My feelings on safewords are pretty complicated. For one thing, I've never used one. There were a couple of times I probably should have. I try to use what I've learned in all of my sessions in order to make better choices about future partners. I try to weed out the cruel or clueless ones as much as I can. When you eliminate those two categories of Tops, then the need for safewords is greatly reduced. For myself, I tend to think of a safeword as a way to let the Top know something is going wrong that he doesn't already know about. For instance, I'm unlikely to safeword just to let a Top know that he is hurting my bottom. I figure he already knows that. What he may not know is that I am having a leg cramp, or feel nauseated, or am having trouble breathing due to an asthma attack, etc. I don't think I'd like to play with someone who had the goal of pushing until I used a safeword. I know, for myself, I'd feel like I had failed in that particular scene, and I'd also most likely resent the heck out of the Top for pushing me to it instead of just pushing me right to the edge of my limits...a bit unfair, but that's how I'd feel, if I'm honest. I can definitely play a scene in which simple words like, “I really can't take more of that,” or “I'm having trouble with this,” will slow the scene down or change the direction. I'd much rather have this sort of “yellow” feel to an exchange of this sort than an overdue “RED” and an end to the scene, with both parties feeling the awkwardness of disappointment and confusion over a scene gone too far.

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  2. Obviously, I agree with you Jada. Thanks for your thoughtful and thorough response!

    Craig

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  3. I agree with the concept of safewords. And I can see where it would be good to have one in place, particularly with new players. Over on SpankoLife, there was a huge flap about this subject in the forum, which went on and on and on. I'll say here what I said there: If I'm playing with a conscientious, caring and aware top, one who checks in with me, observes me, reads me and isn't in this to just beat the crap out of me for his jollies, but wants to share a mutually wonderful experience -- what do I need a safeword for?

    On the flip side, I do admit there have been times I clearly should have used a safeword. But due to my stubborn pride, I refused to be broken, I hunkered down and "took it." Then I fell apart afterward. Not good. Stupid.

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  4. Thanks, as always, for your comments Erica!

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  5. If more tops were like you then safewords would not be necessary. I myself have never safeworded, and I'd like to think that I might never need to. But if I were to find that my top was insensitive to my reactions and basically clueless, I guess I would have to -- though my stubborn pride would be fighting against that and telling me to take it no matter what!

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  6. I hear that from so many bottoms. I guess it's up to that person what they would be willing to do or to take, but it's hard for me to imagine just sucking it up because I was stubborn.

    Craig

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  7. It's a foolish pride thing. We get into this head space of "Damn you, I know you're trying to break me and I won't let you, you bastard" kind of thing. Like I said, foolish. We just end up getting hurt and we prove nothing.

    With you, I take what I take for a completely different reason. Instead of that "suck it up, I'll show HIM" attitude, it's more about wanting to please you, wanting to take what you give, all of it. :-)

    By the way, sorry about the Anonymous, but this freaking system keeps telling me that it doesn't recognize my OpenID! -- Erica

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  8. Damn Blogspot! Thanks for the comment, even anonymously.

    As for your comment, I'm actually surprised to learn that you allow me to go further because you want to please ME. I thought you did that because you NEEDED to take it, go deeper or further.

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  9. I do. It's both. I need to go someplace deep. But it's also about wanting to take what YOU give. You're not just a vehicle to take me where I want to go. Know what I mean? -- E.

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  10. Indeed I do. I appreciate you articulating it this way.

    C

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