I have been thinking about safe words lately. I think that what I’ve developed within my relationships is a process. Originally, I had a rocky relationship with safe words. I didn’t particularly find much use for ‘green’ since it’s generally fairly easy to tell when things are going well. ‘Yellow’ was slightly more useful since it did give some valuable information that isn’t always as easy to read. Especially when playing with someone new to me, it is handy to know when things are getting close to being too much for the bottom to handle. However, I find most people reluctant to use it. And I find even more people reluctant to use the big bad wolf of safe words: ‘RED!’ I was also really not OK with hearing ‘red.’ It took deliberately collaborating with my submissive so I would hear it. Then it became much easier for both of us.
After that experience I decided to do that with anyone I played with long term. I would learn them and learn their body language. Learn what they could handle easily and what was harder. From that, I’d eventually figure out what was going to be too much. But just a little too much. And I’d start discussing my theory that safe words weren’t a sign of failure for anyone. Then, one day I’d mention that sometimes I like pushing people past their pain threshold. And when it seemed like they had internalized the idea that a safe word didn’t mean failure, I’d push til they used it. I would, hopefully, take the fear of failure from them and help them participate in their own mental, emotional, and physical safety. Then once that process was going well, I’d take away their right to use a safe word. With their consent, of course. That served two purposes. First, it would teach them that they could trust me to be safe and end a scene before I caused any permanent harm. And, second, it taught them that while safe words aren’t failure, they should choose a dominant who they can trust so that they don’t really need to use a safe word unless it’s really some kind of emergency.
The only problem I’ve seen is that sometimes there is a break between step one and step two. That risks leaving a submissive in a state where they are unafraid to use a safe word, and having a tendency to use it when they don’t necessarily need to. That is a problem for them and for the next person to come along. So while it’s worked really well when I get to complete things… it may be something I have to hold off on until I’m pretty certain that the person isn’t going to suddenly (or even not that suddenly) be moving on from me. Lessons learned.