This week’s prompt is on the subject of safewords.
“I accept it, if the sub wants a safeword. But a good sub knows that she/he shall not use it.”
Do you use a safeword?
Does using it make the sub a bad sub?
Would you consider playing with someone who has the same opinion as that Dom?
Although the lovely Mr Hunt and I make the only D/s relationship either of us has either had, the seeds of who we are were obviously sown before we met.
As a teen, I had begun reading about and exploring kinky ideas and had tiptoed into the shallow edges of kink with friends and there were scenarios where safewords were exchanged and times when, with hindsight, they would have been a useful tool.
As a rule, Mr Hunt and I don’t use a safeword because it doesn’t work for us. I am the nightmare sub who won’t safeword. I will not say when boundaries are being pushed because I like the feeling of being out of control too much, even if I hate him for it sometimes. We have to rely on other methods, but they are robust and discussed and, in some cases, bred of the familiarity of having been with the same partner for 18 years.
With a new partner, this obviously couldn’t continue. Whilst I might have a problem enforcing boundaries within a relationship with someone with whom I have built a life, I am an adult with responsibilities in this world that would make me much more risk averse and I carry the weight of more experience of what a relationship can and for me should be.
Previously, in the youth I thought was tame, I walked the edge of risk a few times too many to escape totally unscathed. Exhibitionism/ Voyeurism was almost a socially accepted norm. Good girls did not say no, but were demure about saying yes. This was a sexual youth I wouldn’t wish on my children. I had to choose between the abstinence I’d been taught at home and school and the natural desire to explore and be like my peers and friends. I had no tools with which to discern my own boundaries.
If, at that age and stage of development, I met anyone who claimed to be a Dom and said “I accept it, if the sub wants a safeword. But a good sub knows that she/he shall not use it,” would I have questioned it? No. I would just have gone along with it and used it as confirmation of my inner desires to be broken and to be praised for wanting it.
Me, not being able to call a halt with the partner I would trust with my life in all situations, not just those in the bedroom, is not a problem for my safety or that of a community generally. But for someone vulnerable and at the beginning of their understanding as I was when I was younger, a message like that could be problematic.
As a whole, the statement above worries me because it contains no communication. Why might the sub want a safeword? What is the Dom’s idea of a “good sub”? Does it align with the feelings of this submissive? If a sub has never used a safeword with you, having negotiated one, why not? Are you pushing them to stay quiet or are you not offering a challenge to their boundaries at all?
Despite not using one myself , I recognise a safeword or safewords are a vital and important part of the communication toolbox intrinsic in D/s. I’m going to mix my metaphors here, but I don’t get into my car and drive without a seatbelt, even though when I start the journey I have no intention to actually use it. If I were planning on offroading, I would know it would keep me in the safety of my seat without necessarily ending the trip. Safeword(s) are your seatbelts or (switching metaphors again) a gadget on your multitool set. Not every job requires every tool, but its handy to know how to use all of them for that one time it is exactly the correct tool.
Unpacking the quote, there are lots of issues beyond the whole larger implication.
Firstly, safewords are not just for a sub. If you are pushing boundaries or setting new ones, it is important for both sides of a power exchange to be able to communicate without ambiguity. A safeword is just that.
I might not be familiar with standing in Dom shoes, but being a parent and a Dom have many similarities when it comes to setting boundaries. How many times does a parent decry they’ve been backed into giving a threatened punishment which is a step they didn’t want to take and threatened in the heat of the moment and felt they had to carry through? I can imagine that might be the same for a Dom.
Mr Hunt is quite lucky in that I am not a person who expects to say “No” as a challenge to their authority. One of the reasons I don’t need a different word is that if I say no, it is safe to assume its what I mean. But I assume this is not a universal case. It seems to me the communication might be unclear on either side. A Dom might say “Don’t push me,” with all the potential meanings that might have from “I’ve had a hard day and can’t deal with that behaviour right now,” to “Go on. Push me. I can’t wait to punish you.” There is no handbook of clear verbal communication we all learn from that can apply to this situation.
Secondly, whatever you agree are the rules or structural framework for your relationship, whether that be for an hour or a lifetime, it is not for either party place a “but” where someone draws a limit you’ve agree to. The person and the limit are inseparable at that point. Away from a scene, or in a time of negotiated discussion in a more full time relationship, you can discuss where those boundaries are and choose if you want to move them, but once decisions have been made like “I want a safeword”, the implication is I want to be able to use it and it be respected. Suggesting you accept it, within the context of the above quote, gives more weight to the word “but” that the word “accept”. Implicit are many possible meanings from the Dom, some or all of which could be in play.
I don’t want you to use it.
You don’t need it.
It’s not important to me.
If you need it you’ve done something wrong.
If you need it you’ve displeased me.
Don’t use it.
All of this undermines the purpose of negotiation and communication and the respect between the the Dom and the sub.
Finally, sticking with the unpacking of that quote, the implication of a “good sub” having one design and one way to be is the underlying reason for this meme. There is no one true way to be good or be submissive. If, through discussion, a partnership decide behaviours that reflect being good or being naughty in a playful way, or not behaving in a way that makes their partner happy, then that is internal to their relationship, and would need renegotiating not transferring in the case of a new relationship.
Overall, Mr Hunt reads me pretty well. He monitors my mental health and autism and quite often his first question for me when we get a moment together is “Where do you feel you are today?” so he can check his references. I have learnt not to mask with him in daily life, and to be as open and honest as I can be with him in all aspects of our relationship. He can read my body language better than I can read it myself.
It doesn’t mean we don’t fuck up, together or separately sometimes. It doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally call a halt or that he doesn’t slow down on me too soon or go to hard for how I feel at a given moment. It means that we talk about it, aware that I might not have stopped him at the time, even if I perhaps should have.
On one memorable occasion when we both misread the room I ended up pregnant because I didn’t tell him to stop even though I was furious with him for failing to ask if this was a moment in my cycle we needed a condom. I assumed he’d stop. He assumed I’d stop him if there were an issue. Now we have child 2 out of 3 as a reminder to communicate. This wasn’t the issue it could have been for some relationships, but we learnt a crucial lesson of assumption being a barrier to explicit communication.
Having a safeword removes assumptions and interpretation at moments when we might not be equipped to deal with the nuances of social and verbal communication. If that is something you want and/or need, your safeword(s) should be respected and supported without condition.