Do safewords have a place in all aspects of TPE or BDSM dynamics?

Published by Boi slave (Mattie), with permission of The Boss

Before delving into this question, I missed something kind of crucial when talking about safewords last week. I have been punished for not including it, and no, we don’t use safewords during punishment (more on that later). I missed the opportunity to talk about what should happen after a safeword is used during a scene or at any point during a Total Power Exchange (TPE).

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Aftercare after safeword

The safe, sane and consensual thing to do is to stop and listen. Maybe the straps are too tight, maybe you pushed a boundary, maybe the sub has reached an emotional state they can’t deal with. Whatever the reason, however minor it may seem, checking in is.

It may be as simple as a rope knot was in danger of cutting circulation. Great, you can correct the issue and resume the scene when everyone is happy. It might be something a little more serious: maybe you pushed your submissive past their threshold. Boundaries will inevitably be crossed from time to time. We are all risk aware here. Some BDSM scenes and even more mundane seeming aspects of a 24/7 Total Power Exchange (TPE) are riskier than others – mentally and physically. To commit to any kink or power exchange it’s important to acknowledge these risks going in, which is exactly why BDSMers tend to use safewords in the first place.

If a sub or Dom yells ‘red’ or clicks their fingers, it isn’t necessarily a sign of things gone horribly wrong. Whatever systems you have negotiated are actually working. It’s a quandary that effects both Dominants and submissives in differing ways: subs tend to feel an air of shame around uttering a safeword, I’ve been there. You feel that you have failed in some way, that you will never make a good slave if you can’t take the heat. Bullshit. We. All. Have. Limits. Limits can be pushed and stretched with time and experience, but there is a threshold that, once reached, it might be time to stop.

Doms are also prone to guilt. A sub using a safeword can cause a thinking Dominant to feel guilty for crossing a boundary they perhaps knew shouldn’t have been crossed. If with a partner or group that you trust, it’s almost always no one’s fault. Mistakes happen even with the best intentions.

If it’s clear that the issue is larger than loosening those ropes and carrying on, play becomes aftercare. Communication is key. Whoever used that signal needs reassurance, they need to be heard. Emotional and physical wellbeing of all participants is vital, and communication ensures that the trust remains in place. Have a discussion, find out exactly what happened. And deal with it together. Go straight into an aftercare session or, if all parties consent, carry on, maybe trying a different tack. Resuming a scene after a reframing discussion can be just the aftercare that’s needed.

There are a few occasions, within our personal Master/slave dynamic where we have mutually agreed that safewords shouldn’t be used:

  • when they simply become obsolete
  • during punishment
  • and don’t ever abuse them when you really don’t need to

How is a safeword abused?

How can safewords be abused? A submissive, yet to trust their Dominant, decides to test the water, test if that safeword is really going to make them stop. If you can’t trust a Dom to stop when you scream ‘kumquat!’ at the top of your lungs, then maybe you need to sit down and discuss. Repeatedly testing your Dominant in this way not only indicates that you don’t entirely trust them, but could also cause them to question their trust in you.

Contrary to this, it’s entirely possible at the start of a relationship when the trust between a Dom and Sub is growing, that one or both in the testing of limits will fall back on the safeword to reinforce an air of control. That’s fine, maybe you don’t want to surrender all your control as a submissive, but you both need to be on the same page as to how much you are prepared to give up. If your Dom is taking more than you wish to give, then that is something that needs to be negotiated.

I heard recently from a Handler that their puppy enjoyed yelling out their safeword as part of the role-play, thus expecting the Handler to carry on regardless. I get it, it’s a power exchange fantasy, I’m all for that, but that comes with risk. Accuse me of being a fun-spoiler, don’t really care, but surely we all see the issues with this. The boy who cried wolf one too many times…

If you don’t trust your partner enough to acknowledge a safeword think about what your dynamic means to you. If discussion doesn’t work there is an element of abuse that might cause major issues down the line. My advice? If it can’t be fixed then it might be time to move on.

Overuse of a safeword may not be premeditated. Is anxiety getting in the way?. Stress and fear overwhelm during sessions even though you trust your Dom. There is no easy answer for this. You must discuss this openly and seek ways to overcome it. It may be wise seeking professional help if your anxiety is constantly getting the better of you. I know it’s hard thinking about therapy when leading kink lifestyles, we are all well aware that our community is still pathologised by a number of mental health professionals. Things are getting better though. And a quick google search can lead us to excellent resources, such as this list of kink-aware/sex-positive therapists.

Punishment isn’t playtime

Punishment in a 24/7 TPE isn’t necessarily a BDSM scene. In our House, we don’t have the luxury of safewords when being punished. Might sound hypocritical after all we have talked about so far, but let me break it down.

Punishment isn’t playtime. When we talk about punishment, we are talking about those moments within a power exchange where a slave has broken one of Master’s rules. When I sustained that rib injury and failed to use my safewords, I broke the rules that were put in place to keep me safe. For that I was punished, just like I consented to be punished for any breaking of the rules within our relationship.

Punishment can take any number of forms. It’s not always physical impact (spanking/slapping), it can also look like denial (having one of our few privileges stripped away), humiliation, debasement. Punishment isn’t usually doled out for no reason, unless it’s a consensual part of a scene.

We already trust the Boss to know how to punish us within our established limits. We signed on for this life. Realistically, a slave can end this relationship at any point. There is a strong element of pre-consent to everything a slave in a 24/7 is subjected to. But remember…

This is a consensual relationship, and either can quit at any time. The Master has to make sure the slave is happier serving than not. Therein lies the drama and the difference between Master/slave and other relationships.

David Schachter ‘Ask The Man Who Owns Him
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Like every other aspect of a slave’s life, punishment should be incorporated into the training. During the initial stages, we were all permitted to use safewords during punishment. The Boss used this period to test our thresholds, measuring the success of his methods by our actions after – if we were punished for breaking a rule and then went and broke the same commandment again the second punishment would be different and/or harsher.

With truth and honesty comes a new understanding. I am in this to serve, it’s the way I have chosen to live my life. During punishment training with The Boss I mentioned that the tawse gets the job done. I was yet to enjoy the sting of a tawse, whereas the slap of a paddle felt too good. The masochist inside me does not mess around, and the slave inside me is inspired to help the Boss control me better.

The Boss’ house rules dictate that slaves are not allowed to pleasure themselves without permission. That permission is very rare. Early on in our relationship, during a prolonged period of excruciating abstinence, before I even knew what I was saying, I found myself revealing to The Boss that having no release seems to make me more productive – strange but true.

For us, punishment isn’t a term we mix up with play. Punishment is reserved for those times we actually break the rules. That may sound abusive to some, but this is part and parcel of what we slaves signed up for. We have been trained to take our punishments, just as we have been trained to take our daily pain.

In the context of TPE, slaves/submissives don’t set out to become victims of actual abuse, the entire exchange is founded on the fulfilment of reciprocal needs. At its most basic is a Master who thrives on control and a slave who desires to live a life of service.

Knowing when and where to use safewords, and those times where you might choose not to use them is important to get right. You can only do this through trust.

Tips

The verbal, non-verbal cues we use to communicate our immediate feelings during a scene or day to day life aren’t the tools that make us safe. What makes us safe is a mutual respect, an often unspoken understanding that our needs will be valued.

You should never decide without negotiation that safewords are irrelevant.

The most important rule when a safeword is uttered is for play to stop for a discussion and possible aftercare to take place. Listen to each other, actively.

Obsolete Safewords

They do. After a time. We gradually learn the limits of those we exchange power with. And, after an initial period of training, getting to know one another, there is an argument to be had that they should be used rarely. Yes, they should always be there, but if you know your partner well enough then limits are usually more established. We only tend to utter safewords at times when The Boss has set up scenes in which he is consensually pushing our limits.

I wouldn’t say they become obsolete in a sense that you draw up a new contract and both decide to expunge them completely. Rather, they are there but seldom if ever used when you are with someone you trust completely.

Even under a dynamic that seems like a submissive is under the complete control of a Dominant, tools such as safewords are vital in keeping everything safe, sane and consensual.

Pragmatic Security

Our personal Master/slave exchange is one in which control is 24/7 and almost complete. With the Boss we have all negotiated a Total Exchange of Power, or as total as out can be while operating in the real world. It’s a malleable exchange, in that there are periods of high and low protocol, and some occasions where the hood comes off so to speak (23/7 if you will). The Boss is still in control at all times. Even at work, we still know who owns us. To facilitate this level of ownership, it’s important to have risk aware measures in place. We go to places that vanilla society would view as very dark spaces, but we go in with the knowledge that consent is fluid. We are all here to test our boundaries, to serve at the feet of a Master, but within this, we have a sense of what The Boss calls pragmatic security. Pragmatic security comes in the form of safewords, aftercare, downtime and basic respect for the service he receives.

So should you abandon safewords at any point?

There needs to be an open and honest conversation when it comes to disregarding risk aware measures. If you can’t find yourselves back on the same page, then I would suggest you reassess whatever relationship you have. If one can’t trust the other, the problems that could raise are endless and the consequences could be severe.

I wouldn’t begin to suggest you should absolutely abandon these measures at any point. There is no right way for a power exchange, total or otherwise to play out. This is just what works for us, born of communication and mutual respect. We exist to make The Boss’ life easier, to fulfil his every need, want and whim. We are natural submissives, we thrive under his control. A slave may be debased and/or dehumanised at times, but it is never not respected by its Master for the service it provides.

Trust. Negotiate. Communicate. Look after each other.

What are your thoughts? Have any interesting anecdotes to share about your experience with safewords? Are there moments in your TPE or BDSM scenes that dictate their removal? Do you use them during punishment? Or do you have a question on the subject of safewords? Whatever it is, let is know. You can find all our contact details on the contact page, or leave a comment below this post.

Stay safe,

Boi slave (Mattie)

1 thought on “Do safewords have a place in all aspects of TPE or BDSM dynamics?

  1. Me says:

    On safewords during punishment:

    BDSM punishments are (hopefully) pre-negotiated between consensing adults. They can include things that would be abusive to do to another person if consent was not given. The very essence of what makes them punishment and not abuse is willing submission based on true and free consent.

    True cnsent is ongoing and can be withdrawn at any time. If it cannot be withdrawn at any time, then, by defnition, the punishment is no longer punsihment, but abuse.

    Reply

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