Here’s Why Safewords Don’t Shake the Foundations of a 24/7 Total Power Exchange

By the Boi slave, with permission of The Boss

I have a confession. During one of my first sessions with The Boss, I failed to use a safeword when I should have. It was a fairly vanilla session, and I was just excited to get some time with my Master. During a workout a week before I had cracked a rib. I should have known better, this wasn’t my first rodeo.

Halfway through the session, The Boss grabbed me in a bear hug. He held me close, tight, and began to crush my frame. My chest met his, the pain set in. I  grunted, he eased off, looking me in the eyes. I smiled, and leant back into him, giving him every indication to carry on. So he did. Soon, the pain was visibly unbearable. The Boss stopped, asking me if I was okay. I came clean about the injury. He couldn’t disguise his disappointment. 

Most slaves will tell you that disappointing their Master is deeply unsettling. It goes against everything a 24/7 slave seeks to achieve. And no punishment comes close to how much we tend to beat ourselves up about it. 

I made quite a few mistakes in the run up to that session and during. I didn’t disclose my injury, I consented to the session, and had already agreed to use safewords and signals. During the session, there were at least two moments where I could have used the ‘amber’ safeword. It wouldn’t have even reached that if I had disclosed my injury during the build up and negotiation. These tools aren’t there to spoil the fun, in fact if you’re doing right they are in theory rarely deployed at all – once you get to know someone that is.   

Why didn’t I use the safewords? Because I was being an idiot. I had also placed The Boss in a position where he could have unknowingly exacerbated the injury. The language we use to communicate, doesn’t spoil the fantasy, it doesn’t make anyone weak – if your fantasy is to push someone past what they consent to, then you need to take a long hard look at whether you are interested in power dynamics or just an abuser.  

What are safewords?

Safewords are a set of agreed verbal and non-verbal codes that can be employed to communicate physical and emotional states during BDSM scenes or any exchange of power. Kink communities use safewords to indicate continued consent, to withdraw consent, and a few things in between. These signals ensure everything is safe, sane and consensual. 

When it comes to establishing safewords there are multiple tools to use. The most common being our voices:

Random words

When people think safewords, they usually think random words or phrases: noodles, Oklahoma!, yabba-dabba-doo! The concept being that you take a word you would never use in whatever scene you are in. If you were to say that word it has been agreed upon beforehand that it means stop or slow down and change tack.

Traffic Light System

The other most common verbal system is traffic lights. Red meaning ‘stop everything immediately’, amber meaning slow down, or change tack and move on, and green indicating that everyone is comfortable and consent is still given. 

Other ways we can use our vocals to communicate are varied. You could establish a specific number of grunts to mean stop, carry on, or slow down. I’ve also heard of more than a couple of people using nursery rhymes to indicate they want play to stop.

Non-verbal signals can also be employed, such as rattling keys, ringing a bell, using a dog training clicker, and holding and dropping a ball. 

Do we really need safewords?

As highlighted earlier, I too am guilty of ignoring the tools we have in place to protect us. Honestly though, is it worth the risk? That was a vanilla session, nothing too heavy, and my ribs hurt like hell. Imagine if that were any sort of impact play.

Consent is ever fluid. We can withdraw it at any point. Safewords give us the benefit of communicating with each other, thus building on the trust that should already be well established between a dominant and their submissives.

A simple ‘no’ can cut it in certain contexts, but in roleplay ‘no’ doesn’t always mean no. We all have limits we don’t know about until we are pushed toward them. BDSMers have all at some point put on a false bravado and claimed our limits are a lot further along the spectrum than they actually are. 

Safewords can be a great tool. They help to reaffirm trust amongst partners and groups engaging in kink scenes and lifestyles. 

Establishing Safewords

Safewords should be established during negotiation before a particular scene or 24/7 TPE is entered into. The Boss includes them in our training, beginning with traffic lights.

When verbal safewords are rendered impractical (in certain contexts we may be ball gagged and/or wearing a sensory deprivation hood), we have been taught to employ other methods of safe language. We have practiced hand signals, holding and dropping a ball and rattling keys, depending on our restraints. When hands are not an option we have other tools at our disposal, such as using a specific number of grunts in succession.

Beyond standard signals, when negotiating a scene that’s new territory, it’s important to check whether the cues you have practiced are adequate. Are all participants going to be able to use their signals based on what’s going on in the scene?

During our discovery training, when The Boss was figuring out our unknown limits, boundaries were found by him pushing in different areas until we reached a point where we would say ‘red’. 

When should you use a safe word?

Submissives have a tendency to feel guilty and shameful after using a safe word. A lot of inadequate Dominants have at one time or another poured scorn on a sub for supposedly being too weak to carry in if they use a safeword. It’s all too easy to see it as a personal failure.

What The Boss taught me is that not communicating my discomfort during a scene is disrespectful. He sees it like this: if a slave doesn’t tell him its reached its limits, then that slave is lying to him by suggesting everything is a-okay. A lying slave is useless to The Boss. What’s the point in having someone serve you if they are going to deceive you? It reframed my perspective and taught me that the signals are there for everyone. A Dominant is not an abuser, and a submissive should never put their dominant in a position where they end up becoming one.

Dominants should also employ safewords for themselves too. A Dom has limits that they might reach, basic mental and physical exertion. If a Dom should use a signal during these moments then they are helping to keep the trust by communicating with their subs. 

A true BDSM dynamic or TPE is based on mutual respect. If you’re doing it right, there shouldn’t be any room for your partner or group thinking less of you for stopping a scene. Our relationship with The Boss is one of mutual respect. He often says ‘bend your slaves, but never break them.’

There are a number of circumstances where you should use your safe language: when things become too intense/painful, reaching the limits of endurance, if you should have a question (The Boss will work with us to deem whether the question was an adequate excuse for employing our cues). You should absolutely use them should you begin to feel physically off, such as any nausea or dizziness.  

Subspace

If a slave/submissive reaches a certain level of subspace they may not be able to communicate effectively. This is why The Boss and many other Doms don’t explore any intense kinks until they truly trust their submissives. With that trust comes a knowledge of a person’s body language and visual tells. A Dominant should always be looking for signs of potential distress, actual stress beyond roleplay – these things are hard to look for if you don’t really know who you’re playing with and what their limits are. 

Use the tools you have to keep everything safe, sane and consensual

My first BDSM session was subbing for an experienced leather daddy. I was eighteen and full of shit as I practically skipped into a leather bar for the first time. I’d heard about a CP group that met there once a week. I was in need of a spanking. I’d never been spanked before, but from one kinkster to another, you just know you need spanking right? Right. So I headed to the function room of the bar, paid my fee, and was confronted with an example of what would become the rest of my life. A gathering of leather, rubber, some just casually dressed in jeans and T-s as I was. The majority of the crowd were stood around socialising, while in between there were a few submissives bent over the knees of their Doms being spanked, caned, paddled, etc. I kept to the edges of the room, suddenly shy. Eventually I came across a Leather Daddy sat in the corner of the room, his nipples exposed through a leather harness. He had the biggest nipples I had ever seen, surrounded by an extremely hairy chest. 

Locking eyes he gestured me to come over. He told me not to be shy, which I immediately took as an order and asked me if I’d ever been caned before. I’d never been spanked by a hand, let alone caned, but I lied and said yes. 

After some casual flirting he had me over his knee, pulling my jeans and briefs down just enough to expose my arse. He spanked me with a gradual rising intensity, the pace and strength of each smack impacting more and more. Every so often he would turn my head to face his and look me in the eyes. He had noticed me wincing a little too much from the get go, and was continuing to assess the situation. He stopped spanking me, ordered me to stand and then sit on his lap. He gave me a hug and whispered in my ear: ‘First rule: never lie to a Dominant. It could get you hurt.’

I was embarrassed, visibly blushing at being caught out. Then he said, ‘We’re going to continue. I’m giving you three words to keep in mind. If you want me to stop, you say “red”, if you want me to slow down, you say “orange”, and, if I look you in the eye to check in and you want me to continue pushing, you say “green”. Do you understand?’ 

‘Yes,’ I replied. 

‘Yes, what?’

‘Yes, sir?’ 

He smiled and ruffled my hair. ‘You can call me Daddy or Sir. Whichever you prefer, son.’

Daddy Robert became a big part of my formative years in the BDSM scene, and I will never ever forget that first exchange. It taught me everything I needed to know about safe, sane and consensual play. And though, as I demonstrated at the start of the post, I have been guilty of breaking the rules of RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink), we need to remember that they are there for the safety of all. 

These tools don’t spoil the fun of a TPE or a BDSM scene. They don’t threaten the foundations on which we build our lifestyles. They keep those foundations from crumbling around us. They solidify trust, which is the cornerstone of any healthy kink dynamic.

Come back for part two of our discussion of safewords, which will be posted next week. We will be talking about the abuse of safe signals and those moments where we have mutually chosen not to use them within our 24/7 dynamic. 

We would love to hear from you any anecdotes about your use of safewords. Any questions you may have on implementing them? We are all ears. Let us know in the comments below, or email us at theboss@theethicaldom.com. Alternatively, you can message us through our social media channels, links found in the contact section. 

Stay safe, 

The boi slave (Mattie)

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