A safeword is a code word/action or series of code words/actions that are sometimes used in BDSM activities to mean that a bottom or submissive is reaching a limit or to signal that they are in distress and the Top/Dom must stop the scene. Safewords are agreed on by all participants before playing a scene as a part of negotiations. Many organised BDSM groups have standard safewords that all members agree to use to avoid confusion at organised BDSM events.
A safeword is generally used rather than the words "no, stop" so that the bottom can scream "no, stop", etc. as much as s/he wants without really meaning it, and yet still have a way of indicating a serious desire that the scene stops. Further, using a safeword can help from avoiding to disrupt the concentration of the bottom to focus on their feelings of subspace as the top does not need to interrupt their concentration by continuously verbally checking in on their state of being.
Universal Safe Words
Universal safewords are used so that others can easily understand the current ability to process pain by the bottom without having to learn constantly new safewords for every individual, and are very handy for events so that DMs at events can easily spot when someone is calling a safeword.
Universal safewords that are very common are:
Safeword is a very uncommon word to say in the middle of a scene that is going well, but it is limited in scope as it works only as a direct full stop of activities.
- Red indicates a full stop of all activity and that the scene is at an end.
- Yellow indicates slow down, or more appropriately, give me a moment to process that before we continue, I am approaching my limit. Continuous calling of yellow should indicate that the pace and intensity of play be brought down a level or more by the top and that the bottom requires more warm up to reach that level of intensity and pacing.
- Green indicates GO! Give me more!. Many dominants prefer not use green as they prefer to set and control the pace of the scene and not be told how to conduct themselves by the bottom outside of an emergency situation that would cause a call for yellow or red.
Mercy is a common safeword used in M/s dynamics or in other scenes involving negotiated CNC as the safeword is not a command given to the top from the bottom, but instead is a request or plea for mercy, ensuring the that the Master or Mistress is left to decide if they should continue or not, thereby ensuring that they have total control of the slave even when the slave signals that it is in distress.
When Safewords Fail
Sometimes subspace can become a deep, trance like state in which the bottom becomes unable to use speech. In these circumstances it is important to have worked out safe signals if play is to approach this level or to cease play in the event this state occurs if safe signals were not previously defined. Even if a bottom fails to call a safeword the top is still responsible for their well being and thus it is important they keep a constant monitor on the reaction time and reactivity of the bottom. See subspace.
Safe signals are designed to overcome times when speech may not be an option for the bottom. This could be due to loss consciousness, use of a gag, loss of speech or some other reason.
The double tap is a quick rapid succession of two or more taps from the hands of the bottom to indicate activity must stop immediately. The double tap is often used during grappling and choking as it requires the bottom be able to tap the top on their flesh to ensure they are able to notice the signal. Using the double tap on a St. Andrews cross or in bondage is not a good idea as the signal might be easily missed, especially if there is loud music and dim lighting.
Pony signals are called such because of the leg lift used that resembles a horse stomp or count and is often in use during pony play. Pony signals are ideal for use of a St. Andrews Cross or partial suspension that leave the feet firmly on the floor (such as with use of suspension cuffs from a hard point).
Pony Signals follow the Stoplight formula of Red, Yellow and Green, except that they do not require use of words, making them ideal for forms of play that take one into deeper levels of subspace or in play spaces with loud music. Further, the leg lifts associated with pony signals tend to correspond to natural body reactions to painful impact sensations delivered to the back and buttocks, making the signals themselves very easy to communicate even if speech is lost and the bottom is deep into subspace.
- Red is indicated by a standing bottom bending one leg at the knee and keeping the leg up to inform the top that the scene must end.
- Yellow is indicated by a standing bottom bending one leg at the knee and keeping it up until the pain is processed and then lowering that leg back down to the floor to indicate they have processed the pain fully and are ready to continue.
- Green is indicated by the bottom enthusiastically stomping/pawing one leg at the ground (usually three times) as if they were a pony that was counting.
Two Squeezes Test
The two squeezes test is a great way to check if a bottom is still with you or they are in a very deep, trance like state or completely unconscious and it is time to discontinue play. The top simply places their finger into the hand of the bottom and gently squeezes their hand with the finger, twice. If one or no squeezes occur as a response instead of two or more squeezes then the bottom does not have the composure to follow through with a very simple instruction that requires minimal motor skill and thus they are considered to have failed the two squeeze test. A failure of the two squeeze test is a clear indicator to cease play and move into aftercare. Be sure to explain the two squeeze test to the bottom before play begins.
The brush drop like the two squeeze test is a test of motor functions of the bottom. This signal is great for any very heavy forms of play, especially heavy impact and electricity where loss of speech is likely.
To perform the brush drop signal, a large brush, such as a boot brush or other solid object that will make a decent amount of noise if it drops to the floor that will be easily noticed if it is not in hand is on the floor, is placed in the hand of the bottom. The object is thrown for a sharp call of red. The object is dropped for yellow, and if the object is dropped due to loss of motor skills the two squeeze test can be applied to determine if play needs to cease.
- Best practices indicate: DO NOT USE A SMALL BALL for the brush drop signal. It may be easy to grip, but it likely won't make much noise as it probably bounces, and further, it can roll away and you might not notice if it is in the hand of the bottom or not. All it takes is the top turning slightly to reach for a new implement, probably a heavier tool than what they were using if they are using the endorphin ladder techniques to bring the bottom up, and then in that instant the ball is dropped and now you are performing heavier play with a heavier implement and not realizing the bottom is already completely unaware of what is happening to them. For these reasons use a large, flat, heavier object of substance that will be noticed when dropped.