Safe words? You decide……(by Richard)


When I first got into the world of bdsm, I read a lot about how people stayed safe.  There were tons of bulletin boards, manned primarily by the “safe, sane, consensual” crowd.   I don’t mean that to sound disparaging – we all started there.  But the further along I went, I (and the submissives I was with) began to move toward the edge.   Our activities got edgier and edgier.   Where those preaching “safe, sane, consensual” would constantly point out how there were risks and you should never do certain things, some of us were concluding that in their world, we wouldn’t do anything at all because it was risky, and we were deciding to take the risks knowingly.


So we ALL started with safe words.  People devised elaborate levels of  “yellow” and “red.”  All very complicated.   Meanwhile, I was noticing something:  I realized that “no” didn’t always mean “no” and “please stop” didn’t always mean “please stop.”   I cannot tell you how many times I stopped a scene, only to hear later in the wind down period, that the sub was just getting into it and wished I hadn’t stopped.   So I began to pay more attention.   I learned I needed to experiment and know how my sub was feeling, not from what she was saying necessarily.   I learned that growth as a sub, and as a Dom for that matter, meant finding the limit and pushing beyond it, just a little at a time.   In an earlier post, or comment on this blog, I said that one good test of where a sub is at the moment she is begging “please” is to tell her to say “please give me more.”   Usually what happens is that she calms down, gets her submissive head in place, and asks for more, willingly.  If it takes a really long time for that, then she is probably near the limit.   But often, the very act of asking for more brings her back into control of the pain, and it turns out she really does want more.


In the early goings with a new sub, I never really tie her up.  I will explain to her that I will take one twist of the rope around her wrist and then let her hold it.   She can easily get herself out.  It is the illusion, the feeling, of restraint, without the fear of being helpless.   Then, when the level of trust is established, we go to real restraints.   While not directly related to safe words, I offer this up only to show I am not crazy, ok not totally crazy, lol.


When my sub has had a safe word, I have made it clear that the word is not going to be used to “top from the bottom.”   It is not going to be used to control the pace of the scene.   It is only used to END a scene.  If the safe word pops up, we stop, we untie, we get dressed, we pack up the toys, we sit down and talk.   So there is a huge incentive to keep that word tucked away for only the most dire emergencies.


pixie and I have a system of our own.  It is very simple.  When she thinks she can’t take any more, she says “please.”   I have explained to her (and I think I have said this before on this blog) that she will not know what effect her “please” will have.  The example is this:   if I have in mind 20 strokes, and she says “please” on 5, she probably   won’t get 20 but she might get 10.  If she says “please” on 17, she will probably get all 20.  And in both cases, she got more after the “please” and had no idea what, if any, effect her words had on me.   But she should say it when she feels she needs to, and I take it into account along with everything else that my senses have picked up.  How long have we been at it?   How intense has it been?   Are we leaving marks or not?  Is this a new experience or something we have done many times?   Is her breathing normal?  Is her body covered in sweat?  What was her mood when we started?   What other stresses are going on in her life at the time that might affect her emotional level?   Does she seem close to tears?  Has she said “Richard” which indicates a higher level of stress than just “please.”    And on and on and on.  I could fill a page with the things that govern when I decide she has had enough.  And over time, she has come to trust my judgment in these matters.   And some, with just the knowledge that pixie asked for a safe word and had never done that before, would conclude that my judgment was faulty.  I think you should give me more credit than that.   You should understand that in my head are so many factors that I can’t possibly list them all here that led me to conclude, as the person who has the responsibility to conclude, that I was not giving her one, that she didn’t need one, that her fears were both unfounded and good for her – yes, a little fear is good for her.   Her vulnerability was the point of the entire weekend.  I was intent on reducing her level of security and comfort, not adding to it.   She was getting her head around being a slave!   A safe word was totally inimical to that plan.  There would have been “harm” in giving her one.   This was my judgment and I will stand by it, and defend it, under ALL the circumstances known to me.


As we talked about this today, she noted that when she says “please” she does not herself always know what she is asking for.   Sometimes it is please stop.   Sometimes it is please fuck me.  Sometimes it is please I need something and I don’t know what it is and thank God I have this Dom who knows me so well he will probably figure it out and give it to me.   She said it seemed an unfair burden to put on the Dom to figure out what the “please” means.  I think it is exactly the burden you pick up when you decide to tie a submissive up and hurt her, knowing that the words that will come out of her mouth cannot be and are not a dependable indicator of what she really needs.   If you are playing at it, that’s one thing.  But at the level that pixie and I are, it is beyond play – it is serious, not risk free, totally dependent on trust by the sub and good judgment on the part of the Dom.   If I relied on pixie to decide when she has had enough, or when she was “ready” for some new experience, she would have missed out on some of the most fabulous experiences in her short time with me.   Excuse me if I rant here, but ITS MY JOB!


I would also remind everyone that pixie in fact said, “I need a minute,” without one small thought that I would not give it to her.  Was that the equivalent of a safe word?   Not really, it didn’t  end the scene.  It allowed it to go on to a very meaningful conclusion.   I just think that the Dom has to be fully attuned to the submissive’s needs, and there are so many ways to evaluate that.  


In summary, I have had safe words, but usually very quickly the sub wishes to dispense with them as an unnecessary safety net.   It is just more thrilling, and more conducive to growth in intensity, to give that up along with everything else you are giving up to your Dom.   Let it go, just give it all to him without limit.   Develop trust.  Push your limits.  I know that some of what I have said argues FOR safe words.   All I am saying is that reasonable people can disagree on how much value they really have.   If all it provides  is some kind of comfort zone that will never be used, then let’s not bother.   I’m not about comfort zones, no one grows when they are comfortable – I am about finding the limit, pushing through it a bit, growing the sub’s endurance and trust and ultimate devotion to her Master.  And I think safe words can get in the way of that without adding any real value.  Read that again:  safe words can get in the way of the full development of trust and “letting go” that is required of a submissive.  I do not expect to have persuaded everyone, nor should I.   Not everyone is in the same place that pixie and I are.  Sometimes I think pixie’s blog should start with a “Don’t try this at home” warning.

14 thoughts on “Safe words? You decide……(by Richard)

  1. …and I appreciate much of what you say, even as I don’t quite get it still. One thing I have learned from you is that I do have boundaries when it comes to the intensity of pain. However, there is one interesting point here that I’d love to discuss with you, but not on someone else’s blog. Would you extend that courtesy sometime? Many thanks.

  2. I love this post. It makes sense to me in a way that I can not explain. I too have heard of the “green,” “yellow,” “red” system of safe words. We’ve talked of them in the past. Yet, now he tells me that I will have no safe words, no escape. I believe him and I trust him. Desire and some fear mixed. Unknown. Who I am is complicated. Who I am becoming even more so. Thank you for writing it.

  3. It is so fasinating to read the thoughts of a Dominant man, thank you Richard. I personally am not into pain, at least not to my knowledge. I still find myself captured by your relationship with Pixie, I think because you seem to really connect and fulfill each others needs in a special way. I think that must mean something different to everyone. I agree, how much better it sounds to me to not have a safe word, to really give it all to your Dom, really trust him to know what’s safe for you. Quite a responsibility for the Dom, and so great to read how much varied and detailed thought you put into making your decisions for Pixie.

  4. I think I agree with every word you say. Especially about using whether she will beg for more as a test of how she is doing. I’ve provided safe words, but they’ve never been used. Maybe because I wasn’t pushing hard enough, but I like to think it was because I could read the signs, as you do.

  5. Richard, My submissive aksed me to read this today. She and I have went back and forth about safe words and if we need one or not. I gave her one because I found that it built my own confidence. I guess I am not quite at the point of pushing her limits though one day……
    I am learning so much from this blog and I realize that may not be its intent but I certainly find it a fascinating resource. Richard, if you don’t mind me asking are you much older than pixie? I think age differences make for the most intense power exchanges. She comes across as very young oh maybe that is not the word I am looking for. There is some quality in her writing that I find appealing, an eagerness, an excitment that you don’t see on a lot of other blogs. You come across as very different. Hope I am not being to nebby.
    Thank you for taking us on this journey pixie.

  6. DBD, I’d encourage you to give it up. It is a great way to challenge yourself. Desire and fear, the perfect mix.

    Thank you, Sweetness. pixie and I do meet each other’s needs in a special way. Much is said by pixie of how well I know her and read her, but it goes both ways. Just last night she said something to me and I said “why do you think that?” and she replied “because I know you,” and I realized how right she was. It is pretty special.

    Yes, Mike, I am significantly older than pixie. She is young, but very self-aware. She knows herself better than most people do, and she is eager to learn and experience today. It shows in her writing, doesn’t it? And I love the role of teacher to such an eager student!

  7. It is so nice hearing about things from the Dominant prespective. I am fascinated by your relationship with pixie. 🙂

  8. I’ve been reading your blog for several months. Although I’m not what I would call a true “submissive,” I want to understand the Dominant/Submissive relationship.

    The intensity of your relationship scared and shocked me for some time but by reading both your explanations about the many facets of your journey, I’ve come to appreciate it.

    Even though you have what would be deemed “unconventional” in my vanilla world, you both have such a deep understanding of each other on so many levels, I’m truly amazed.

    I was married for a very long time. Neither my X or myself ever approached such a level in 34 years. It makes me envious.

    I’ll continue to read with interest and hope for a dominant man. Not a sadist but one that will know what he wants and will tell me.

  9. intrigued as usual pixie. This topic has always interested me. I have done both. I was in a longterm relationship with a sub and she had a safe word the entire time we were together. She never used it. I think that for beginners it as good for the Dom as the sub. The Dom would be more comfortable delivering pain knowing his sub had an out.
    I wonder Richard if you had given pixie a safe word the night she asked if she would have used it. Do you find that the more submissive she is the more you can hurt her or does it scare you ever that you could HURT her hurt her? I am not doubting your ability to judge or to Dom but I know that has been a fear of mine.
    Thanks for writing this. It is nice to hear boths sides.

  10. C-man, it is true that the more submissive she is the more I can hurt her; we have noted that we feed on each other, and the greater the Dominance the greater the submission and vice-versa. There have been many times when I have stopped out of concern that any more could really hurt her (or HURT her hurt her, as you put it) – I haven’t been scared by that, but I have made the decision to stop. After that, you talk to the submissive to evaluate how she was feeling, you look at the marks the next day, to evaluate if you were really leaving lasting marks or just quickly fading marks, you do what you can to learn from the experience.

    I have made mistakes. One night I was with a sub (not pixie) and alternating between dragging a knife across her butt and caning her, and when we finished and turned up the lights, there were blood splatters all over the room and I needed a cold compress to stop the bleeding. I no longer use a knife with the lights down low! I have also learned that the effect of dragging a knife across someone is not always immediately apparent, so you should wait between cuts see what happens. And we both know and accept that what we do is not risk free.

    Ron, I am not sure from your comment or email exactly what you are looking for. It is true that a safe word is very “secondary” in my view. I would go further, as I did in the post, and say that after an initial level of experience and comfort, they are unnecessary, and ultimately inhibit further growth. Having trust and leaping into the void produces incredible benefits in terms of growth of submission. You asked how I determine what is safe and what isn’t – but that isn’t really what a safe word does even at its best. What I do with a submissive is the product of conversations with her, reading about the experiences of others, researching medical views, watching other people do it, and slow and cautious experimentation. You don’t just jump in and start sticking needles in someone, for example. And ultimately, we accept that much of what we do is not 100% “safe” but rather entails certain risks – we try to minimize them, we are careful, but we take some risks. No safe word is going to keep us safe from that. And lastly, you asked what in my experience has led to my views, and as I said, it is primarily the fact that safe words turn out to be a safety net that no one ever uses, really never, and you reach a point where you know the person in such depth that you don’t need the net; and finally figure out that having the net is actually detracting from the intensity of the relationship. I am not sure that I have addressed your issue, but I hope so.
    And again, I know that this is not for everyone, and I hope that people who read about these things understand that there is planning and research and conversations, and risk and informed consent, and years of experience involved. Not every D/s couple is a sadist/masochist combination. There are all levels, and both people need to be on the same page.

  11. Richard, you misunderstood. We talked of safewords in the past. But I know now that I would not *have* one. Nor would it matter if I used the words we discussed in the past. I’ve given him the power to control me.

    Yet- we would not have time for ice compresses, for I will always have to leave him and return to my reality

    I too love this blog.

  12. i think safewords make sense in a top/bottom, more casual situation. i have played with people i don’t know well at play parties (as both a top and a bottom), and we’ve established safewords in advance.

    But i totally agree with your last paragraph. In my D/s relationship i have never wanted or needed a safeword. i trust my Master to know how to read me and to take care of me, and need to know that i am completely under his control.

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