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Nuances Of Safewords

By Maître Pierre



Things in BDSM, from its philosophy, are never black and white. One could think that something like a safe word would be different and people all agree on the way to use it and that the usage of a safe word would be simple and clear! I am afraid it is not!

Catharine and I believe that a safe word is the device that makes BDSM consensual. I believe that one of the big difference between a BDSM'er and maniac's torture is the concept of the willing bottom or submissive contrary to their victim who is obviously non consensual. Again, the consensual part!

According to the BDSM philosophy; a safe word is a word, when mention usually by the submissive or bottom, will make the scene or play stop. On purpose, I am keeping this description short. You will understand why in this article.

Catharine, a few years ago, has written a very simple and amazing article about safewords. Actually, you may find this article on many other websites since many of them like the article so much that they decided to reprint it, some with our consent and some without.....but I digress! Everything you need to know about the proper usage of a safe word (according to us) is there at:


This should be the end of this article! Yeah right! (sigh!)

Since this site was born, we have received MANY emails commenting about safewords. During munches and BDSM social events, many discussions have been made from Catharine's article. Some of the comments received have been.......let's say interesting!


This is a synopsis of the different discussions and conversations through the years that we had. You may find some of these discussions surprising, but remember, we had these discussion in situations where people were encouraged to share their belief and I am certain that these comments will enlighten it enlightened us at the time!

    - A lady Dominant with whom I had a wonderful discussion, was saying to me that if a sub had any safewords with her, she would feel that he didn't trust her and she would not accept such a sub around her. When I asked her when she would "know" when the sub was in difficulty her answer was "that she would know because she is good at what she does!" I know this Domme well and I know she is a good Domme, even if she does not believe in the usage of the safeword. This type of belief surprises you? This lady is not the only one that has such beliefs; we have met many other Dominants, men and women that share that belief. The only difference is that this lady Dom was more public about it than others. My opinion that I shared with her was this one: I understood and respected her opinion about the trust issue with the safeword and I presented her this example: How would she know if, a new male sub under heavy bondage and restrains who suddenly, during a scene would feel ill, would be in difficulties if because of him being new, she didn't know how "to read him"? She answered that she would know anyway. Of course, I disagree with her.

Which bring us to this example:

    - I would know if my sub is in trouble because I have been with this sub for so long!

    I am the first one to accept the fact that when you have been with someone for a certain amount of time that you "will be able to predict and read well" their body language. I know because Me and Catharine do it with each other and with our stable. But I always answer like this: The safeword is like a safety belt in your car; why wear it? You are a good driver and you will never have an accident! But what if one day, you're a bit distracted and....... What if, one day, you are playing with your sub and you get tired and distracted.....that you don't read your partner well that time? I don't know about you, but it has happened to us and the safe word made a possible bad situation just a little thing!


    - The sub didn't call the safeword so I am not responsible!

    Catharine's pet peeve! Some Dominant will voluntary ignore any dangerous condition or will go beyond negotiated limits on purpose......Their defense; "The sub should have used her (his) safewords!" Yes some Dominant will hide behind this, refusing to take any responsibility on the pretense that the safeword was not used. The philosophy behind what we call SSC (Safe, Sane and Consensual) asks of the Dominant in charge of the scene that if he or she feels that the sub has had enough, they should stop (Sane). What really bothers me about this is the fact that some submissive, when they actually are in subspace, they cannot judge if a play is to intense for them for the simple reasons that they are completely "gone" and unaware of their can a Dom pretend that the sub should have called the safeword, when the sub is in deep subspace from the play they created?

    - Another lady Dom told us this comment: She didn't like the fact that a safeword would permit her sub to control the scene. At first I almost told her that she was wrong.....until I realized that she had a point and I kept my mouth shut! I have witnessed some subs using their safewords for just about any reason you could think of but safety and emergency!!!! . They used their safewords because they are cold.....because they are thirsty.....because they feel uncomfortable in their bondage....! Don't you think that such occurrence would be better dealt with by using a slowword? More to the point; if a sub can only talk to his (her) Dom by using the safewords, there is a huge problem in communication and in the negotiation of this couple! Yet, I have to defend this lady Dom because; I have witnessed myself such behavior from subs which makes her point valid.

    - A well known Pro Domme was saying how good she was, on the fact that she was able to have her customers (male subs) say the safewords quickly in all her scene with them.......I don't know about you, but I am very proud that the safewords was rarely used in our scenes!

    - During the discipline of a sub, a Dom will ignore the safewords.....I have seen this, yes! And this relationship that I am thinking about simply exploded shortly after this event! We do not believed in corporal punishment but we accept the belief of people who want this in their relationship. If corporal punishment is used, it has to be apply within' certain rules that have been negotiated before. The safe word is a safety device. So even during punishment, the safe word must be respected. If it is being used, it means that the sub could be in difficulties. And just imagine what would happen if a Dom ignored the calling of a safe find out that after the punishment, the sub is really hurt and damaged!

    - A Dom not respecting the safeword. Again, this has been witnessed. Just think of the damage on the subs trust if the sub calls the safeword and the Dom says "No! You can take more!" Just imagine how bad the reputation of the Dom would be if in a public scene, the Dom wanting to show off ignored the very public calling of the safewords......yes, this we have seen!

A last example:

    - During a public party, the safewords is called....Red! The very honest answer of the Dom...."What the hell do you mean by red?" Yes, some people have no ideas of what a safeword is for!

You see, even the usage of safewords is far from being simple!

Negotiation and Safeword:

The safeword is discussed during the negotiation. And yes, the rules around the safewords must be negotiated between the partners. We actually have an article about negotiation at:


During the negotiation, ask yourselves these questions:

    - What is the safeword? (Red is very popular!)

    - When to use the safeword? (Only in critical and emergency situation?)

    - What should happen when the safeword is called? (What safety measures should be taken?)

    - Do you need a "slowword"? When and how will you use it?

A Dominant that does not respect a safe words is not someone you can trust.....but a submissive who uses it the safewords often for nothing ....or not at all when they should, is no better either!

Learn to use the safeword wisely. On the calling of the safeword, Dominant, react quickly and precisely. Know what needs to be done!

For new partners, a safeword is important and yes, after some time, the safeword may not be needed, but would you remove the safety belts in your car on the fact that your are a good driver? No! Even if you are a good driver, accidents happen and a safeword is a very cheap and easy way to keep your BDSM safe!

Lately, I had a discussion with younger players about the safeword and how, these younger players' feel there is no need to have such a device for safety. Many of these young players simply don't believe in the concept of safewords or are afraid that the usage of a safeword would damage their relationship based on the exchange of power......I have heard the same discussion 10 years ago with the same arguments! (laughing!).

(sigh!) to be young and indestructible!!!!!!

Have fun and be safe!


Mistress Catharine and Maître Pierre


Our thanks to Aurey for the grammatical correction



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