Prompt #2 from No True Way is such an excellent topic but holy fuck is it jacking up my blood pressure. This will absolutely be a ranty post! Safewords and Doms that are flippant and discouraging of them are one of my absolute hot buttons in kink. And I don’t mean “hot” like sexy, I mean it in the blood boiling, raging, junkyard-dog-at-the-end-of-the-chain kind of way. I can feel my jaw tightening even as I type. Deep breaths, Violet.

The #NTW topic du jour is a quote from a prospective Dom to a community member, in answer to her questions about his use of safe words:

“I accept it, if the sub wants a safeword. But a good sub knows that she/he shall not use it.”

Where do I even begin?

There are a lot of kink protocols that are not my style. I may roll my eyes, or pass them by because they don’t fit my ideals or aren’t sexy to me, but stylistic preferences don’t apply to safety, not in my world. I’m a big proponent of RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink) because the acronym itself implies and invites communication and discussion. Safewords are a non-negotiable for me and I have not and will not play with anyone who refuses to use them or makes me feel badly for using them, regardless of the role I am in.

Worth mentioning: My intention in this post is not to ‘yuck anyone’s yum’, and I fully support communicative, safe BDSM dynamics that mutually pre-negotiate a ‘no safewords’ approach – it’s not for me, but you do you – what I’m concerned with is the concept of Dominants implying, directly or indirectly, that safewords are a cop out, that they make a sub or a scene less valid, or that they are not necessary. If a safeword is necessary to you then it should be necessary to your Dominant. Full stop.

“Doms” that don’t respect boundaries and safety aren’t Doms, they are abusers
The above quote is so enraging for a number of reasons, and I know the whole point of this project is to show there’s no one true way to do D/s, but on matters of safety, I believe that the rules become more universal and more stringent:

  • safewords are intended to keep BOTH parties safe – they are a necessary measure, especially in emotionally/psychologically and physically taxing scenes
  • it’s always okay for either partner, regardless of role, to pause or end a scene by using a safeword
  • safe words should not be just “accepted”, they should be encouraged, pre-negotiated, and completely respected
  • not using a safewords does not make you a better submissive
  • using your safeword never makes you a weak, lesser-than, or bad submissive
  • no sub should fear punishment or reprisal if they use a safe word to pause or end a scene
  • the concept of “a good sub” is a bullshit tactic used by wanna-be Doms to maintain control
  • if your Dom uses these strategies, please consider the implications to your mental and physical health by giving control to someone who does not value your safety and wellness

The Traffic Light System vs “Pineapple Anaconda Mississippi”

The “traffic light” is a popular and common safeword practice. It’s easy to use and very clear, provided that all parties understand how to use it and have discussed its use.

This is how I (remember, there’s no one true way!) define the traffic light terms:

Safewords: A Non-Negotiable for Me

Personally, I’m a fan of the “traffic light” in place of more arbitrary or creative safewords for a few reasons (you may feel differently and that’s fine):

  • red/yellow/green is easy to remember, especially when used consistently
  • it’s more nuanced than a full-stop safeword
  • it requires more communication and invites more questions or discussion
  • when in subspace I can’t recall my own name let alone a random word assigned to the scene. When I’m the Top it gives me more info than a traditional safeword no matter where my bottom/sub is at.

Safewords: A Non-Negotiable for Me

As always, it’s up to the people in the scene

Whether you use safewords or not, whether you require them or not, is up to you and you are entitled to your position. As a sub, if safewords are important to you it’s okay to not consent to a scene without one – this is also okay for Doms. If you are a Dom/Top that doesn’t believe in safewords, don’t be surprised when people won’t play with you or trust you because for many, not having a safeword is a dealbreaker. Safewords may never get used, but their existence is still valuable, in some cases lifesaving. Sure, there’s not one true way to play but it’s imperative that you do what you need to to feel safe, understood and trusting in any scene you participate in – that should be non-negotiable. Safe kink is sexy kink.



No True Way


Violet Fawkes

Violet Fawkes (she/her) is a freelance writer and sex blogger focusing on pleasure education, erotic fiction, and the intersection of identity, kink and mental health.