While some of the more extreme forms of dominance and submission are about going beyond a person’s limits, the guiding principle for most bondage enthusiasts is ‘safe, sane and consensual’. That means respecting your partner’s limits and setting up a verbal cue for if things get too much.
Why use a safe-word?
Surely we can just shout ‘stop’ or ‘no more’ if we’ve had enough, right? Well sometimes during sexual experimentation, we can say ‘no’ or ‘stop’, when we really mean ‘don’t stop’. It can be part of the ‘character’ we’re playing to seem to struggle and resist, when really we want more. A safe-word that won’t normally come up during communication enables you step out of your roles and call a halt.
The best safe-words to use
It’s really important that both Dom and sub have a previously agreed ‘safe word’, for if things suddenly shift from feeling hot to feeling horrible. Any word that wouldn’t normally come up is fine, but the most common safe-words are based on traffic light signals. So if you want to really encourage your partner, you can shout ‘green!’. Where the action has suddenly become borderline, you can say the word ‘amber’, and when it really is too much, saying ‘red’ is an instant signal that you want to stop and step outside the scenario. These are also the ‘default’ safe-words that are most widely recognised by dungeon masters.
What about if a person is bound and gagged? Obviously, then a safe-word becomes a little more tricky — so in this case, a signal like dropping a bell or ball, snapping the fingers, opening and closing the hands repeatedly or making three clear and rhythmic grunts can be clear signs to stop or slow down. Sometimes a Dom will also put a finger in a sub’s hand to check they’re ok. A quick squeeze of the finger means ‘fine to continue’.
As with most sexual practices and dynamics, communication is a key part of safe, sane and consensual bondage. Take the time to agree your boundaries via a safe-word before embarking on your bondage journey, and you’ll give yourself the best chance of enjoying the experience and exploring your limits, without moving beyond them.
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