Bondage play is an exploration, an excursion into sensual realms that are outside the fold of ‘vanilla’ play. And, in the process of exploration, we each have our limits, an edge that becomes uncomfortable when we pass it. Respecting our lover’s limit keeps our play hot and healthy, and the key is communication.
Having a pre-play discussion about our limits is helpful, but since bondage is an exploration of unchartered sensual territory, safe words are the way to go. A safe word is a verbal cue that lets your partner know that things have pushed past the point of comfort.
But why set up a cue at all? Isn’t it enough to yell “No!” or “Stop!” when we come up to a limit? Well, sometimes during the sexual exploration, these words can be part of the play. Sometimes, when we yell “stop,” we really mean “don’t stop.” It can be part of the “character” for us to struggle and resist. A safe word is a cue that doesn’t come up in the normal course of conversation, a word that we agree upon to establish boundaries for the play while letting the role-play go as far as we like.
A safe word can be any verbal cue that we agree upon, but the ones most commonly used are traffic-light signals. Shouting “green!” can be a cue to encourage your partner, while “amber!” is used to tell your lover that things have suddenly become borderline. “Red!” is an instant signal that you want to step out of the scenario. These cues are the default signals recognized by dungeon masters/mistresses.
Things can get a bit trickier if a person is bound and gagged, but in these situations, you can create non-verbal safe words. Some signals that can be used in these situations are dropping a bell or a ball, snapping the fingers, or opening and closing the hands repeatedly. A different option is to use three clear and rhythmic grunts as a sign to stop or slow down. Another beautiful way to keep communication clear is for the dominant to place a finger in the subs hand. A squeeze of the finger can let the dominant know that it’s fine to continue.
Some of the most extreme forms of domination and submission involve moving past these limits, but the guiding principle is “safe, sane, and consensual.” Taking the time to communicate what we know about our limits and what we’re open to exploring is the first step. Following this up with clear safe words allows the play to be taken as far as we want in the moment.
Fun and safe explorations to you all!