Some Basic Safety Concepts
elementary things about playing safely...
Understanding about some elementary concepts of erotic power exchange is safety tip Number One. If you understand negotiation and safewords you've taken the first steps on the safety ladder. If you want to find out more about these concepts, check out the specific pages about them where we go into more detail. Here we'll just establish that these concepts are elementary safety tools as well.
Concept 1: Common Sense
The first concept is common sense. It may sound weird, but unfortunately some people enter into erotic power exchange and sometimes seem to forget they have it. Common sense will answer most of your questions on safety. A scene may be heavy and sweep your feet of the ground. Still, although you may lose your head, don't lose your brain in the process.
Concept 2: Negotiation
Probably the most important concept in erotic power exchange is the concept of negotiation. Partners negotiate about their fantasies, feelings, needs, dreams, barriers and hidden desires. This is not the "if I give this I get that" type of negotiation. The objective is to exchange your feelings, barriers and fantasies in an open and honest way.
The partners try to establish where they meet, how much common ground they can cover and what are absolute "no go" areas. In fact there is no other relationship that requires so much communication. You talk about what you feel and what you experience before, after and in between scenes. The only time you don't do it is during a scene.
Negotiated/communicated barriers should be respected at all times. You may have doubts about whether a "DO" indeed is a do, but you never question a "DON'T." From a safety point of view: communication and negotiation prior to a scene will make sure you both understand what it is you want before you get into anything.
Concept 3: Shared and equal responsibility
Within a scene or even within a BDSM-relationship partners may choose to be unequal to each other, based on a free will and choice. This does not mean there is inequality of responsibility between the partners.
Both partners, dominant as well as submissive, share an equal responsibility towards themselves and each other. This also applies to safety matters. Mis- or non-communication, withholding valuable information, not telling each other about any aspect of a scene or relationship may lead to mishaps. Even if you're not happy with a situation; tell your partner about it. And, don't put all the responsibility on the Dom's shoulders.
Concept 4: Safewords
A safeword is your emergency break when "in scene." Safewords can be used by Doms and subs at any moment anything gets too tough, too scary, just annoying or for whatever reason. Since standard words like "stop" or "no" in a steamy erotic scene may have a different meaning, in a BDSM-scene safewords are usually established that would normally not fit into erotic scenery. Words like "ship" or "elephant" for example.
Some people use two safewords. One meaning "slow down" or "time out" and another meaning "full stop immediately." People sometimes use standard logical combinations like "apple and pear" or "salt and pepper." A more sophisticated version uses three words, for instance the colours of a traffic light: "green" for "please go on," "yellow" for "slow down, and "red" for "full stop."
Again others will have a system where using role-oriented tiltles (like Master and slave) will be the prefered language during a scene, while calling either of the partners by name during a scene is the safety signal. It doesn't matter what system you use. Anything that works for you is just fine, as long as both partners are aware of it.
Not everyone uses safewords; people who know each other well enough usually don't need them anymore. Others - who like some kinds of "edge-play" - just do not want to have a way out. If you're a novice - and especially when playing with someone you know don't very well - establishing and using safewords is advised. Safewords, like barriers, should be respected at all times.
Other systems - used for example when gags are in play - are giving the submissive a bell to ring or a ball to drop as a safety signal, or - if nothing else works - humming SOS in morse code (hum... hum... hum... hhuuuummm... hhuuuummm... hhuuuummm... hum... hum... hum...).
Concept 5: The freedom of choice
From a safety point of view, erotic power exchange is based on mutual agreement to whatever it is you'd like to do. If one of the partners, for whatever reason, feels that he or she should not get into something ... DON'T DO IT. Even if somebody else tells you it's perfectly safe, even if others do what doesn't feel good to you or doesn't appeal to you. You are the master of your own fantasies and best able to judge about your feelings and emotions and there is no difference between being of a dominant or submissive nature in this area.
...safety guides continue for several pages, see menu for more.
Based on materials from the POWERotics Foundation
© 1996-2000; republished here with their permission;
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