from the Submissive Guide Newsletter 11/1/14

Your safeword is your lifeline for play. It is a way to express you've reached a limit, whether that is a physical limit or an emotional one. The couples that play with safewords know that there is an often unspoken importance in only using it when it is necessary and this is a large reason submissives are afraid to use them. But you shouldn't be hesitant to use it. It can mean the end of play, but it can also keep you from going places you are not ready to explore. You should never fear using your safeword but for many the sense of guilt and disappointment in themselves keeps them from using it when it is absolutely necessary. Fortunately there are ways to deal with the guilt, disappointment, fear, sense of failure for using your safeword and the failing to use your safeword at all that many of us feel at one time or another.

If you play with a safeword you know that this lifeline is given in trust. The Dominant trusts you to use it when you need it. You trust him to comply and stop the scene (or at least check in) when you use it. This trust is very important to have at the get go. If you don't trust the person you are playing with, you shouldn't play. It's that simple.

I've only had to use my safeword a time or two, but I'm thankful that I did. KnyghtMare and I were playing a bit more intense than usual and it as discussed before we started that I would likely end play with a safeword. I processed as much pain as I could and really enjoyed the build up but as play continued I noticed a rising anger out of nowhere. Suddenly the next strike of the cane set me on edge and I fumed, tossed the keys (I was gagged at the time) and burst into tears. He quickly and compassionately untied me and soothed my aches and helped dry my tears as I just babbled and cried for what appeared to be no reason other than it hurt so gosh darned much. The praise he gave me for going as far as a did didn't dampen the feeling failure that I had for not going further and for using my safeword - even though it was quite clear I was to use it.

Dealing with the aftermath of this instance and the few others has given me a new insight into my thoughts that I want to share with you.

Fear of Failure

I get it, I do. You have a safeword that is to only be used as a last resort so if you consider using it you might be failing the person you are playing with. They will be disappointed and perhaps never play with you again. The irrational fear grips us all at one point or another. But this safeword isn't just a lifeline, it's an element of trust. You have one because you are trusted to use it when things get so bad that you can't communicate in any other way.

Your partner definitely doesn't consider it a failure on your part. They are probably pleased you trusted them that when you said your safeword they stopped and checked in. The level of trust that a safeword implies is huge. I also know a few Dominants who consider having a partner safeword as a badge of pride that they were able to get you right to the edge and perhaps discovered a limit you didn't know existed. It's about growth and expanding the limits for these Dominants and using a safeword is definitely not a failure to them.

What's important to understand is that using isn't failing. BDSM play isn't a competition so why would you consider ending it when you need to, to be losing? Setting a goal for play, if you do that sort of thing, shouldn't be about how many strikes you can take or how far you can go. I'd hope it was more about connection, playfulness, intimacy, lust or some other physical/emotional need fulfilled. How you get there or how much you push yourself is irrelevant if you are enjoying yourself - right?

So when it gets to be too much, for whatever reason, stop the play. If it's no fun anymore do you really want to be forcing yourself?


I admit that I have felt guilty a time or two after using my safeword. After all, I told you above that I've only used it a handful of times. How did my guilt manifest? Mostly in hindsight thinking. A common phrase is that "hindsight is 20/20" and that is where guilt usually comes forth for me. I often feel that I could have gone further, or that kink in my neck wasn't all that bad. Maybe, just maybe I could have done this or that or something else to make play keep going.

But, in all of these things you have to trust that your decision in the moment was the best one. If you could have lasted or stretched that muscle cramp out don't you think you would have? You used that safeword because you had to, not because you wanted to. Trust in yourself and your own judgement. Sure, feel guilty, but don't let it beat you up. We've all had some regret in life - keep it from eating you up inside by realizing that you made the right choice at the time.


Often guilt and disappointment go together. Disappointment in play often comes from setting goals that are too high for your current experience. You can't expect to reach your goals each and every time you play, there are far too many variables that can change your outcome. Things that often get in the way of play are stress, bad moods, distractions (internal and external), physical issues and emotional stress. Sometimes you just aren't in the right head space.

Once you realize that you don't have to lower your expectations to avoid disappointment, but rather learn how to handle the disappointment if it comes you may be able to overcome the distractions that are preventing you reaching your goals in the first place.

Failing to Use the Safeword

In all this talk about using your safeword, there might be a time that you fail to use your safeword when you should have. You don't want to disappoint your partner or have them upset with you so you struggle through whatever activity as long as possible hoping that they will switch or stop soon. It doesn't make you a better submissive for doing that.

That's not the way to build trust. Remember I said that a safeword is a trust builder. If you refuse to use it when you clearly should have then how much trust do you think your partner has in you when they find out? Don't do that to yourself.

Using your safeword doesn't have to come with all the negative trappings we seem to attach to it. Just like the emergency number 911, you don't use it unless you have to. So treat it that way. Accept that you are not Superman or the Black Widow and can and do have bad days. Learn from your limits, develop the trust you need to have in your play relationship (or long-term dynamic) and embrace every part of your growth.


Thoughts to Ponder

  1. What is your opinion about safewords? What value do they have in a relationship?
  2. If you have withheld a safeword in the past, why did you do it? What were you trying to gain by doing so?
  3. What other issues arise from using your safeword?

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