When we talk about safety we can't avoid talking about safewords. Do you have a safeword? Do you feel safe having it? Need to go back and learn about safewords first? You can do so here.
We've developed a false sense of security around the "magic" of safewords. But let me tell you this: it will not keep you safe. That's your job. They are not words of power. You can't just wave your word at a Dominant and expect them to magically freeze in place. They only work as a communication device if, and only if, that person you're playing with is trustworthy and respects boundaries. If not, safewords are useless.
Playing comes with dangers and risks. Making sure you are going to be as safe as you wish to be is up to you.
Whether the person you are playing with is new or not, having a conversation with them before you play is quite important. It not only allows you to share with them what you enjoy and don't enjoy but to establish boundaries and start a sense of trust with them. Tell the Top your safe word. How they react will tell you a few things about how they feel about your need for safety.
If they say that they don't play with safewords, kindly tell them that you can't play with them then. Sure, playing without safewords is okay if you already know the person and trust them implicitly but you can't say that about someone you've only watched or just encountered yourself. And tossing your safeword usually comes with a consensual decision between the parties involved. It's never a sudden thing.
If they ask you what safewords are, I'd use that as an opportunity to teach them about that safety mechanism. Don't assume that just because they are unfamiliar with terms that they are unsafe players. After all, you didn't know what safewords were once upon a time either, right?
But more often than not, a Top is going to know what a safe word is and agree to your use of it. Just as long as you both know that it's used as a communication tool first and foremost and that you rely on your intuition and common sense to know if you are really safe with this person before you allow them to put you under their mercy.
After all, they could agree to your safeword and then ignore it completely. So make sure the trust is there before you play.
By now you are probably wondering why you'd have a safeword if it can be ignored and I want you to please consider that it can and does protect you from harm if you play with someone who respects it. You can't forget that the person most responsible for making sure you are safe in play is you. There are a couple of things you can do to protect yourself beyond a safeword.
- Play at public play spaces or dungeons where others will be there too. These locations have monitors that are there to protect the safety of its attendees and if you use your safeword they are going to come to your aid if the Top you are playing with does not stop.
- Don't allow yourself to become overly vulnerable until you can trust your partner with that vulnerability. This could be as simple as not getting fully undressed, not allowing bondage or playing only with specific tools or time frames.
- Use safe calls. A safe call is a life line outside of the play space. If you can't check in with your life line they are to make calls to get you help. This is always a last resort but it can and does save people from dangerous situations.
- Don't play. Sure it sounds like an easy out, but if you have any sense of hesitation or question the person you are considering playing with, don't play with them until you can clear up all of your hesitation and issues.
Safewords will only work if you know what else will keep you safe, keep an eye on yourself and protect your ass.