Safewords: is “stop, I’m not enjoying this” a safeword?

In my time as a dom, I’ve accidentally caused emotional distress or excessive pain because:

  • I spanked a girl with my hand instead of a hairbrush, and she thought that meant I was genuinely angry with her and not just playing. That made her emotionally desolate, and triggered some bad stuff that had happened between her and her mother, which she’d never told me about before; 
  • I used a riding crop on another girl’s inner thighs, because the week before she’d loved it when I used my belt there. But this time she was having her period and for her that meant her pain threshold was much lower. The intensity was the same, but this time she experienced it as excessive and a complete sexual turn-off;
  • I had my cock in a girl’s throat, and she started to panic because she couldn’t breathe.

None of those submissive women used a safe word to communicate their distress. The first girl had floated into a bad psychological space, and couldn’t speak. The second couldn’t remember her safe word, and anyway the pain meant she stepped completely out of her submissive headspace. She didn’t care about safe words: she just wanted this to stop. The third girl couldn’t speak, but fortunately she was still keeping her eyes on mine, as I’d ordered, and so I saw submission change to panic.

I stopped, and didn’t start again till I’d found out the problem and dealt with it, the submissive was ok, and was ready to go on. 

Each of those events was unpredictable. The girl who spun into a bad mental state because I’d hand spanked her hadn’t known that was going to be her reaction. There was no way I could reasonably have expected it either. It’s the mildest impact play that there is.

Only up to a point, Lord Copper

Each situation turned out ok and happy because I didn’t wait for a safeword. If I had insisted on the safeword, the first girl would have had a psychologically damaging experience, and lost her trust in me. The second girl would never have continued, or played with me again. The third girl could have have been asphyxiated. 

One more safeword story. I valued the first girl’s trust, because it gave her a safe place to do bdsm. Never mind altruism, she was hot. One reason why she trusted me was that she’d last been with a dom who got a lot of his rules and practices from the internet rather than reality. He tended to dole out physical punishments that were tenuously justified and extremely severe, because he liked to give very severe pain. He’d tied her to a cross, and was whipping her when she broke up with him.

She told him to stop. He kept on whipping her. She told him they were through and she wasn’t taking any more. He kept on whipping her. She was bleeding. She started screaming, by now half angry and half terrified, for him to fucking well stop. But you haven’t safeworded me, he said. He’d sounded smug: that meant he was winning. All you have to do is safe word me. He kept on whipping her.

Um, Rumpelstiltskin? Armidillo? Let me loose NOW, or I’m going to the cops? Mercy? Um, red?…

She couldn’t remember what her safeword was. He’d given it to her, which made it harder. It was Armadillo or Rumpelstilskin or something. She’d blanked on it. She was in an angry, fearful state and she couldn’t calmly ransack through her mind to find it.

Eventually he untied her and said her punishment was over, and to get on her knees and suck his cock.

She left without a word and never went back. I made her tell the story, with the guy’s name, to other submissives. Strictly speaking and technically, he could argue that he’d followed the rules. But he was a dangerous idiot, and a criminal from the instant she’d said they were through. 

So in general I treat, “No”, “Stop” and “This isn’t working for me”, also certain kinds of non-responsiveness, as safewords even though they’re not the agreed safeword. Yes, there are rules in bdsm, but they should never get in the way of a submissive’s health and safety. 

Sometimes, though, I will ignore “No, please stop” because it isn’t the safeword. But that’s only where the submissive and I are in a relationship that includes consensual non-consent, and where she (this applies to male and female submissives, but I’m saying “she” because my experience involves women submissives) has explicitly told me that sometimes she wants to be able to beg and shout and protest, and have me ignore that and continue.

Stop! Ha ha, just kidding!

I enjoy that, but that’s for when you know someone well, and you know you can read between the lines, and tell pleasure from real distress in her body language or her voice, or her silence. So that you know she’s safe and in a good mental state, even as you gleefully ignore her pleas for you to stop.   

Even then, truth be told, if I believed that I detected real harm or distress I’d stop even without the safeword.

You can think you’ve worked out everything in advance, and that the rules you’ve agreed to will cover everything. But humans are unpredictable creatures, and emotionally driven and changeable, whether they acknowledge that or not.

Both parties have to be flexible enough to take that into account, and to respond to the person’s needs (and their own needs) in the moment, and not just stick to a set of rules. 

Except one rule: the dom’s duty of care, to do no harm to a submissive, comes before everything else, including “I’ll stop if you safeword me but not otherwise”. Even when they’re not, “no” and “stop!” are still safewords, if the submissive really means it. Whatever the agreed protocol might be.

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13 thoughts on “Safewords: is “stop, I’m not enjoying this” a safeword?

  1. Double hell yes. My ex, who made a very poor attempt to Dom me, spanked me black and blue despite my squirming away and telling him no. Like you mentioned above I blanked on my safeword simply because I hurt too much to think. I refused to ever play such games with him again, no matter how submissive I was feeling.

    • Was that one of his first attempts? If so, I’m surprised he went so far. It took me ages to learn to hit as hard as a submissive wants. I think I was a bit slow, starting too light, but it’s odd to start by going too hard.

      Anyway, I think the “blanking on the safeword” thing happens a lot, especially – but not only – if the Dom sets the safeword. People who ignore obvious “wrong kind of pain” and “not happy with this” signs, and carry on because the safe word isn’t spoken are obtuse at best, but more likely abusive. That applies to both SSC and RACK codes, and to light and heavy play.

      Anyway, I hope you’re now being (mis)treated in the right way!

  2. Very clever post.

    That’s why I personally have never even had a safeword – I believe I should be able to say whatever I want, and trust that the dom can tell the difference between, “oooh, stop, no really” and “stop or you’ll never see me again”.

    Of course, that puts the entire onus of responsibility on the dom, but hey, he’s meant to be the one in charge, isn’t he? 😉

    • Yeah, it’s so hard for us doms. Sob!

      I suppose I mainly use safewords because they have a theatrical impact. There’s a slight, “if I have a safeword I must be in the real world of depravity now” vibe about it.

      And they are one more tool of communication. Though the difference between saying “red” and saying “ok, fuck this, I’m totally not enjoying this” isn’t all that great.

      I don’t mind the responsibility of distinguishing between “please stop, I can’t stand it, ooh, mercy, mercy! etc” from “fuck off, this is horrible and it stops right now!” Most submissives aren’t exactly subtle if they’re having a horrible time, though that can include saying nothing and freezing physically. Still, you’d have to be blind and cloth-eared not to tell when it’s time to stop and check that all is still well.

  3. This is great and I get all of it (both thinking about form the Dom and sub perspective). I blanked my safeword in my very first session with a professional Mistress. She knew I was a beginner but she beat me and beat me until my arse was all bruises that took two weeks to fade.

    • Yeah, she must have really whaled on you. I consider I’m doing well if I can make marks last to be even faintly visible at 10 days.

      And it’s just weird behaviour, to know you’re dealing with a beginner and rely only on hearing the safeword. If she wanted repeat business (and even as a non-commercial dom I always want repeat business) then she wasn’t very good at her job.

      But yeah, a lot of people blank on safewords, or being able to speak at all. Doms who wait for safewords before they’ll note how the sub appears to be feeling are … letting ideology overrule their human judgment. Which is never a good idea.

  4. Pingback: There is nothing "safe" about a safeword. - Temperature's Rising

  5. Yes, this! Whilst he maintains no and stop aren’t safeword, if I were to ever use them he will immediately check in with me. That doesn’t mean he’ll stop. It really is down to how we’re playing and what we’re doing.

  6. We do have a safe word but as I said in my post neither of us see it is a some sort fail safe device it is just part of the many way we communicate.


  7. Context should matter, I wouldn’t endorse continuing in all circumstances just because the safeword has not been technically uttered. That said, safewords would be rather meaningless if any “no” or “stop” would override them immediately isn’t it… Out of curiosity, what would you think of a scenario where at any reasonable suspicion of actual will to stop being involved, the dom would pause and say “your safeword is ‘Armadillo’. What do you have to say to me?”, then continue if only further “no/stop” follows? Again, within reason – obviously not if the sub looks genuinely flipped out?

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