The BDSM Lifestyle is not a one-size-fits all lifestyle. Terms and protocols within the lifestyle vary from couple to couple (or person to person for those in the seeking stage) and what a term means to one person may mean something entirely different to someone else.
Sort of like the words "love" or “romance”—What I mean when I say these words could be on the opposite end of the spectrum from what you, he or they mean.
I'll begin with safe-words—super pet peeve of mine—since there seems to be the occasional (too often) misunderstanding when it comes to their use. My favorite misconstrued concept is: Because of safe-words the submissive/slave is really the one in control.
As a submissive or slave do you want to really be the one in control? Do you want to just manipulate things and make the dominant your puppet? Then maybe you're kinky, but you aren't submissive. It's fine to be kinky, there's no shame in it—but call it what it is. Be honest with yourself so you can be honest with the one (s) you are involved with.
The purpose safe-words serve is as an alternate form of communication. The most common words used are Red-Yellow-Green (their meaning is obvious) and are not words that would come up in scene unless to serve their purpose. I've read of some who have very specific words (like a maiden name for instance.)
But what are they? What aren't they?
~What Safe-Words Are~
They are a signal to the dominant that the play is maybe nearing a point that is close to the non-dominant partner's threshold for pain or suddenly past that threshold (this could be psychological/physical/sexual/emotional.) This is where the dominant is supposed to STOP and ASSESS the situation.
In the case of a submissive (in my definition one who consents per activity) the submissive could decide if they wanted, were able, to continue with the activity at hand and their partner should comply with these wishes.
If this is a situation with a slave (in my definition, one who consents one time only and is owned, property or similar) the Master would/should stop to assess things,just as the dominant should. The difference comes with the decision of continuing or not. The Master, has the right (within the context of their dynamic) to continue if there is NO HARM being done. If the slave is merely uncomfortable or in pain, the Master can opt to continue—no harm, no foul. If the Master enjoys inflicting intense pain and relishes the sight of his slave in tears, and KNOWS that she/he is not being harmed, he may continue if it pleases him.
Safe-words can be useful at times, but what about when the endorphin rush, or sub-space is so deep the submissive/slave cannot communicate verbally? This can and does happen.
In these situations a safe-word/sign (non-verbal cue) can be useless. This is where trust and knowledge of the slave/submissive's capability is paramount. If the slave is transparent (100% open to the Master) the Master will be able to judge the situation. If the slave had a hard day, is ill, has emotional triggers etc. and communicates these things, he/she is giving the Master what he needs to TRUST the slave and in turn, the slave can trust the Master to do what is most beneficial.
In this way, the control remains in the dominant partner's hands. If things cease, it is the Master's choice and not because the slave told him to stop. Over time, this will build more trust (and if done wrong, can destroy trust!) It's important to consider who one chooses to submit to, and to be assured that trust is warranted to begin with.
Safe-words are a necessity if you are Topping/bottoming (more casual play) since you may not know your partner as well. In these situations (I'm speaking of play parties/clubs) references about someone's history and standing within the community can go a long way.
In the smallest sense, they can be something in a scenario when the non-dominant partner is struggling and wants to beg, "Stop-Don't" the dominant will know that it's part of the play and won't stop on a dime.
~What Are Safe-words NOT?~
Safe-words are NOT a way for the submissive/slave type to manipulate the dominant. Choose to control or choose to submit-be honest!
Safe-words are NOT to stop something simply because it isn't enjoyable to the submissive/slave
*Unless this is something discussed between the submissive/Dominant while entering into the arrangement (usually bedroom submission only.)
Safe-words are NOT a replacement for actually communicating. Sometimes saying, "Master, I can't take it." can work just as well.
Safe-words are NOT shameful to use, but should be used sparingly (don't become the Slave/Sub-Who-Cried-Wolf.) Use them when necessary (to communicate actual distress.)The dominant/Master should trust your communication is sincere and valid.
Safe-words are NOT used by everyone or NECESSARY.
*People seem to know about SSC (Safe-Sane-Consensual) but there is also RACK (Risk-Aware-Consensual-Kink). There are couples who have such a tight relationship that the protocol of using some random word is just not needed.
I will mostly be writing about Masters/slaves, although there are some of the submissive/Dominant type that will appear (See references to Derrick and Lucy in my first novella.) Most of my relationships will not use safe-words (or will ultimately reach the state where they're unneeded.)
If one of my characters is a slave, consent for everything will be automatic after the initial consent is given.There will be the option to disobey, followed by the Master's option to release the slave from the relationship for disobedience.
But, I'll save CONSENT for another post.
Quick note: Not all submissives are slaves; not all slaves are even submissive (but most times.) Dominants are not necessarily Masters but most Masters are dominant. (An interesting aside--not all Master/Dominants are sadists, some are even masochists AND submissive is not synonomous with masochist.)