difference between safe words & hard limits, the

What is a safeword?

A safeword is a funny, unusual word. It’s an alternative way to stop or slow down play (say, a “scene”). Instead of saying “no” or “stop.” Because there may be times where the submissive (or even the dominant) wants to be able to say “no,” and have the other person keep doing whatever they are doing. This is called CNC (consensual non consent.) Where all involved parties explicitly consent to play involving non consent. Maybe she wants to pretend that she doesn’t want him to violate her, because that is what turns her on. But if she says “no” and he stops, well, then it ruins the fun. For them.

So you have this word that is silly or unusual and that is what you say when you actually are uncomfortable. Like “eggplant.” Some people use “yellow/red” instead of “eggplant,” because that gives a little more flexibility. A submissive can say “yellow” to slow things down, without bringing the scene to an abrupt halt (“red”).

A safe word should not be an excuse to not pay attention to a sub’s needs. If a submissive forgets the safeword, there should be an understanding between the top and bottom as to how to recognize outright discomfort and unwanted pain. At the very worst, a submissive can just say, “Hey, I don’t like this anymore, I want to stop and I want to talk to you, because this isn’t working.” Or just a firm, “STOP,” in a tone that says, “I do not want this at all, please stop and let’s talk.” (Please recognize that if you are at a pubilc spce there are other people playing around you. Try to be considerate of them, while keeping yourself safe.)

What is a safeword NOT?

It isn’t a suggestion. Kink play can be dangerous, both to one’s physical and mental health. If you agree to a safeword, honor it. Otherwise you, rightfully, risk alienation from your community.

Importantly, I’ve recently discovered, it is not a hard limit.

What is a hard limit?

A hard limit is an act that all people involved agree is off limits. A hard limit might only apply to a scene, or it might extend beyond this. Example: I might have a hard limit of no spanking with anyone whom I am not in a relationship. Or I might have a hard limit of no spanking during this scene. Or I might have a hard limit of no spanking at all, ever.

Please respect hard limits and do not attempt to renegotiate them, unless the person says it’s okay. If I say my hard limit is no spanking, you should not ask to spank me every time. You should not constantly try to persuade me to change my mind. But if you forget, it’s okay to say, “Hey, can you remind me of what your hard limits are again?”

Hard limits might be vary from person to person, i.e. I may have a hard limit that exists only with new partners, but not with my established partner. If you see me being spanked, that is NOT an indication that my hard limits have changed. You should definitely not act as if my hard limit has gone away.

Hard limits can, and likely will, change. It’s very possible that I might have a hard limit with you, because I just met you, but I’ll let it go once I trust you. Or I might simply decide I like/am curious about this thing after all. Do not assume a person who changed their hard limits was lying to you, but assume that circumstances have altered.

Safewords are not the same as hard limits.

I came across a writing one day where someone laid out, in simple terms, how if Person A says no pineapples up my butt and Person B ‘forgets’ this during the scene and puts a pineapple up Person A’s butt that Person A does not have to safeword in order for it be a consent violation.

Apparently there is something called the “Safeword Defense.” Because you did not safeword when I did what you said you did not want done, it means you were okay with it.

Um, no. Pinapple in the butt was a hard limit. That means you don’t do it. A hard limist is not something that needs to be safeworded against, in order to “qualify” as a consent violation. Even if Person A does not safeword when the consent violation happens, it is still a consent violation because the hard limit was already explicitly discussed.

You do not test hard limits out mid scene, either. That is negotiating mid scene. Negotiating mid scene is something you NEVER do. Even if the submissive tells you it’s ok, as a top you are taking on a HUGE risk by doing this. Many subs lose themselve in “subspace” during play and may ask for/agree to things they would not normally. Just as you would not ask a drunk girl for sex, do not ask a sub intoxicated by subspace to do something s/he hasn’t consented to while in a clear head space.

What IS the purpose of a safeword?

If it’s not supposed to be used to remind one of a hard limit during play, than how should it be used?

A safeword is a way for the sub to control the intensity/progression/etc of the scene or play, i.e. Person A safewords because the dom hit her too hard with a flogger during their play, not because he hit her with a flogger after she said no floggers for this scene.

A Note About Safewords

The great thing about safewords is that if you do get a little lost in subspace and don’t use one, even when you probably should have, it’s okay. It doesn’t mean you are a bad sub. It doesn’t mean the dom is a bad dom.

If I fail to safeword during a moment which I wish I had, I can still come back and say, “Hey, that was too much for me.” Even if it’s months later when I find myself in a position to play with that dom again. Yes, I failed to use my words.

But it’s never too late for me to bring up the subject to avoid future discomfort for myself (even if there was no consent violation.) Because safewords are nothing more than a way to facilitate awesome play experiences. And if you mess up, you do better the next time and move on. Cool? Cool.

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