Safewords allow the person who is being spanked–the bottom–to slow or stop the spanking. They are a key communication tool, allowing the top and bottom to share their reactions as a spanking unfolds. They relieve the top of bearing full responsibility for the scene’s success by allowing the bottom to participate. They are not primarily about health or physical safety; they’re about pain and emotional safety.
When I refer to the “top” I mean the person who is doing the spanking, and “bottom” refers to the one getting spanked.
Some people use a single safeword, but more commonly they come in pairs. When the bottom says “yellow,” for instance, it might mean “I’m having trouble handling this—please slow down or pause.” “Red” might mean “Stop. The scene is over.”
Another common safeword is “green,” which, used partway through the spanking, is an easy way for the bottom to say, “I’m getting bored down here. When are you going to start spanking?”
Common conventions on safewords include these:
- Top and bottom should agree on safewords before the spanking starts.
- The bottom has an obligation to use a safeword if needed . . . that’s what it’s there for.
- It is inappropriate for the top to force the bottom to use a safeword.
- If the bottom uses a safeword the top must immediately respond as agreed to before the scene.
- When the bottom uses a safeword, it is good practice for the top to say “Thank you for letting me know something was wrong.”
- Use of the safeword should not serve as grounds for punishment.
- These rules aren’t absolute and universal, but they’re a good place to start.
Safewords are your friend
It’s common for new bottoms to want to be spanked without a safeword. They want “a real spanking.” It’s common for new tops to want to give a real spanking, too, and they can have trouble imagining how a spanking with a safeword would work. Doesn’t it defeat the whole purpose?
No, it does not.
If the bottom wants to be spanked hard, the best way to do it is with safewords firmly in place. That way, the bottom is free to cry out, “Stop! It’s hurting too much!” without being afraid that the conscientious top will actually stop. Instead, the top can reply, “Did I hear you say ‘stop’? That’s not a safeword. ‘That hurts too much’ isn’t a safeword either,” and continue spanking. Safewords thus give the top permission to give a harder spanking.
Judgment plus safewords
That doesn’t mean the top should continue. Sometimes the spanking should stop, or lighten up, just because, in the top’s judgment, it has gone on long enough. When in doubt, stop sooner rather than later. There’s always next time.
Safewords help us administer or experience controlled pain. They offer a promise to the bottom that the pain will never be beyond his or her ability to bear. This feature is safewords’ most important contribution to safe play.
Spanking without safewords
The naïve couple
People have spanked for the pain and pleasure of it for millennia without the benefit of safewords. They still do, experimenting, exploring spankings on the fly, because they know nothing of the spanking community and its conventions.
A couple that communicates well, starts with light spankings, and works up gradually is likely to do well. Of course, this process will go more smoothly if they learn from others’ experiences, since spanking does have pitfalls for the unprepared. But you are reading this post; please learn from the experiences of others.
No safewords from the beginning?
What about spanking without safewords if you are going to meet for a first spanking? Perhaps you have been emailing, or chatting in a club, and are discussing a no-safewords approach to your first spanking. I understand: it’s tempting.
My advice? Don’t do it. Don’t even think about it. If you enjoy each other this time, you can try it without safewords another day.
Discontinuing safewords for experienced couples
Couples with longstanding spanking relationships, with good knowledge of each others’ preferences and reactions, sometimes agree to stop using safewords because they are unnecessary. The safewords may also simply atrophy from disuse. I don’t have a problem with this. When you know you can balance on the wire, you may dispense with the safety net.
Sometimes a couple wants to discontinue using safewords in order to play at a more intense level. When there is no safeword the encounter has a different feel, a sense that anything is possible. These people are not strangers; they know each other well. I respect that.
Stepping away from safewords
Another option, instead of dispensing with safewords altogether, is to suspend safewords for clearly limited periods during the scene. This allows you to explore the thrills of no-safeword territory without excessive risk to either top or bottom. This method works because most spanking scenes are not a single spanking but rather a series of spanking segments.
Here’s how it works. The scene might start with a warmup, during which safewords are of course unnecessary. Then the top might say, “Now I am going to suspend your safewords and give you one minute of hard spanking.” If this couple has done a reasonable amount of spanking before, they both have some idea of how challenging one minute of hard spanking is likely to be for the bottom. Perhaps they have done that much hand spanking in a previous scene, and the novelty will not be in the spanking itself but in the lack of a safeword.
Afterward, the top might say the safewords are available again, or check in with the bottom, ask how things are going, and then announce a further no-safewaord spanking segment. And if one minute of hard spanking moved top and bottom closer to their own personal nirvanas, the next time they can try two or three minutes.
Back to safewords’ purpose
It’s all about communication. The fundamental purpose of safewords is to protect both top and bottom from getting in over their heads, from creating a situation that they will later regret, and thereby to pursue the joy they both desire.