Hello, My Beauties, let’s talk about safety, specifically the practice of establishing a safeword. Everyone needs one. Regardless of whether you’re vanilla or a kinkster. I would like to propose that safewords step out of the kink community and become something all folks use in situations involving emotional and physical intimacy.
So, what’s a safeword?
It is a boundary you negotiate before things get rolling. It’s central to most kink practices from SSC (Safe, Sane, and Consensual) and RACK (Risk Accepted Consensual Kink) to PRICK (Personal Responsibility, Informed, Consensual Kink) and CNC (Consensual Non-Consent).
The word is something anyone participating can use to stop an encounter in its tracks. It should be easy to remember and not something you’d hear within the context of the situation. I use “wombat” because they’re cute, lumbering balls of fur and, outside of some unique circumstances, not a word you hear every day.
The ability of anyone to call a time-out or stop for discussion is necessary for everyone’s safety. After all, you can’t play if you’re psychologically hurt, physically injured, or dead, right?
But isn’t safe sexual expression something everyone should expect?
Of course, it is. Vanilla or kinkster, learning how to negotiate boundaries should be one of the first things we discuss when it comes to emotional and physical intimacy. Yet to folks outside of the kink/fetish community, a safeword is usually the punchline to a joke. Before you message me, I’m not saying being a kinkster is better.
I’m saying vanilla folks may have something to learn from our community.
There are plenty of times in my vanilla experiences where a safeword would have come in handy. For instance, I was devastated the first time someone put their mouth on my vulva. The experience was terrifying.
Bear in mind, I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, so sex education was different. And most of my consensual sex ed came from friends and the copies of Cosmo I’d managed to sneak away from my aunts. Consequently, the articles about how to “please your man” haven’t changed. It’s still all “grin and bear it” blow job techniques and anal sex.
And the formal sex ed taught in school was atrocious.
Mrs. Paulsen had gathered the girls of my fifth-grade class together for “the talk.” The day had been overcast, clouds dipping toward the earth in enormous swags, like sagging cloth.
She’d turned out the classroom lights and arranged us on the floor in a circle. In a way, the message I took away from that talk was one I’d also learned from the non-consensual experiences:
Sex was a secret, best spoken of in whispers and darkness, if it’s spoken of at all.
We talked about masturbation (it’s normal, but can ruin sex if you do it too much). Mrs. Paulsen demonstrated how to hook a pad to a sanitary belt (because those things were still around).
Her final caution was about how hard a bad reputation was to shake. Painting boys as ravenous, barely human creatures, she insisted that our job as girls was to police our bodies and theirs. There was no talk about oral sex (or any other sex beside penis in vagina, for that matter).
So years later, when my boyfriend (without asking) pulled off my panties and started licking my vulva, I was scared and confused. I had cried, keeping quiet so as not to disturb him because I’d clearly failed at my job of managing his desires.
I didn’t have the language to say stop.
Thirty years and a decade of therapy later, I wonder how different that situation would have looked if I’d been taught about how to negotiate boundaries and use a safeword. I imagine I would have still struggled. There was more to my fear than just being unfamiliar with the sensation of oral sex.
But, maybe learning how to set boundaries and a safeword would have been the empowerment I needed to say, “this doesn’t feel right.” Safewords are useful because the language is divorced from a sexual situation. Reaching for the word “wombat” is more accessible than grinding out the reasons why something feels scary.
A safeword acts as a verbal glass of cold water.
The practice can be used with anyone in your life and in any situation. It doesn’t have to be sex-related. Using a safeword can be helpful in high-emotion, high-risk situations. Knowing you’re safe makes emotional and physical intimacy better.
So, spread the word: Everyone Needs a Safeword.
Be well, be wonderful, and above all, be you.