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What is a Safeword and How Do They Work?

Probably the only time no might not mean no is when you enjoy the power and fight of rough sex, a kinky scene, or you’re trying out some kind of power exchange. Pretending to fight off your partner when you really want them to keep going is most common in Dominance and submission (D/s) or even primal play. For people who get off on this kind of thing yelling, “No!” or “Stop!” is part of the fun. They would be disappointed if their partner stopped.

To be clear, this only works when a certain level of trust has been established and both people understand what is happening. Not everyone wants to play this rough, and it should never be assumed your partner does. If you’re ever uncertain, stop until you know what your partner wants. When things get confusing in kink, which happens when people say “no” when they mean “give me more,” a safeword is a good option to have.

What is a Safeword?

Setting Up a Safeword

Simply put, a safeword is a word or phrase that doesn’t fit with the scene, moment, or rough sex. Once said, everything stops. It is used to indicate unwanted pain, fear, anxiety, and discomfort with the situation that goes beyond the person’s personal limits. Safewords are common in kinky or rough sex, the BDSM lifestyle, and D/s relationships. They can be used when one of you is in distress (physical or mental) or when something is temporarily wrong – an itch that’s driving you crazy, a cramp in your leg, something just “doesn’t feel right.”

Setting Up a Safeword

No matter how kinky your partner is or what kind of sex you want to have, never assume a safeword will or won’t be used. Always talk about. A safeword is meant to keep both of you safe from physical, emotional, or mental harm. Ask your partner if they have a safeword and what it is. If you prefer to have one, even if your partner doesn’t usually use a safeword, let them know it’s important to you. When you don’t use a safeword, no always means no and stop always means stop. Anytime you hear those words or sense your partner is in distress, all sex and kinky play must stop.

Safewords Don’t Fit the Scene

The reason “no” is problematic is because of the way some people like to yell or express themselves when the sex or moment gets rough, painful, or intense. When you create your safeword it should be something that doesn’t fit in the moment. It can be any word or phrase that you and your partner can remember – purple pineapple, sweaty socks, blue oyster, literally anything. Another option is the color system – red means stop, yellow means slow down, and green means keep going.

You Can’t Rely Only on a Safeword

Safewords Don’t Fit the Scene

Safewords are only useful when one partner says it and the other partner hears it. In a situation where you’re so carried away that you don’t hear your partner or they can’t speak, the use of a safeword becomes meaningless. Don’t set up a safeword and think you’re done. People forget their safeword all the time or worry about using it. Check in with your partner from time to time and ask if they’re okay. If you sense any distress or something just doesn’t seem right, stop immediately. You can always pick up where you left off once you know your partner wants you to continue.

What if You Can’t Speak or Hear?

Safewords assume two things – one partner has the ability to speak and one partner can hear clearly. That doesn’t work if you’ve gagged your partner. It also assumes that everyone having hot, rough, kinky sex doesn’t have a verbal or auditory disability. In these instances a safeword that must be spoken isn’t going to work. In this situation, you may want to set up a safe “gesture” or signal. A lot of other things can get someone’s attention and indicate a problem:

  • Snapping your fingers
  • Stomping your feet
  • Holding something in your hand and releasing it when you need to stop
  • Whistling (assuming no gag and an ability to draw a deep breathe)

Like a safeword, these signals aren’t foolproof either. Throughout a kinky scene or rough sex, the top or dominating partner must keep their eyes and ears open for any signs of distress or change in their partner. Stop, check in, and only keep going once you get the all clear, even if a safeword hasn’t been used yet.


Safewords allow a certain element of danger and risk (real or perceived) to enter a kinky scene or rough sex. They allow people to test and stretch their personal sexual limits. The only way safewords work, though, is through consent and trust. As effective as safewords can be, when used correctly, they are not a failsafe. When in doubt, check in with your partner to make sure you can keep going. Here at Jack and Jill, we want your adventures in kinky sex to be fun not scary. In the absence of a safeword or when in doubt, no always means no.

Share the kinky knowledge with those who could use it by sharing our infographic below!

Infographic for What is a Safeword


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