A few days ago, I talked about how disturbing it is when the scene becomes judgmental of those who do not play the way others think they should play. Specifically, I was talking about Doms or subs who will ostracize, criticize, and belittle Switches merely because they choose to switch roles, depending on partner or need.
Like a good Dom or a good sub, a good Switch understands the dynamic roles in BDSM and when it is appropriate to switch.
Things like taking on a Switch role rather than strict D/s or M/s is about the finer nuances of play. Choosing to switch may come from being new and wanting to experience all sides of play, but not having access to or being comfortable with a more Old Guard mentor relationship. It may come from having experienced one, liking it, but finding someone that you desire the other with (and still wanting to be Dom/Domme to someone else). Those who do not engage in play with you may find it confusing or not understand, but it is their responsibility to discuss that with you – assuming of course that it is their business to do so, for example their own sub/slave expresses concern about their dynamic because they see you switch and the Dom/Master needs to understand, or someone simply wants to learn what a Switch is.
I did mention, however, that there are caveats to the inclusiveness of BDSM. Hard lines exist and stating and responding to those hard lines is not a bad thing at all. I mentioned a couple of obvious ones before. I recently found another, and I think it is worthy of a little more discussion.
The Safe Word
If you have followed this blog at all, you know how important the safe word is to me. When a dynamic includes a safe word, and in my opinion almost all should, that safe word is sacrosanct. A sub may request a limit be pushed and a Dom may agree, but when that safe word is called, all play stops with no punishment, retribution, or ill feeling to the submissive for calling it.
It seems that it has somehow entered the minds of some submissives that using their safe word makes them weak or somehow degrades them as a participant. One even shared that in her circle, submissives who use their safe word are removed from all play to “reevaluate their limits” and that this is done to ensure that submissives understand the “proper usage” of the safe word.
They even consider it a badge of honor to say that they have never used it, even when using the safe word would have been appropriate or needed.
What is ironic about this is that the discussion came about because a Dom shared with the group, and sought insight, about how he had to discipline his submissive – for not using the safe word when the Dom had reached his submissive’s known limits.
Time for a little insight:
I was very angry one day. I found a site that I had hoped to put in my links as a resource for those who do find themselves abused by people in the lifestyle. It can happen. Predators and harmful people exist in all segments of society, from BDSM clubs to church pews. The site was supposed to offer information and assistance to those in the lifestyle who find themselves in an abusive situation. I have not included the link because I found an article that was very disturbing. It was couched as a guide to recognizing abuse in a Master/slave relationship, but included as its first points how almost everything practiced in BDSM was illegal and how typically going to anyone about anything involving BDSM could lead to ostracism, hospitalization, and even arrest.
In other words, the article began by isolating potential victims and telling them how society views them as bad people. It also laid the ground work for a belief that no activity in a Master/slave dynamic could be abusive, because the slave hands over total power to their Master.
While M/s dynamics are not themselves abusive – the slave willingly hands power over to the Master, giving their power of consent to the Master – abuses can still take place. Masters and slaves still negotiate limits and boundaries. They still enter into a mutual contract and a good Master will make sure his/her slave is aware of what s/he will be submitting to in the dynamic. A good Master will also care for his/her slave, making sure that if rough play results in injury (whether accidental or because that is what the slave wants) that those injuries are treated and that the slave is okay after. An M/s dynamic may end when a slave says “No” and maintains that answer, but that does not mean that a Master is not aware of or ignores the slave’s limits and pleasure.
Whether the Dom/Dommes and/or submissives who set up this “time out” for submissives who use their safe word intended it or not, they have done the same thing that the author of the article did. They have created an atmosphere where a submissive views the use of a safe word as, at best problematic, and at worst something they should only use in the most dire of circumstances. It is dangerous, it is unwise, and if not itself abusive, opens submissives to abuse from supposed Dom/Dommes who will happily take advantage of and harm a submissive who believes s/he cannot use his/her safe word without negative repercussions.
Should a submissive take time out after using a safe word? Well, that depends on why the submissive used the safe word. The decision should be based on circumstances, between the Dom and submissive in the scenario, not something that should be set as a hard and fast rule.
Should a submissive be punished for using a safe word too often? No. And that I even have to say that shows the state of BDSM these days. A Dom/Domme and his/her submissive should discuss established limits if a submissive is frequently using his/her safe word. It may be that the submissive’s limits are being pushed too much by a domineering Dom/Domme. It may be that the submissive needs to reevaluate his/her limits. It could indicate something else going on with the submissive that needs to be addressed for fun, effective play to resume. If the Dom/Domme and submissive find they are no longer compatible, and that this is the cause of the frequent use of the safe word, then perhaps it is time for them to move on.
At no point should the submissive be punished, as that sets a terrible example to the rest of the community, who will not understand the finer points of what is happening and will be left with the impression, as the submissives mentioned above seem to have, that using the safe word is a sign of weakness, disobedience, something worthy of reproach, no matter how couched it is. Dom/Dommes should also avoid punishing a submissive for safe word use for another reason: word gets around. Potential submissives who understand the importance of their safe word will not want to partner with someone who will not respect it.
Submissives: withholding your safe word is not a signal that you are stronger than anyone else, or more daring. It simply means that you do not trust your Dom/Domme to respect you and your limits and do not understand what the safe word is for. It is a signal that you need more training.
Dom/Dommes: do not encourage your submissives to withhold their safe word. It is there for you as much as it is for them. If you find that they are not using it when you know that you have reached a limit (and you have not already discussed pushing your submissive past it), discuss this with your submissive so that s/he understands that s/he needs to trust you. The safe word is never a sign that you are a bad Dom/Domme or that your submissive is weak.
If as a submissive you ever feel that you have to use a safe word to avoid abuse, then you do not need to be with that Dom/Domme. That is not what the safe word is for and that supposed dom/domme (lower case for emphasis) is not worthy of your submission.