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A riding cropSome BDSM activities may be potentially dangerous if appropriate
precautions are not taken. In particular, it is sometimes the practice that the
submissive will complain of suffering or beg the dominant to stop, and that this
will be ignored by the dominant. Therefore, one aspect to ensure safety is to
agree upon a safeword. If the dominant and submissive are in a scene that causes
unacceptable discomfort (physical or mental) for the submissve, a safeword can
be uttered to warn the dominant of trouble and immediately call for a stop to
Wax play: a back covered with colored waxesSometimes BDSM may involve a
'simulation' or 'role play' of rape or other non-consensual acts. A dominant and
a submissive may choose to pretend that the submissive is being raped or
otherwise forced to do something unwillingly. Therefore, words like "No!" or
"Stop!" are inappropriate as safewords, because a submissive playing the role of
a victim would say these words as part of the scenario. The ideal safeword is a
word or brief phrase (such as "red light") that normally would not be spoken
during a sadomasochistic act, and which therefore calls attention to itself by
its own incongruity.
Some people in BDSM use multiple levels of safewords. For example, the safeword
"green" to increase the intensity/pressure/force, "yellow" would be employed to
indicate "You are approaching an intensity (or an activity) that I don't wish to
experience; please do not continue this scene further in this direction, or do
not increase the intensity", while the safeword "red" would mean "Stop this and
release me now." The stoplight safeword mechanism is the most common one found
in the BDSM community, and as such is universally recognized, causing less
potential confusion than some random safeword might.
In situations where the submissive's mouth is gagged, or the submissive is
otherwise incapable of speaking without violating the fetish scenario, a
non-verbal signal is used instead of a safeword. Typically this might be the
clenching and unclenching of one or both fists, the dropping a bell or ball,
snapping of the fingers, or uttering three loud grunts in quick succession.
It is possible that a dominant may ignore a safe word. A dominant who acquires a
reputation for ignoring safewords will experience increasing difficulty finding
BDSM partners. Some partners may not use a safeword, as the submissive may have
full faith that the dominant can be totally trusted. This concept is debated
regularly amongst people in the BDSM lifestyle and observers will find a variety
of opinions. Within this sub-culture and community in a lifestyle based on
trust, a person who is not known, or not trusted, does not easily find partners.
Adequate care is prudent in bondage to ensure safety from injury. It is wise to
invest in first aid training for all involved parties. For activities involving
bodily fluids, hygienic precautions should be duly considered for avoiding the
spread of sexually transmitted diseases or blood borne viruses.
In any geographical (or perhaps electronic) community of BDSM practitioners,
there are bound to be the occasional disputes over the safety, skills, or basic
honesty and intentions of the participants. These tend to arise from
miscommunications, unexpressed assumptions, inexperience, or actual mistakes
made by the parties involved. Especially with an area of sexuality which may or
may not be legal according to the letter of the law, these incidents will often
bring up the question of "community self-policing" of its members. Since so many
of the interactions are one-on-one, unobserved by third parties, and of an
intimate nature, a conflict or dispute may lead to "he-said, she-said" types of
interactions. Many communities have developed conflict resolution committees to
help mediate such situations.