“No” is goddamn well a safeword

Recently I read a really excellent post on Fetlife called No is not a safeword – Fuck That that I wanted to expand on. I highly recommend reading that post, but this one should still make sense without it.

People may like to joke around and say that “no” is not a safeword, but it goddamn well is. Unless and until you have specifically negotiated that in a particular scene or a particular relationship that “no” means “this is intense but I’m enjoying it” and some other word means “stop and check in”, then no always means no.

Particularly if you’re new to bottoming, you should be aware that no, stop, give me a minute, wait, that really fucking hurts, and any serious expression of distress are safewords. And as I hope you already know, anyone who ignores your safeword is not safe to play with. Using a safeword like ‘wait’ or ‘that really fucking hurts’ doesn’t have to bring the scene to a screeching halt, but if your top doesn’t even make sure you’re okay and that you want to continue, well, I’d certainly think twice about playing with them again.

Some people do enjoy getting to say no without the scene actually stopping, just like some people enjoy struggling even when they don’t really want to get away. For some people “no” is just what comes out when they’re taking pain, and doesn’t mean that they want to stop. However, neither of those things make no magically stop being a safeword. Just like some people enjoying being caned doesn’t mean you can assume any particular person does, some people saying no when they don’t want the scene to stop absolutely does not mean you can assume any particular person doesn’t mean no when they say it.

As much as nerds and kinky people (often one and the same) seem to enjoy complicating things, I strongly advise keeping things simple at first. There’s no need to ask a new bottom to remember a safeword when plain English is just fine for communication. You can always add more complications when they’ve gotten some experience and when you know each other better, but until then why add more opportunities for things to go wrong?

The one time I do think it’s appropriate to say “no is not a safeword” is during a scene where you have negotiated that no does not mean stop and want to remind your bottom that while no isn’t a safeword for this scene, they can safeword at any time if they really do need to stop.

If you don’t want using or hearing the word no to stop the scene, by all means negotiate that. But if you want to decide for everyone that no is not a safeword, you can fuck right off.

8 thoughts on ““No” is goddamn well a safeword

  1. Wow. Thanks for alerting us to that FetLife writing, I have been so alienated by the parade of female flesh on Kinky & Popular that I just don’t keep up. Sigh. It is such a shame that there is all this great content hiding behind FetLife walls. Why don’t people want new kinksters to see this stuff?

    Your point about plain English is especially important, I think. The scene needs to be clearer about this.

    Another essay on safewords that I really liked was How Safe Are Safewords? http://withinreality.com/wp/safe-safewords/ But your point is much more basic and necessary.

    • I so hear you. I’ll take a peek at Kinky & Popular now and then, but there are only so many pictures of conventionally attractive white women I need to see.

      That’s an excellent post about safewords, I get really freaked out by the idea that they’re some kind of silver bullet that will magically keep everyone safe, which I also blogged about here.

      I wish I’d thought of this earlier and put it in big red letters in my post, but the idea that bottoms can’t just say no is just about the worst thing we could possibly tell people who are new to the scene. The idea that you have to say no in just the right way for it to count is just terrifyingly dangerous.

      • That is so true! Though as always, I think it is the attitude that makes the biggest difference. There is a big difference between a top laughing and saying “No is not a safeword!” in the middle of a scene, versus one warning during negotiations how s/he likes to play consensual non-consent scenes.

        BTW, now that I’ve changed my icon, we no longer look like the fluffy vs. teeth-baring version of the same cat. 🙂

  2. Excellent post! Words mean things, and “no” is pretty hard to screw up interpreting.

    I’d also like to add that safewords are only necessary in a negotiated scene. If those two people haven’t agreed to play, then regular language is plenty. For example, if someone is getting handsy at an event and says, “No is not a safeword”, there’s no agreed-upon scene, and so “no” is most definitely a clear safeword. In a situation like that, ripping the handsy person’s spleen out with a fork is also an effective safeword.

  3. Well said.

    The only reason I implemented the safeword “red” with The Bunny is that one time after a scene he told me I could’ve gone harder on him than I had. I’d been easing up because he was shaking his head and/or saying no. After that discussion I figured he must be one of those people where that word just slips out when things get intense but he doesn’t for real mean to stop, so I told him to use “red” to me “No, seriously, stop now.”

    But I’m flinchy and afraid of traumatizing him so I still tend to ease off the second he starts cringing and shaking his head. 😛

  4. Of all the irksome things about the blanket “step one: you must agree on a safeword!!” advice, the one that irks me the most is that it so obviously presumes, if not prescribes, a certain very specific kind of play. Unusually inexplicable and disappointing, and for this subculture that’s saying a lot.
    I mean, does it really take that much thinking to recall that not everyone likes to pretend to “resist” and “beg for mercy,” or have their partner do that? Or, even more obviously: that not everyone is doing stuff where that would even come up?? Does a foot worshippee NEED a safeword? A pleased-to-be-of-service sub? A fuck-yeah masochist? Maybe I just lack imagination, but I feel like they generally don’t. Not routinely enough to justify making this blanket advice for all of kinkdom, anyway.

    To me, telling everyone who wanders anywhere near kink that omg, first thing, you MUST have a special code word for ‘stop’ makes about as much sense as telling everyone that omg, first thing, you MUST have a suede flogger. The hell? Not everyone kinks on pretend-struggling, just like not everyone kinks on impact play. Obviously.

    And of course, even if everyone everywhere *did* kink on that, the implicit acceptance/promotion of the idea that in the absence of a special safeword, of course plain-language stop words won’t be understood as stop words makes *no sense at all* and I don’t even know *where* that’s coming from.

    [Also? Sidebar? The sub/bottom who hates (or, “hates”) what’s happening to them is *such* a stereotype/trope— and thoughtlessly invoking it strikes me as kind of problematic, and feeds into a larger peeve of mine, buuut that’s a rant for another day.]

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