Lately I’ve come across a lot of discussions about words that seem to have some magical meaning in BDSM. Many of them are not in the vocabulary of my relationship, and some that are in mine are not in the vocabulary of others.
As a natural moderator/mediator, I’ve started doing a little translating in my head so that I can participate in these discussions or at least take something away from them. By translating, I mean understanding what a particular word means in general and then finding an equivalent concept in my own relationship and life. For example:
Safeword: Broadly, this is a word that is called by a “bottom” to indicate that the activity needs to stop. In theory, it’s supposed to be a word that will a) be easily remembered and retrieved when one is *not* exactly in one’s right mind, and b) not a word that one would normally say in the course of a session, i.e. one that is very obviously and specifically a safeword. “Stop,” and “no” make lousy safewords because often they are used during sexual/sensual activities but really aren’t meant. “Don’t, stop” and “Don’t stop” are difficult to distinguish when one is not verbally punctuating clearly. *laugh* Many folks use a stop light system – green (all is good), yellow (slow down/pause and let me catch my breath), and red (something’s wrong/this needs to stop NOW).
Lately, this concept has caused a bit of a buzz in the online discussion world. People just aren’t doing safewords RIGHT! Me, included, because supposedly, as a slave, I’m not supposed to have one. Others have gotten rid of theirs in the course of a long term, primary relationship, and this has sent people up in arms. It’s the ONLY thing that keeps a bottom SAFE.
Let me make a couple of points about this “magic word.”
1) If a top wants to really hurt you, no magic word is going to stop them.
2) What the safeword is is entirely up to the bottom/top. Maybe they did choose “Stop” or “cramp” or “enough.” Perhaps (as in the case of long-term, primary relationships) that safeword can be communicated nonverbally.
3) When the safewords are to be used does not have an absolute rule – except the one agreed upon by those participating. Some believe it can be used when one “does not want to” do something. Others feel it’s only to be used when harm is imminent.
I have safewords that I’ve only used during one situation – one in which Master clearly stated he wanted me to use them. That was a situation in which he was assessing – finding how hard I could be pushed regarding pain. I don’t anticipate needing them again – unless some unforeseen trigger gets tweaked or something goes wrong. He reads my body as well as I do, he knows my responses, where my tolerance is, my breathing, what my screams mean. I would not freak out or feel unsafe if he “revoked” my safewords – there would still be the communication that we have at all times.
In short, just because someone does *not* have a BDSM approved safeword does not mean that they do not have an established way of communicating that a scene needs to halt.
Under-consideration: This, as a magic, BDSM word, refers to the stage when two people are learning about each other. In the “vanilla” world, it’s called “dating.” However, as Master just so eloquently put it, standing akimbo in the kitchen with a mock serious, furrowed brow look, “’Dating’ is mundane. Masters don’t date.” (For those who don’t know Master, he’s a sarcastic man and he was KIDDING.) Often, this “under-consideration” phase is a formalized thing (with it’s own collar, in some cases) that indicates that a D-type is “considering” whether or not the s-type is worthy of his Domliness. Others think of this as a stage when the two are “considering” each other. Others swear they didn’t bother with this stage at all.
Master and I fall closest to this last category in that we never declared that we were “considering” anything. From the moment he first sent me a message we both started considering whether we could/would/wanted to be together. And every moment since then, we’ve continued that. Just because he placed a collar around my neck did *not* end that “consideration” stage. I know very well that I could at any time “consider” this relationship to be unsatisfactory and walk out, and that he could do the same.
In the “vanilla” world, this magical concept of “release” is called “breaking up.”
Negotiation: In general kink terms, it’s a dialog between the D-type/top and s-type/bottom. When it comes to playing casually, it would be setting the limits for a scene – an agreement by both about what is going to happen. If it wasn’t negotiated beforehand, it should *not* happen in a scene. A little more broadly, negotiation refers to those discussion between a D-type and an s-type before they “officially” decide to become a pair. That discussion, again, would be a conversation (or series of) in which limits are established, but in this case, on a relationship level rather than an individual scene level. It’s the process of establishing expectations for both parties.
Master and I didn’t do much formal negotiation. We just had conversations. He said, “This is who I am, this is what I am, this is what I’d expect you to try if we are going to be together.” I replied, “Okay.” Now, honestly, this has *nothing* to do with the fact that I am a slave and *supposedly* have no right to bargain – it was really simply because what he offered was exactly what I wanted and needed.
Also, negotiation never stops. We just call it “communicating.”
These are just a few of the magic words that have popped up in discussion lately that have caused controversy. The way I look at it, it’s not the concepts that folks are disagreeing about, it’s the vocabulary. Somehow, many in the kink world feel that there is a need for special, fancy code words for ideas that are universal, and that if people don’t use those words the same way they do, then they’re WRONG. Me? I try to soak up all the information and viewpoints and figure out what it means to ME and MINE. It helps me be rational and civil in responding in these discussions when I can make the concept relevant to me, rather than rejecting it because it’s not.