Author: Skorpio

SafeWord and game control: what is it, its use, its effects. The reasons of those claiming its importance and need and the reasons of those who consider it useless if not harmful. All the secrets of the magic words controlling the BDSM game!

Words of POWER

In any decent fairy tale sooner or later a Mage or a Witch will determine wondrous effects by spelling a word or shaking a rod. Into BDSM, you will find lots of rods shaking, usually whistling into a submissive's buttock, but some magic words will have their room too. Just as in fairy tales, there's a ultimate magic word into BDSM and its called "SafeWord". The SafeWord (SW) is truly a powerful word, as it turns frogs into Princes and Princesses, denies to evil mages the use of their rods and strips any power of cruel monarchs over their victims. In facts, the SW controls the game, that is to stop or limit the continuation of any actual BDSM activities. What is that power made for? Who uses it and for which reasons? There are many interesting remarks on SW use and significance. Some of them may even help us consider and better understand the same core of BDSM relation and of the different approaches to it. We'll see in this article some possible uses of it and some related hints to ponder upon.

1. The SW "ABC"

Lets see first of all what a SW is in facts. If two persons wants to play, lets say, to a card game, they will add some specific limits to the game duration. So the game may be ended by reaching a specific score, or at a defined time. May happen that a player have the need, for unpredictable reasons, to stop the game, either momentary or at all. This may happen for instance if he have to go to the bathroom, or because his telephone is ringing, or if he suddenly realize he left the turkey in the oven. In such case, usually, the player would announce his need to leave the game or, on most urgent occurrences, will let his behavior explain his intentions. Of course both manners and consequences will be different if the game is a friendly play at the club or the final round in a world tournament competition. But in both cases the player will be able to express his needs and act accordingly. This behavior is possible only as far as the game leaves alternative communication channels or levels. Lets imagine that the players are gagged and tied to the chairs, and that any eye movement or moaning may be considered as a game signal. How should a player in such conditions announce that he needs to leave the game? The only possible way is indeed that *before* the game starts the players define a specific signal for such purpose. Other way, it will just be impossible.

2. NO EXIT games

Some Games does not allow alternative communication channels. If two people agreed to start a game where all they will say will mean the opposite of what they want to say, without any other preset rule, they will never be able to stop the game once started. Even if one should say to the other "we don't stop right now!" and the other would answer "Not at all, not right now!", the next phrase will again be impossible to decode. "We have quitted the game now" should always mean "we have not quitted yet" - any "Yes" confirmation would always mean "No". So, any attempt to state that the game is over would be perceived again as a continuation o f the game itself. Only safe way out of it would be the intervention of a third person, which would grant both players that they both quitted the game. BDSM is a *game* which does not allow alternative communication levels or channels. On the contrary, it permeates the whole relation scheme, the perception of reality and even the perception and definition of players identities. BDSMers usually search for a complete adherence of the role to reality. But when reality is to be the totally tied up one, may be a bit hard to express the need to leave the game! Yes, of course the sub may say "stop, stop, I want to be freed now" - but for many BDSMers being driven to the point of begging for release - in a genuine desperate tone - is precisely the goal of the whole game. And what they fear and desire at the same time is to have an answer like "Not at all - you will stay there and bear all I want you to bear". But again, it may happen the submissive come to the need to express a discomfort overpassing the game - requiring and immediate stop. How to signal the Dom when a mercy request is "mandatory" and when it may be eluded? Choosing a magic word, a word once spelled will interrupt the action and reset the relation may be an effective way to exit the game.

3. SW as extreme warranty

One of the more common use of SW is to stop the session where the submissive fears to be seriously hurt.Its clear such use apply to an emergency and denounces a lack of trust in the Dom's capacity to control the events and avoid damage. Its hard to understand how someone should accept to put himself in the and of someone he does not trust - and at the same time rely on the SW as a parachute to avoid dangers. But the recurrence of such use of the SW shows it as a fairy common practice. In such case falls the use of a SW for the so called "public play" - or the BDSM session carried out to demonstrative or exhibitionist goal during a party or other BDSM meeting, often carried out in public, with little or not known partners. Even if those behaviors are fairly common, we still want to underline a deep meditation about how "adult" may be considered to stage such "fictional" sharing of intimacy and dignity with and in front of unknown persons. In any case, the use of SW in such events represents a sort of extreme warranty for the submissive.

4. SW as limit defense

A possible use of the SW is to stop the action when the submissive feels forced too close to his limits. Actually, the SW represent a very discomforting message for the Dom. Its translation sounds more or less like "Stop, you are going too far". When a Dom is not able to sense how far is he pushing the sub, or when a sub needs to advice the Dom he's not gonna bear anymore, its clear something did not worked in the right way. When the SW becomes a method to "defend" the subs limits, then it's a patent distrust declaration towards the Dom. Other way, it may be used as a "training tool" to help a learning Dom to distinguish and sense the limits of the submissive. For instance, after a precise agreement on that, the Dom may willingly ignore any sensation and push the game far on until the submissive uses the SW - so to match his own perceptions and the effective limits of the sub. In such way the SW may be a useful tool to "test" each other perceptions of the limits. When used to test each others ground then, the SW may be a precious compass. When its normally used as a "limit warning" from the submissive it just appears as a power demonstration by the sub.

5. SW as play state feedback

A classical SW example is the word "Red". Easy to spell, hard to miss, it is at the same time a danger symbol and completely external to the play. While hearing the submissive whining and begging for mercy may be exciting and lead the game to new levels of pressure, hearing "red" perfectly fits the goal to cut the game and cold-shower the Dom. Actually, the SW may be considered a sort of "comment" on the game, a key affecting the rules, out and over the game. Such meta-communicative function makes it a powerful tool with many potential applications, but also a very controversial topic in the BDSM scene. Among those who defend the SW, some have also structured a levels scheme for its use with different use chances. A classic example is the introduction of middle level signals like "yellow" and "green" - used by the sub to indicate the actual tolerance level. Those who oppose the use of SW reply that such continuous feedback voids the Dom power. Even the SW fan shows some doubts on this multilevel use, adding that one thing is to give the submissive a chance to stop the game in extreme situations - another is to give the sub the reins to drive every single step of the session - nearly menacing continually the Dom to use the power to quit the game.

6. SW as power tool

As already introduced, the SW is a specific power of the sub, giving him the chance to stop the action in any moment. Precisely like the feminine "no" - become in any court the focal point for sexual harassing lawsuit - same way spelling the SW disarms the Dom, stops the whip, breaks any excitement and loosen any know or bondage. Its clear how such power may be by itself fascinating or even addictive. Given the whole BDSM situation is built on a constant tension for the given/imposed power and that lots of submissive live their role as a power demonstration, having at hand such an "A-bomb" may have a unique charm. Those against the use of a SW state that it is at the same time nullifying the power exchange and is completely useless, because in extreme cases the sub shows anyway somehow its discomfort and when a Dom is ignoring such signals then he is an irresponsible person who will not be stopped by a SW in its damaging behavior. Everyone should consider if and how a SW may deny a real power exchange or just give a safer play condition.

7. Who wins?

Even if the SW is a sub power, its use does not necessary means a victory. Given that the BDSM relation have its goals in exploring and tasting the emotions of the reciprocal roles - its success will depends in the higher possible intensity levels of those emotions, and its failure will be the exact opposite. Those emotions reach their high precisely when the submissive is driven so close to his limits as its possible - and sometimes when they are violated. The SW use and the consequent stop of the session results then in a general failure. A Dom's failure, shown as not able to drive the sub in the minefield of its limits and over, and it's a sub's failure, surrendering before its own hidden dreams become true. For the Dom the gratification comes from pushing the sub a little step forward, but the same goal works for the sub, finding its gratification in bearing one more step in pain and submission. In such terms, the SW use is always a defeat. A defeat of the reciprocal trust, of the reciprocal sensitivity and of the capacity to walk together through this path of passion.

8. SW and Meta-communication

Some more remarks may be added about the meta-communicative function of the SW. Already discussed in the Mindfucking Seminars, the SW is a perfect example to better understand what happens during a BDSM session or relation. Reconsidering the card game example we offered at the start of this article, lets consider what defines the SW from any other communication form "inside" the game. Lets for instance consider the point of view of the player who, during a card game, wants to propose a game rules change but cannot communicate about it but using the cards and how he plays them. Will be immediately clear that as far as he cannot announce to others his intentions, his acts will be perceived as foolish or weird, lacking any sense. This is precisely the condition developed inside a schizophrenic relation. Not to cross too many extreme paths, this same condition is often experienced inside couple relations, or between children and parents. Lets consider the case of a son wanting to wear a earring. Lets say the mother is very conservative and perceives it as a shameful act. For the son the earring is a matter of identity, having nothing to do directly with the relation with his mother. As hard as he may try to explain it to her, for the mother such choice will be perceived as an "emotive aggression" against herself, challenging her educational guidelines and beliefs and even menacing the affective relation between the them. It is clear that no explanations or demand will modify such perception, given they all will fell always inside their relation. What the son would but cant do is to change the rules of such interaction. Now, lets imagine that there is a SafeWord able to take mother and son out of their relation, leaving them as two other persons, able to watch the "mother-son" situation from the outside. In such condition, will be much easier for them to understand and explain each other the different meaning of the earring. Something that was impossible inside the mother-son relation. This is precisely what the SW does into BDSM. It grants the chance to exit the set relation and face the rules definition for the set relation. So to be able to see problems, misunderstanding, different expectations, and so on. In such view, the SW is far more then a danger signal, rather a deep and powerful tool to know better ourselves and others.

9. SW Hints and tips

In conclusion of this simplified excursus in the different aspects of the SW we may add some pragmatic hints. For those willing to use a SW, will be important to state first the function it is made for and discuss the different ways it may be used for. Even the choice of the SW itself may be challenging. We strongly suggest to avoid all words which may be confused with game expressions, like "no", "stop", "mercy" and so on. Same way are to avoid words of hard memorization or spell, which may result difficult to remember in a time of intense pain or discomfort. A good tip is to try to spell it some times before the play, to have a mnemonic record to rely on and give the Dom an idea of how it will sound the signal during the game. And well, if the word is something to spell, will not be a good idea to gag the submissive...

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