A recent question at Fetish Meme asks, “Do you require a safeword? Did you always? Would you refuse to play with someone who refused to either adopt or allow one?”

T. and I have been in this relationship for almost 2 years, and have been playing together for almost 3. We’ve always used — and still do — safewords. They function mostly as a failsafe, at this point; by now, T. and I know each other and know each other’s responses well enough to differentiate enjoyable distress from end-this-NOW-you-asshat! distress.

However, when I top, I’m still getting used to playing as hard as T. often likes it. Despite knowing that he wants me to play that hard, despite knowing that he likes it and needs it, I can’t entirely quiet my inner worrier who keeps exclaiming, “Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod, that’s too much too hard too painful!” So knowing that he has a safeword, knowing that he’s perfectly willing to call yellow or red if he needs to, makes it a lot easier for me to go hard on him and not hold back.

When I bottom, I always have safewords available, and I don’t hesitate to use them. I haven’t had to use them often, but I *have* used them. And knowing that they were available for me to use didn’t take *anything* away from the power exchange-y-ness of the scene.

Safewords are there to prevent harm. Because if someone gets hurt — physically or mentally — even if it’s unintentional, it’s not a power exchange any more; it’s a problem. Safewords help avoid problems.

I know that there are submissives who don’t like safewords because they think it means that they aren’t totally helpless. But all I want to ask them is this: Is being “totally helpless” worth getting injured or emotionally traumatized because you can’t stop something from happening that you *could* have stopped with a safeword?

I know that there are dominants who don’t like their submissives to have safewords because they like the feeling of being in Total And Utter Control(TM). All I want to say to them is this: When you have to take your submissive to the ER with second-degree burns, tell me how great that Total And Utter Control is, okay?

Frankly, I don’t trust people who won’t use a safeword with me. [Please note: I said “with ME.” If you really want to forgo safewords amongst yourselves, that’s up to you.] If a dom/top won’t give me that failsafe so that I can protect myself, then I damn well don’t trust them. Because unexpected shit happens, and if I’m tied up and I notice it first, I want to be able to call attention to it and get out of those ropes before I get permanently hurt.

If a sub/bottom wants to play without a safeword with me, I won’t do it. The person who I have tied up knows if their hands are getting numb, and they will likely know a hell of a lot sooner than I will, even if I do regular check-ins. I don’t want my partner getting hurt; as a top, I am absolutely vigilant during a scene, but, like I said, there are some things that a restrained person will notice sooner than their top will.

Safewords are absolutely NOT antithetical to power exchange. They’re smart. We’re all human, we’re all breakable, in a million different ways, and sooner or later (usually sooner) the unexpected happens. Safewords are just a way of breaking glass in case of emergency.