The short answer is everyone.
Everyone, regardless of type of relationship, should have the opportunity, the safety valve if you will, to pause the action for a moment and be able to say “This is not going where I expected. Can we discuss this more?” That’s what a safeword is for, really. Maybe you just need to adjust something a little to make it more enjoyable or comfortable, or maybe you really need things to STOP so you can catch your breath and make sure things are going in a direction that you won’t regret later.
But, we’re really getting ahead of ourselves here. In order for safewords to work, there MUST be communication and negotiation. You can’t just go calling for a time-out when no one really knows how far is too far to begin with. For the sake of argument, to make this a little easier to write, and because the main topic of this site is sexuality, I’m going to continue this using sexual relationships. However, I believe this can work for any type of relationship.
Negotiating. How many of you actually negotiate your sex lives? How many of you bother to discuss up front, before things get hot and heavy, what’s okay and what’s not okay with a current or possible lover? This is one of those amazing lessons that no one seems to be able to get around to teaching, unless you associate yourself with the BDSM crowd. For the most part, that group negotiates like crazy. And with good reason.
Negotiation and communication are key for any good relationship. If you’re holding back, if you’re not allowing the other person to really know you, if you think that it’s better to act one way to “catch” them and then you’ll really show them who you are, you’re playing a dangerous game. And, you’re setting yourself up to be disappointed.
There’s a lot more to negotiation than safewords, but since that was my lead topic, I’ll stick with that for now. I’ll write more about the intricacies of negotiating another time.. like when I’m not so hungry. 🙂
A safeword is, well, a word that a person uses to call a temporary or permanent halt to the action. The BDSM standards are “yellow” and “red” and they’re use is fairly obvious. Call “yellow” because your nose itches and your hands are tied down, and you need a little help. Call “red” because the name your partner just called you suddenly reminded you of some weird childhood trauma and you need to stop immediately and figure out what just happened in your head. Obviously, there’s a wide range of uses, but I think you get the idea. Any word will do, although it’s best not to use words like “stop,” “don’t,” “ow,” etc. If you engage in any kind of roleplay or other activities where you might be saying these kinds of words and not actually meaning them, then you need to pick another, more neutral word. I like words like “aardvark.” It’s a fun word that doesn’t get used often in everyday language, and it has an amazing power to pause the action. Suddenly yelling “AARDVARK!” gets attention. (I am happy to say I’ve never actually had to use my safeword during play, however.)
So, go out there and negotiate your limits (although I guess I have to write more about that later) and use your safeword. If I hear you yell “aardvark” I’ll come make sure everything is okay.