Sometimes, it's just a cigar

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Throwing in the towel

Jem got into a twitterspat tonight with someone who believes in the magical properties of safe words. For some BDSM people, safe words are magically retrospective; you may have harmed someone and hurt them, but it’s OK, because they can use their safe word to prevent you from doing any further damage.

In the week that Fifty Shades of Shite comes out, it’s important to understand the conundrums at the heart of the idea of safe words.

The first is the conundrum of why we need safe words at all. Safe words have existed for thousands of years; stop, don’t, no – they’re all words that have the effect of making a situation safe, provided everyone accepts them at face value.

So if you say that safe words are necessary, you’re saying that ordinary language will not work.Why not? Why would no, or stop, not work? I can only hazard a guess, that safe words are essential if you’re doing role play where the consent violations implied by no or stop will be ignored, but that can only be the reason.

Not all BDSM involves that kind of role play.

The second conundrum of safe words is that they may not come in time to prevent the thing  the sub wishes to prevent. Safe words assume that either the sub will anticipate the harm the safe word is intended to prevent , or absolve the dom from responsibility for the thing that led the sub to use the safe word.The difficulties of this are transparent. In a long career I never encountered a boxer who threw in the towel before they were battered; the towel comes in because they cannot take any more.

However, the whole concept of the safe word creates a new conundrum. The sub, by having and using the safe word, entirely controls the parameters and progress of play. Now, that may seem like a good thing  to you, dear reader, and I respect that. However, my way of being dominant means I am not only in charge, but accountable for everything that happens. If Jem ever has to say stop, it is my error, not her weakness. If she ever said I had abused her, or breached her consent, I would be guilty, no matter what had been said or done by her. It has to be like that when you have a gag in the toy box. I am controlled, as much as any dom who says he will respect safe words, but I am controlled by an absolute moral core in me that says I will have failed my own rules if I breach consent or cause harm beyond that which Jem can cope with. That means I am responsible for not just listening to what she says, but for monitoring all her condition and behaviours, so that we never reach the point where she will accuse me of breaching consent or abusing her.

So why would I need Jem to have a safe word?

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9 comments on “Throwing in the towel

  1. elrondmiddleeng
    February 15, 2015

    So I go to a sex worker who has never met me and ask her for some punishment. How on earth does she know my limits and boundaries? We can discuss, but then I am new to pain and pleasure, and have no idea about my limits. How on earth is she responsible for knowing my limits, if she too gentle I may never feel potential real pleasure and I won’t know my own limits. I can see that a save word in this context is pretty well mandatory. In my case the words ‘stop’ are fine. I am the silent type not prone to acting out and role play.

    I can see those special safe words are required where you are acting out those role place scenarios where the words no and stop become meaningless.

    You and Jem are in a long term relationship where your boundaries are know to each other from years of play. How have you determined her limits? Is it from post play feed back, have you exceeded them in the past and now know the limits. Sorry these maybe naive questions as being a sub is something I have dabbled in and has always been at the hands of a professional.

    As for shades of Gray, not read the book and unlikely to see the film. Give me a an epic visual feast like the Hobbit.

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    • cartertheblogger
      February 15, 2015

      I think you got it spot on in your first paragraph. If you play with someone you have never met before, and who does not know you, you have to define how play will cease. As you say, if you’re not engaged in a role play that involves ignoring consent violations, stop or no will suffice.
      I’m not sure we have determined Jem’s limits. It’s more about how we’ve shared and understood mine. A lot of BDSM literature is written from the perspective of the sub having to trust the dom, but if the dom isn’t to become a rapist or abuser he has to trust the sub just as much to give precise and clear feedback about what’s happening, and how they are. That’s why, on an intellectual and moral level, BDSM engages my core values – it’s probably not hyperbole to say that breaching consent or causing permanent harm that was not desired would be hugely destructive of who I am.
      I’ve written a lot in the past about what I call, for want of a better word, fake sub fear; the fear that a sub I engage with might be engaging in BDSM not because they want that experience, but because they want to be in a relationship and think BDSM will make them more attractive to the person they desire. It’s no exaggeration to say that I learned a lot more about Jem’s limits, and how much I could trust her, across a table in a restaurant than I could ever learn in a play room.

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      • jemima2013
        February 15, 2015

        re the work question, i do understand the concern, and use traffic lights, but here are the caveats, I am not Dom, it doesn’t particularly interest or excite me, I tend to take those bookings when I am skint. Using the traffic lights system is an easy way for me to say I dont have to engage here on anything but a superficial level.
        Insisting
        on traffic lights also weeds out the wankers who want me to stamp on their cock or some such, the ones who offer to be no limits slaves.
        However there is a series of posts both I and Carter have discussed around paid BDSM, that we have both decided to let lie. Maybe one day we will write them 🙂

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        • elrondmiddleeng
          February 15, 2015

          Thanks for answering. I wouldn’t hire an escort work for dom work if it was not something they specialised in. I would only hire them for straight sex / companionship.

          I can well understand Carters feelings overstepping the mark as deeply destructive to himself. It would me.

          Like

          • jemima2013
            February 16, 2015

            yeah, i never understand why i get the bookings, they are rare but they do come in. I mean I understand the fantasists, cos they just want to express outloud what they want, but the guys who actually want to meet? At least with me they are safe! I might not be a Domme but i know a lot about safe techniques from being sub. Worries me that some of these guys would meet someone with no idea of safety tbh.

            Like

  2. jemima2013
    February 15, 2015

    Forgot to say, we never used safe words, i never saw the point, if i was going to be alone and naked with someone much larger and stronger than me who wouldnt stop when i wanted them to stop, well, i cant even imagine why anyone would do that.

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  3. Pingback: The Sunday Sermon; Safe words, and sexual separatists. | Sometimes, it's just a cigar

  4. Reblogged this on Ashley M Heidi Carter and commented:
    Post Valentine’s Day Follow Up: Echoing my theme from the 14th about the perils of solipsism in relationships and thought.

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  5. Pingback: Needles and Pins. | Sometimes, it's just a cigar

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This entry was posted on February 15, 2015 by in Uncategorized and tagged , .

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