D/s safety

Starting out with BDSM Safety

BDSM can involve placing yourself in a vulnerable position, both physically and emotionally, so it goes without saying that safety will be on your mind. Whether you are Dominant or submissive, you are taking risks and you need to know and feel that this will be safe for you. Most BDSM play involves some risk and when you are caught up in the moment it is easy to forget the more rational thinking that would exercise caution. For this reason, thinking about safety is paramount.

Why feeling safe is essential

If you don’t feel safe then you may not be able to play in a way which really meets the needs of the other person, or indeed allows then to fulfil your desires. Pushing boundaries and testing limits needs a lot of careful discussion and forward planning, so for the sub who is hoping to let go and the Dom who is hoping to remain fully in control, safety is key and cannot be taken for granted. There is often a lot of focus on the physical risks and while these are significant, the emotional risks are also important and should not be overlooked.

There are various measures that people put in place in order to create a feeling of safety and these will vary from person to person and situation to situation. If you are a couple who knows each other very well then the level of trust you have will probably remove much of the feeling of risk. Equally well, it you are playing in a club where there are dungeon monitors, strict codes of conduct and pre-agreement as to limits then, again, this will help to mitigate the risk in your own mind. However, there are things you can do to help to create your own safe space.

Creating a safe space

Creating a space where you can both push limits and boundaries will be crucial in allowing you to explore in the way you want to and there are a number of things you can do which will help with this. So much relies on good open communication at each stage, before, during and after play and so making sure that is a key part of your relationship will help at all levels.

Limits

Completing a limits list will be a useful exercise in allowing you to share the things that you want to try and the things that you feel more cautious about. Some of these will likely be definite nos and others might be maybes and have caveats attached. For example, you could have a yes for some forms of impact play while being a no or a maybe in other areas. You might feel that caning is a hard limit or you might be prepared to give it a go as long as it is done in a certain way.

These are things which will come up in a discussion about limits and although the lists can look daunting in terms of the volume of things included, it can make for interesting chat in terms of getting an idea where your partner is at. Usually a limits list will ask you to sort BDSM activities into things you would like to try, things that you do not want to try and things that you might do depending on certain circumstances. There are some good lists online which are free to download.

There is more detail about exploring limits and boundaries in this post: Limits and Boundaries

Establishing Consent

Some people perceive D/s as being dangerous due to the idea that there is blanket consent for a Dom to do whatever they want to a sub. This is a falsehood. D/s is a consensual power exchange and each couple will agree where the boundaries lie. Again, communication is key because that is where you will establish which areas of play have been consented to and which haven’t. Even with this, during play, it is not the case that the idea of consent is left behind, although in a power exchange dynamic it can look like this to those who are unfamiliar with it.

Because of the way that a power exchange works, the idea that one partner is ‘making’ another do something can be a key part of the appeal. Sometimes it will even seem that submission is ‘forced’, or ‘taken’, in a way which may appear non-consensual. In reality, the play and the pushing of limits will have been discussed and agreed beforehand. If the nature of play is pushing the boundaries then the reaction of the submissive may appear as if they are not in agreement, however, most couples will have a safeword in place so that they can communicate when things are moving too far or too fast. .

For more about consent you may wish to check out this post about Consent

Safewords

As mentioned above, most BDSM players will select a safeword to indicate when play is getting close to their limits or moving too fast. Depending on the agreement between them, this can be used either to pause or to end play. In the media this is often represented as being a no return situation because it marks the end of the relationship. This is not the case: use of a safeword will stop play at that point and allow for necessary discussion. It may be that changes are needed, or that there are emotional or physical needs to take care of but likely it would be a lesson learnt and allow play to continue safely, either at the time or on another occasion.

The reason for having a safeword is that some scenes will mean pushing a submissive towards their limits. During this time, they might naturally say that they don’t want to, or beg to stop, whilst really wanting to continue. For this reasons, there has to be another way to indicate that a submissive needs play to stop. A safeword is a means to provide this. It keeps them, and their Dominant safe and knowing that it is there, and will be used when required, is peace of mind for both.

What you choose to use fast a safeword is up to you. Many opt for a colour system – red, yellow, green – but others choose something which means something to them. A safeword should be something that you will remember and be able to recall under pressure, otherwise it might be forgotten and not used. Sometimes submissives can be reluctant to safeword as they feel bad and want to please their Dom: it is important to always remember that your safety is paramount and that your Dominant will only want to continue with the play if it remains consensual.

Some couples will know each other so well and be so familiar that they will rarely use a safeword. We are all different and whatever works for you is good but here at The SWC we would always recommend negotiating one and being prepared to use it, as there may come a time when it is needed. If it sits there dormant that is fine, but we would take the view that we are all better safe than sorry.

To find out more about safewords read Always have a Safeword and SafeworD/s – Do I need one?

Safety during play

Where a safeword can indicate that a sub or a Dom requires play to slow or stop, when engaging with BDSM activities there are lots of other safety issues to consider. As with anything new, it is important to make sure that you are aware of the risks and have tried to mitigate against them. There are lots of great blog posts and you tube tutorials to help you to learn a little more before beginning. Chat rooms, forums and local communities will also provide support and it is essential that you consider the safety aspect of each activity before beginning.

It would be impossible to list all the safety considerations for the various areas of play here, but do take the time to become informed and educated about what they are. Even experienced players have times when things don’t go according to plan, and being able to respond in a way which keeps you both safe is essential. For example, bondage and restraint is being practiced in a more mainstream way these days but it does require players to think about what to use to tie, how to tie safety, warning signs that things may not be going right and items to help with quick release.

As they say, knowledge is power, so in a power exchange the responsibility to make sure you are knowledgeable enough to keep safe is yours. There is no place for complacency, arrogance or bravado in a D/s relationship. More details on specific types of play can be found in our forums and in the post in our Play, Scenes and Kink category.

Aftercare

Aftercare is the term for what happens after, or in response to play. It is an essential part of a power exchange and not one which should be over looked. The sort of aftercare that is required will depend on the you and on the type of play you have done. It is about being there for each other emotionally and physically, following an interaction which has likely led to some intense feelings and emotions. Aftercare can be physical in terms of meeting basic needs for food, drink or warmth, but it also has an emotional side. For this reason, aftercare might be something that is considered for a period of days, following an intense scene.

Whist the submissive’s wellbeing is often the focus during aftercare, the needs of a Dom to provide care and nurture are also being met, so it is twofold. Often limits will be reached for both parties and so aftercare allows time for the reassurance, reflection and acknowledgment that will allow you to build on the connections that have been established through play. Aftercare is often associated with subspace and subdrop, but meeting both the needs of the sub and Dom following play is something that is a positive regardless of whether or not subspace has been part of the scene.

For more on aftercare you might want to read the following posts: Happily Ever Aftercare and Consent, Safety and Aftercare.

Safety Online

Online safety is a topical issue that never falls too far from our minds. It is a huge topic area and not one that can be fully covered here. Suffice to say that anonymity is probably something you want to consider unless the risk of exposure is not an issue for you. Taking precautions so that you can build trust with another person online is the same as it is off, but it is important to remember that it is easier for people to hide and pretend online than off, so take time to get to know someone properly before revealing too much of yourself.

D/s is about being open and honest but where safety is concerned it is important to listen to you instincts and not be drawn in too far too fast. The post Codependency and D/s highlights some of the things that may be red flags both online and off and while there is no one true way, it does outline some basics about how a D/s relationships should work and make you feel. Many of our members here on the SWC are in successful online relationships and so it may be helpful to check our the following posts: Dominance and submission Online and this series.

Finally, BDSM is an exciting way to add a power dynamic to your sexual relationship but it can go badly if emotional and physical safety are not taken seriously. The media would have us believe the horror stories and see BDSM as dangerous but actually, when done correctly, it is thrilling but very safe.

Please add any BDSM safety tips, techniques or thoughts in the comments.

Check out Tell Me About … to see who else is writing about safety.

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