‘Safe word’ no longer a preserve of the bedroom
With many people in relationships open to spicing up their love lives, it is not uncommon for some to break boundaries and hurt a partner both physically and emotionally unknowingly. What with whips, chains and blindfolds being introduced in the bedroom.
With the spread of pop culture, men and women explored and rapidly embraced a lifestyle known as BDSM, the overriding theme in the American erotic romantic book and TV drama Fifty Shades of Grey.
BDSM stands for Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, and Sadism and Masochism, the core pillars of kinky fun for lovers who want to make their sex life a little spicier. Bondage and discipline uses various accessories and tools for the physical restraining or restriction of a partner, while dominance and submission refers to a power exchange between consenting individuals.
Considering the nature of BDSM, which include inflicting pain to heighten a partner’s pleasure, it occasions the need to come up with safe words that lovers say at any time to stop the action — a code word or words used to indicate the negative extreme of a partner, usually the submissive, to call for a stop of the intimate activity underway.
For example, in Fifty Shades of Grey , the main characters Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele had to create a safe word, ‘red’. Since Anastasia was quite inexperienced in BDSM, she use the word whenever Christian performed any act she deemed extreme, and he would stop.
How it works
“I have always thought I was an open-minded person when it came to intimacy. My wife and I decided to try out role play... I didn’t know that role play involved me dressing like a woman or applying make-up and talking like one. I thought it was extreme and we didn’t even have a safe word,” says Mark Mwaura.
Joseph Musyoki explains how he has never recovered from a BDSM experience. “I had hurriedly gone to see my girlfriend after she said she had a surprise for me. I was to take up the bondage character and then whipping using a leather leash started. It went on to become extreme. The more I screamed, the harder I was hit: I was literally wailing. Our safe word was ‘Mam’. Screaming out ‘mam’ while in pain was quite hilarious and sad at the same time,” he says.
But safe words aren’t just for the bedroom anymore. They are being used to end fights among couples or even friends. These words helps both parties retreat for some time to ease the pressure or to calm the situation down. It’s like a button pushed to turn off a painful or heated interaction. It is also used by partners in public or during a social interaction to alert the other it’s time to leave
The safe word starts with agreeing upon a word. The more playful and cryptic, the better. Both parties should not discuss what triggers it. Each individual decides on their own. If one person says the safe word in the middle of a discussion, the other party should know and end the talk immediately. They can then revisit the conversation when they are in more control of their emotions.
“Our technique is a bit different when it comes to conflicts, especially when children are present. So my husband and I just spell out the words we don’t want our children to understand. For instance, he’ll speak like, ‘what the H-E double L’! It leaves them quite surprised,” says Leila Chacha, a mother of three.
Wendy Maina explains that she and her friend use their safe word, ‘Malibu’ before they are brutally honest or before saying something that could hurt. For instance, “Malibu, Your breathe stinks.” So in that way, there is no judgment.” she adds.
Not a new concept
But while safe word has become all the norm, it is not a new concept. Traditionally, for instance, lifting two fingers, or use of facial expressions would signify a conversation has to stop, as psychologist, Dr James Mbugua says.
He says, therefore, safe words do not necessarily have to be actual words— sometimes, there are non-verbal cues. “In a home, parents didn’t need to talk directly to their children; they would just signal them, especially when visitors were around and the kids would automatically know it was time to leave,” he adds.
He agrees that safe words do work in a situation where two parties have agreed and they understand that once the antenna goes up, it signals stop. Using safe words in everyday life could provide our partners with an opportunity to nurture, learn more about, and build more intimacy with their partners through vulnerable communication. Additionally, he says safe words are not limited to couples only, they can be used among friends and children.