It is said that one word can stop a BDSM scene, but a thousand words won’t stop the abuse. One of the key differences between BDSM and abuse is the respect of limits. Along with limits, one of the key needs that we need to communicate is when we are approaching our pain limit. To do that, we use safe words.

Introducing the traffic light system

One of the most commonly used, most easily understood safe word systems in use in the BDSM community is the traffic light system. Most people understand traffic lights, and so this system works perfectly in BDSM:

Red – Something has gone very wrong, I need you to stop immediately.

Amber/Yellow – I’m beginning to find this too much, I’d like you to slow down or ease off a little.

Green – I’m fine with this, carry on (Note: Not everyone uses Green in long-term relationships, but it is sometimes used in infrequent sessions with casual partners).

Now I’d like to introduce you to the other two colours that I use:

Beige – Please be rougher with me (I know that I am far from the only brat to use “beige”!)

Burgundy – (In a social, vanilla setting) This discreet scene is making me uncomfortable and I’d like you to stop.

Do I have to use colours?

Absolutely not! You could use absolutely anything you like, provided you and your partner will remember it. For example, you could use:

First names (this works very well to pull your partner back to reality in the event of an emergency)

● A favourite food

● A favourite place

● A favourite word

● Abracadabra! (surprisingly popular!)

● Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (only for true sadists!)

Safe words with gags

Sometimes using safewords isn’t appropriate, like when we use gags. For this reason, we need to use an alternative approach, namely body language. You could use:

● Dropping an item

● Blinking (provided you aren’t also using a blindfold, of course!)

● Clenching a fist for “yellow”, two fists for “red”

● Opening a hand with the fingers outstretched for “yellow”, both hands for “red”

Are safe words only for submissives?

This is a common misconception. While safewords are generally for submissive parties (because they are the ones having things done to them), any party can use a safe word. Let’s say for example a submissive is calling a Dominant all kinds of names and the Dominant finds it offensive and unacceptable, then they would be well within their right to use red or yellow to communicate to the submissive that it was something they weren’t happy with. If you’re uncomfortable, speak up!

Do I really need to use a safe word?


My partner doesn’t want to use safewords. Now what?

Woah there! If your partner doesn’t want to use safe words to communicate when things go wrong, that’s a BIG red flag and many, many seasoned BDSM practitioners will not play with someone who doesn’t use or refuses to have a safe word. A safeword is for just that, it keeps you safe. Would you go rock climbing without a safety harness? Canoeing without a life jacket? Treat your safeword like you would treat your life jacket – it could quite literally save your life!

So you’ve told me all about safe words, but what’s a danger word?

Danger words were actually something I have only very recently heard of. Even in spite of my 10+ years of experience, I have only just heard of this idea! Nonetheless, I was so impressed with it that I thought it warranted a mention on our blog!

Most people have no difficulty suggesting sex, but what do you do when you’re out and about and you fancy something a little kinkier? If you start flirting then it’s reasonable for your partner to assume you might want sex, so how do you convey your darker desires?

Behold, the danger word.

Imagine being able to say a simple word or sentence that only your partner knows and understands, that expresses your interest to play. This is marvellous wherever there are kids but also works when within earshot of inquisitive minds as well.

For me, that word is ‘swimming’. Thrown most inconspicuously into a sentence, as in “would you like to go swimming after work?”. When the pools are open, it actually works quite well!

If Matt is interested, he might say “I’d love to! I haven’t been swimming in a while”, or if not, he might say “Not tonight, I’m not feeling well”. To anyone else, we’ve discussed a bit of after-work fitness, yet to us, we’ve just potentially scheduled something naughty, all the while without sharing what we were really talking about!

I hope that this article inspires you and enables you to find fun ways to play safe and have fun. Remember folks, no safe word? No play!

Until next time,

Stay safe & have fun,

Helen & Matt xx


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