#TerribleSafeWord is trending, but what exactly makes a good safe word?
You’ll hear this often: communication is one of, if not the most important element to a happy and healthy relationship. While ‘safe words’ have their origins in the BDSM community, they can be useful for all couples.
When you hear the term ‘safe word’, you probably think of blindfolds, whips, and handcuffs. While it’s true these special code words that establish sexual boundaries have their roots in the BDSM (Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism) community, they can actually benefit even the most vanilla of couples.
“A safe word is like a code word you use during a sexual experience to communicate how you’re feeling, your boundaries or when you want to stop,” explains sex coach Georgia Grace.
“They’re mostly used in BDSM experiences and people tend to choose words that are unrelated to the experience so it’s clear when someone is voicing a boundary.”
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A good versus bad safe word
Trending on Twitter this week is the hashtag #TerribleSafeWord, the origin of which is unclear (believe me, I tried to find the original tweet to no avail), and some users have made some rather humorous suggestions: “Republican” being one; “Keep going” another, which is a line from the 2015 Tina Fey movie Sisters.
Jokes aside, a good safe word is crucial to consent and ensuring everyone feels safe in a sexual encounter. So, what exactly makes a good safe word? The options really are limitless, so long as everyone understands what it is.
“The most popular safe word/phrase I hear is the traffic light system: red for stop, green for keep going and orange could mean you need to slow down, time to think/process or pause,” says Grace.
“A good safe word is one that is clear, specific and everyone respects this communication tool as a way to ascertain ongoing consent,” she continues.
“Some may choose something more personal to their relationship like ‘flamingo’ – you can get as creative as you like just so long as everyone is on the same page.”
It can be non-verbal
It’s not something you necessarily have to say out loud, either, says Grace. In fact, non-verbal cues can be just as good, especially if you can’t speak for whatever reason.
“People may also choose non-verbal cues like a hand in a stop motion, clicking quickly or ‘tapping out’,” says Grace.
But again, the use of safewords certainly isn’t limited to BDSM encounters. Rather, Grace argues they can provide a useful route to open communication about sex.
“Regardless of the sex you’re having, everyone must communicate their boundaries, consent, what they’re excited by and curious about,” she says.
“Safe words may be useful for all people as it opens up lines of sexual communication. I find many people struggle to communicate what they want and need, so using code words can really help. The more you communicate the better the sex and safe words are a great tool.”