Surrendering The Safeword

Author: yielding to Master Stern ©

Used With Author(s) Permission


**Note: We do not recommend that beginners operate without a safe word, nor do we believe that every relationship can operate in the same way.
Responsibility for your own safety is a prerequisite to any encounter.

When beginning an exploration of the various BDSM lifestyles, one of the first things a person is told is to operate under the "safe, sane and consensual" principal when choosing partners. This idea should pose no problems, and is one that might be effectively applied to life in general - not just to the BDSM subculture. In the beginning, submissives are told never to play with someone who doesn't use safe words, and never play twice with someone who doesn't respect theirs. The majority of Dominants take this BDSM tenet quite seriously. They neither object to nor ignore safe words. For the most part, a submissive can expect to stop any action with the use of a safe word, can expect the Dominant to carefully and respectfully insure her of a tolerable comfort level, and a give her a sense of security before moving on. Obviously there are exceptions, but, in the public realm, those who disregard basic safety rules are not generally welcomed back to BDSM clubs and parties.

The notion of a safe word is particularly useful for novice submissives, those who are eager to explore, but not yet sure what they've gotten themselves into. The safe word "safety net" allows them to take the leap without crash-landing on the concrete floor below. There is no good argument against a safe word for new submissives or for those who have chosen to play regularly and with various partners. On a personal level, when Master Stern has encounters with other submissives, He never fails to establish a safe word beforehand.

His own slave is an exception to that rule. Until He officially accepted me as His slave, I, too, had a safe word. But as Master and slave, the safe word no longer fit comfortably into the relationship. This was a topic of discussion between us, albeit very brief, because we both agreed that allowing me a safe word was no longer a necessary tool; moreover, it had the potential to be damaging. I agreed to a total exchange of power; to be owned, and to give up any "rights" as I had known them, inside or outside the boundaries of our time together. In other words, all other aspects of the relationship are controlled by Master Stern, every decision is made by Him, and His is the voice of authority both in D/s and non-D/s situations. It makes no sense to leave me with this one vestige of control in an otherwise power-exchanged environment.

Safe words are, and are meant to be, methods by which action is stopped if the submissive finds herself pushed too far physically or emotionally. A slave cannot have the authority to make that determination. The potential for misinterpretation of the previous sentences is great, and the words "slave" and "submissive," at least for the purposes of this essay, are easily defined. A submissive has choice; a slave does not.

If a slave can "safe word" her way out of an uncomfortable situation, she is, intentionally or unintentionally, able to render the "total" power exchange "partial." If a Master accepts the slave's presumed authority, He loses part of His, and the relationship is no longer a total power exchange at all, but one that can go either way, depending upon the mood or discomfort of the individual. What is left is a role-playing game, not a true Master/slave relationship.

This is not to say personal safety isn't an issue. Of course it always is. It does say, if only by inference and deduction, that it wouldn't be wise to enter a Total Power Exchange relationship without first having had extensive experience with one another, and without having achieved a mutual understanding that far exceeds the standard parameters of a non-D/s relationship. "Love" and being in love may or may not be an issue in the confines of a Master/slave bond, but mutual caring and concern are paramount. If you have gone through the process of becoming Master and slave with adequate foresight, have consciously and conscientiously established a framework proven workable and satisfactory over time, and have proceeded with reasonability and respect for one another, there is no place for a safe word. Master and slave are attuned to one another in such a way that physical and emotional safety are effortlessly integrated into the lifestyle.

It may sound idealistic, but it is entirely achievable in a relationship firmly rooted in trust. A total power exchange cannot be achieved without undeniable trust. The slave must be ready to accept that her Master will make the right decisions for her, whether or not she agrees, and the Master must be able to trust the slave's ability to recognize the difference between a harmful situation and a difficult situation.

For example, I once found myself in a position in which my neck was angled improperly during a physical reprimand. It was more than discomfort; I recognized it as a position that might put me out of commission for two or three days if it were not corrected. Master Stern had no way of knowing of my physical discomfort; the quarter inch difference between the tolerable and the harmful was certainly not visible to the naked eye.
I had a choice. I could accept the reprimand silently, after which I would likely have had to remain prone and medicated, or I could ask permission to speak, inform Master Stern of the situation, and ask His permission to reposition myself. Easy choice - but not a safe word. Whether or not I was allowed to move was still in Master Stern's hands. I also knew that aside from being of no use to Him for a period of time, Master Stern would be particularly disturbed if He found I hadn't informed Him of a potentially damaging situation. He would very likely question my emotional state of mind and my preparedness for slavery.

For a slave living a 24/7 or TPE lifestyle, a safe word is not only unnecessary, it's impossible. A person who defines herself as "property...unless..." is not a slave in the true sense of the word. Barring emergencies, a slave seeks permission and waits until it is granted before change is implemented. If I deliberately force something to cease because its not what I wanted, not what I expected or makes me uncomfortable, I risk losing my Master's trust and endangering the very thing I want the most; His power and my submission to it.

In the example I cited above, Master Stern granted me permission to move. I shifted my position so that my neck was not misaligned, and received the reprimand without injury and without a safe word. I want to say "obviously Master Stern granted me permission to move," but I've learned that sometimes, what should be obvious can be effortlessly discounted through ignorance or bliss. I do not have a safe word, but I do have the responsibility to help my Master take care of His property, both for His sake and my own. Giving up safe words does not mean giving up safety, it is only a small move toward giving up power.






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