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If I had to guess, I’d assume your idea of what a safe word is comes from that one Fifty Shades of Grey scene. But FWIW, outside of the weird contractual obligation Ana and Christian Grey had, regular normal relationships require safe words too—especially if you’re getting kinky with your partner.
Randomly just deciding to use a safe word out of the blue isn’t easy—especially when you know literally nothing about when to effectively use one. But we talked to experts to create a guide for literally everything and anything you could possibly want to know about safe words, including a list of some that you and your S.O. can decide on.
So, what is a safe word?
“A safe word is a designated word you say when sexual play with a partner becomes too intense, painful, or starts to creep past your boundaries,” explains Emily Morse, PhD, host of the SiriusXM radio show and podcast of Sex With Emily. “Once the safe word is said, all sex has to stop—and does not resume until you’ve checked in with each other about why the safe word was said.”
And why is it so important?
If something has even the potential to push you out of your sexual comfort zone a bit, you *need* to come up with a safe word. “It’s necessary whenever you’re engaging in play where your boundaries might be crossed if it goes too far,” explains Morse. “Usually, this is during BDSM-type play, role-play scenarios, or group sex, but can be used in any sexual situation you find yourself in.”
Here’s why you need a safe word, even if you don’t think you do:
“If you’re engaging in role play, the word ‘stop’ might not always mean ‘stop.’ For instance, your character might say ‘stop’ or ‘oh, that hurts’ when you really want to keep going,” explains Gigi Engle, LifeStyles brand ambassador, certified sex coach, and author of All the F*cking Mistakes: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life. “Having a safe word is a no-frills way to indicate you want to take a break from the scene without any confusion.”
How do you pick the perfect safe word?
Obvi, the first step is to have a convo with your partner. “Talk with your partner, and keep the safe word simple—something you’ll both be able to remember,” advises Morse. “It can even be something that’s personal to your relationship and has meaning and elicits intimate memories.”
What are some common ones people usually pick? Morse says people use traffic light colors (green = keep going, yellow = slow down, red = stop) and, interestingly, fruits are also super popular (cue to me never looking at a cantaloupe the same again).
If you’re not down for any of the basic words, Engle says pretty much anything works as long as it’s totally non-sexual and would never normally be used during sex (i.e. it should completely halt the action because it’s so random). If you and your partner are struggling with coming up with a creative one, don’t worry, we’ve come up with a few options:
- Sweet Potato
- Aunt Jemima
When should I use the safe word?
The minute you’re starting to feel uncomfy is the exact moment when you should go ahead and holler whatever safe word you and your partner chose to go with. “Use your safe word at any moment you start to feel anxious, you’re in pain, you become triggered by something, or just feel too uncomfortable to continue having sex,” says Morse. And don’t be afraid of what your partner will think. Engle reassures, “you are entitled to use it, without judgment or anger, any time during any sexual scene.”