A safeword, or safe word, is a word, phrase or code used in BDSM play to communicate a person's (typically a submissive's) physical and emotional state. Safe words are designed to help communicate ongoing consent, ensure a person's safety during more intense forms of play, and ensure there is no confusion about whether a person wants play to stop or continue.
The most common safewords are referred to as the traffic light system where:
- Red: Means play should stop immediately. This may be used when a person has reached a limit or boundary, is uncomfortable or no longer consents to ongoing play for some other reason.
- Yellow: This indicates that the person is enjoying the scene, but would like to dial back the intensity.
- Green: This indicates that the person is enjoying the scene and would like to continue.
Any other words can be used as safewords as well, as long as they are negotiated in advance of a scene so that everyone is on the same page. A survey by Lovehoney found "red" to be the most commonly used safeword, but also uncovered a range of other safewords ranging from fruits, celebrity names (including Donald Trump!), fictional characters and foods. Words like "stop" are typically not recommended as safewords, as these may be uttered during intense play even when a person is enjoying that play and wants it to continue. A submissive begging their dominant to stop can be a part of the scene, and safewords are partly designed to help avoid confusion here.