Do We Really Need a Safe Word?

safeword sue | what is a safeword | safewords in relationships

What is a safeword anyway?

A safeword is a word or phrase that can be used to communicate when a person is nearing or crossing a physical, emotional, or ethical boundary.

They can be a shortcut to creating consent and can make communicating easier in moments of intense emotion or pleasure.

Some safe words are used to stop a situation outright, while others can request reduced level of intensity. Often people use red (stop), yellow (slow down or pause), and green (keep going) as an example of these.

I've recommended asexual safewords to clients when engaging in vulnerable potentially emotionally triggering situations as well as intimate situations. They can be a shorthand or code for nearing emotional overwhelm or tender topics and can help couples slow down conflicts when they arise.

Safewords originate in BDSM community where safety and consent are critical to ethical respectful play. Many organized BDSM and play groups and spaces have standardized safewords that members agree to use to avoid confusion at large group events. 

If they're going to work for you, safewords have to be discussed before you enter an intimate situation with a new partner. You can ask if they have a safeword they like, or you can offer words that work well for you. They can be playful, or direct depending on the mood or scene you're creating with your partner. For some people safewords can be an important part of sexual role play.

Here are some of the words my clients have chosen:


Foul ball

Don't stop

Banana bread

Strike one



Mr. Big


Yes please

Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

open relationship counselor | open relationship coach | polyamory coach
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon. Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.