If you want to play sexy, you have to play safe... within certain limits, of course.
I was recently asked the following question about consent within the context of a BDSM relationship:
"I have a question about 'subbiness' and consent/coercion. Due to past abuses in my life, I find that coercion is a real hot button for me. If I say no, I mean it, and there’s a very short fuse between NO and F*CK RIGHT OFF if someone tries pushing me. If I am not sure, or something seems like it may not be all that fun but I am willing to experiment cautiously, I’ll say so. As I venture into kink and exploring my subby side, how can I leave room for a Dom to expand my horizons without running into this hard line?"
This is a common question for beginner submissives — and an essential one for each of us to explore for ourselves.
The word “No” is especially fraught with issues within the kink community, because when playing, it doesn’t always mean “stop.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t say no at all.
It just means that the “No” you’re talking about comes in the form of another word, i.e. a safeword.
I have a top friend who once told me that for her first few scenes with someone new, she doesn’t use a safeword and lets the bottom say “No” as an indicator that she should stop.
This is a good idea, and here’s why.
At the beginning of any BDSM relationship, you want to get to know the other person and their limits. Most Dominants don’t want to start imposing complicated rules and safewords right away, especially as bottoms usually don’t like using a safeword, and are actually likely to forget it.
So, to answer your question: if you tell your top that NO means STOP, then that top is bound (if they’re a good person who cares about consent) to stop.
Kink is not coercion. There should be nothing coercive about it.
Even consensual nonconsent is pre-negotiated. If you ever feel forced to do something you really don’t want to do, stop the scene or leave the relationship.
(That’s one reason playing in public can be beneficial — people can come help if your top refuses to stop a scene.)
So, using “No” as a way to tell your top to stop is perfectly fine, and it will even be practical at first as you explore your own physical, psychological and emotional limits.
Safewords and Exploration
Eventually, you will most likely feel the desire to have your boundaries pushed a little and to expand your horizons — which is great.
Kink, for a lot of us, is about pushing beyond what we already know our bodies and minds can do.
For example, I tend to say “No” a lot during impact play. That doesn’t mean I want it to stop — it’s just my instinctual reaction. So I use a safeword — red — if I want something to stop for reals. Thankfully, the tops I play with tend to see know me well enough to be able to sense when I’m reaching my limit and need to stop, so I haven’t actually had to use my safeword yet.
For novice subs, I suggest using the traffic light system:
Green for “Everything is great. Keep going”
Yellow for “Slow down a little bit. This is pushing my limits. Please check in with me”
Red for “STOP RIGHT NOW”
This is a good set of safewords for beginners because it lets you express a variety of issues and levels, which is less confusing and jarring than trying to figure out if you've reached your final "NO."
And in general, although your top or Dom should be attentive enough to see when something is getting uncomfortable or unpleasant for you (in a not-fun way), saying “yellow” is a good way to let them know that they should tread with caution.
Another thing I encourage newbies to do is to write down an actual list of your hard and soft limits.
There are several helpful BDSM checklists available online that you can check out, download and fill up.
Doing this is sometimes also referred to as a “Yes, No, Maybe” exercise, and the practice will guide you in determining what your limits are BEFORE you get involved in any form of kinky play so you will be able to clearly communicate them with your top.
Be aware that as you explore kinky activities and try out different things, your limits are likely to change over time.
That’s perfectly fine. Mine have changed considerably over just the last year. All you have to do is inform your partners of your new boundaries.
Consider your list a thing that’s fluid and changeable, and be ready to go over it once in a while — maybe once every six months to once a year.
In short, if you want "No" to be your safeword, that absolutely acceptable. Just tell your top.
Then once you find that it no longer fulfills your needs or doesn’t leave enough flexibility for exploration, switch to something like the traffic lights system (green, yellow, red). And as you develop a relationship with a specific Dominant, you may find that you don't use a safeword at all (but always have one, just in case … nobody’s perfect).
Above all, self-knowledge is essential for understanding your own limits and interests.
Never go into a scene without knowing AND expressing your hard limits. Outside of hard limits, everything else can be negotiated.
I hope this helps. Have fun exploring your kinks!