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In BDSM, a safeword is a code word, series of code words or other signal used by a person to communicate their physical or emotional state, typically when approaching, or crossing, a physical, emotional, or moral boundary.[1] Some safewords are used to stop the scene outright, while others can communicate a willingness to continue, but at a reduced level of intensity.

Safewords are usually agreed upon before playing a scene by all participants, and many organized BDSM groups have standard safewords that all members agree to use to avoid confusion at organized play events.[2] The most common safeword system is the "traffic light" system, in which "red" means "stop", "amber" or "yellow" means "proceed with caution", and "green" means "more, please!"[3]

Some couples may feel that they do not need a safeword, depending on the practices involved, since the role of a safeword is filled by usual forms of communication. Less commonly, some couples may agree to abandon the use of safewords including the ability to withdraw consent altogether, especially those that practice forms of edgeplay or those in Master/slave relationships. In such cases, the choice to give up the use of safewords is a consensual act on the part of the bottom or submissive. This practice is usually called consensual non-consent and often considered controversial.[4][5]


  1. ^ "Beyond Safe Words: When Saying 'No' in BDSM Isn't Enough". Broadly. 10 December 2015. Archived from the original on 30 May 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  2. ^ Clark, Tracy (29 January 2012). "When safe words are ignored". Salon.com. Archived from the original on 27 April 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  3. ^ Gilmour, Paisley (17 September 2018). "Everything you need to know about using safewords". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
  4. ^ Bauer, R. (28 October 2014). Queer BDSM Intimacies: Critical Consent and Pushing Boundaries. Springer. ISBN 9781137435026. Archived from the original on 23 November 2016. Retrieved 22 November 2016 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ David J. Ley (2 February 2021). "Consensual Non-Consent: Exploring Challenging Boundaries". Psychology Today. Retrieved 3 January 2023.