If there’s one thing that the last week has taught me, it’s that there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what a safeword is for some people in SL, more so than in RL. This is what a safeword is to me, your interpretation may be different but in explaining what a safeword means to me, maybe you’ll understand my initial position a little better.
Wilehlmina in the comments captures my viewpoint well. I too come from a RL background in BDSM, some 20 odd years or so off and on. That doesn’t make me better than anyone, it just gives me a different perspective. I encourage you to read Wilhelmina’s comment in full, however the pull quote is here:
When a safeword is used that’s showing a huge amount of trust on the subs part. Firstly trust that the dominant actually will honor it, but also that they won’t be angry or start spreading rumors that so and so is a tease which to me is sort of the issue here.
But there are also trust elements on the dominant’s side as well. Not just the obvious “I trust you to use the safeword responsibly” aspect, but the knowledge that the sub trusts the dominant to act in the proper manner.
That right there is the essence of why safewords exist in the first place. A safeword is not, oh I’m bored stuck in this cage so I’m just gonna safeword and go watch some TV; that’s not what they’re about. Safewords are for when something or things have gone bad, it’s a cry for help, the break glass in case of fire. When understood in that context, it should be clear why I have grave concerns over any stigma attached to the use of a safeword. The act of safewording is stigma enough.
For the top.
Seriously, as a top (dominant, whatever) the last thing you want to achieve is making your bottom safeword, because that means you haven’t been playing well together. BDSM is about power exchange and tough as it may sound, the top bears most of the responsibility here (in most cases). Word gets around, tops who constantly drive bottoms to safeword don’t last very long.
That may sound one sided, a little unfair maybe, but trust me it’s no joke having a safeword ignored if you get nerve pinched by rope or some such. In RL you really do literally put your life in the hands of your top, no question. That’s part of the thrill. You don’t have to search very hard to find reports of BDSM related deaths, so in RL, it’s not even an argument. Safewords exist for a good reason.
We’re not in RL, though. We’re in SL, so why get my knickers in a twist?
In earlier comments, Shaela makes a couple of observations:
To me, playing SL with a safeword amounts to just playing games. So, I have always avoided the places and people who want to get my permission to do everything.
I fundamentally don’t agree with that. SL is not a game, one doesn’t play at SL, SL provides us with a framework to interact with each other. To say that SL is a game is to say that all the other people who make SL what it is are not important, have no feelings and no longer exist when you step away from the keyboard.
No. That is not true. I’m not in SL right now, I’ve just had a bacon sandwich for breakfast, checking my email and thinking about things that happen in SL (amongst other things.) To say that SL is just a game is a gross mis-statement about what SL is. SL without people is worthless.
That’s not to say you can’t play games in SL, of course you can. But just as you can play a game of cards in RL, it’s still people who come to the table and leave the table at the end of it.
Shaela also says:
One thing that turns me off the worst in Second Life is when my avatar is standing there screaming, “NO! Don’t take my keys! You can’t do this! Give those back!” , and some person walks up screaming to my captor about TOS, and my captor gets scared and unlocks and walks away. If my rl player really didn’t consent, I’d go into normal viewer and reset my cuffs. Simple. It’s not real life where I can’t do that.
The above scenario would see the man screaming about ToS being ejected, then counselled as to why his actions were inappropriate if it happened at Stonehaven, where I’m a Warden.
The main tool that makes resistance play possible is the adherence to safewords. I’ve seen beatings, gross acts of humiliation which personally turn my stomach, behavior I personally feel is damaging, yet it’s all gone on right under my nose because I know that if things go from being the bestest of best rides for the participants to something really horrible, the safeword is there not to let me know, but to let the other participants know that something has gone horribly wrong and comfort is needed.
Personally one the more fun things I like to do is capture without prior negotiation. An interesting #RLV and enough information in the profile is all the `consent’ I need.
Far from being a barrier, safewords enable this type of play. Marine coded RLV to respect safewords. Next time you’re gagged, typed ((safeword)) in local chat. It won’t get garbled, and for good reason. Safewords matter because people matter.
One last item to tie this post up. It’s been suggested that Ctrl+Q is all you need for safeword. I don’t agree for two main reasons, although there are others.
Most of the kinksters in SL don’t have an active RL kink life; I’m certainly in that category. So let’s say that things in SL have gotten too much for me and I’ve safeworded. It should be obvious that the source is not physical, it’s mental. So at the time that I’m most in need of understanding friends, I cut myself off from them?
That’s just dumb.
The other reason is the top. Remember what I said about how people matter? If the top has any decency, she’ll be feeling pretty terrible that a safeword’s been necessary, more so in SL than in RL because she knows that the other person isn’t just in a state of physical discomfort, but really upset!
This is the time when good tops step up, put aside everything, put their RL on hold if need be and be there for someone in need. Post safeword is a time for healing and understanding between both parties, not recrimination. Ctrl-q doesn’t achieve that.
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