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]

Those who practise the more permissive philosophy of risk-aware consensual kink may abandon the use of safewords, especially those that practice forms of edgeplay or extreme forms of dominance and submission. In such cases, the choice to give up the use of safewords is a consensual act on the part of the bottom or submissive.[4] Some couples may also feel that they do not need one, depending on the practices involved.


  1. ^ "Beyond Safe Words: When Saying 'No' in BDSM Isn't Enough". Broadly. Archived from the original on 30 May 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  2. ^ Clark, Tracy (2012-01-29). "When safe words are ignored". Archived from the original on 2013-04-27. Retrieved 2013-04-29.
  3. ^ Gilmour, Paisley (2018-09-17). "Everything you need to know about using safewords". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved 2020-12-28.
  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.