unSEXpected x Respect Week: A Guide to Safe Words

Safe words are code words used to communicate one’s physical or emotional state with a partner, signalling the proximity of boundaries and the limits of consent. They can be used to bring activities to an immediate halt or to take things down a notch and proceed with caution.  

Safe words are common practice within BDSM, but can be used as a tool in any relationship, regardless of sexual prowess.  

In my experience, choosing a safe word is normally fun and at least a little bit goofy. Although having a safe word can seem like a serious matter, remember that its purpose is to help keep you protected and comfortable, always.  

If you don’t have one but would like to suggest it to your partner, my advice is have some fun and make a date out of it!  

Try to pick something you won’t regularly say during sex. Brainstorm widely and creatively! You have to try and expect the unexpected. What happens if one day you end up roleplaying in the Mesozoic era? 1. That’s ambitious, and 2. That could be a disaster if you choose a safe word like ‘Roar’!  (Hey, no judging. This is a judgment-free zone. Mild giggling only).  

Think of things like:  

Terrarium. 

Llama. 

Thunder. 

Red. 

Pineapple. 

Unicorn. 

It doesn’t have to be just one word. You can choose something a little longer, if that’s what you prefer. Just as long as you can say it quickly and recognise it easily.  

Rubber ducky. 

Cold bath.  

I’m craving pickles.  

Blue Triceratops. 

Rubik’s cube. 

Notting Hill. 

Once you’ve chosen your safe word, or safe phrase, you can use it at any time.  

Some people I know recommend not overusing it, but others recommend you do, so that you get comfortable with it and learn to rely on it. It’s up to you though.  

It also, of course, will depend on the nature of your safe word. You may have chosen it for sex purposes only, or you may find you’re happy to use it when you’re sneakily trying to express discomfort to your partner in public settings.  

Whatever the case, having and using safe words responsibly can never hurt. 

Have fun, and stay safe x.  


UnSEXpected is a Glass column dedicated to the things we learn about sex and intimacy through conversations with friends. If you have any unique, funny or interesting stories you’d like to share, please get in touch! It’s the team’s goal to make this column a fun, safe and diverse space.

Konstanz Muller Hering
Konstanz Muller Hering

Konstanz (she/ they) is a Meanjin/Brisbane-based writer and QUT Creative Writing graduate. Konstanz was a Glass editor, and now contributes as an alumni.

Articles: 23

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