I’m sure that many if not most of you are familiar with the concept of a “safe word”. For those of you who aren’t, “safe words” are words and phrases traditionally used to immediately stop a scene. There are numerous ways to augment what its use entails. Some STOP, check-in with one another and continue. Others may STOP, check-in and switch to something different. For many, however, the use of a safe word means the scene ends immediately. Safewords are what you make them and how they are defined come as a result of negotiation.
The Color System rose to prominence for a few reasons with one of the biggest being a direct result of the immediate halt that safewords traditionally bring. A reference for traffic lights, each color has areas to consider beyond their initial meaning of go, yield/slow and stop. They are NOT a stand-in for paying attention to body language, posture, discoloration, etc. All must be aware of these as well. Yes, these colors are for use for all involved and not only the bottom. Be sure to also to establish nonverbal communication that are alternative signals for these especially with those who enter “space” more easily or play in spaces that are loud.
“What color are you right now?”
- Green – Means acts being performed are within the realm of acceptability, things are “good” and whatever is happening may continue – Let me preface with the fact that silence is NOT an indicator of a good time being had. When being asked or asking, clear communication is absolutely key here. Active consent should be practiced and check-ins should continue throughout. “How’s that?”
- Yellow – Means immediately ease up on the act being performed or change it entirely based on the wishes of who said it. It is also not a bad idea to check-in. – Maybe a strike was too hard and they need time to adjust or maybe something just doesn’t feel right.
- RED – Means stop immediately. Means stop immediately. Means stop immediately. MEANS STOP IMMEDIATELY. NEVER EVER question or challenge a person’s “RED” with your own understanding. Do not insult or guilt-trip them for saying it. See how you can help facilitate comfort in that moment by asking what is needed.