The concept of "Safe Words" are often misunderstood, especially with beginners who do not see the value in a dedicated safe words. BDSM is about being safe; communication is paramount to ensure this happens. The disconnect that many beginners have with BDSM is they ask themselves why do I need a safe word? In reality many beginners forgo a dedicated safe word with great success. This creates a dangerous situation where people do not value the benefit of safe words as they grow more with BDSM.
There are two diverting paths that will decide if safe words are must-haves.
Many relationships, people can go "Please Stop" or "This is hurting too much." Communication alone is enough to address problems in many relationships; this is how many beginner BDSM relationships start and is completely healthy. If both parties can communicate in a clear and productive way. That being said, having a safe word is a great practice, but trying to pitch the idea of a safe word makes things too real for some because "why do I need a safe word." This "scares" people who are unfamiliar with BDSM who thinks things are about to get too dangerous when the reality that is not the case. You may not want to have that talk with a partner you are unfamiliar with because of the above reason when doing light BDSM themes and power plays alone that exist in many vanilla relationships.
Relationships that practice any kind of true BDSM kinks like rope bondage, con non-con (Consensual non-consensual), and many other kinks where health, pain, and safety are more prevalent factors. Kinks like these need to be looked out for more so than light BDSM and vanilla relationships, requiring safe words to ensure safety. For example, there are many kinks where people prefer to fight and resist; this is an example that can be mistaken as part of the role and can have disastrous problems if there is no set plan in place to separate the scene vs. reality. Use your mind and be safe, when performing a scene.
The dominant person needs to look out for the health and safety of those involved and have a pre-understanding of the safety concerns regarding their kinks (Example: circulation and nerve problems in rope bondage). Each kink has different safety concerns a dom must be able to recognize and address, as ultimately they are most in charge of their partner's safety. That said it is not just the dominate's parties job to tell how things are going, this also falls on the submissive party to speak up when things are not going well for them.
Types Of Safe Words
There are two types of Safe Words; there are singular safe words that you are likely familiar with, these safe words are popular and used by many. The fun part about singular safe words is you can pick them! The safe word should be easy to pronounce, distance from casual conversation and special. For example, the safe word of "Hodar" from Game of Thrones may come across as "harder," this would be a bad safe word. A good safe word could be "Mustang", you often want two or more syllables so it can be easily to understood in the moment and not mistaken as random noise.
The better type of safe words are scale based; this is the most recommended path for beginners because it lets you learn limits easier and where to push harder. Also, this is a standard safe word that all can understand easily!
Green - Keep going do not stop I feel good, also can be used for pushing me harder.
Yellow - Slow down, undo your previous action and make your partner more comfortable as they were before they said Yellow. If uncertain, ask your partner their concern and address it before resuming.
Red - Means stop everything immediately and go to your partner's aid, immediately undo any restraints and ask what is wrong and make your partner comfortable until they are in a more relaxed state.
Important Aspect About Safe Words
"Red" and other safe words, it should be used as an "I am done". It is bad practice to start a scene back up after partner uses a safe word, the responsible thing to do is to call it for the day, even if your partner may claim its okay. It is best to go slow, communicate together about what happened, give some aftercare and take things easy. There is no need to rush, and there is always another day.
This is also why Red Yellow Green is often recommended over single safe words because there is more flexibility than just "stop".
On The Fence?
Here is some advice: There is a lot of value in having a safe word because it allows you to push your partner without the feeling of doubt you are doing too much and making your partner uncomfortable. It is relaxing to know your partner can complain and express their feelings and emotions to add more feeling to the scene, but you know if you push too your partner has a way to express that. Trying to guess someones limits is a recipe for disaster, that being said make your own limits and if you think your partner is not recognizing their limits own you should speak up and address your concerns to your partner, especially the case if you are experienced with a not experienced partner.