While thoughts on this vary, I personally feel that if you’re a newbie to a scene, or working with someone you’ve never worked with before, having a safe word is important. Without destroying the integrity of a scene, there’s not really many other ways for a sub to communicate his discomfort. That discomfort can come from a rope that’s pinching (in a bad way), or their limits being pushed a bit too far. Some get very creative with their safe words, but I’m relatively boring: “Yellow” for slow down or ease off, “Red” for stop immediately, and we will discuss what happened. That said, I have recently thought of one that anyone with performing experience can appreciate: “Scene”. Which, for those of your without performing experience, is something an actor or director can say at the end of a scene (usually improv) to finish it. It’s so obvious to me know, I’m surprised I haven’t heard more people use it. Feel free to make it a thing.
There are those who don’t like using safe words at all. I think that can be fine given a few circumstances. One, it’s best if the players all know each other fairly well, and have preferably worked together before. Also, if both players are very experienced and trusted, that can be an exception. In either of those situations, it should be understood that the Dom knows how to look for signs from the sub that they may be in over their head in a bad way.
Occasionally, you run into a sub that asks for no safe word–“no limits”. I personally don’t feel this is a good idea, can get dangerous, and generally of speaks to the sub’s inexperience. If I may paraphrase something I heard on the NoSafeWord podcast, those subs who say no limits, who’s to say the Dom won’t order “Wash my car”, “Give me $1000”, or “Open your mouth so I can put my cigar ashes in it” (although I’m sure there’s a good number of you who may be into any of those things, lol–but if it’s agreed upon, then it’s fine). Or the situations where the Dom gets abusive in a bad way… literally beating a sub beyond their consent. Let’s all recall that while we’re into kinky things, there are limits to all of us, and anytime we go beyond them, it can be considered mental or physical abuse.
It can get to a very gray area in the kink world. Many have had occasions where they may have been pushed as a sub, and it turned out to be a positive experience for them. I know that as a Dom, I have been pushed a bit into areas that I normally wouldn’t be into, but I explored anyway because the sub was. And I have to admit, more often than not, I had a great time and discovered some sides to myself I didn’t know I had. But at least for me, I tread carefully into the area. Use some common sense. It can be good to push your limits at times, but know when too much is too much, and don’t be afraid to say so, even if it breaks the scene. Your personal health is more important.