So if you haven't read the first book, prepare yourself for the ending: Ana asks the illustrious Mr. Grey to show her how bad it can be and so he hits her hard enough with a belt that she is screaming and wailing and he does not stop until he reaches the number he'd set forth. Then she calls him a "sick fuck" and breaks up with him.
In the second book when they get back together he asks her why she didn't safeword. Because of course that's her job.
And while throughout the book, E.L. James makes it glaringly obvious how little research she did on BDSM, but this is one she technically could have looked up. You can't log in to a website that kinksters gather on without reading at least one new post about how subs are responsible for safewording if it gets too rough. If they fail to do so and get hurt, they bear the responsibility for that.
So brace yourselves because...
So when I would read about scenes where the bottom wanted to stop the scene but was unable to I admit to wondering why he/she couldn't just say the word. I assumed maybe they were embarrassed at not having been as tough as the top wanted them to be - or maybe they just didn't want to disappoint their partner.
Then I had a scene with Fireblade, and my "I've never halted a scene" streak ended. However, even though I should have, I didn't technically safeword. Here's what happened:
We'd been enjoying a really delightful scene where he was alternating between hitting me with things, hitting me with his fists (a personal favorite of mine) and him doing things to make sure I was fully aroused. We ended up having sex while I was still tied down, and it was hot. I had multiple orgasms and the last one was extremely intense. Post-mutual orgasms we decided to carry on. (Emphasis on the "we" there - I totally consented to keep going.)
He grabbed a leather slapper which is not one of my favorite implements and started hitting my back with it. It was hard, but no harder than he'd hit me earlier in the evening. Then something happened. He has mirrors all around his play room, but since I have long hair that's usually covering my face my vision was pretty limited. I thought he'd dropped the implement and was walking towards me barehanded. Maybe he did drop it, and then he picked something else without me noticing; maybe he'd just bumped something with the original, and it sounded like it hit the floor when it never did. Either way, when another blow from something made of leather hit my back I was caught off guard. The blows kept coming - Fireblade tends to hit hard and fast for a bit before he slows down to check in. The whole thing probably lasted about twenty seconds and these, as best I can remember, were my thoughts:
Fuck! Where did he get that thing? Jesus. Ok, just breathe, Georgeanna. Why the fuck are you freaking out? It's not that bad - just chill. Breathe. You're going to be ok.
I can't breathe right. I can't get centered right. What's wrong with me? I'm supposed to be a masochist and THIS is causing me trouble? This is nothing. But... it is. It's too much.
"I can't! I can't. I'm sorry."
That last part was screamed out loud and for extra emphasis involved me jumping and moving the bench I was tied to a good foot away from him.
Note in my thoughts a complete lack of "Maybe I should safeword" or even "Maybe I should stop this." That's because in the moment, I forgot. I tried to get my head centered so that I could enjoy the scene and when I failed to do so I panicked a little bit, felt like a horrible submissive for not being able to handle something, and just announced that I couldn't carry on. And I didn't even mean to say that part out loud. It just came out.
He stopped immediately. He did not say, " 'I can't' isn't your safeword, Georgeanna" or any bullshit like that. He put down the slapper, approached me slowly (I'm assuming so he could see if I reacted negatively to his presence) and then rubbed my back while telling me how awesome I was. He told me I'd been amazing all night and that he was very impressed with how well I'd taken everything. Then, he got out his nice flogger and spread it out on my back. It felt like a blanket. It was so soft, and I could smell the leather. It was very comforting. He stroked my hair, told me again that I was awesome, and untied me.
Eventually, Ana has a scene with Christian where she safewords. His response is to talk about his abusive childhood and then later say, "I thought you loved me...why did you safeword?"
I don't really need to list all the reasons that my post-safeword experience was better right?
Also, the way Fireblade stopped immediately when I was freaking out? That's exactly what I would have expected him to do. I was happily impressed with how well he tailored his post-scene ending chat to my personality and the things I wanted to hear right then, but stopping when your partner is in obvious distress is like the bare minimum of what a top should do.
I feel like now that I know it's possible for me to freak out and forget how to officially stop a scene it's really reiterated to me how important it is to play with people that read me well. I know that if I had completely failed to talk the scene above would have lasted maybe twenty more seconds maximum before he would have noticed I wasn't acting normally. He would have noticed because he knows me. He's taken the time to get to know me and how I play because he cares about me and making sure we both have an awesome time.
I'm playing with him again tomorrow night. We're trying out some new things, and I am super excited. I'm not hesitant at all about being with him again - in fact the awesome way he handled things makes me trust him even more.