When it comes to sex, particularly of the more adventurous variety, you may be all tied up, but you never want to be tongue-tied.

All kink scenarios or scenes should, Mistress Mina Bellamy explains, start with a chat between parties "before you enter the sandbox." Even if you've set rules in the past, "you have to talk out how you're feeling on that day and what your boundaries are on that day," she tells SFist.

Mistress Mina is, in fact, nobody's mistress, but if you'd like, you can be her subordinate. The part-time dominatrix tells SFist she likes to explore the intersection of kink and consciousness — hence her website of that name. But say you're literally losing consciousness under Ms. Mina's command? It might be time to tap the brakes.

In the popular cultural imagination, each person selects their own safe word. That's indeed common among couples who only play with each other, and leaves room for fun safe words like, I don't know, "Beetlejuice."

But Mistress Mina clarifies that if you're used to using different safe words with different partners or plan on engaging with multiple partners, that could get confusing. Or say you're in a Beetlejuice role-playing scene: All of a sudden your safe word doesn't exactly stand out. Hence some industry standardization: "The people who play the most use the same safe words for the most part." Those are simply "yellow" for caution and "red" for stop.

Of course, it's not always so simple. "Sometimes you can't talk in a scene," says Mistress Mina, inspiring all manner of ideas, "or sometimes you won't think to talk because you go so nonverbal. So you can always look out for signals that convey 'I need some help.' That could be blinking eyes, tapping twice. If someone has a gag on, or a blindfold, it might be shaking their head from left to right, for example/"

Safe words might model communication in its simplest form: They're direct instructions that must be followed. It's not always so easy. "I'm exploring something that doesn't always have a good vocabulary behind it," Mistress Mina says of her kinky pursuits. "I teach a class called 'How To Eat Pussy Like a Champ,"and I learned through doing that that the communication we had in bedrooms, even just asking, 'I would like that softer and one centimeter to the left, please'" can be difficult for people." Why the difficulty (other than who's left we're talking about here)? "It's feedback about the most vulnerable thing," says Mina, "which is scary."

In those situations, maybe it would serve us well to consider safe words. When someone shouts "yellow!" or "red!" or offers feedback, no one is to blame — everyone is to be congratulated. The system is working, everybody, and it's working because no one is stigmatizing it. "Using a safe words isn't seen as a failing of the top or the bottom," says Mistress Mina, "It's the best thing we can do."

In fact, safe words and their philosophy might be more useful in general than we think. With one of her partners, Mistress Mina says, "If we're at a boring party, our safe word might be, 'I'm bored.'" In that vein, we could start using safe words everywhere, from ordering a burrito — yellow spicy, please — to waiting in line for brunch — red, red, RED!

More practically, maybe it's time to talk safe words with your partner(s), you know, so you can play a little more dangerously and a little more safely at the same time. It'll open the lines of communication generally, because regardless of what they are, or even how vanilla you think you are, you should use your words.

Previously: Eff-ing In SF, Vol. 4: New Year's Dating Resolutions And How To Break Them
Eff-ing In SF, Vol. 3: What He's REALLY Saying When He Sends A Dick Pic
Eff-ing In SF, Vol. 2: I Left My Heart In San Francisco, Should I Post To Craigslist?
Eff-ing In SF, Vol. 1: How To Use Tinder