A presenter I saw recently said that as a master, the first thing he does is to ask for his new s-type to fill out one of those online "sexual interest" lists where you rank your kink interests on a scale from zero for "Yes, please," to five for "Oh, HELL no." Then he takes the list, tears it down the column full of fives representing hard limits, discards the zeroes to fours, and then turns to the submissive and says, "Let's start with these." It's not that he's some sort of serial abuser; he enjoys helping his submissive or slave grow and throw off old limitations and fears.

Now, all of the warnings about abusive dominants who non-consensually abuse submissives and violate hard limits still apply. If it's stupid and reckless or will harm your health, your children, or your ability to earn a living, by all means, say no and walk out the door. However, if that list of hard limits is full of things that are simply frightening, or are due to some sort of past baggage, consider asking your dominant to help you move past them.

For instance, for me personally, one of the first things I told my dominant was that I am mildly asthmatic and that being short of breath or unable to breathe terrifies me. I was also previously married to a sociopathic abuser who tried to strangle me--several times in my sleep--and that the idea of a hand near my throat or any sort of breath play was an unbreakable hard limit for me.  My master nodded, and nothing happened for a long time.  As we began to live together and then got married, our trust and bond deepened.

One day during play he looked deliberately into my eyes and placed his hand upon my throat. I started to panic a bit and raised my hand to stop him but he said, "Shhhh. It's me." I thought about it in that split second; I knew he would never harm me. I stood still and felt his grip tighten and my pulse rapidly fluttering against the pressure of his fingers on my carotid artery. I was scared...and then I wasn't. I looked into his eyes and saw no anger, only love and the pride that I was standing still, doing something that terrified me, in order to please him. The fear went away, and I realized that I was quite wet. As time has passed, a fetish that was an absolute "No"  has become my hands-down favorite play time activity.

(Disclaimer: Breathplay carries serious risk, including death. Educate yourself  before you play and make sure your partner is equally educated.)

When absolute trust is present, and the dominant is interested and experienced in helping to overcome fears and phobias, working through hard limits can be very empowering. The feeling that a terrifying monster has been faced and slain can embolden you to face other fears and to grow in new ways. A small fear, faced and vanquished in the bedroom can lead to the courage to face bigger fears in the vanilla world, such as public speaking or taking on challenges at work. Don't let your hard limits hold you back; consider trying to move a few of those "Hell no" fetishes into the "Yes, Please," category.