We are surrounded by boundaries and fences, limits and "do no pass" signs. Everything we do has limitations and restrictions. So, it may come as no surprise that you too have limits that you will not cross; be it in your relationship or pertaining to sex and play. Some limits are temporary while others are permanent. Still, others are only in certain situations or in specific relationships. You may not even know all of your limits right now. I know I probably have not found all of mine yet and I've been at this for years.
Limits are the personal boundaries that we place on anything from what we'll eat for breakfast to how much pain we'll endure for play. They can be physical in nature, but more often they are moral, societal or experience based. When you are brand new to anything related to BDSM it is likely that you will not know many of your limits and that's okay. Make sure you are prepared to share that information if you want to play, but also to stop as soon as you think you've reached a limit.
There are three kinds of limits;
Soft, hard and triggers.
Soft limits are boundaries that are flexible. Frequently these are things you will do with only certain people, under specific circumstances or they are limits that you have yet to explore but are very curious about. Soft limits typically have conditions to be met in order for the limit to be lifted. I tend to put all activities I have yet to try on my soft limits list so that when I eventually engage in them they can be handled more delicately and with more preparedness on both the top and my parts. It's a personal preference that works for me. Activities such as sex or anal play might be on your soft limits list, only because you will do that with select partners only. Think about what you might have on your soft limits list.
Hard limits are activities or experiences that you will not budge on. They are firm no's, nevers and not evers. Usually, hard limits are things you will refuse to do under any circumstance as you have reasons they are not a part of your desires list. BDSM activities considered on everyone's hard limits list are usually involving children, scat, animals or dead things. So, let's just assume they are yours too. What else would be a hard limit for you? Don't know? We'll get to that in a moment.
Triggers are the last type of limit. These are involuntary social, mental or physical responses that you can not control, nor may even know about until they happen. Often triggers exist when abuse or trauma has happened to the individual and your mind will program a fight or flight response when that trigger is activated. It can be related to just about anything - from a particular item like a belt, or a way someone talks or walks. I have encountered several triggers in my life that KnyghtMare has had to work around because I'm just not willing to work through them. You can try to work to lessen triggers, but it requires a slow educated approach with some counseling added to help with the possible emotional trauma attached to it. I don't recommend ignoring triggers at all.
Why Are Limits Important?
From our first moments of life we set or use boundaries to form the life we lead. It could start with your 3-year-old self-denying peas at the table or by refusing to play with a certain toy. As we grow up we establish more limits and boundaries that make our life comfortable for us. The limits you create pertaining to sex and BDSM play or relationships are just a more advanced level of these limits. They are important because living inside your personal boundaries is comfortable and welcoming. Some people even live to push boundaries and test limits. Yet they are well aware that the limits are important and treat them as such until they are changed or removed entirely.
Limits protect us. They establish who we are as people but also provide us with clear lines we either choose never to cross or tentatively test on a regular basis. Some limits are irrational, others are perfectly intelligent. No matter what they are - they create a picture for us of what is safe and fun and what is not.
Figure Out What Your Limits Are
As a brand new novice to BDSM it can be hard to come up with your limits right away. That's normal, to be expected and okay. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. But what you can do is start figuring out what might be limits by reading about BDSM play and deciding if you are interested in it or not. So, for example, take my current favorite BDSM checklist at CEPE. If you read any of those things and think to yourself, "Hell no!" then place it as a limit. If you consider that you might try it once you have more information, it can be a soft limit.
That's not all though, it's a good starting point. As you explore BDSM, the different relationship types the come up and styles of dynamics that you may see start deciding if they might be limits. Do you want a poly arrangement? Would you like to be collared and chained all the time? What about eating in a doggie bowl? If you don't know what something is, then ask. The fact that you want to learn about yourself and what you might be interested is healthy and something I recommend to everyone.
Finally, even if you explore all that BDSM has to offer, you may still have limits that just as firm as the day you first learned about them. Not all limits are meant to be broken down or overcome. Some limits are just always going to be limits and that's okay. You don't have to be super subbie. Just be the best of who you are - limits and all.
Thoughts to Ponder
- Do you have a limits list? When was the last time you updated it?
- Have you been able to remove limits? What was the process for you?
- Why are limits so important to people in the BDSM lifestyle?